Friday, April 11, 2014

I Want to Give $100 to $500 to Three People

Update, 4/27/14:  I received a total of one application for the money.

I'm wondering whether my charitable donations might do more good if given to worthy individuals than to nonprofits. 

Like most people, I've donated to nonprofits not individuals so I could get the tax deduction. 
But I'm wondering if that's letting the tail wag the dog.

So I'm trying this experiment: If you or someone you care about could benefit from my giving the person between $100 and $500, I invite that person to write me a note explaining why he or she thinks significant good would accrue from it. 

I prefer to fund something that has a ripple effect, something that could indirectly benefit more than just that person. Here are three examples:

  • A recent immigrant is a good scientist but speaks very poor English and so is having a tough time finding a job. He or she could benefit from an English-language tutor or software. If he couldn't financially afford that, I'd feel that helping to fund it would be a good use of my money.
  • A child from a low-income family is intellectually gifted but attends a school that insufficiently meets his or her needs. I'd consider helping fund the child to attend a week-long summer day program or camp for high-ability kids. 
  • A person has an idea for a website that would match mentors with proteges. But he or she doesn't have even a modest amount of money to spare. I could see contributing to that website's development. 
For this experiment, my goal is to fund three people. 

My preference is that applicants write their note as a comment on this blog post so others can perhaps be inspired by it or even donate to that person. But the person can email me at

I also would like to experiment with a challenge prize. I will give $500 to the first person or group to get a hospital serving a low-income community to make parenting videos available in hospital rooms with moms that have just given birth, for example, on the TV in the room. The videos could have been created by someone else but the award, of course, would be given only if the hospital implemented this because of that person or group's efforts.


Anonymous said...

Howdy Marty,
Nice experiment in microcredit/0%interest personal loans - you'll have to share the results vs the nonprofit alternatives.
Its almost like the movie, Pay it Forward.

Marty Nemko said...

Of course, if your birth is a difficult one, you're not ready to focus on parenting. And I would hope that the parenting videos in the hospital would focus on parenting newborns.

Marty Nemko said...

Anonymous, I have not yet received one proposal for the money. I don't know why.

tha artivist said...

Bro. Marty Nemko:
First and foremost thanks for putting this out there...I have been a longtime subscriber and follower of your blog...I truly enjoy your commentary..You are true thought provocateur!!! I just sent you an email with a proposal...I could not post it here because I had too many characters...My e-mail address is r2c2h2 (at)gmail dot com...Thanks once again for even taking the time to considering me and others regardless of the outcome...Have a great day and keep paying it forward!!!

Maria Lopez said...

Some ideas which don't benefit me.

I think that $100 to $500 is a fairly small amount and might be most helpfully donated to a local pol who you believe is reasonably intelligent and honest.

However here are some other ideas:

1. Gardening tools or supplies for a school.

2. Scientific equipment for a high school, middle school, or junior college. I detest elementary school science so I would recommend buying such equipment for one.

3. Removing obstacles to working for someone. Pick someone who doesn't have behavior that is problematic for employers and help them acquire work clothes, a functioning car, transit passes, car insurance, or glasses or contacts made to their current prescription so that they can see to drive. While this might help only one person at first, enabling them to be employed is likely to have positive ripple effects.