Since last year, I stopped waiting spasmodically for my birthday. An additional year of life doesn’t mean anymore the acquisition of a new right (the last right that I gained was, at 25, the possibility to vote for the Italian Senate of the Republic), but just being a little closer to the natural conclusion of my life cycle.
Unfortunately, Facebook recently and brutally reminded me of the upcoming event, forcing this reminder at the top of my newsfeed:
Apparently, for Zuckerberg my data aren’t good enough; now, he wants me to start raising funds for the public good too.
This new fundraising feature appeared in August 2017 and it allows Facebook users to start fundraisers for the causes that they care about. All you need to do is pick a nonprofit from a pool of +750,000 organizations (yes, three zeroes) and in a few, easy steps you can ask your friends to throw in a buck to make the world a better place.
With a brilliant strategic move, Facebook gurus decided to focus on birthdays since birthday dates are already quite central to our daily lives in Zuckerland. Moreover, the new feature taps into an evident need for personal validation.
The strategy paid off. Last August, the social network announced that in one year this new functionality raised over $300 million. At the beginning, the company took a fairly standard 5 percent fee on every donation. However, in November 2017, it abolished the fee and now 100 percent of donations made through the platform go directly to the selected nonprofits.
In a time when the "overhead myth" dominates public opinion, the Menlo Park juggernaut guarantees that all your money will go straight to the charity you decided to help. Sounds good, eh?
Moreover, if you’re not convinced by its first invitation to create a fundraiser, Facebook will come up with a new banner, also strategically positioned at the top of your newsfeed, that promises to donate €2 to a non-profit of your choice, if you just create a fundraiser for it.
All you need to do is pick a cause that you think is worthy and make it public. Facebook will do the rest. Small donation included.
This is probably the lowest-effort philanthropy one can think of. In the realm of Facebook, doing good is so easy that it takes more effort not to do it. Only Pennywise the Dancing Clown would dare to say that setting up a birthday fundraiser for, let's say, disabled kids is "bad for business".
Then why am I then bothering to write a piece that supposedly exposes the “problem” of FB fundraisers?
My main issue with this nifty feature is that it propagates an unsuccessful approach to philanthropy; I’ll explain my claim showing how the (extremely smooth and user-friendly) process of setting up a fundraiser on the platform works.
Once you have decided that you do want to create a fundraiser, Facebook will ask you to select a non-profit. As I said, you can choose from a batch of +750,000 organizations. And Facebook will propose to you a list like this one:
You can scroll the list or search for an organization yourself. There’s also a sidebar menu that helps you navigate the charities by category. Apparently, the list is tailored mainly on your location, friends, and friends’ likes. Standard Facebook algorithm.
Information about the organizations’ effectiveness or impact is nowhere to be found.
When it’s time to share your fundraiser, Facebook will pop this window, suggesting a possible text to “tell your story”.
And that’s the main problem at the core of Facebook fundraisers; they’re just another declination of self-expression.
“I’ve chosen this nonprofit because their mission means a lot to me,” Facebook suggests to write. In this conception, raising funds for a charity is just another way to tailor your virtual self and to express a sense of belonging, akin to sharing a political post or a romantic picture with your partner. It’s a replica of the same echo (ego) chamber mechanism that causes us to cluster in groups of private interests, losing sight of the possibility of a common, shared good.
On social media, it’s all always about you and your damn story. But altruism shouldn’t be a prosecution of the ego by other means. Quite the opposite, it should be about, well, others.
I’m aware that this problem doesn’t start with Facebook. Philanthropy has always been also about feeling good about ourselvesand promoting the causes that we’re for several reasons inclined to care about. However, social media certainly amplifies this logic.
The problem is that this approach to fixing the world’s problems is doomed to fail. If we want to make the world a better place, we need to adopt a more rational, evidence-based approach to doing good. That’s the kind of “Copernican revolution” of philanthropy that a social movement and philosophy called “Effective Altruism” proposes: shifting the focus of our altruistic efforts from “what we care about” to “what we should care about”.
For example, EA activists claim that, if we want to solve the world’s problems, we need, first off, to make some cause prioritization and select the issues that we ought to tackle first; according to EA, those are ending radical poverty, stopping intensive animal farming, and taking care of our “long-term future” which basically means the minimization of global catastrophic risks (like the singularity).
At the same time, we should be careful to only donate to organizations that can maximize the positive impact of our money.
These are dimensions that are completely lacking in Facebook birthday fundraisers. If only the social network started to pay more attention to these aspects, this neat functionality might lead to much greater good.
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American Internet celebrity and makeup artist Jeffree Star wants to open his own vegan-friendly fast-food chain.
As reported by LiveKindly, Jeffre Star made the announcement during a live stream on his Youtube channel where he speaks to an audience of 11 million subscribers.
During the video, the makeup guru said that he is "in talks" to start the business. The concept? A vegan-friendly ('that's the real gag") restaurant, selling pink cheeseburgers and cotton candy fries.
Yes, you got that right.
As noted by LiveKindly, this is not Mr Star's first foray into the world of veganism. Over the years, his beauty brand Jeffree Star Cosmetics already launched a series of vegan products like Thirsty, a vegan eyeshadow palette, and, more recently, the four festive vegan lip scrubs.
We'll see whether these business plans will turn out to be something more substantial than a Youtube announcement.
Meanwhile, we can't help but gladly notice that plant-based burgers and veganism at large are gaining momentum across different audiences.
If we want to save our planet and ourselves from climate apocalypse, we need new policies and governmental action. We're not gonna save the Earth changing our household light bulbs.
Extinction Rebellion – a burgeoning social movement to fight climate change that is taking hold in the United Kingdom – is asking for just this: governments must tell the truth about the ecological emergency and enact legally binding measures to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025.
There are no other ways out of this mess: structural change is needed.
However, this doesn’t mean that as individual citizens we can go on a carbon spree without consequences. Or that all the ways to reduce our personal carbon footprints are equally ineffective.
Different studies highlight that there are four effective ways to cut on your individual carbon emissions. And no, changing light bulbs is not one of them.
While we should keep asking for top-down changes, it’s also good to remember that we can start making an impact on the environment right now by adapting our lifestyle.
1) Eat a plant-based diet
I enjoy the flavour of meat a lot and I’d find it difficult to go 100 percent vegetarian (let alone vegan) right now. Nevertheless, I can considerably decrease my meat consumption. This is already highly beneficial for the environment.
Moreover, I can advocate for meat alternatives like plant-based or clean meat.
2) Avoid air travel
Flights are a notorious source of gas emissions. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to avoid flying. Many jobs require travelling on a regular basis and even though in many cases a virtual meeting will do just fine, there are still some occasions in which your physical presence is needed.
How to solve this ethical dilemma? One solution might be to donate some money to carbon offsetting schemes. These projects can go a long way in fighting carbon emissions.
3) Live car-free
Research shows that living car-free saves about 2.4 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year (while a plant-based diet saves 0.8 tonnes of CO2 equivalent every year).
I’m lucky enough to live in the Netherlands, a country where it's easy to move around without a car. This is possible thanks to an efficient public transportation system and the omnipresent cycle lanes.
In this case, it’s interesting to notice how my personal decision to live car-free is supported by environmentally friendly public policies.
4) Have a small family
If someone doesn’t exist, she doesn’t have a carbon footprint. This reasoning might seem at the same time cynical and stupidly obvious. But it’s also true.
According to Population Matters, having one fewer child is 25 more effective in cutting carbon emissions than living without a car.
What else could I do to reduce my carbon footprint?
Support Cool Earth, a highly effective organization that we thoroughly vetted.
Cool Earth is not only an offset scheme. It provides grant funding to rainforest communities, supporting community work in rainforest protection and ensures their voice is heard in agreements about the future of the rainforests. At the time of writing, 234,436,540 tonnes of CO2 has been stored as a result of their projects. Their Asháninka project shields millions of acres of forest from loggers, with 901,679 acres saved to date.
You too can help to save our planet. A more liveable Earth is just a click away 👇
It’s known that many celebrities support noble causes. After all, if you’re a celeb, you supposedly got the visibility and the money. So, you’re particularly well-suited to help other people.
Some VIPs go the extra mile and found their own charitable organization.
But are these celebrity-powered charities effective? Or even: are they doing any good?
To answer these questions, we picked five charities founded by celebrities and ran them through our Kinder Vetting Framework. Let’s see what came out.
Our selection of charities below isn't based on any scientific criteria. We browsed lists of celebrity founded charities and tried to pick out a balanced list
These are the charities that we picked:
The Lopez Family Foundation. Co-founded by journalist Lynda Lopez and her sister singer Jennifer Lopez, the Lopez Family Foundation “advocates and invests in policies and programs that make a positive, measurable impact on communities and makes quality healthcare and health education available for underserved mothers and their children.”
Born This Way Foundation. A charitable organization created in 2012 by Lady Gaga and her mother Cynthia Germanotta “with the goal of creating a kinder and braver world” (we can’t help but sympathize with such aim).
The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. Created in 1998, the foundation was established with the mission of protecting the world’s last wild places.
The Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation was founded in 2003 by Angelina Jolie as a “conservation and community development program in the Samlout Protected Area” (Cambodia).
The Kinder Vetting Framework
At Kinder, we developed a vetting framework to assess the performance of charitable organizations. At the moment, it’s made of two steps but we’re working to add another two in the near future.
The first step is called Initial Screening. With it, we examine the transparency and accountability of charitable organizations by evaluating their official websites.
In particular, we evaluate the charities on five parameters.
This is a fairly low initial threshold. To pass the Initial Screening, you need a score of 95.
The second step is called Organizational Competence. With it, we try to determine whether a charitable organization is competent and well-suited to solve the problems it’s addressing.
If an organization fails the Initial Screening, we usually don’t vet it on its Organizational Competence. Our aim in the next months is to start reaching out to all the organizations that fail the Initial Screening, share our results with them, and ask if they’re willing to improve their score.
So, to start with, we just wanted to see whether the five celebrity-run charities passed the Initial Screening.
I asked our in-house research team to have a look. This is the screenshot that they shared with me:
Again, to pass the Initial Screening you need to score at least 95. None of them did.
Quite discouraged, I read the notes the research team attached to the screenshot.
All charities with the exception of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation lack relevant information about their strategic plans. At the same time, DiCaprio’s organization needs to improve on other parameters like publishing its financial statements.
The Born This Way Foundation’s website was deemed “quite minimalist” by the research team, lacking information about key staff members and financial statements. Similarly, the Lopez Family Foundation should expand its website to include financial statements, strategic plans, relevant information about key staff members, and contact information (they don’t even have a contact form).
Obviously, the fact these five charities don’t pass the Initial Screening doesn’t mean that they’re inherently inefficient. It just suggests that they should work more on their online transparency and accountability.
In general, Kinder is not in the business of bashing charities and we would never share an organization’s poor results without discussing them with the relevant stakeholders beforehand. In this case, we made an exception since these five charities are exceptionally well-backed.
And if you’re Lady Gaga, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lopez, Oprah Winfrey, or Angelina Jolie and want to improve the Initial Screening score of your foundation don’t hesitate to drop us a line at email@example.com
Header Image: The Wolf of Wall Street © Paramount Pictures