We invest in sustainable change, and use our resources to support programs that have a measurable track record of having the deepest impact for the causes they represent. All of the programs that we support are vetted in the areas of financial accountability, transparency, and level of impact.
Every current and future program developed by the PIF Foundation has been strategically designed for what we believe is necessary to change the norm and promote proactive philanthropy.
Why should I send support to another country when there are so many people in my area that need help?
This is a common question that we often face when asking for support from donors, and it makes perfect sense to ask.
When we were first building the PIF model this dilemma was one of many that we had to seriously consider. First, it is important to know that our decision to focus our programs primarily overseas has nothing to do with our lack of empathy for those suffering closer to home; it is really a matter of impact.
Our belief as an organization is that all lives were created with equal value. Whether you are lucky enough to have been born in the U.S. or are growing up Sudan, the value of your soul is the same. Neither has any greater or lesser right to be alive. When it comes to philanthropy our goal is to help as many people as we feasibly can with the limited resources that we have. Because the cost of saving a person in many third world countries is a fraction of the cost of saving a person in the U.S. we choose to direct our funding were our dollar can go the furthest.
The map that you see printed below shows the economic status of the various countries throughout the world. As you can see countries like the U.S., Canada, Australia, and many European countries thrive economically. Places like Africa, India, Central America, and parts of Asia where income is the lowest are also the same places where preventable diseases go untreated, people lack access to clean water and sanitation, and poverty suppresses entire communities, choking out education systems and removing hope for families that just want a better opportunity for the next generation.
There is no arguing that we have some very serious problems here in the U.S. in and other first-world nations. However, when we are faced with a decision to save one life in the U.S. vs. 100 lives in Africa, the choice is clear.
This concept of intentionally choosing not to give money to charity A so that we can better support the more effective B charity means that we have to turn down the work of really great people. It also means that we are choosing to not participate in the work of some really great organizations.
We are willing to admit that the solutions that we provide through our three primary programs may not be the right answer for every donor looking to make an impact. Our platform was intentionally designed with a focus on equipping people with a way to more effectively make a difference for the things that they are most passionate about; whether that means supporting one of our programs or more local causes.
When we were going through the hiring process to bring on the first paid staff person for PIF we had a somewhat unique question that we asked each candidate. Here is the exact scenario:
A train is running out of control down a track. In its path are five children playing who will definitely be hit by the train. You could flip a switch, which will lead the train down a different track where there is just one child standing. Would you flip the switch or do nothing?
This a variation of the classic “Trolley Problem” experiment created by philosophers to determine how people would respond to a moral dilemma. Around 90% of people would flip the switch to save the lives of the five children. Our candidates were no different in their responses.
However, some experiments pose an alternative scenario:
A train is running out of control down a track. In its path are five children playing who will definitely be hit by the train. However, you are standing next to a man that is portly enough to stop the train if pushed onto the track. Would you push the man to stop the train, or do nothing?
What would you do? If you are like the majority of people, you would choose to not act. However, the two possible outcomes of the push or don’t push scenario are no different from the one where you had the option of flipping the switch to spare five lives. People generally consider the act of physically touching the portly man as less ethical than flipping a switch. The reality is that both scenarios put you into a position where your decision to act or just standby will directly impact the lives of six people. Flip or not, push or don’t?
As dramatic as these scenarios are, and as uncomfortable as they may make you feel, they are not a far cry from the life or death decisions that we make on a daily basis. Every day thousands of people in third world countries die because they lack access to life’s basic necessities. Others die from causes that are completely preventable. So how does our train scenario relate to the decision that we each have to help or not help those in need?
For those that have not yet begun a journey of intentional generosity by purposefully contributing to life saving organizations, the decision to start giving will have little to no adverse effect. In other words, if people that currently do not give to charity started giving, it is really like flipping a third switch and completely stopping the train before it hits anyone. This is because the individual is choosing between doing nothing and doing something.
For those that currently give their time, talent, treasure, or influence to support life saving charities the train dilemma hits a bit closer to home. You see, part of our mission is to challenge all donors to give more effectively. This often means giving to a different organization altogether, or focusing giving on fewer areas so that the impact being made goes further than it otherwise would. In these cases, our organization often provides donors with a dilemma that challenges them to flip a switch.
Doing good does not always feel good when you have to make a decision between two great causes, two great charities, or two worthy locations. However, we find that donors that are more intentional about deploying their resources more effectively find peace in the fact that they are one step closer to doing good...better.