Home or Away?

This page is meant to serve as a resource for donors that would like a pragmatic way to reach a conclusion about a common moral dilemma we call Home or Away?

Most people that have donated resources to charity with any regularity have likely considered the following; focus their generosity locally where they may be able to see the impact of their generosity, or give internationally where their donation may be able to make a greater impact.

To help ease the burden of this dilemma we recommend that donors consider the following analogy. We encourage each donor to wrestle with this analogy until they have established what we call a Multiple

Multiple - The level of impact it would take for a donor that is passionate about giving locally to shift his/her gift to a non-local charity because of a greater impact by the non-local charity. 

Home or Away Analogy

Imagine that you control a switch on a train track that diverts passing trains either left or right. You are held accountable for any outcome that occurs as a result of the passing trains because you control the switch to both left and right tracks. You will be asked to justify your decision should any accidents occur, regardless of whether or not you took action by pressing the switch, or decide to not press the switch. 

Today there is a train coming full speed down the track and you notice that a person from your local community is stuck on the left track and unable to move. Just as you consider pressing the switch to divert the train away from this person you notice two silhouettes stuck and unable to move on the right track as well. 

You are now faced a moral dilemma; press the switch and save the person from your community (saving one person), or do not press the switch, therefore saving the lives of two complete strangers. 

The local person in this analogy represents a charity that works in your area, the strangers in the analogy represent charities outside of your area. 

If you decide not to press the switch and allow the train to continue down the track where the single person is standing then your multiple is 1. 

If you decide to press the switch and divert the train to save the local person, then consider the analogy again, this time with 3 strangers on the track. Repeat this process until there are enough strangers on the track for you to make a decision to save the strangers. How many strangers would it take for you to not press the switch? Subtract 1 from your final number to get your multiple. For example, if it would take eight strangers on the track for you to decide to not press the switch then your multiple is 7 (8-1=7). 

Why Your Multiple Is Important

It is important for every donor to establish a multiple. This number allows donors to more accurately come to a conclusion about whether to give to a local charity or a non-local charity based on their personal beliefs of geographically centric donations vs. impact. 

Here is a simplified example of how this number is used to help donors. 

Using the Home or Away? analogy John has determined that his multiple is 3. John is now considering making a donation to a local charity that helps feed local homeless or giving to a charity that helps feed needy people in India. After some research, John concludes that a $100 donation will help feed 1 person for a year in his community, or 4 people per year in India. 

John multiplies his local impact of 1 by his Home or Away multiple of 3 (1x3). In the end John decides to give to the non-local charity that has an impact of 4. John clearly has a preference for helping people in his community, but in this case giving to the non-local charity creates a far greater impact, causing John to no longer be able to justify giving locally.  

Each person has a multiple. What is yours?

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