In early 2016, while doing some research on stocks, I read Jack Bogle’s Little Book of Common Sense Investing. While interesting, the book is a little redundant, and the main takeaway can be summed up in one word - diversify. Bogle, the founder of Vanguard, makes the point that the average investor can minimize risk and “guarantee” a steady return by simply buying the entire stock market using index funds. This works because individual stocks are risky but relatively uncorrelated, and tend to increase in value over time. A portfolio composed of several stocks retains the average growth rate, but the risks mostly cancel out.

This is a powerful idea, and one that is applicable outside the realm of the stock market too. For example, with cost effectiveness data from GiveWell and ACE, I generated a portfolio of charities that minimized risk, and used it to inform my 2016 giving. Like stocks, I believe this is better than the “eggs in one basket” approach, but it seems likely that there are correlations within the EA community that make even a diversified portfolio of EA charities riskier than necessary. To further diversify, I set aside some of my yearly donation and let 20 members of my immediate family allocate it for me.

My invitation

Hi fam,

I’d like to try a little Christmas gift experiment this year, and I hope you’ll humor me and play along. Here’s how it’ll work:

  1. You’ll get an email in the next few days that looks like this.
  2. This email will inform you that you’ve received $50 from your (grand)son/brother/cousin/nephew Dan to donate to the charity of your choosing.
  3. You’ll choose a charity and donate the $50.
  4. You might send me a quick note telling me why you picked that charity.

That’s it! Step 4 is optional, but I’d really like to know what organizations and causes are important to you, so please consider sharing.

If you already have an organization in mind, that’s great! But if not, here are two good places to start looking. And if you’d rather not participate, that’s OK too - just let me know, and you’ll receive this lovely handsoap instead.

Merry Christmas (and Happy 2017)!

The charities

American Civil Liberties Union

Donated to the ACLU! Awesome Xmas gift idea, thanks Dan :)

Cousin C

American Heart Association

Hi Dan!!

Thank you for the Thoughtful Gift!!

I gave it to the American Heart Association to help further their work of helping everyone stay healthy. We do the program Jump Rope for Heart this time of year and the children are encouraged to eat, exercise and make healthy choices in regards to avoiding smoking and alcohol and drugs. Thanks again for giving a gift that saves lives and makes them better!!

Love & Hope!!

Aunt P

Catholic Family Center


I like this!!!!!!!!

The charity that I would choose is Catholic Family Center. My reason is because at Uncle Don's Arcadia 40th Reunion in 2015, I met a girl from Cardinal Mooney that I worked with when I was a Freshman/Sophmore. (We cleaned rooms after school to reduce our tuition). the reunion we talked and she told me that after her mother died when she and her 3 siblings were young, they had to be put in foster care because her dad was not able to raise them. A husband and wife took all 4 in, til they could be placed. She hoped so badly that they could all stay together, As it turns out, this same couple worked through Catholic Family Center to adopt all 4! She was forever grateful that CFC was there when she and her siblings were most vulnerable.....and were able to place them in the same home....and they were all adopted together!!!! It is a beautiful story and a happy ending. Her adoptive mom is still alive and means so much to her. I know Uncle Don spent some time helping out at CFC and saw some real needs when he was there....not a lot of resources..............but many people doing their best to help the marginalized.

So..............look forward to passing it forward to an organization that shares the spirit of Christ.

Thanks for your creative endeavor!

Blessings and Love,

Aunt M

Hi, Dan -

This is a wonderful gift, thank you so very much. I am recommending the recipient to be Catholic Family Center, which is an agency of the Diocese of Rochester that provides a multitude of social services: mental health care, drug rehabilitation, elder care, adoption and foster care services. refugee support, and person/property asst management to name just a few. I worked there for almost 3 years as their Director of Quality (retired this past September). I am so glad to share your gift with them. Thank you again, and please take care.

Uncle D

Contemplative Outreach Ltd.

Dan, I appreciate your generosity and thoughtfulness in helping out others in need (now that the Cubs are off that list!) Just to let you know, I gave the donation to the organization which has helped and supported me, along with thousands of other 'spiritual seekers and finders', throughout the years. We talked a little about it at Christmas, Contemplative Outreach Ltd, a nonprofit worldwide community of people, crossing all lines of faith denominations (but primarily Christian), dedicated to sharing one particular method of meditation/prayer, centering prayer. I've been involved with them for over 20 years and I'm extremely grateful for all blessings and good gifts I've received, not really in material things, but in a way of looking at life and living my life in a more centered way...that mindfulness stuff, eh? Thanks for the opportunity to spread some good cheer! I hope you had, and will have, a Happy New Year! I look forward to the next time we can get together -- maybe some euchre! Peace and take care.

'Uncle' T

Doctors Without Borders

Cousin C finished his donation last evening, and I just completed mine to Doctors without Borders. I saw them very active when I was in Kenya, and with the destruction leveled against them last year, felt that they should feel some support from Americans who care. </p>
Aunt J

Food for the Poor

Thank you, Dan, for the best gift of all, the ability to help others. I chose Food for the Poor. It is supported by the Catholic Church, and it supports orphanages in Haiti, disaster relief... and for areas where the most destitute live, purchases of goats and chickens, and the building of rudimentary shelters and schools. Almost all the money goes right to the people in need, and our church has been connected with them for years. We have built 80 homes in El Salvador, and provided a school, scholarships and many farm animals to help people be self sufficient and have the dignity of life that everyone should have. Thank you - this is indeed what Christmas is about.


Hope Again Cats

Uncle J supports Hope Again Cats on many fronts- he volunteers twice a week and cleans, feeds and does handy person tasks. He is also an officer on the board since this is a non profit org and he donates thousands of dollars each year to the kitties.

I support the above and try to help once a month and also belong to PETA and North Shore Animal League but also support the active environmental orgs like Greenpeace and Nature Conservancy.

We commend your desire to support our passions but we would like you to spend the money on visiting more often when it is less stressful than the holidays!

Uncle J & Aunt D

Journey Home

Thank you so much for your gift to "Journey Home". They are a wonderful group of people, *mostly* volunteers, who care for the dying. They do it with great compassion. Your gift to me this year was very thoughtful. May God bless you!

Grandma J


Hi Dan,

I was able to complete the task! Interesting concept. Screen shot below.

I have volunteered at Lifespan in the past for about 10 years assisting elderly clients with their finances and organizing their affairs. It is sad how many elderly have no family to lean on or are actually abused financially or otherwise by their family. Most of my clients lived on SS only. It can be a cruel world. Lifespan has a number of services and general education resources to assist the elderly.


Uncle JB

Susie Q Dog Resq

I'm thinking I want my donations to go to SusieQ ResQ where I fostered dj. I got to visit it and I saw how hard she interviews people and does home visits before she let's dogs go anywhere and she's seriously legit

she coordinates dogs who are set to get euthanized in the south to be driven up to NY and be fostered at people's houses until she finds a home for them. dj was set to be euthanized and he's my BFF



I’ll keep updating this as responses come in, and write a conclusion once I’ve heard from everyone.