Saving Lives Using Reason and Compassion Through Giving Games


by Gleb Tispursky
President and Co-Founder of Intentional Insights
Cooperating Group with Columbus Coalition of Reason

Save lives while having a great discussion with fellow reason-oriented people and not spending a penny? Sounds too good to be true! What’s the catch?

That’s what I thought when I first heard about Giving Games. What I knew going in is that in this workshop-style event, participants are given a pool of actual money, $10 per individual, to give to several pre-selected charities. We would engage in a moderated discussion about our values for giving and what kind of methods we should use to select the charity to which we would donate that pool of money. Then, we would apply that discussion to evaluating pre-selected charities, and then vote on which charity should get the money.

The best thing is that none of us needs to spend a dime, as that pool of money is donated by The Life You Can Save, an organization that promotes rational discussions about charitable giving. It’s part of the Effective Altruism movement, dedicated to combining the head and the heart – reason and compassion – to do the most good per dollar.

As the President of Intentional Insights (InIn), a nonprofit offering science-based strategies for reason-oriented people to reach our goals by improving our thinking, feeling, and behavior patterns, I was very intrigued. Giving Games clearly fit our mission of improving the way we think about charitable giving, while also offering participants a pragmatic way of making a real difference in the world through donating money without having to spend any themselves. Moreover, I am personally a reason-oriented activist and InIn is a member of Columbus CoR, which made me immediately think about how to bring Giving Games to the reason-oriented community.

To me, Giving Games sounded like a perfect opportunity to cultivate reason-based community bonds and draw local CoRs together. At the same time, Giving Games would advance positive social change. Additionally, they would help give secular people develop a greater reputation for doing good in the world. This is something I have a long-standing interest in, even before the founding of InIn. As a local reason-based activist for Columbus CoR, I helped organize Flying Spaghetti Monster dinners to benefit a local food bank and raise the profile of secular giving.

I talked to The Life You Can Save, and they expressed a strong interest in collaborating with InIn to bring Giving Games to the reason-oriented community. We experimented with a Giving Game for the Humanist Community of Central Ohio, a CoR member group of Columbus CoR, and it went really well. People from a number of Central Ohio nontheistic groups came together to discuss their values for giving and select a charity using a combination of reason and compassion. One participant said afterward: “If others have half the experience I had today, they will be completely changed.” I wrote up the results as a model for other secular groups who want to host Giving Games. InIn and The Life You Can Save also developed a Giving Game targeted to secular student groups, in collaboration with the Secular Student Alliance, which provides a further model you can use.

Having tested the Giving Game model, we are ready to expand this event to all local CoRs, not only secular student groups. If you want to organize a Giving Game for your local CoRs before then, check out the two links above for inspiration and guidance.

Giving Games have much promise for helping local CoRs draw their members together, create positive social change, and promote a positive reputation for secular people in the broader community. I look forward to learning about your experience with Giving Games!