Mandy Moore on Effective Altruism: It’s Time to Give with Your Head


The holidays are still a couple months away, and this year I’m thinking differently about my charitable giving. To my friends and my family, I give with my heart. But to make the most of the gifts I give to those who truly need them — I’ll be giving with my head.

This past spring, I read a book that reinforced why I became a global ambassador for Population Services International (PSI). Philosopher and ethicist Peter Singer, founder of the Effective Altruism movement, wrote “The Life You Can Save,” among about 20 other books, including his most recent “The Most Good You Can Do.” In both books, he challenges us to give to those most in need of our help, those living in extreme poverty. He also implores readers to focus on organizations (PSI is one of a handful of organizations he suggests) that measure and evaluate health impact and show evidence of disease prevented and lives saved.

It’s a powerful message and he’s inspired giving clubs around the world, like Giving What You Can, to pursue these values. It’s a smart way to give.

We are at a pivotal moment in time – we can actually end extreme poverty in the near future.

We are at a pivotal moment in time – we can actually end extreme poverty in the near future. But only if we focus resources where they make the greatest impact.

I’ve seen the benefits first hand. On a trip to Tanzania last year, I met Lucy, a PSI health worker. It’s her job to go into her community and speak to women like Sophia, a mother of two, about her contraceptive options. Sophia’s husband is gone for long periods of time as a truck driver and the couple can’t afford to have any more children right now. Lucy told Sophia about long-acting reversible contraceptive options, like an IUD, that can last for up to 10 years. She also gave her a voucher to go to a PSI-supported clinic to speak to a medical professional.

220 million women in developing countries have an unmet need for family planning. As a result, there are 74 million unplanned pregnancies each year and 800 women die due to complications from pregnancy and childbirth every day. Sophia, like millions of other mothers, simply wants enough money to care for her family and the choice to plan the family size she and her husband desire without risk of dying simply giving life.

Sophia’s is a life we can save. We already know how. It’s been proven that investing in contraception can reduce maternal deaths by 25%. PSI does this on a daily basis throughout the developing world.

On November 13, I will join Peter, the DC chapter of Giving What We Can at Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC, to share my experience seeing PSI programs and to discuss what it really means to give with your head. Peter and PSI have inspired me to find an increasingly more thoughtful approach to what I can do to change lives.

If you’re free, I hope you’ll join me.

To learn more about Effective Altruism, watch Peter Singer’s Ted Talk:

Follow the conversation on social media using the hastag #goodgiving.