I generally consider myself a utilitarian when it comes to ethics, and I have always wondered what the best way to give to charity is. I remember exiting grocery stores growing up and seeing a cute statue of a guide dog at the exit. The dog had a little slit in the top of its head where people could drop donations to sponsor a guide dog—a cause that does a lot of good for a lot of people.
However, it costs up to “$50,000 annually to breed, raise, and train a dog for a person who is blind.”  By comparison, you could feed four families in Africa for 29 years with same amount of money.  While both are for good causes, the second without doubt provides many times more relief to the greatest number of people.
Part of the problem is that it is much easier to imagine someone in need of a guide dog—you might even know a person who has one—then to imagine a nameless family you’ll never meet struggling to survive in a village on a different continent. However, that abstraction is no excuse for a lack of action, or misplaced action.
Regardless of our ability to relate to the people we could be helping, when giving to charity we have a duty to assist as many people as possible. Peter Signer, an Australian moral philosopher, puts it succinctly when he writes, “Heartwarming charities are nice, but let’s give to charities with our heads.” 
1. Guiding Eyes for the Blind. (2021). FAQs. https://www.guidingeyes.org/about/faqs/.
2. Samaritan’s Purse International Relief. (2021). Feed a family. https://www.samaritanspurse.org/donation-items/life-saving-food/.
3. Singer, P. (2016). Ethics in the real world: 82 brief essays on things that matter. Princeston, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Hello everyone, I’m Josh Beaudoin, the editor-in-chief of The Collegian. I’m from central Alberta, Canada, and first started at The Collegian in 2019 as the writer of the food column. I love to spend time outdoors and regularly hike in places like Mount Rainier National Park and Banff National Park. I also do quite a bit of reading about social and political topics.