Note to charitable givers: money if fungible

Okay, it’s good that charities can figure out how to get more people to give money, but it’s also depressing how this works.  Do they think that money magically gets to those in need without employees, staff, equipment, etc.?  Vox:

In a study published in Science on Thursday, a team of researchers showed that giving people the opportunity to donate directly to a charity program — with a promise that the money wouldn’t go to overhead — was far more effective than either matching donations or letting donors know about existing seed money…

Many people have started paying attention to overhead costs — such as administrative expenses, salaries, rent, and fundraising costs — when evaluating a charity. It’s a big factor in evaluation tools like CharityWatch. For some, high overhead might be seen as a mark of an inefficient charity.

But in the Science study, the researchers found that this wasn’t what was going on. People don’t actually mind charities that have high overhead — they just don’t want to pay for that personally. And that’s likely because they want to have the personal feeling of having an impact and donating directly to a good cause.

The results were stunning. The researchers partnered with a real-life education charity campaign that solicited 40,000 Americans, who randomly received different letters in the mail. Some letters promised donors that none of their money would go toward overhead. These letters, it turns out, were three times as effective as a simple solicitation: [emphasis mine]

The piece goes on to give all sorts of very good reasons on why it is foolish to evaluate a charity on overhead expenses alone.  But, again, what really kills me is the implicit idea of all these donors that money is not fungible.

Quick hits (part II)

1) I told myself if I found time yesterday, this would get it’s own post.  It didn’t.  So make sure you read it.  Great Garret Epps post on John Roberts and race.

2) Really enjoyed this New Yorker article on the director of the Susan B. Anthony list (a pro-life PAC).

3) Not surprisingly, “ancient grains” are for suckers.  I’m sure the people who buy this are plenty scared of GMO’s.

4) Paul Farmer says that with first-world health care 90% of Ebola victims should actually survive.  We’re doing pretty well in the US so far.

5) I must admit to always being a little more fascinated by Mormon sacred undergarments than I should be.  Now the church is coming clean on the topic.

6) A nice PS study that shows how the Tea Party has moved the Republican party to the right.

7) Emily Bazelon on the complications of yes means yes on college campuses.

8) Vox summarizes a Pew study demonstrating that there are basically no swing voters in this year’s election.

9) FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub came to my class a couple weeks ago.  That was pretty cool.  Here’s a nice piece about her and her visit to NC.

10) NYT with one of the better pieces I’ve read on the UNC athletics scandal.  I went to Duke and teach at NCSU, but UNC is a flagship for our whole state and this is so unfortunate for the whole state.  And as an academic, I hate to see academic integrity so undermined.

11) When is a debate not a debate?  How about when one candidate never  agrees to it but one organization basically pretends otherwise.

12) Peter Beinart putting Voter ID into the long American tradition of trying to keep poor people from voting.

13) Two nice takes on Iowa Senatorial candidate Jodi Ernst and welfare.  The idea that private charity can make up for government is not just wishful thinking, but simply preposterous and ahistorical.

14) You can never have too much fun with Kansas‘ supply side experiment gone awry.  Seriously, it’s not like anybody who’s not a complete drunk-the-kool-aid ideologue didn’t see this coming.

15) Republicans would really just prefer college students don’t vote at all.  There’s been all sorts of news about the on-campus voting at Appalachian State, but meanwhile nobody has talked at all about the large inconvenience for NCSU losing it’s polling location.

16) While helping Evan practice piano, I haven’t been able to get this tune out of my head for a couple of days.  Took me forever to figure it out because I was thinking it was Beethoven. Than I realized it must be some Chopin.  This is one of many Chopin pieces I loved to play back in the day.

Video of the day

Bizarrely captivating.  Via Kottke.

Map of the day

From a series at Vox showcasing the water problems in the American west.  It just kills me that everybody has way higher water usage out there because they are trying to grow nice green laws in the desert.  Ummm, grass is not meant to grow in the desert.  When I lived in Lubbock, Texas, (not a true desert, but semi-arid) otherwise sane people seemed not to be when it came to their need to match all their neighbor’s nice green laws.  As in Cary, NC, the Greene home was characterized by dead grass (the problem here is way too much shade) as I was not willing to waste a bunch of water on it.  Anyway, here’s the map:

(The Hamilton Project)

Chart of the day

I love that David Goldenberg at 538 analyzed the most popular animals for each letter in children’s books (e.g., d is for dog).  And the winner, Z is for Zebra over 90% of the time.

goldenberg-feature-animals

This was particularly noteworthy for me as Dr. Seuss’ ABC has always been one of my favorites “Rosie’s Red Rhinoceros” “Ten Tired Turtles” “Camels on the Ceiling” etc., but I hate how it ends… “What begins with Z… I do.  I am a Zizzer Zazzer Zuzz as you can plainly see.”  The whole rest of the book is pretty much real, but silly things (e.g,. the quacking quackeroo is a duck) and then we get this fantastical creature when we should have had a zebra!  Maybe Dr. Seuss just wanted to be different given the dominance of Zebras.

 

Quick hits

1) The zeppelins of WWI

Although the zeppelin was embraced by both the Germans and the Allies during World War I, the Germans made far more extensive use of the rigid, hydrogen-filled airships. The concept of “strategic bombing”—targeted airstrikes on a particular location—didn’t exist before the conflict. The advent of aerial warfare changed that, and also robbed the British of the protection afforded by the English Channel. The zeppelin allowed Germany to bring the war to the English homeland. Kind of.

2) Parenting as a Gen-Xer:

It struck me recently, after one of my quiet carpool rides, that my generation of parents – we of the soon-to-be or recently 40 year old Gen X variety, the former latchkey children of the Cold War and an MTV that actually played videos, former Atari-owners who were raised by the the Cosby Show and John Hughes, graduated high school with the kids from 90210, then lumbered through our 20s with Rachel, Ross, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe, and Joey and flip phones – is perhaps the last to straddle a life experience both with and without the Internet and all its social media marvels.

3) EJ Dionne on NC politics.  And a WSJ piece on how NC politics increasingly resemble those of Virginia.

4) Eating octopus?  No thanks.

5) Jon Chait with an interesting essay on the value of playing football.

6) Are Alabama Judge Tom Parker’s ideas the key to dismantling Roe v. Wade?  I suspect not, but it is disturbing to think about somebody with his ideas (forget the Constitution– the real version– it’s all about God– Parker’s version) serving as a judge.

7) Maria Konnikova on social media and the Dunbar number

Dunbar did the math, using a ratio of neocortical volume to total brain volume and mean group size, and came up with a number. Judging from the size of an average human brain, the number of people the average person could have in her social group was a hundred and fifty. Anything beyond that would be too complicated to handle at optimal processing levels. For the last twenty-two years, Dunbar has been “unpacking and exploring” what that number actually means—and whether our ever-expanding social networks have done anything to change it.

8) Nice post from Mike Cobb on how to have a healthy skepticism towards non-attitudes reported as attitudes on surveys.

9) Really nice piece from John Dickerson about Matt Bai’s new book, the media, and political scandal.

10) Jon Chait decries California’s new “yes means yes” approach to sexual assault.  Ezra Klein writes easily the most interesting commentary (supportive of the law) I’ve read on the matter.

11) A look at the great impact exercise can have on a child’s brain.  The results are great, but, there’s this:

Each two-hour session also included downtime, since children naturally career about and then collapse, before repeating the process. In total, the boys and girls generally moved at a moderate or vigorous intensity for about 70 minutes and covered more than two miles per session, according to their pedometers.

That doesn’t strike me as remotely scalable.  I’d love to see some efforts along these lines of an exercise program for kids with less time commitment.

12) Vox on why the LED light was worth the Nobel Prize.  (For what it’s worth, I remember reading many years ago how a white LED light was a holy grail).

13) NYT Magazine on how school lunches have become a political battleground.  Personally, I think everybody needs to give pizza more respect.  My middle and high schools all offered pizza as a lunch entree every day.  That’s how it should be.

14) You probably don’t know that much about giraffes.  You should.

15) A sixteen year old spent three years in jail for allegedly stealing a backpack before the charges were dropped.  Just another day (or three years) of criminal justice in America (at least if you are poor).

Coolest maps ever

I don’t know how I missed seeing before this collection of maps that uses US census data to show racial segregation in American cities, but it is simply awesome.  My favorite is Detroit (thanks to Eminem I know about 8 Mile Road which divides this map):

In Detroit, among the most segregated cities in America, 8 Mile Road serves as a sharp dividing line. Image: Dustin Cable White: blue dots; African American: green dots; Asian: red; Latino: orange; all others: brown

And you know what’s really cool, you can go here and zoom in on your own neighborhood!

map

Everybody likes to think Cary, NC is just a bunch of rich white people (and okay, lots of blue dots here), but that purple circle of diversity– that’s my neighborhood.  (And if you are curious, all that red is a huge Indian population in western Cary and neighboring Morrisville).

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 556 other followers

%d bloggers like this: