How should you give to a charity?

The reasons why you support a specific cause are always intensely personal. Some people want to spend their money to protect baby seals while others would prefer it spent on human babies. Bill Gates thinks AIDS is a big threat, while Bono wants to save Africa.

Also Read: Give and take

Help’s at hand

Aasra, Mumbai

Mumbai Mobile Creche, Mumbai

Family Home, Mumbai

Room to Read, New Delhi

Pankhudi, Bangalore

Make-A-Wish Foundation, New Delhi

Arushi (Salaam Baalak Trust), Gurgaon

Naz Care Home, New Delhi

My wife and I have decided to keep some part of our annual earnings aside to help those who are less lucky than we are. We give our money to an NGO that tries to assist poor children. It offers us a menu of programmes that can be funded. We usually ask this charity to use our money to give girls an annual dose of iron and folic acid tablets.

Share the wealth: Baby seals or kids’ health?

Pretty unscientific stuff—but we have stuck to our game plan.

However, earlier this year, I stumbled across the most recent findings of the Copenhagen Consensus, a project that uses the principles of welfare economics to find out how the world should spend money to improve the well-being of the poor. Eight economists, including five Nobel laureates, prepared the final wish list.

The latest report was prepared this year. It says that micronutrient supplements of vitamin A and zinc are the best way to spend money to improve the lives of the poor. Free trade comes in at No. 2. The third slot is taken by micronutrient fortification—iron and salt iodization.

The entire list can be read at the official website of the Copenhagen Consensus. What I find interesting is the fact that fashionable causes such as global warming, taxes on tobacco and microfinance come pretty low in the rankings. The world will do better if money is spent on commonplace stuff such as deworming and immunizing children against disease.

Not everyone would agree. A friend commented on a blog post I had done on this issue in September: “I guess I’m a bit of the old world chap for whom donations have to come from a call of the heart rather than doing complex econometric modelling in the head."

Niranjan Rajadhyaksha is the editorial pages editor of Mint and writes a weekly column called Cafe Economics