A Salvation Army captain shares his experience at Rockefeller Plaza.
A Salvation Army captain shares his experience at Rockefeller Plaza. - 

The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day marks a charitable season in America, and an emerging movement calls for people who give to consider not just how much of their donation gets eaten up by overhead, but also how to make the biggest difference possible in absolute terms.

It’s called effective altruism, with the goal of doing the most good with each dollar spent.

"In making the world a better place, you ought to draw on your capacity to reason and to look at evidence to have the biggest impact you can for good," said Peter Singer of Princeton University, a major proponent of the movement. 

"We try to approach this question of how to do the most good possible from a cause-neutral perspective," said Catherine Hollander, who works for GiveWell, a non-profit helping donors know where their dollars ought to go. "Which means you know not coming in with our own preconceived ideas about what it means to do the most good."

For individual donors, GiveWell’s answer is spending only on the global poor, through public health and cash transfer programs. But effective altruists say as long as you’re being cause-neutral and using reason to find the most impact, where the money ought to go can change from giver from giver, and over time.