A couple of weeks ago, Erik started an Instagram campaign to raise awareness for the climate crisis and to protect the rainforest. He pledged to donate up to 1 Million dollars, $1 for each person that was tagged in the comments. This received a lot of tags, a lot of love as well as hate. Is donating openly cool or self-serving flattery? Join Emil and Erik in their discussion about doing good publicly.
[00:00:00] A couple of weeks ago, Erik started an Instagram campaign to raise awareness for the rainforest in this campaign. He pledged to donate $1 for each person that was tagged in the comments field of the Instagram post. And this received a lot of tags, a lot of comments, a lot of positive feedback. We also received some negative feedback, and I’m going to read two of those comments outloud right now. I think Mr. Bergman is seeking publicity more than he’s keen to make the donation itself. And seriously, Erik, if you want to donate money, why don’t you just do it? Your campaign creates no value at all other than just being some sheep advertisment trick for your own personal brand. And hey, if you’re new to this podcast, Erik Burgmann is the founder of our organization Great AdCom, a company that will give away 100 percent of its profits to charity. Erik, good morning.
[00:01:10] Good morning. Thank you. And I’m here with my friend Amundsen’s. Ten fifteen years, maybe one of the smartest guys I know. And he’s also the host of this podcast and the first person in to join me on the great mission of great dot com. So happy to be here with you once again.
[00:01:29] The great mission of Great.com. Love it. Thank you for the introduction. Now, why do you think. Do you choose to make this donation publicly? Why do you think people choose to not do that? Why do you think people choose to keep donations to themself and not tell anyone about it?
[00:01:50] Well, I think that’s the most common approach to charity, and I see for a long time that was the only thing I did. The first donations, most of the donations I’ve done, I haven’t barely told anyone about and I’ve definitely haven’t done it public. I’ve just done it. Let’s call it privately for myself. And yeah, how about you? What what’s your approach to this?
[00:02:17] Ok. So.
[00:02:20] I kind of made small charity donations through my life, just 10 years here and there. The first real big donation I made to a shared organization. And honestly, just saying this on a podcast is making me cringe a little bit. And I would like to explore that emotion soon. But so I had played poker professionally for 10 years and I made some money from that. And a lot of those winnings are tax free stuff felt like. It felt morally correct to want to give that money back to society. Not all of it, but a little bit somehow. And my problem was that I felt like if I’m donating to a big, big organization like Doctors Without Borders, I can’t really know where that money is gonna go through to. And so I was thinking these thoughts. And then at the same time, a friend from my high school approached me and said he wanted to start this project in Ghana where he wanted to collect laptops from Sweden and get him down there and do I.T. education from children. So I thought that sounded like a really great idea and I wanted to support this cause. So I donated to him. Well, I financed to start off of the project. And I think I put in about $15000 into this project over the first year. And I choose to to keep that to my to myself. And the biggest reason for that was honest. I didn’t even consider really telling anyone about it or especially not going public on social media. And I think the main reason that I didn’t do it was that I was afraid to get exactly those kind of comments that you got now on your campaign.
[00:04:16] You mentioned that you cringe just thinking about saying that now. Do you feel the same thing now? I mean, this is I don’t know what’s four years ago and this is the first time you’re talking about it. I actually haven’t heard that number before.
[00:04:29] You haven’t.
[00:04:29] No, you haven’t told me how much. I know that you’ve been supporting them, but you never told me that it was such a big amount.
[00:04:34] Okay. Yeah.
[00:04:37] Crunching it feels like I guess I always kind of had the perception that if shared dish should come from a pure place, I shouldn’t be kind of bragging about it or telling people about it.
[00:04:54] So let’s let’s head over there, because I think that’s an interesting aspect. Wait, why do you think this is such a taboo? Why do you why do you think we have that feeling?
[00:05:06] I don’t know. I think I’m afraid to get.
[00:05:11] Judged for Canada, showing off that I had made that I had that money to spare or that I’m making other people feel bad in comparison cause they are not. Might not being in a position where they can make that kind of donation.
[00:05:33] That makes sense. Because something that fascinates me and I’m very interested in why that is. Is that it it feels like in society it’s okay to be proud over a Rolex watch or a car, but for some reason it’s not okay to be proud of of charity or doing good.
[00:05:55] And I have been proud of exactly those things. So it makes no sense. For some reason. It really doesn’t.
[00:06:06] So I wonder, and now I haven’t thought this through, I’m just talking out loud. I wonder if. If it’s because of marketing kind of around and what celebrities does, then that it’s OK, we see these Rolex watches on television all the times, it’s kind of okay to be proud of it, but we don’t see charity in that way. So if the celebrities are proud of it, then it’s OK for us regular people to be proud of it. Or do you think.
[00:06:39] I definitely think that plays a big part of it. And I also think that.
[00:06:46] Because now obviously, we have given this some thought and we have an idea. Believe it or not, that we want to propose in this episode that we have a there’s a big positive effect of making charity donations public. But I had an I had never given any thought to that idea when I made those decisions. I didn’t understand that. OK. If I make a donation, that can inspire other people to do the same. And also, the organization gets marketing, obviously. So I didn’t think about that. And I think if I if I knew, I would have been more likely to see you’d be comfortable, if that makes sense.
[00:07:27] And so you basically never even considered. Why would someone donate publicly and how could there be a positive effect of that?
[00:07:35] Yeah. Yeah. No one had talked about it to me about that idea. I hadn’t given shared any thought at all when I made this donation. So valuable point. Right. So now you have made donations before that were that you kept to yourself, but now you choose to make this rainforest campaign public on your Instagram account.
[00:08:00] Well, what’s the logic behind that? I guess most of the reason for it. He has the most donations I’ve made up until now.
[00:08:09] I’ve kept to myself for the same reason that you mentioned before. I’ve been worried what people would say. And. I want to feel kind of like I’ve had a clean intention that I’m not doing this for me in a way, I’m not sure how true that even is or if it’s just an excuse I’ve told myself. But basically I haven’t wanted it to look like I’m showing off. And lately, as you mentioned, we have given this a lot of thought and we’ve talked a lot about it and. The feeling of if I’m doing this publicly, I can inspire others and make a bigger impact has really resonated with me and stuck with me, and I felt like, OK, if I’m doing this publicly, then hopefully more people will donate money either to this course or to other causes. And if I can be part of. Since you have done a lot of research on the topic of which organizations are the most effective and how big the impact is of donating to them compared to others. So if I can show them by drawing attention to, OK, these organizations actually really, really good. But people don’t know about them, then that provides a value for that organization, but also for everyone listening because they will be able to make a more educated choice in a sense.
[00:09:30] Right. So not only could you inspire someone to donate, they wouldn’t do it otherwise, but you could also inspire someone that would donate anyway to donate their money to a cause that might be many times more effective at taking care of that donation.
[00:09:46] Yeah, exactly. So if they would donate a hundred dollars to this organization, Rainforest Coalition, a rainbow coalition for Rainforest Nations have a very complicated name that would make so much more of a difference for the environment than if they would donate it to a football team that collects plastic along the highway, for example. So just by giving that option, I’m thinking that it will make an impact. And I’m also hoping for more people to donate them that if they see this, they will they will make a donation.
[00:10:22] So did it have that effect on what happened from the campaign?
[00:10:26] It was one of the one of the negative comments was that this would have no value at all. So what was the actual result of this?
[00:10:35] Yes, at first I got a lot of negative feedback. So I got those comments that you read and I got a lot of other ones and I got a lot of positive feedback, but I didn’t see any of the really positive results. No one made a donation. No one showed anything for a couple of days. And I got caught bombed by these comments. It affected me. It definitely affected me. I don’t think I would. A couple of years ago, I would’ve been affected a lot more, but it definitely affected me. But then a woman named Fukui, a Swedish blogger. She reached out publicly and said, Wow, this is such a cool thing. I want to do the same thing. And she said that I will add one kroner to each dollar that Erik donates, and that kroner is like ten cents. So that’s suddenly just an an added value of 10 percent on each donation that I was doing. And it was a huge relief to to get that message and see her spreading the message as well, because suddenly, OK, this is hard rock on evidence that it works. It will create an impact. It will make a difference. And then I got more messages after this. Someone started donating $500 dollars every week. No, Sara, every month instead of a monthly donation.
[00:11:56] And that’s like six thousand dollars a year. That wouldn’t have happened otherwise. And I got a couple more coming in from smaller donations, but that were substantial compared to the money they had. Even one guy who’s just a student and he’s like, I have next to no money spare, but I’ll spare 10 bucks. And that just meant the world to me as well. Just opening this thing up and. After that, I felt so. It felt like these negative comments. You know, this scene in in Matrix, The Matrix, when he just holds up his hand and are bullets just coming towards him and the bullets just stop midair and then fall to the ground? Yeah. Whenever the negative comments came out that I was like holding up my hand, like, you can’t touch me. And it was so much easier dealing with all this, because now I before it was a theory that I would create value this way, put myself out there, and a theory would be that it created more value. Now, I had hard on prove for myself that, OK, Erik, this was the right choice to make. Because thanks to these things, I think an extra 50 percent or something like that. On top of my donation was done. So I’m just super happy with with how it turned out.
[00:13:12] And I think for me, moving forward, my current perspective is that I want to make all the donations that I make public and I’m not neo yet where I can just stop the bullets. I think if I get comments like that, they’re going to hit me and they’re gonna hurt me. But it’s going to be worth it because imagine if I would have made that donation to the school and garner public. And that also would have gotten a 50 percent extra. I don’t have as big of a social media account as you do, but just say a little bit extra. Yes, it’s uncomfortable for me when the bullet hit me. But the extra kid in Ghana that gets a laptop to learn I.T. is gonna be pretty happy that I was willing to take that bullet.
[00:13:57] It’s beautifully put. Yeah, it’s really beautiful. But. As I’m curious about these things, so why why do you think this works? Is there? Why do you think that more people chose to donate just because they saw me do it?
[00:14:15] I think that comes down to trust. So.
[00:14:20] One of the reasons that I didn’t make any donations before I made that donation data for children was that I don’t know enough about these big organizations to know what will my money do. But when this guy touched on that, I went to high school with. Came to me and said, can you help me finance this? I said, I don’t know if this is a good idea, but I trust you because I’ve known you for 10 years. So. I had trust in his personality, so I guess that people that mirror your donation, they trust you. They trust that you have experience in finance. They trust that you run a charity project. They trust that you. Have done the research and that this is a good organization.
[00:15:09] It’s so sad that people don’t trust charities. And yet in many ways I’ve definitely felt the same way and I still do. To some extent there is. It’s tricky with with trust and especially on charities. What do you think that is?
[00:15:25] Well, of course, not all shadow organizations are good. But many of them are. The field as a whole, I think gets a bad rap in media. And that is because of what what is worthy for news to write about. So let’s say that the organization Save the Children saves a child. Then that’s not really news says it. It just it’s just what they do. But let’s say instead that an employee of saves the children that probably has ten thousand employees. Let’s say that one guy fucks up and goes to a brothel and all of a sudden that is a big new scandal. Guy from Save the Children goes to a brothel. And that’s news.
[00:16:09] Yeah, I can see that. I’ve actually heard somewhere, and I don’t know if this is true, but I’ve heard it that 19 out of 20 articles written about charities are are negative and then creates a bad reputation.
[00:16:23] Mm hmm.
[00:16:24] I think that easily could be true and that it’s then a not accurate picture of the field as a whole. So what do you think can be done to change this perspective?
[00:16:38] I think it’s really hard. So one more thing there is that. I’ve heard that the feeling that is most likely to create people to share is anger. So it is in the newspapers interest to write things that people get angry about because it’s more likely they will share it with others and that will create a viral effect. So obviously, if Save the Children say it’s a child, no one is gonna be angry about it. But if Save the Children employees goes to a brothel.
[00:17:10] People will get furious and it will create the same kind of thing. And. On that note, something that. People are also likely to share is celebrities and cool things. So if charity could kind of be a cool thing, something that people were proud of, something that celebrities spoke more about, then maybe that could be the same kind of situation happening there, that media would pick it up and start talking about it as something good, because suddenly we create more positive vibe about it. So how would anyone be able to make it cool, you think?
[00:17:55] Mm hmm. I love that f making charity. Cool. I think that’s definitely an effect that I want to have. And two things that at least I can do for myself is first is to make the public donations that I do public and talk about it like I do right now in this podcast. And another thing is, if I’m on the other side, let’s say someone else is making a public donation, that it’s important for me that I give that person praise. Maybe I share what this person is doing. And also not give negative comments. I love I think it’s the is the very least that I can do is to not be a hater.
[00:18:38] So something that you could do, even if you’re not donating yourself, is to lift up someone else who’s donating. And it’s actually gonna have a very positive effect because it will make it more likely that this person will donate again. It will make more people see it. So you don’t even have to donate public yourself to create a public bus about it.
[00:18:59] Of course. So let’s say about that. Let’s say your campaign that a student is reaching out to you and say, I don’t have any money, but I can muster up $10.
[00:19:09] And that is beautiful. And at the same time, if he would have shared your post in his whole network on social media, he would probably reach let’s say he reaches 300 people. That is free marketing for the organization to treat people. That is probably worth more to them than the $10 donation. Yeah.
[00:19:28] Yes, sir. Great. We have this approach that anyone in the team can shows to lower their salary and will donate that money to to charity or to the environment. And I will double that donation to make it a more substantial and giving an incentive to do that in Europe shoes and to lower your salary with with 10 percent, which is three thousand six hundred euros a year. And are you gonna choose to start doing this publicly then or what’s what’s gonna be your approach to this is.
[00:20:02] Yeah, for sure. I think that is. I think that is a great idea, especially if because I live in a country like Sweden and it’s one of the richest countries in the world, I think almost everyone in Sweden is top 5 percent richest people. If you look at it globally. So it makes sense to lower my salary a little bit and help those that are worst off. I think this is an idea we got from the effective altruism forum and I want to support rather than active altruism for. So it’s this community that is looking to find ways to find the most effective charity organizations. So one idea I want to spread is that is to lower my salary with 10 percent and then. Give that money to always to the organization that I think is the most effective at doing good.
[00:20:58] And when you say lower, it could basically be donate 10 percent of your salary, which effectively be what you will have a lower pain in reality. Yeah. It’s not like you have to go. You don’t have to do it the way we do it. Where you actually going? To the employer and lowers it.
[00:21:14] Exactly. Yeah. So I like that idea. And I would do it even if I wasn’t great. But obviously it’s a advantage to do it in an organization like. Right? Yeah. And I mean, it’s not it’s not a new idea. People used to do it in church.
[00:21:28] You gave 10 percent to your church and then they used that money, hopefully to improve the lives of the poor.
[00:21:37] Yeah, that’s true. So what?
[00:21:38] So these, uh, 3600 euros per year, what’s the impact gonna be from that when you’re donating it? What what courses do you want to do it for and where? How how big will the impact be?
[00:21:49] I think that’s the cool part. The I think thirty six thousand euros per year is 3600. Yeah. So that’s the donation. So my my salary would great is. It’s a pretty, I think, around an average salary in Sweden, right?
[00:22:10] Yeah, it’s it’s definitely higher than average in Sweden, but not that much higher. Yes, it’s about 3000 euros a month or thirty thousand kroner per month. If you translate it to Swedish.
[00:22:20] Yeah. So the effect that would have out of that is that let’s say I focus it towards the climate. Then I would reduce with the Coalition for Rainforest Nations that we support. I would prevent about three thousand six hundred tons of carbon dioxide from being in the air by preserving rainforest, and that would mean that my climate effect carbon dioxide rise would be cero and also 360 more people would have Cero climate effect.
[00:22:56] So just from you, doing this would be the equivalent of and sixty Swedish people not going by car, not eating meat.
[00:23:06] Not doing any of these things that emits carbon from your door, not even not.
[00:23:11] Heating their house, not using roads or hospitals.
[00:23:15] That’s so 300. That’s really cool. And it’s going down to the to the research that founders pledged there.
[00:23:21] Right. And I think the cool thing about this opportunity is that for me, stop driving would be kind of a big sacrifice. Stop flying would be tricky because we live in a country that is far up in north. And stop eating meat would also be a big sacrifice for me. So they would be similar sacrifices to lowering my salary with 10 percent. But the effect that would have out of that decision is so, so huge because of how effective those organizations are. And let’s say instead that my thing is not the climate, but I want to help people. I want to help the poorest people in the world. Then a top ranked course is an organization that is giving out medicine that prevents malaria in really poor countries. So mosquito. That’s right. Not medicine. Well, last year it was mosquito nets, but this year, the top ranked malaria prevention organization, they’re giving out a medicine that is preventing malaria in high cities. I didn’t know that. So some kind of a temporary vaccine. But it’s my understanding of today. Yes. And me lowering my with one 10 percent for one year would would protect 600 people from malaria during that year.
[00:24:43] Ok, is for three thousand six hundred euros. That would be enough to give six hundred people this medicine for the entire malaria season.
[00:24:51] Yeah. Yeah. I’m not having malaria is obviously giving huge opportunities for people in these countries. Children gets less sick. They can go to school more, they can spend more time improving their conditions instead of spending time being sick. And malaria is really.
[00:25:08] So to me, this sounds like another thing then that’s worth doing to make charity cool or make people proud of it being able to show how big of an impact it is. Now, imagine if you just saw if you were standing on a stage, let’s say that and there is six hundred people in front of you. That’s a lot of people. And you are doing something very important and meaningful for all of those people. That’s a powerful feeling to think. It’s huge.
[00:25:36] And 600 people, that’s big school and I’m going to end up preventing that real people are dying. I’m gonna prevent that real children die. That’s really cool. And those children. And imagine now again that I can do this donation and keep it to myself. But let’s say I do it publicly and I get 10 percent extra effect out of destination, which is not. I like it unlikely. I mean, you did that.
[00:26:03] I mean, that is in this example, that would be 60 people that are getting prevention from malaria that otherwise wouldn’t. Yeah. And those people don’t think that I’m bragging, obviously. Yeah.
[00:26:15] No, no, not those those 60 people are just gonna be very happy in malarious and nasty disease.
[00:26:21] So being able to protect someone from it is very powerful and they’re gonna be way more happy that I’m gonna be uncomfortable sharing.
[00:26:29] That’s an interesting perspective. Yeah, they’re gonna be way more happy. Then you’re gonna cringe a little bit to be a little bit uncomfortable and they’re gonna be healthy. That’s I really like that perspective on thought.
[00:26:40] I’m not going to malaria cringe. I heard the same guy that found a data for children project. He got malaria. He said it was horrible. Like you said, fever spikes. Yeah. He said it was awful.
[00:26:55] Yeah. Talking more about the effects and explaining the effects. I think that’s a really cool aspect of this. How much impact it actually actually has is definitely key ways to do this.
[00:27:07] So what are some of the other effects that you had from doing this?
[00:27:11] You touched upon this earlier, like free advertising for four charities. So when we’re doing this publicly, I got on this Instagram post, I got over 12000 comments and more than fifty thousand people came to my profile. Read this post, rightly so, everything around it. And for Coalition Reenforce Nations, this charity organization, that’s completely free advertising. They haven’t paid anything. I didn’t really pay for it because I just made a donation that that made a lot of sense to me. And that’s just advertising that no one has as paid for. So by doing this publicly, it creates a buzz around coalition for rainforest nations, which I love. I want them to have as much attention as possible. There were a bunch of newspaper articles writing about it and they mentioned this organization. They wouldn’t have done that otherwise. So. It created those extra donations that you can actually see and kind of measure how much money was that. But it also created an understanding, a teeny tiny bit of understanding for 50000 people who read this. And probably a lot of understanding to, let’s say 1 percent of those maybe actually went and read up on this organization and did something.
[00:28:28] And that’s 500 people who actually looked into this and started learning. And that’s. Huge impact, even though it didn’t, I can’t say they donated money now it happened anything now, but that kind of advertising in that kind of conversation got to be worth a lot. And I can’t.
[00:28:45] I don’t know how much, but that’s just yeah, that advertising is a really cool thing to think about, especially if it happens over and over again and more and more people do the same thing. Yeah. Imagine if many people did free advertisment for good shadow organizations. Yeah, I think a lot of the problems we have today would have been. Closer to being solved. Yeah, I completely agree, completely agree. Let’s let’s switch gears a little bit, because I want to talk about a phenomenon, tricky word to say, find on a mano a mano.
[00:29:17] It sounds like that sounds like a pokemon . No, it sounds like, you know, Finding Nemo, the movie, when he’s want to say. Where do you live? And I no name on the monument. I know what you want to find on the money. You want to talk about it for not for fun on him on. So. So if any merchant you’re on there are gonna make a dramatic store and we’re lucky I’m building it up.
[00:29:43] Bom bom, bom, bom. Imagine you’re on a street and it’s full of people. And all of a sudden there’s a car crash. Chaos everywhere. Wheels are flying around and two cars are broken. There’s obviously this huge, very serious accident. And people are standing around these two cars just paralyzed and no one is doing anything. And why do you think that is?
[00:30:15] Well, first and foremost, I think you’re wrong. A lot of people would bring up their phone and start taking pictures, locking down the what you’re going for her, as it’s referred to as the bystander effect. And it basically means that when a lot of people see something happens and none of them is really responsible and no one takes charge, it’s very easy that people just stand there. But if just one person takes the lead in this situation is a, hey, guys, let’s do this. A lot of people will jump in, but it’s so easy to just be paralyzed and think someone else will deal with this so they can actually be a car crash could be an accident and no one does anything because, well, someone else can do it.
[00:30:57] Isn’t that exactly what Greta Thunberg is doing? Everyone see that that an accident is happening, but no one is doing anything because no one is taking the lead. Yeah. And then she’s going out to protest and now more people are going out to protest.
[00:31:09] It’s actually a really good, good explanation for it. And I think that’s when when I’ve been reading about this with charity and stuff, the bystander effect, this is explained like a big part of why people chose not to donate to do things, because we think that someone else will deal with this problem, someone else will solve it. But if someone takes charge and shows the way, I think this is a reason why a lot of people chose to donate when I did this very publicly is that it’s enough that one person really goes for it and people say, hey, if that’s guys doing it, then I can do it and you can kind of tag along on the same way. And I think this is a really cool concept that probably deserves a podcast in itself. But I’m not gonna dive deeper into it now.
[00:31:56] I think that is very true, what you’re saying and probably the greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it, that someone else will do the work.
[00:32:09] So, hey, if this resonated with you, we have set up a p_h_d_ on greatbut column slash donation. And if you go there, it will take you to a page where you can read up more about the Rainforest Organization, but that we are supporting your way out of there.
[00:32:29] So I’ll just take over from here.
[00:32:32] So what we’ve done is that if you go to great dot com slash donation, it will take you straight to this organization, Coalition for Rainforest Nations. Right. And you will go straight to their donation page. And the thing is that that Web site is really complicated to understand. If you’re not a scientist, you’re just not gonna understand it. So if you trust our judgment on the research on this, just donate money to this organization. And if you resonate with what we’ve been doing here and you’re a really brave person, then do this publicly, share it on your Facebook page or on Instagram or whatever. And if you want, then send it to us. And I will be so proud to share this. And so will a great be on our channels to show that this actually had an impact. And if you want, we’ll take your name out of it and we’ll just start slow and not going to public straight away. And if you want to put your name out there, we are so happy to show the world what a brave person you are for doing this.
[00:33:35] We sure are. And that’s a great place to wrap up, I would say. So, Erik, see you next week.
[00:33:40] See you next week. Thank you.