In May 2019, the Altruistic Accounting team at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) successfully held their inaugural round of Giving Games with a cohort of 173 undergraduate accounting students, an activity which featured the incredible work of The Fred Hollows Foundation.

What are Giving Games?

The Giving Game Project has an ambitious goal: to provide philanthropy education at a scale that will fundamentally shift the way people learn about, and practice, charitable giving.

At the root of this is the mission of our host organisation The Life You Can Save, which aspires to change the culture of giving in affluent countries and direct funds to highly impactful charities focused on reducing suffering and death, and improving opportunities, for those living in global extreme poverty.

Their mission is inspired by “The Life You Can Save” a book by Peter Singer, the 10th Anniversary Edition of which will be released in late 2019.

Giving Games are experiential philanthropy exercises where participants learn about several featured non-profits and decide which among them will receive a donation from a sponsor. 

Participants learn by doing, giving away real money to charities engaging in critically important work.

Giving Games have been applied in a wide variety of use cases since the first Giving Game was held with a student a capella group at Princeton in 2012. They have now been run with over 13,000 participants in 25 countries, spanning all continents other than Antarctica, and with a variety of objectives ranging from serving as a teaching aid to informing the execution of businesses’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) obligations in India.

What happens in a Giving Game? 

While there are many types of Giving Games, during a 60-90 minute standard session, a facilitator begins by introducing two to four charities for participants to consider.

Ordinarily, this takes the form of a preliminary vote where participants make an initial choice based on short fundraising pitches. The facilitator then provides further information on the impact of the non-profits, the evidence supporting their work, and the programs’ potential challenges and opportunities. Participants then divide into groups and discuss which charity should be awarded the funds, which are ordinarily provided by The Life You Can Save or an external sponsor.

The overall process demonstrates the value of informed, impactful and intentional giving and the role that charity evaluators can play in guiding participants on their High Impact Philanthropy journeys.

Giving Games are low-cost simulations of real giving choices. They are distinguished from other forms of philanthropic education by having greater potential for scale and using scarce resources in an efficient manner. You can find out more about Giving Games here.

What is Altruistic Accounting? 

Since early 2018, The Giving Games Project has partnered with Nicole Sutton, Project Lead of the Altruistic Accounting team and accounting lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

The overarching goals of the Altruistic Accounting project are:
  • to design an innovative, sustainable, and scalable activity to teach effective decision-making
  • provide students with an engaging learning experience, and 
  • highlight pathways to impactful career opportunities.
The Altruistic Accounting team designed a new classroom version of the Giving Game, adapted to fit the constraints of a university tutorial context, and aligned with the specific learning objectives of helping business students understand, apply and critique rational decision concepts and techniques. 

The activity challenges students to use their accounting knowledge to make an ‘optimal choice’, and collectively decide how to allocate a pool of real funds to one of three charities in order ‘to do the most good,’.

They are guided through a structured sequence of tasks:
  1. developing decision criteria,
  2. collecting relevant information,
  3. and evaluating alternative investment strategies.

Throughout the process, students are encouraged to reflect on how biases and decision constraints affect their decision-making.

Tailored teaching and learning resources have been developed for the program, including facilitator Powerpoint slides, student handouts, and an in-class online quiz for collecting and showing the students’ votes and answers to open-ended questions.

Inaugural Giving Game with Altruistic Accounting

In May 2019, the Altruistic Accounting team successfully implemented this version of the Giving Game across an entire undergraduate subject for the first time at the UTS Business School.

In total 173 students participated in The Giving Game activity, to collectively decide how to allocate $1000 generously donated by the UTS Business School. The outcome of the Giving Games, which ran in multiple classes taught by six different instructors, was the students’ decision to allocate $900 to The Fred Hollows Foundation and $100 to Give Directly.

Although the activity is highly condensed (it runs for just one hour), the students were able to develop sophisticated, considered justifications for their choices. Many referred to the charities’ impact per dollar and the likely significance of their cause, and cited available evidence supporting the charities claims. 

Students were engaged and excited about the program, with one participant commenting: “The fact that we had actual dollars to give for real, it made the impact of the class higher and made me more motivated to participate in class”.

Instructors noticed a difference as well, with one saying about the program: “It made them think! It was so interactive and the students were very engaged.”

Would you like more information on The Life You Can Save’s Giving Games?

The Giving Games team is keen to hear from anyone who would like to be involved in their programs; schools, universities and anyone else who is interested.

Feel free to get in touch with Kathryn Mecrow-Flynn, Giving Games project lead by emailing [email protected]

To receive email updates, including the full results of the Altruistic Accounting team’s June roll-out, please subscribe to The Giving Games Project’s newsletter or follow them on Facebook. If you’re an educator who would like access to their teaching materials, please contact Nicole at [email protected]

The Life You Can Save has recently launched its affiliate charity in Australia. Visit their website to check out The Fred Hollows Foundation listing, and examine all the other recommend charities.

Here's the Founder of The Life You Can Save, Peter Singer, announcing their Australia branch.

Feature photo by Kat Yukawa

$25 can restore sight
$25 can restore sight

$25 can restore sight

Help us end avoidable blindness