How can you help animals in 2016? Take the "Giving What We Can" Pledge.

As a child, I helped others by volunteering with an animal shelter, giving away my old clothes, and being kind to my schoolmates. As I grew, my circle of compassion expanded to include more and more individuals in need. Among all the issues in the world, I found the plight of nonhuman animals particularly compelling.

Like many other animal advocates, it began for me when I read online about the horrific suffering of animals in industry, especially those raised for food. I spent several years as a vegetarian, sometimes bringing it up in casual conversation. That helped animals, sure, but I wanted to do the most good. The animals deserved more than just what was easy and simple; they deserved my best.

Like many other would-be do-gooders, I was overwhelmed as I stared at the heaping pile of compelling opportunities ― volunteering, ethical careers, mentoring, writing, reading ― where do I start? Where do I grab a foothold to begin my climb?

I've taken advantage of each of these at some point by now, but it was hard getting started. These days, it's different. If you're searching for a way to have a truly outstanding impact for animals in 2016, there's a powerful and concrete action you can take now to do huge amounts of good and become the person you know you want to be.

Some of the Giving What We Can community

Giving What We Can (GWWC) is a community of people like you and me ― eager, compassionate, and thoughtful. They're united by a simple pledge to give a portion of their income every year to the most cost-effective charities, whether those are in global health interventions, animal advocacy, or another cause area. This pledge provides a platform to record donations, share this information with others, and build a global movement for effective giving.

I just took the pledge yesterday! 2016 will be my first year as a GWWC pledger. Like many other Americans, I have student loan debt and would like to build more personal savings. But now that I have a stable full-time job, I can cover these expenses while donating the full 10% I've committed. It's easier than you might expect, especially considering the personal happiness that comes from helping others.

If you have more limited financial resources, you can pledge a smaller portion of your income. Even 1% could make a huge difference in the lives of others when donated to the most effective charities.

And just who are "the most effective charities"? Opinions differ, but the organization I work for, Animal Charity Evaluators, offers recommendations for some hugely impactful charities based on years of research. Specifically, we focus on charities that help animals because they undergo such tremendous suffering and lack the political power to help themselves.

Animal Equality, The Humane League, and Mercy for Animals are each the sort of highly effective charity GWWC members support.

Just $100 donated to one of our Top Charities, The Humane League, could have an impact equivalent to sparing an estimated 13,400 hens from confinement in a tiny battery cage in the food industry through cage-free policies. A hen in one of these cages is so confined that she can't even spread her wings. It's truly incredible that we can help her, and so many like her, with such a small amount of money.

Taking the GWWC pledge means even more than the animals directly benefiting from my donation. It means that I'll be joining and supporting a community of kind, thoughtful people all committed to helping others effectively. GWWC has established chapters around the world, reflecting its members' wide circle of compassion.

I believe a focus on impact and effectiveness might be exactly the springboard we need in the animal protection movement. By moving our resources, financial and otherwise, towards the most effective opportunities, we can surge forward and build the world we all desire, where every sentient being is happy and free.

Join in signing the Giving What We Can pledge before January 10th for their annual pledge drive. Meet others taking the pledge right now at this Facebook page.

Check out this "silent movie" that explains the reasoning behind the pledge.