The Five Plus Project’s goal is to get as many comparatively well-off South Africans as possible to give at least 5% of their income to organisations and initiatives helping to reduce poverty in South Africa or alleviate its effects.
The Project was started at the end of 2013 by UCT law professors Hugh Corder and Anton Fagan. It has over 240 members. You can see who they are on the Members page.
The Project was inspired by Peter Singer’s The Life You Can Save, which begins like this:
"On your way to work, you pass a small pond. On hot days, children sometimes play in the pond, which is only about knee-deep. The weather’s cool today, though, and the hour is early, so you are surprised to see a child splashing about in the pond. As you get closer, you see that it is a very young child, just a toddler, who is flailing about, unable to stay upright or walk out of the pond. You look for the parents or babysitter, but there is no one else around. The child is unable to keep his head above the water for more than a few seconds at a time. If you don’t wade in and pull him out, he seems likely to drown. Wading in is easy and safe, but you will ruin the new shoes you bought only a few days ago, and get your suit wet and muddy. By the time you hand the child over to someone responsible for him, and change your clothes, you’ll be late for work. What should you do?"
Most people would agree that you would be morally obliged to jump into the pond to save the child, even though it would spoil your shoes and make you late. Singer argues, persuasively, that wealthy people have a similar moral obligation to help people dying or suffering because they are poor.
More than 17 000 people have joined an organisation named after Singer’s book. All of them have pledged to donate some of their income to organisations helping people in poverty. How much is calculated by a progressive formula: 5% if you earn R600 000 a year, 10% if you earn R3 million, 15% if you earn R6.5 million. There are more such organisations: for example, Giving What We Can (which requires 10%) and The 50% League (requiring 50%).
The Five Plus Project has similar objectives. But it has a specifically South African focus. And its demands are more modest. If you are a comparatively well-off South African, it asks that once a year you take the following pledge:
"I pledge that over the coming year I will give at least 5% of my taxable income to one or more organisations or initiatives helping to reduce poverty in South Africa or alleviate its effects."
The Five Plus Project does not prescribe which organisations or initiatives you should give to in order to fulfil your pledge. Nor will the Project take the amount that you have pledged and pass it on to the organisations or initiatives you have chosen. But the Project will make public your pledge. And it will prompt you, every year, to renew it.
If you are ready to join right away, go to Take the Pledge.