Include an anti-charity option
The moral sting of money going to a bad cause seems like a good disincentive (regardless of the rationality behind it, I'd probably feel worse about $1 going to a really bad charity, than merely losing $5). It would be good if you could have the option of adding that an additional 10-20% of your pledge amount should go to a selected anti-charity, or there's simply a fixed amount e.g. $5-20 that goes to the anti-charity each time in addition to the money pledged.
- this doesn't incentivize failing in the way that giving to a 'good' charity would (I don't want the warm fuzzies of giving to charity after I fail at a goal).
- people are probably less likely to lower the amount going to beeminder if the alternative is giving it to a disliked charity and not a charity that gives them warm fuzzies
- one person's anti-charity is another person's charity, so you'd need to have some pledge or promise so that people don't select something they actually consider a charity as their anti-charity (since if they do you'd expect more derailing, and probably less money to beeminder in the long term as charities will undermine the disincentive effect)
- People might pledge less to beeminder than they otherwise would have for the extra disincentive effect of the anti-charity. But assuming that people are willing to pay for the added disincentive of an anti-charity, maybe you could mitigate this by having a minimum proportion of beeminder to anti-charity money in the pledge (e.g. beeminder:anti-charity cannot be less than 2:1).
Our argument against this — along with Amanda’s counterarguments (thank you!) — are at http://blog.beeminder.com/anticharity
Admindreeves (Cofounder, Beeminder) commented
Amanda, thanks so much for writing up this idea and pros and cons! We've thought about this a lot as well, and in fact have a whole blog post about it: http://blog.beeminder.com/anticharity/
Could we convince you to repeat in the comments there the points we didn't cover in the post? (Assuming the post doesn't change your mind about anti-charities!)