- Top charities
Don't see your question? Contact us.
There is also more information available at
We considered hundreds of charities, systematically identified the most promising ones by our criteria, and did in-depth investigations (and published reviews) on the promising ones. For more detail, see our process.
We list all charities that we have considered, and this may include a review on the charity you're interested in. However, GiveWell focuses on finding the best charities possible, not on reviewing as many charities as possible. Understanding even a single charity in-depth generally takes hundreds of person-hours. So the content on any given non-recommended charity may be limited, aside from outlining why we didn't find the charity promising enough to investigate in depth.
We have written informally about our views on some well-known charities:
We considered multiple factors, including strength of evidence, estimated cost-effectiveness (which charity can accomplish the most good per dollar spent) and our confidence in the organization as an organization. More at our blog post on this topic.
Donations to GiveWell are tax-deductible in the U.S., and we are able to take donations for the support of any of our top charities. In addition, donations to our top charities themselves are eligible for tax deductions in the following countries:
We ask that donors who use our research to decide to support these organizations through their own websites complete our donation reporting form so we are able to track our own impact.
Unfortunately, there are many countries where many people wish to use our research (most notably Australia) but none of our top-rated charities are tax-deductible. (The Against Malaria Foundation is pursuing tax deductible status in Australia, but we are unsure whether, or when, they might be able to obtain it.) In some countries (but not, as far as we know, Australia), donors may be able to take advantage of donor-advised funds or fiscal sponsorship organizations in order to make tax-deductible gifts to our top charities.
In general, we think that differences in effectiveness between charities are sufficiently large that in cases where the best giving opportunity may not be tax-deductible, it makes sense to give a smaller post-tax donation to the best organization rather than a larger pre-tax donation to a tax-deductible organization. However, we understand that donors may have different intuitions on this question, and are hoping to eventually have tax-deductible giving opportunities in other countries with many GiveWell users.
We don't think so. The process for becoming a U.S.-registered charity can be long and relatively involved, and some of our recommended charities have not had enough interest from U.S. donors (prior to our recommendation) to have gone through this process. However, we have examined the financial records and established the charitable purposes of all recommended organizations, and for all such organizations we provide some way of getting a tax deduction for supporting them (in some cases by donating to GiveWell, which can use make direct grants to support these organizations).
We believe that there is a very large need for more bednets to cover at-risk populations. Details at our writeup on net distribution.
While this is one of our remaining concerns, we believe the best available evidence suggests that most people do use the bednets they receive. Multiple studies associate nets with cost-effective reductions in malaria burden and child deaths; these studies generally saw usage rates in the 60-80% range; and the best available evidence suggests that usage rates of 60-80% are common. Details at our writeup on net distribution.
We see the possibility of resistance as a concern, but there is strong evidence that nets reduce malaria and save lives and only preliminary/suggestive/mixed evidence that insecticide resistance may reduce their impact.
For more information, see our blog post about insecticide resistance and malaria control.
The academic evidence we've seen, while not conclusive, indicates that cash transfers are largely spent in beneficial ways.
GiveDirectly's own (more informal data) suggests that major uses of the transfers include food, livestock (which may be a method of storing value for the long term), and tin roofs (which may be a method of storing value as well as reducing the need for regular repairs to a mud hut/thatch roof).
We are not able to quantify the improvement in quality of life due to cash transfers, in a way that can be directly compared to that of health interventions. As with deworming, there are studies arguing that cash transfers lead to strong productive investment and long-term benefits, but it is also possible that these studies are not representative and that the benefits are more minor.1 Given the state of the available evidence, we concede a major role for one's worldview and intuitions in deciding between cash transfers and health interventions.
We believe that there are advantages, as well as disadvantages, to supporting organizations that are earlier in their development. Younger organizations are riskier in a sense, but also carry higher "upside": contributing to their development may magnify the impact of your donation. (We have discussed similar issues in the past, as for example in our 2009 discussion of VillageReach.)
We do not recommend organizations with no track record to the individual donors we serve, because we believe that most of the information needed to evaluate such organizations can't be easily shared with and processed by such donors (more). However, we believe that GiveDirectly has a sufficient documented track record to establish that its basic model is workable, and has worked, in the field, and we find its plans for scaling up realistic. Therefore, we believe that it represents a "good bet" (though not a "sure thing") for donors, and recommending it is consistent with our philosophy of recommending "good bet" rather than exclusively "sure thing" donations.
Treating children for parasitic infections (deworming) is extremely inexpensive (~$0.50 per person treated, including all costs), and there is evidence linking it with substantial developmental benefits (people dewormed in childhood may attend school more and earn more later in life); the evidence is not as strong as for insecticide-treated nets but is still far above what we've seen for most charitable interventions. Evidence regarding shorter-term health benefits is mixed. More details at our full report on deworming.
We believe that bednet distribution is the most cost-effective of the three interventions conducted by our top-recommended organizations, though we find these assessments to be complex and think that reasonable people could disagree.
Generally speaking, cost-effectiveness estimates depend on cost, short- and long-term benefits, and the weights placed on different outcomes. For instance, deworming is extremely cheap ($.50 per person treated), with apparently limited short-term benefits, but the possibility of causing a significant increase in income later in life. Bednets, by comparison, are somewhat more expensive, at ~$1.25 per person covered per year, but have a well-established effect on mortality amongst children under 5, and also avert other cases of malaria. Comparing the cost-effectiveness of deworming and bednet distributions requires a mechanism for comparing between the value of saving a life (bednets) and increasing income later in life (deworming).
For our part, we would guess that LLIN distribution is the most cost-effective intervention. It may have similar long-term benefits to deworming, in addition to better-established immediate health benefits including saving the lives of children, but is substantially more expensive on a per-person-per-year basis. Different people's opinions of which is more cost-effective may vary due to differing opinions regarding (a) how much credence to place in the limited studies showing developmental effects; (b) how to adjust the studies' results for possible unrepresentativeness (e.g., unusually high rates of infections in study areas); (c) how much value to assign to children's lives saved compared to developmental effects.
We plan to publish more extensive write-ups on this issue and the spreadsheets showing these calculations shortly.
Each review of a recommended charity discusses its room for more funding, i.e., how much more funding it can productively absorb and how this funding would change its activities. We closely track the revenue received by recommended charities, and we cease to recommend donating to a charity once we feel it no longer has short-term room for more funding.
We have put much of our effort into investigating international aid because this is where we feel an individual donor can accomplish the most good (in terms of significant life change) per dollar given. More
We have investigated U.S. charities in the past and may do so again in the future. See our recommendations for donors interested in focusing on the U.S.
We discuss these issues at our writeup on quality of life in the developing world. On one hand, people in Sub-Saharan Africa are much worse off, and much more likely to die prematurely, than people in wealthier parts of the world. On the other hand, those who live past the age of 5 have strong chances of living to age 60 or so; saving a life even from a single cause of death means saving a person who is likely to live quite a while longer.
We have spent significant time looking into this topic, though we have not yet written up our findings. In brief:
We publish critical questions that you can ask charities working in causes we haven't covered. These questions are based only on our very limited understanding of these causes, but they may be useful starting points.
For the charities that we direct the most funds to, we intend to publish regular reports (at least twice per year) on the charity's progress against its objectives and on its updated financial situation. In 2012, we completed updates on the three organizations to which we had directed the most funding:
We plan to continue the practice of publishing regular updates on our top charities.
Accomplishing as much good as possible per dollar spent is an important value to us, and we put substantial work into cost-effectiveness estimates. We publish cost-effectiveness figures that represent our best estimates, given all available information. We publish the full details behind these figures and provide spreadsheets that allow readers to see what the most debatable inputs are, and how the estimates change as these estimates vary.
However, all cost-effectiveness analysis of charities we're aware of - including ours - involves a great deal of simplification and guesswork. Therefore, we do cost-effectiveness analysis primarily to look for large, clear differences in good accomplished per dollar spent. We consider many other factors in rating and ranking charities.
More at our discussion of cost-effectiveness analysis.
Our primary focus is to identify and analyze charities that we feel represent the best available giving opportunities. This includes following the progress of charities to which we direct significant funding so that we can evaluate how well the funding was used and how the organization would likely use additional funding in the future.
In 2012, we determined that we did not have the capacity to publish updates for our "standout" organizations, and as of November 2012, have decided to discontinue the practice of publishing a list of "non-top-rated standout organizations."
We don't have any hard-and-fast rules for what constitutes persuasive evidence; we believe that interpreting evidence on charity effectiveness always takes a substantial amount of judgment calls. We discuss our general principles for evaluating evidence of impact in a series of 2012 blog posts:
We do check this figure, but we do not place much emphasis on it - we believe it is the most over-used metric in charity. More at our 2009 comment on the joint press release by GiveWell, GuideStar, Charity Navigator, and other charity evaluators on the pitfalls of over-emphasizing the "administrative expense ratio."
We recommend against letting "donation matching" affect your choice of charity. More
We don't believe there is a clear answer, and do believe that it makes sense to give relatively regularly - for example, setting aside a set percentage of annual income. More
None of our current staff consider animal welfare charities to be a more promising area than the areas we do focus on. This is necessarily a judgment call that reflects our personal values.
We may cover animal welfare charities at some point in the future, but are unlikely to do so soon. In the meantime, we publish critical questions you can ask animal welfare organizations.
You may also wish to visit our transparency policy, which lists and links to most of the different kinds of information we provide.
The only randomized study we have seen that discusses investment outcomes from a program providing cash transfers to individuals is Gertler, Martinez, and Rubio-Codina, 2012. Based on the randomized roll-out of the Oportunidades conditional cash transfer program in Mexico, they estimate that the annual return on cash transferred to the treatment group was roughly 20%, leading to a 5% increase in total consumption in the treatment group four years after the control group began to be treated.
These estimated returns seem quite high, but there is a separate literature on the returns to capital in micro-enterprises that is relevant to this question.
In a series of experiments in Sri Lanka, Mexico, and Ghana, researchers giving grants on the order of $100 to micro-enterprises without any paid employees, have found high returns on investment, in the range of 6%-46% per month:
We have not yet fully vetted these studies, but we plan to write more about them.