Our criteria

Updated: December 2013 (2012 version)

We use different criteria for the two different parts of our research: our traditional work on finding evidence-backed international aid charities and our newer project "GiveWell Labs."

Evidence-backed international aid charities

Our current top charities are characterized by the following qualities:

  • Serving the global poor. Low-income people in the developing world have dramatically lower standards of living than low-income people in the U.S., and we believe that a given dollar amount can provide more meaningful benefits when targeting the former. More
  • Focused on evidence-backed interventions. We have a high standard for evidence: we seek out programs that have been studied rigorously and repeatedly, and whose benefits we can reasonably expect to generalize to large populations (though there are limits to the generalizability of any study results). The set of programs fitting this description is relatively limited, and mostly found in the category of health interventions (though there is also substantial evidence on cash transfers).
  • Thoroughly vetted and highly transparent. We examine potential top charities thoroughly and skeptically, and publish thorough reviews discussing both strengths of these charities and concerns. We also follow top charities' progress over time and report on it publicly, including any negative developments. Charities must be open to our intensive investigation process — and public discussion of their track record and progress, both the good and the bad — in order to earn "top charity" status. We also provide a list of charities meeting our first two criteria for donors who are concerned that this requirement creates problematic selection effects.

For more on our process and the reasoning behind it, see Our Process.

GiveWell Labs

We don't expect to use the same criteria we've used for our traditional work, and the criteria remain a work in progress as of this writing. More

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