"How do you give? Is there a non-profit that you've been donating to for years? Or do you let the flood wash over you, acting when a heart string feels a tug?
It turns out there's a better way: A small band of researchers, headed by refugees from the financial sector, scour the planet for organizations that have the maximum impact with the dollars they are given. This is the idea behind GiveWell, a charity-evaluating nonprofit started in 2006. Its mission is to identify organizations throughout the world that are doing good, and then subject them to careful scrutiny, including site visits. It posts the results, including extensive case files, on its website for free. Its motto: "Real change for your dollar.''
As we enter into the prime giving season, GiveWell provides a valuable service for the donor who has few preconceptions and just wants to make the world better."
"GiveWell [...] has completely changed the way I think about donating money. [...] Like many start-ups, GiveWell is disruptive. It wants to transform philanthropy from a field where decisions are often governed by emotion and, even, marketing to one whose work is measured, tested and constantly optimized to produce the most good."
Ira W. Decamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University (Bio)
"When I speak about why we ought to be doing more to help the world's poorest people - something I do often - the most frequent question I get is: how can we know that our donation will really help the poor?
Until GiveWell came along, it was difficult to give a convincing answer to that question. Previous charity-rating organizations just looked at how much of a charity's income went to program expenses, rather than administration - and it doesn't take much thought to realize that that figure tells you nothing about how effective the charity's programs are. GiveWell has filled a huge gap, and at the same time has started a major trend towards greater transparency and demonstrated cost-effectiveness in the charitable world."
"The detail in which GiveWell explains its reasoning and the thoroughness of its research into its top charities are unmatched, as far as we've seen. We've been impressed by the co-founders' dedication to their work, humility about what they know and what they don't, and ability to adapt the GiveWell model as they learn.
While Good Ventures does not accept unsolicited requests for funding, we do consider all of GiveWell's recommended charities for substantial grants."
Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of The Better Angels of Our Nature
"Charity is a way to relieve guilt, a way to advertising one’s willingness and ability to make sacrifices, and a way to make other people better off. For those of us who want to maximize the last of these when we give, Givewell is a godsend. That’s why I make it the primary beneficiary of my charitable donations."
Co-founder of Facebook; founder of Jumo
"Having been an activist and donor in the social sector for a few years now, I have not run across a group of people doing more rigorous, demanding evaluations of non-profits than the GiveWell team. They bring a thoughtfulness and precision to each of the fields they study that is rare in the sector. I can't think of a better resource for a careful donor."
President, Hewlett Foundation
"GiveWell, by far the best charity evaluator working today, has a new top ranked charity, the Against Malaria Foundation. Why is VillageReach, their best ranked charity for several years, no longer at the top? First, GiveWell is ranking more charities and charities are now more willing to provide GiveWell the kind of detailed information on outcomes that GiveWell demands. Thus, more charities are vying for the top spot. Even more important is this:
When was the last time that a charity or evaluator told you that due to successful fund-raising there are now more urgent needs elsewhere? Impressive. As I have for several years, I will be following GiveWell's advice and donating to the Against Malaria Foundation and several of GiveWell's other top charities."
Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development
"GiveWell's work tends to be thorough and thoughtful. Of course, not all deserving causes can meet their demanding standards - did the Declaration of Independence come with a cost-benefit analysis? - but GiveWell would be the first place I'd turn in deciding what charity to support for maximal impact."
74-time Jeopardy! champion (Bio)
"I found GiveWell while prepping for a special edition of Jeopardy! I was looking for a worthy charity to split my winnings with, and was becoming more and more frustrated with the process -- with my inability to find good information and meaningful metrics, and with the sense that a lot of the nonprofits I was researching existed more for self-preservation than to solve any real problems. But I saw that GiveWell was addressing these exact concerns, making it unique among the resources I found. GiveWell's research made it possible for me to pick a charity with confidence: I selected VillageReach, its top-rated charity, to receive half of what turned out to be a $300,000 prize."
- External evaluations: GiveWell has invited outsiders, often with relevant experience and credentials, to complete structured evaluations of our work. See all external evaluations to date along with information about the reviewers.
- Impact on donors: Donors have given millions of dollars to GiveWell's top-rated charities based on our recommendations. See our summary of key impact metrics as well as our collection of guest blog posts from donors who have used our research.
- Tim Hartford features GiveWell's research as an alternative to a social media fundraising campaign on More or Less on BBC Radio 4 on September 7, 2014 (archive of summary).
- The New York Times column "Your Money" features GiveWell in an article on the challenges of giving effectively on April 25, 2014 (archived).
- In a New York Times op-ed, Peter Singer cites GiveWell for its "serious evaluation of charities helping people in extreme poverty," published August 11, 2013 (archived).
- Bay Area NPR station KQED features GiveWell's Alexander Berger on a segment about how to decide where to give your charitable dollars, aired June 19, 2013 (archived).
- Washington Post's Wonkblog features GiveWell as a resource for donors in an article about earning to give, published May 31, 2013 (archived).
- The New York Times column "Fixes" features GiveWell in an article on giving effectively, published December 5, 2012 (archived).
- The New York Times features GiveWell in an article on measuring the impact of giving, published September 28, 2012 (archived).
- New York Times columnist Nick Kristof recommends GiveWell's top charity and cites GiveWell's research, published December 3, 2011 (archived).
- The New York Times cites GiveWell in an article about donating in the aftermath of the Japan earthquake and tsunami, published March 16, 2011 (archived).
- USA Today points to GiveWell as a donor resource, published November 30, 2010 (archived).
- CNN interviews GiveWell co-founder Holden Karnofsky in segment on effective giving, January 25, 2010.
- CNN Radio interviews GiveWell co-founder Elie Hassenfeld about using overhead to evaluate charities, January 20, 2010.
- Wall Street Journal article on resources for evaluating charities recommends GiveWell, November 8, 2009 (archived).
- Half the Sky, a book by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof points to GiveWell as a donor resource, published September 8, 2009.
- NPR interviews GiveWell co-Founder Holden Karnofsky on the importance of researching your donations, December 10, 2008.
- NPR interviews GiveWell's founders, December 24, 2007.
- The New York Times (front section) features GiveWell and its founders, published December 20, 2007 (archived).
- Wall Street Journal article (Personal Journal section) highlights GiveWell among its resources for donors, December 20, 2007.
- CNBC interviews GiveWell's founders, December 20, 2007. (Video inactive when this page was last updated, but may be active again later)