What is GiveWell?
GiveWell is a nonprofit dedicated to finding outstanding giving opportunities and publishing the full details of our analysis to help donors decide where to give.
Unlike charity evaluators that focus solely on financials, assessing administrative or fundraising costs, we conduct in-depth research aiming to determine how much good a given program accomplishes (in terms of lives saved, lives improved, etc.) per dollar spent. Rather than try to rate as many charities as possible, we focus on the few charities that stand out most (by our criteria) in order to find and confidently recommend high-impact giving opportunities (our list of top charities).
How and why did GiveWell start?
GiveWell started when a group of friends asked how their charitable donations could accomplish as much good as possible. These friends, who were working full time in the finance industry, found that information to answer that question was not available through existing donor resources, or even directly from charities.
The group began to do its own research but quickly found it wasn't part-time work: finding high-impact giving opportunities involved challenging questions without readily-available answers. Two of the group members left their jobs and started GiveWell in 2007 as a full-time project. They pledged to share their work on the GiveWell website, for free, to help all donors who wanted to do as much good as possible.
What is GiveWell trying to accomplish?
We aim to direct donor funding to the best giving opportunities for saving or improving lives that we can find, according to our criteria.
We picture a world in which donors reward charities for effectiveness in saving and improving lives, and in which donors giving any amount can easily access information to help maximize the impact of their gifts.
What does GiveWell produce?
GiveWell publishes an annual short list of organizations to which we recommend donating: our top charities. These are the organizations that we believe represent the best giving opportunities we know of, based on our criteria.
We also recommend Incubation Grants to support the development of future top charities, build the evidence base for promising programs, and improve the monitoring and evaluation of existing organizations so that we and others can better understand their impact.
What does GiveWell focus on doing well?
- We thoroughly and critically review evidence to determine what works. (More.)
- When we find a potential top charity, we review it in great depth to thoroughly understand its track record, budget, activities, personnel, plans, strengths, and weaknesses. (More.)
- We look at what additional funding will accomplish and not just what past funds have accomplished. We seek to understand what additional donations would enable a charity to do that it wouldn't have otherwise done, and we focus our evaluation on that work. (More.)
- We quantify what we can. We also recognize the limitations of what we can calculate. We generally try to estimate a "cost per life saved" or similar metric for our top charities. The process of doing so helps us examine our assumptions and notice large differences in cost-effectiveness, though cost-effectiveness isn't the only basis for our recommendations. (More.)
- We strive for transparency. (More.)
- We focus our efforts. Our priority is to find the very best giving opportunities, understand them deeply, and share our findings so you can give effectively. Our goal is not to be a comprehensive charity evaluator.
How does GiveWell get information about charities?
Charities enter our review process in two ways: (1) we invite charities that implement evidence-based programs to apply, and (2) charities reach out to us and request to be reviewed.
We are only able to assess charities that are willing to share a significant amount of information with us. We outline the information we need to complete a charity review on this page and communicate our needs to charities at the beginning of the review process. If a charity is willing to be reviewed and to share its materials, we typically gather the information through requests for documentation as well as phone calls with charity staff. We may also conduct a site visit to see the charity's operations and spend time with staff.
How does GiveWell pay its own salaries and operating costs?
We have a set of core donors who believe strongly in our mission and choose to pay our operating costs. Additional information is available here.
We do not receive any funding from the charities featured on our site, nor do we retain any portion of donations to our recommended charities for ourselves.
How can I help?
Donate to GiveWell or our top charities.
Stay updated on our work.
How can I learn more?
- More in-depth overview of GiveWell.
- Frequently asked questions for more general information about GiveWell.
- Business plan history for a summary of our accomplishments, shortcomings, lessons learned to date, and plans for the future.
- Blog for ongoing updates and research discussions.
Have questions that aren't answered on the website?