You are here

About GiveWell

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 as a group of donors, employed full-time in the hedge fund industry, discussing how to accomplish as much good as possible. We found ourselves fascinated by the research we were conducting, but also found that it isn't a part-time job, and few public resources exist that can help with it. We raised startup funding from our former coworkers and left our jobs to start GiveWell. For more, see our story.

What are you trying to accomplish?

Individual donors give nearly 60 times as much as the Gates Foundation and nearly 5 times as much as all foundations combined. We serve these individual donors as well as other larger funders that aim to accomplish the most good possible with their donations. (More on this in our story.)

We aim to direct as much funding as possible of this large pool to the best giving opportunities we can find, and create a global, public, open conversation about how best to help people.

We picture a world in which donors reward charities for effectiveness in improving lives.

What does GiveWell produce?

GiveWell publishes a shortlist of organizations we recommend giving to. These are the organizations that we believe represent the very best giving opportunities we know of, based on our criteria. We refresh this list twice per year.

What does GiveWell focus on doing well?

Some of GiveWell's core competencies are:

  • We thoroughly and critically review evidence to determine what works. (More.)
  • When we find a potential top charity, we review it in great depth. We try to thoroughly understand its track record, budget, activities, personnel, plans, strengths, and weaknesses. (More.)
  • We look at what additional funding accomplishes, not just what past funds have accomplished. We seek to understand what activities donations would enable that a charity couldn't do otherwise, and then we focus on evaluating those activities. (More.)
  • We quantify what we can, but recognize the limitations of what we can calculate. We generally try to estimate a "cost per life saved," "cost per disability-adjusted life-year averted," or similar metric for our top charities. The process of doing so helps us examine our assumptions and notice big differences in cost-effectiveness, though it isn't the only basis for our recommendations. (More.)
  • We strive for transparency. (More.)
  • We focus. 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?

In GiveWell's early years, we conducted applications for direct grants. Charities shared information with us in order to apply for these grants.

Since we are now able to demonstrate that our recommendations lead to donations, charities usually find us, or participate in our process upon request. We are open to considering any charity that applies in accordance with our guidelines and will do deep investigations of the most promising ones we find. In the past we have conducted broad searches, doing the best we can to find charities that focus on evidence-backed programs. See our process for more detail.

How does GiveWell pay its own salaries and operating costs?

We have a set of core donors who believe strongly in our mission and pay our operating costs. (More.)

We do not receive any funds from the charities featured on our site, or retain any portion of donations to our top-rated charities for ourselves.

How can I help?

Donate to GiveWell or our top charities.

Stay updated on our work.
Get Involved

How can I learn more?

See our:

Have questions that aren't answered on the website?
Contact us