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September 2020 open thread

All Categories Blogs - Fri, 09/11/2020 - 18:13

Our goal with hosting quarterly open threads is to give blog readers an opportunity to publicly raise comments or questions about GiveWell or related topics (in the comments section below). As always, you’re also welcome to email us at info@givewell.org or to request a call with GiveWell staff if you have feedback or questions you’d prefer to discuss privately. We’ll try to respond promptly to questions or comments.

You can view our June 2020 open thread here.

The post September 2020 open thread appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

September 2020 open thread

Our goal with hosting quarterly open threads is to give blog readers an opportunity to publicly raise comments or questions about GiveWell or related topics (in the comments section below). As always, you’re also welcome to email us at info@givewell.org or to request a call with GiveWell staff if you have feedback or questions you’d prefer to discuss privately. We’ll try to respond promptly to questions or comments.

You can view our June 2020 open thread here.

The post September 2020 open thread appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Why we’re excited to fund charities’ work a few years in the future

All Categories Blogs - Tue, 08/25/2020 - 16:21

We recently spoke with someone who wanted to donate to a GiveWell top charity. They were interested in getting the funding “out the door” and to program participants as quickly as possible.

But our top choice for funding today is Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program—for work it expects to complete in 2022.[1] The potential donor was puzzled. Shouldn’t we prioritize an organization that needs the money sooner?

We often recommend donations today that support programs a few years from now. This probably diverges from many people’s intuitions about getting funding out the door as soon as possible.

Three key reasons why funding today leads to more impact in the future

1. Upfront coordination and planning increases charities’ impact.

Highly effective charities tend to spend a lot of time preparing before they implement their programs.

The Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) is a GiveWell top charity that supports the distribution of insecticide-treated nets, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. These nets are hung over sleeping spaces and prevent mosquitoes from biting and transmitting potentially deadly malaria. AMF says the ideal lead time for its work is 23 months.[2] During that time, it takes the following steps:

  • Choosing a location: AMF decides where it should direct funding to have the greatest impact. It considers malaria prevalence, the number of people in need of nets, and whether partner organizations can conduct distributions according to AMF requirements.[3]
  • Negotiating an agreement: AMF and the country’s national malaria program negotiate a net distribution agreement and seek government approval.[4]
  • Ordering nets: AMF negotiates with net manufacturers to place an order for nets suited to local needs, which may vary in size, color, and insecticide.[5]
  • Producing, shipping, and transporting nets: Nets are manufactured and shipped to regional warehouses.[6]
  • Visiting households: AMF’s partners visit households to determine how many nets are needed.[7]

Some of these steps are practical requirements for conducting a distribution, such as ordering and shipping nets to the relevant location. Other steps increase the impact of the distribution. Though 23 months may seem like a long lead time, it enables AMF to coordinate with in-country groups, identify the highest-need areas, order the quantities and types of nets that are most suitable for those areas, and select partners that can conduct high-quality distributions and monitoring. We believe that the overall impact of donations is much greater than they would be if they were allocated more quickly but less thoughtfully.

2. Charities with longer-term funding are more likely to hire and retain staff.

Charities have told us that it’s hard to retain and hire staff when they are uncertain about their long-term funding. Staff may leave if they don’t have confidence in an organization’s future funding. Their replacements must be recruited and trained, requiring significant time from existing staff.

A charity leader who is concerned their program might not be funded in the future may decide to limit investment in hiring. They may make quick hiring decisions that lead to poor fit and reduced program impact, or further staff turnover. Or, they may simply not hire at all. Instead, existing staff may be spread thin to cover the vacant roles.

A charity leader with long-term confidence in their organization’s funding may be willing to invest in hiring. We expect charities with steady, excellent staff to have more impact than those facing high turnover and suboptimal allocation of staff.

3. Two to three years from now, highly cost-effective charities will likely still have more impact than faster-spending but less cost-effective charities.

Charities’ impact per dollar donated drives our recommendations to donors. We expect differences in cost-effectiveness to overwhelm differences in charities’ spending speed over a few years.

We estimate that Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) program is 16 times as cost-effective as GiveDirectly’s standard (non-COVID-19) cash transfer program.[8] Malaria Consortium distributes cheap medicine to prevent children under five from getting malaria. GiveDirectly provides cash transfers to very poor households. Both work in sub-Saharan Africa. GiveDirectly estimates that participants in its standard cash transfer program receive funds between three and six months after those funds are donated.[9] Donations to Malaria Consortium reach program participants in two to three years.

It’s likely that two to three years from now, the costs and benefits of Malaria Consortium’s SMC program and GiveDirectly’s cash transfer program will be about the same as they are today. In 2022, we expect that Malaria Consortium’s SMC program will be 16 times as cost-effective as GiveDirectly’s cash transfer program, as we do today. Even though donations reach Malaria Consortium’s program participants more slowly, they are likely to have more impact.

There is a way to change this calculus. If you believe that reaching program participants sooner is more valuable, you could apply a “discount rate” to the cost-effectiveness of SMC. Cost-effectiveness analyses often include discount rates to reduce the value of future costs and benefits because they occur in the future. We have used a discount rate of 4% for programs that lead to increases in future income for participants.[10]

In order for GiveDirectly to be more cost-effective than Malaria Consortium’s SMC program, you would need to apply a discount rate of more than 300% per year to Malaria Consortium.[11] We think that most donors would not apply such a steep discount. We believe they would choose to give to Malaria Consortium on the basis of cost-effectiveness, even if donations are deployed more slowly.

What we’re balancing

We balance the benefits of providing future funding with the potential downsides of doing so by limiting how many years in advance we fund charities’ work. This preserves our ability to donate funds to more effective opportunities that we may identify in the future. We direct funds to charities that will be spent in two to three years, rather than in ten years, for this reason.

We constantly update our charity recommendations with new information. We also look for charities with greater impact per dollar.[12] This work will likely change how we prioritize funding our existing top charities and may lead to new top charities. We don’t want to commit funding so far in advance that we would have preferred to give that funding to an organization we’ve recently concluded has greater impact per dollar.

Funding a few years out is a reasonable balance of the benefits and pitfalls of providing future funding. The optimal timeline for funding will vary depending on the program and implementation model.

Responding to urgent needs

While we generally direct funding to our top charities for future work, we retain a pool of funding that may be used for urgent needs: “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion.” We typically grant these funds quarterly to the charity or charities we believe can use them most effectively.

We might have the most impact by supporting a pressing need. Last year, we made a grant to AMF to support a time-sensitive need in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We estimated that the cost per life saved by donating to AMF was the same as the cost per life saved by donating to the other charity we were considering funding, Malaria Consortium’s SMC program. However, by providing additional funding to AMF, we were directly increasing the number of nets it could distribute in the Democratic Republic of the Congo the following year. By contrast, our near-term funding decisions would not have impacted Malaria Consortium’s plans.[13]

We are open to granting or informing charities of our plans to grant discretionary funds sooner than quarterly, if that would make a difference for a charity’s ability to carry out high-impact work. But many times, we choose to grant discretionary funds to support charities’ work two or three years from now—because that is the most impactful option.

References

Sources and footnotes for this post may be found here.

The post Why we’re excited to fund charities’ work a few years in the future appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Why we’re excited to fund charities’ work a few years in the future

GiveDirectly Blogs - Tue, 08/25/2020 - 16:21

We recently spoke with someone who wanted to donate to a GiveWell top charity. They were interested in getting the funding “out the door” and to program participants as quickly as possible.

But our top choice for funding today is Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program—for work it expects to complete in 2022.[1] The potential donor was puzzled. Shouldn’t we prioritize an organization that needs the money sooner?

We often recommend donations today that support programs a few years from now. This probably diverges from many people’s intuitions about getting funding out the door as soon as possible.

Three key reasons why funding today leads to more impact in the future

1. Upfront coordination and planning increases charities’ impact.

Highly effective charities tend to spend a lot of time preparing before they implement their programs.

The Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) is a GiveWell top charity that supports the distribution of insecticide-treated nets, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. These nets are hung over sleeping spaces and prevent mosquitoes from biting and transmitting potentially deadly malaria. AMF says the ideal lead time for its work is 23 months.[2] During that time, it takes the following steps:

  • Choosing a location: AMF decides where it should direct funding to have the greatest impact. It considers malaria prevalence, the number of people in need of nets, and whether partner organizations can conduct distributions according to AMF requirements.[3]
  • Negotiating an agreement: AMF and the country’s national malaria program negotiate a net distribution agreement and seek government approval.[4]
  • Ordering nets: AMF negotiates with net manufacturers to place an order for nets suited to local needs, which may vary in size, color, and insecticide.[5]
  • Producing, shipping, and transporting nets: Nets are manufactured and shipped to regional warehouses.[6]
  • Visiting households: AMF’s partners visit households to determine how many nets are needed.[7]

Some of these steps are practical requirements for conducting a distribution, such as ordering and shipping nets to the relevant location. Other steps increase the impact of the distribution. Though 23 months may seem like a long lead time, it enables AMF to coordinate with in-country groups, identify the highest-need areas, order the quantities and types of nets that are most suitable for those areas, and select partners that can conduct high-quality distributions and monitoring. We believe that the overall impact of donations is much greater than they would be if they were allocated more quickly but less thoughtfully.

2. Charities with longer-term funding are more likely to hire and retain staff.

Charities have told us that it’s hard to retain and hire staff when they are uncertain about their long-term funding. Staff may leave if they don’t have confidence in an organization’s future funding. Their replacements must be recruited and trained, requiring significant time from existing staff.

A charity leader who is concerned their program might not be funded in the future may decide to limit investment in hiring. They may make quick hiring decisions that lead to poor fit and reduced program impact, or further staff turnover. Or, they may simply not hire at all. Instead, existing staff may be spread thin to cover the vacant roles.

A charity leader with long-term confidence in their organization’s funding may be willing to invest in hiring. We expect charities with steady, excellent staff to have more impact than those facing high turnover and suboptimal allocation of staff.

3. Two to three years from now, highly cost-effective charities will likely still have more impact than faster-spending but less cost-effective charities.

Charities’ impact per dollar donated drives our recommendations to donors. We expect differences in cost-effectiveness to overwhelm differences in charities’ spending speed over a few years.

We estimate that Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) program is 16 times as cost-effective as GiveDirectly’s standard (non-COVID-19) cash transfer program.[8] Malaria Consortium distributes cheap medicine to prevent children under five from getting malaria. GiveDirectly provides cash transfers to very poor households. Both work in sub-Saharan Africa. GiveDirectly estimates that participants in its standard cash transfer program receive funds between three and six months after those funds are donated.[9] Donations to Malaria Consortium reach program participants in two to three years.

It’s likely that two to three years from now, the costs and benefits of Malaria Consortium’s SMC program and GiveDirectly’s cash transfer program will be about the same as they are today. In 2022, we expect that Malaria Consortium’s SMC program will be 16 times as cost-effective as GiveDirectly’s cash transfer program, as we do today. Even though donations reach Malaria Consortium’s program participants more slowly, they are likely to have more impact.

There is a way to change this calculus. If you believe that reaching program participants sooner is more valuable, you could apply a “discount rate” to the cost-effectiveness of SMC. Cost-effectiveness analyses often include discount rates to reduce the value of future costs and benefits because they occur in the future. We have used a discount rate of 4% for programs that lead to increases in future income for participants.[10]

In order for GiveDirectly to be more cost-effective than Malaria Consortium’s SMC program, you would need to apply a discount rate of more than 300% per year to Malaria Consortium.[11] We think that most donors would not apply such a steep discount. We believe they would choose to give to Malaria Consortium on the basis of cost-effectiveness, even if donations are deployed more slowly.

What we’re balancing

We balance the benefits of providing future funding with the potential downsides of doing so by limiting how many years in advance we fund charities’ work. This preserves our ability to donate funds to more effective opportunities that we may identify in the future. We direct funds to charities that will be spent in two to three years, rather than in ten years, for this reason.

We constantly update our charity recommendations with new information. We also look for charities with greater impact per dollar.[12] This work will likely change how we prioritize funding our existing top charities and may lead to new top charities. We don’t want to commit funding so far in advance that we would have preferred to give that funding to an organization we’ve recently concluded has greater impact per dollar.

Funding a few years out is a reasonable balance of the benefits and pitfalls of providing future funding. The optimal timeline for funding will vary depending on the program and implementation model.

Responding to urgent needs

While we generally direct funding to our top charities for future work, we retain a pool of funding that may be used for urgent needs: “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion.” We typically grant these funds quarterly to the charity or charities we believe can use them most effectively.

We might have the most impact by supporting a pressing need. Last year, we made a grant to AMF to support a time-sensitive need in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We estimated that the cost per life saved by donating to AMF was the same as the cost per life saved by donating to the other charity we were considering funding, Malaria Consortium’s SMC program. However, by providing additional funding to AMF, we were directly increasing the number of nets it could distribute in the Democratic Republic of the Congo the following year. By contrast, our near-term funding decisions would not have impacted Malaria Consortium’s plans.[13]

We are open to granting or informing charities of our plans to grant discretionary funds sooner than quarterly, if that would make a difference for a charity’s ability to carry out high-impact work. But many times, we choose to grant discretionary funds to support charities’ work two or three years from now—because that is the most impactful option.

References

Sources and footnotes for this post may be found here.

The post Why we’re excited to fund charities’ work a few years in the future appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Why we’re excited to fund charities’ work a few years in the future

AMF Blogs - Tue, 08/25/2020 - 16:21

We recently spoke with someone who wanted to donate to a GiveWell top charity. They were interested in getting the funding “out the door” and to program participants as quickly as possible.

But our top choice for funding today is Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program—for work it expects to complete in 2022.[1] The potential donor was puzzled. Shouldn’t we prioritize an organization that needs the money sooner?

We often recommend donations today that support programs a few years from now. This probably diverges from many people’s intuitions about getting funding out the door as soon as possible.

Three key reasons why funding today leads to more impact in the future

1. Upfront coordination and planning increases charities’ impact.

Highly effective charities tend to spend a lot of time preparing before they implement their programs.

The Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) is a GiveWell top charity that supports the distribution of insecticide-treated nets, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. These nets are hung over sleeping spaces and prevent mosquitoes from biting and transmitting potentially deadly malaria. AMF says the ideal lead time for its work is 23 months.[2] During that time, it takes the following steps:

  • Choosing a location: AMF decides where it should direct funding to have the greatest impact. It considers malaria prevalence, the number of people in need of nets, and whether partner organizations can conduct distributions according to AMF requirements.[3]
  • Negotiating an agreement: AMF and the country’s national malaria program negotiate a net distribution agreement and seek government approval.[4]
  • Ordering nets: AMF negotiates with net manufacturers to place an order for nets suited to local needs, which may vary in size, color, and insecticide.[5]
  • Producing, shipping, and transporting nets: Nets are manufactured and shipped to regional warehouses.[6]
  • Visiting households: AMF’s partners visit households to determine how many nets are needed.[7]

Some of these steps are practical requirements for conducting a distribution, such as ordering and shipping nets to the relevant location. Other steps increase the impact of the distribution. Though 23 months may seem like a long lead time, it enables AMF to coordinate with in-country groups, identify the highest-need areas, order the quantities and types of nets that are most suitable for those areas, and select partners that can conduct high-quality distributions and monitoring. We believe that the overall impact of donations is much greater than they would be if they were allocated more quickly but less thoughtfully.

2. Charities with longer-term funding are more likely to hire and retain staff.

Charities have told us that it’s hard to retain and hire staff when they are uncertain about their long-term funding. Staff may leave if they don’t have confidence in an organization’s future funding. Their replacements must be recruited and trained, requiring significant time from existing staff.

A charity leader who is concerned their program might not be funded in the future may decide to limit investment in hiring. They may make quick hiring decisions that lead to poor fit and reduced program impact, or further staff turnover. Or, they may simply not hire at all. Instead, existing staff may be spread thin to cover the vacant roles.

A charity leader with long-term confidence in their organization’s funding may be willing to invest in hiring. We expect charities with steady, excellent staff to have more impact than those facing high turnover and suboptimal allocation of staff.

3. Two to three years from now, highly cost-effective charities will likely still have more impact than faster-spending but less cost-effective charities.

Charities’ impact per dollar donated drives our recommendations to donors. We expect differences in cost-effectiveness to overwhelm differences in charities’ spending speed over a few years.

We estimate that Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) program is 16 times as cost-effective as GiveDirectly’s standard (non-COVID-19) cash transfer program.[8] Malaria Consortium distributes cheap medicine to prevent children under five from getting malaria. GiveDirectly provides cash transfers to very poor households. Both work in sub-Saharan Africa. GiveDirectly estimates that participants in its standard cash transfer program receive funds between three and six months after those funds are donated.[9] Donations to Malaria Consortium reach program participants in two to three years.

It’s likely that two to three years from now, the costs and benefits of Malaria Consortium’s SMC program and GiveDirectly’s cash transfer program will be about the same as they are today. In 2022, we expect that Malaria Consortium’s SMC program will be 16 times as cost-effective as GiveDirectly’s cash transfer program, as we do today. Even though donations reach Malaria Consortium’s program participants more slowly, they are likely to have more impact.

There is a way to change this calculus. If you believe that reaching program participants sooner is more valuable, you could apply a “discount rate” to the cost-effectiveness of SMC. Cost-effectiveness analyses often include discount rates to reduce the value of future costs and benefits because they occur in the future. We have used a discount rate of 4% for programs that lead to increases in future income for participants.[10]

In order for GiveDirectly to be more cost-effective than Malaria Consortium’s SMC program, you would need to apply a discount rate of more than 300% per year to Malaria Consortium.[11] We think that most donors would not apply such a steep discount. We believe they would choose to give to Malaria Consortium on the basis of cost-effectiveness, even if donations are deployed more slowly.

What we’re balancing

We balance the benefits of providing future funding with the potential downsides of doing so by limiting how many years in advance we fund charities’ work. This preserves our ability to donate funds to more effective opportunities that we may identify in the future. We direct funds to charities that will be spent in two to three years, rather than in ten years, for this reason.

We constantly update our charity recommendations with new information. We also look for charities with greater impact per dollar.[12] This work will likely change how we prioritize funding our existing top charities and may lead to new top charities. We don’t want to commit funding so far in advance that we would have preferred to give that funding to an organization we’ve recently concluded has greater impact per dollar.

Funding a few years out is a reasonable balance of the benefits and pitfalls of providing future funding. The optimal timeline for funding will vary depending on the program and implementation model.

Responding to urgent needs

While we generally direct funding to our top charities for future work, we retain a pool of funding that may be used for urgent needs: “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion.” We typically grant these funds quarterly to the charity or charities we believe can use them most effectively.

We might have the most impact by supporting a pressing need. Last year, we made a grant to AMF to support a time-sensitive need in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We estimated that the cost per life saved by donating to AMF was the same as the cost per life saved by donating to the other charity we were considering funding, Malaria Consortium’s SMC program. However, by providing additional funding to AMF, we were directly increasing the number of nets it could distribute in the Democratic Republic of the Congo the following year. By contrast, our near-term funding decisions would not have impacted Malaria Consortium’s plans.[13]

We are open to granting or informing charities of our plans to grant discretionary funds sooner than quarterly, if that would make a difference for a charity’s ability to carry out high-impact work. But many times, we choose to grant discretionary funds to support charities’ work two or three years from now—because that is the most impactful option.

References

Sources and footnotes for this post may be found here.

The post Why we’re excited to fund charities’ work a few years in the future appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Why we’re excited to fund charities’ work a few years in the future

We recently spoke with someone who wanted to donate to a GiveWell top charity. They were interested in getting the funding “out the door” and to program participants as quickly as possible.

But our top choice for funding today is Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program—for work it expects to complete in 2022.[1] The potential donor was puzzled. Shouldn’t we prioritize an organization that needs the money sooner?

We often recommend donations today that support programs a few years from now. This probably diverges from many people’s intuitions about getting funding out the door as soon as possible.

Three key reasons why funding today leads to more impact in the future

1. Upfront coordination and planning increases charities’ impact.

Highly effective charities tend to spend a lot of time preparing before they implement their programs.

The Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) is a GiveWell top charity that supports the distribution of insecticide-treated nets, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. These nets are hung over sleeping spaces and prevent mosquitoes from biting and transmitting potentially deadly malaria. AMF says the ideal lead time for its work is 23 months.[2] During that time, it takes the following steps:

  • Choosing a location: AMF decides where it should direct funding to have the greatest impact. It considers malaria prevalence, the number of people in need of nets, and whether partner organizations can conduct distributions according to AMF requirements.[3]
  • Negotiating an agreement: AMF and the country’s national malaria program negotiate a net distribution agreement and seek government approval.[4]
  • Ordering nets: AMF negotiates with net manufacturers to place an order for nets suited to local needs, which may vary in size, color, and insecticide.[5]
  • Producing, shipping, and transporting nets: Nets are manufactured and shipped to regional warehouses.[6]
  • Visiting households: AMF’s partners visit households to determine how many nets are needed.[7]

Some of these steps are practical requirements for conducting a distribution, such as ordering and shipping nets to the relevant location. Other steps increase the impact of the distribution. Though 23 months may seem like a long lead time, it enables AMF to coordinate with in-country groups, identify the highest-need areas, order the quantities and types of nets that are most suitable for those areas, and select partners that can conduct high-quality distributions and monitoring. We believe that the overall impact of donations is much greater than they would be if they were allocated more quickly but less thoughtfully.

2. Charities with longer-term funding are more likely to hire and retain staff.

Charities have told us that it’s hard to retain and hire staff when they are uncertain about their long-term funding. Staff may leave if they don’t have confidence in an organization’s future funding. Their replacements must be recruited and trained, requiring significant time from existing staff.

A charity leader who is concerned their program might not be funded in the future may decide to limit investment in hiring. They may make quick hiring decisions that lead to poor fit and reduced program impact, or further staff turnover. Or, they may simply not hire at all. Instead, existing staff may be spread thin to cover the vacant roles.

A charity leader with long-term confidence in their organization’s funding may be willing to invest in hiring. We expect charities with steady, excellent staff to have more impact than those facing high turnover and suboptimal allocation of staff.

3. Two to three years from now, highly cost-effective charities will likely still have more impact than faster-spending but less cost-effective charities.

Charities’ impact per dollar donated drives our recommendations to donors. We expect differences in cost-effectiveness to overwhelm differences in charities’ spending speed over a few years.

We estimate that Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) program is 16 times as cost-effective as GiveDirectly’s standard (non-COVID-19) cash transfer program.[8] Malaria Consortium distributes cheap medicine to prevent children under five from getting malaria. GiveDirectly provides cash transfers to very poor households. Both work in sub-Saharan Africa. GiveDirectly estimates that participants in its standard cash transfer program receive funds between three and six months after those funds are donated.[9] Donations to Malaria Consortium reach program participants in two to three years.

It’s likely that two to three years from now, the costs and benefits of Malaria Consortium’s SMC program and GiveDirectly’s cash transfer program will be about the same as they are today. In 2022, we expect that Malaria Consortium’s SMC program will be 16 times as cost-effective as GiveDirectly’s cash transfer program, as we do today. Even though donations reach Malaria Consortium’s program participants more slowly, they are likely to have more impact.

There is a way to change this calculus. If you believe that reaching program participants sooner is more valuable, you could apply a “discount rate” to the cost-effectiveness of SMC. Cost-effectiveness analyses often include discount rates to reduce the value of future costs and benefits because they occur in the future. We have used a discount rate of 4% for programs that lead to increases in future income for participants.[10]

In order for GiveDirectly to be more cost-effective than Malaria Consortium’s SMC program, you would need to apply a discount rate of more than 300% per year to Malaria Consortium.[11] We think that most donors would not apply such a steep discount. We believe they would choose to give to Malaria Consortium on the basis of cost-effectiveness, even if donations are deployed more slowly.

What we’re balancing

We balance the benefits of providing future funding with the potential downsides of doing so by limiting how many years in advance we fund charities’ work. This preserves our ability to donate funds to more effective opportunities that we may identify in the future. We direct funds to charities that will be spent in two to three years, rather than in ten years, for this reason.

We constantly update our charity recommendations with new information. We also look for charities with greater impact per dollar.[12] This work will likely change how we prioritize funding our existing top charities and may lead to new top charities. We don’t want to commit funding so far in advance that we would have preferred to give that funding to an organization we’ve recently concluded has greater impact per dollar.

Funding a few years out is a reasonable balance of the benefits and pitfalls of providing future funding. The optimal timeline for funding will vary depending on the program and implementation model.

Responding to urgent needs

While we generally direct funding to our top charities for future work, we retain a pool of funding that may be used for urgent needs: “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion.” We typically grant these funds quarterly to the charity or charities we believe can use them most effectively.

We might have the most impact by supporting a pressing need. Last year, we made a grant to AMF to support a time-sensitive need in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We estimated that the cost per life saved by donating to AMF was the same as the cost per life saved by donating to the other charity we were considering funding, Malaria Consortium’s SMC program. However, by providing additional funding to AMF, we were directly increasing the number of nets it could distribute in the Democratic Republic of the Congo the following year. By contrast, our near-term funding decisions would not have impacted Malaria Consortium’s plans.[13]

We are open to granting or informing charities of our plans to grant discretionary funds sooner than quarterly, if that would make a difference for a charity’s ability to carry out high-impact work. But many times, we choose to grant discretionary funds to support charities’ work two or three years from now—because that is the most impactful option.

References

Sources and footnotes for this post may be found here.

The post Why we’re excited to fund charities’ work a few years in the future appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

A brief look at how some groups we’ve supported are responding to COVID-19

All Categories Blogs - Thu, 07/16/2020 - 14:45

Organizations supporting and delivering public health and poverty alleviation programs have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in many ways. Here, we provide a brief look at how some of the groups we’ve supported are responding to the pandemic.

We share an example of a charity that continues to implement its health program, with modifications for social distancing and safety; charities that have paused their programs, but continue supporting their staff; and a charity that is allocating funding to pandemic-response efforts.

This is neither a comprehensive update nor a static one. The situation is evolving rapidly. We will share a more complete update on what the pandemic means for our top charities and their funding needs closer to the end of the year. We continue to recommend that donors give to “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion,” which we allocate among our recommended charities where we see the greatest need.

What follows is a snapshot of what’s happening now.

Examples of how charities are responding

A charity that is continuing its program, but with modifications: Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program

Seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) is the delivery of anti-malarial medication to children under age five during the time of year when malaria transmission is highest.[1] The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that programs to prevent malaria, including SMC, continue during the pandemic.[2]

Malaria Consortium is a GiveWell top charity that supports SMC campaigns (primarily door-to-door) in the Sahel region of Africa.[3] We expect Malaria Consortium’s next SMC distributions to take place during the upcoming July-to-October rainy season.[4]

GiveWell-directed funding to Malaria Consortium’s SMC program is flexible. We don’t restrict its use to specific activities. That means Malaria Consortium can use GiveWell-directed funds to quickly adapt its distribution model to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Malaria Consortium will aim to provide personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves, to its community SMC distributors. It also plans to provide alcohol-based hand sanitizers, disinfecting wipes, soap, bio-waste bags, and additional T-shirts and hijabs.[5] Malaria Consortium has instructed community distributors to maintain two meters of distance in their interactions and to share information on how to prevent COVID-19 while visiting each household.[6]

Image from Malaria Consortium’s visual aid for community distributors. SPAQ (sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine and amodiaquine) is medication to prevent malaria.

Overall, Malaria Consortium expects slightly higher costs for its campaigns as a result of these changes.[7] We expect these additional costs to amount to a modest increase in the cost per child treated. In our projections of Malaria Consortium’s 2020 spending, we use an assumption of 20% higher costs due to program modifications.[8] This reduces our estimate of the cost-effectiveness of past donations to Malaria Consortium that are now being used for the 2020 SMC campaigns. Even with that adjustment, we still consider these past donations to be highly cost-effective, given our assessment of Malaria Consortium’s cost-effectiveness overall.

We expect that donations made to Malaria Consortium today will support its SMC campaigns in 2022, at which point we hope that these additional measures are no longer necessary. Our estimate of the cost-effectiveness of donations made to Malaria Consortium today thus remains high at $2,000 to $3,000 per death averted.[9]

Charities that are pausing programs and retaining staff: organizations that treat parasitic worm infections (deworming)

Our top charities list includes four organizations that support deworming programs: Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative, SCI Foundation, Sightsavers, and the END Fund. The WHO has recommended pausing deworming programs to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.[10] Our top charities are not distributing deworming treatments at this time.

As with Malaria Consortium, the donations we’ve directed to the deworming organizations we recommend have been allocated flexibly, so they may support operations as well as delivery of deworming treatments. We understand that our top charities plan to retain most staff using this and other funding. Maintaining stability in uncertain times benefits staff. It will also enable a quick and smooth transition back to providing deworming treatments once campaigns restart, as hiring and training new staff can be difficult and time-consuming.

We’re unclear how long the pause will last and thus how disruptive it will be. The hope is that it will be short-lived.

Deworming is done on an annual basis in many locations, or at most twice per year.[11] Many rounds of deworming are scheduled for later in the year and so have not yet been missed. It’s possible that in many of these cases, deworming will take place as scheduled.[12]

If the pause persists beyond the end of the year, it will impact our estimated cost-effectiveness of deworming. We estimate that the maintenance of staff costs in the absence of program implementation during a 12-month interruption of deworming would lead to a roughly 10-25% decrease in the cost-effectiveness for our deworming top charities over three years (our typical deworming funding period).[13] This estimate relies upon a number of simplifying assumptions and judgment calls; more information is in the following footnote.[14] We believe that deworming would remain a cost-effective intervention overall.

A charity that is allocating funds to respond to COVID-19: Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab’s Innovation in Government Initiative

In December 2018, we recommended a grant of $1 million to the Innovation in Government Initiative (IGI), a grantmaking entity within the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) focused on scaling evidence-based policies in collaboration with low- and middle-income country governments.[15] This grant was part of a new area of our work to explore approaches to improve government policies.[16] Our grant supported IGI’s general operations and two requests for proposals (RFPs). The RFPs sought proposals primarily for technical assistance to governments to scale up evidence-based policies.[17]

In March 2020, IGI reached out to us about allocating approximately $150,000 of the remaining funding from the GiveWell-directed grant to COVID-19 response. Specifically, IGI was interested in funding off-cycle, rapid-response grants to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in low- and middle-income countries by supporting technical assistance and analysis for governments to inform COVID-19 policy responses in areas like health and social protection.[18] This goal is in line with the original grant purpose, and we approved. A list of COVID-19 projects IGI has funded so far can be found here.

A broader list

This update highlights the importance of allocating funding flexibly so that grantees can respond to unforeseen events. But it doesn’t address all of the work our top charities and other groups we support are doing in response to the pandemic. GiveWell standout charity Development Media International is supporting public health broadcasts to promote behaviors to mitigate the spread of the pandemic. We’ve provided grant funding to expand this work. GiveDirectly has launched COVID-19 cash transfer programs in the United States, Kenya, and Uganda, and it plans to expand its COVID-19 response into five more countries.[19]

Other charities we support have adjusted their operations in large and small ways. We plan to share a more detailed look at the pandemic’s impact on charities we support later in the year.

References

Sources and footnotes for this post may be found here.

The post A brief look at how some groups we’ve supported are responding to COVID-19 appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

A brief look at how some groups we’ve supported are responding to COVID-19

Organizations supporting and delivering public health and poverty alleviation programs have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in many ways. Here, we provide a brief look at how some of the groups we’ve supported are responding to the pandemic.

We share an example of a charity that continues to implement its health program, with modifications for social distancing and safety; charities that have paused their programs, but continue supporting their staff; and a charity that is allocating funding to pandemic-response efforts.

This is neither a comprehensive update nor a static one. The situation is evolving rapidly. We will share a more complete update on what the pandemic means for our top charities and their funding needs closer to the end of the year. We continue to recommend that donors give to “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion,” which we allocate among our recommended charities where we see the greatest need.

What follows is a snapshot of what’s happening now.

Examples of how charities are responding

A charity that is continuing its program, but with modifications: Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program

Seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) is the delivery of anti-malarial medication to children under age five during the time of year when malaria transmission is highest.[1] The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that programs to prevent malaria, including SMC, continue during the pandemic.[2]

Malaria Consortium is a GiveWell top charity that supports SMC campaigns (primarily door-to-door) in the Sahel region of Africa.[3] We expect Malaria Consortium’s next SMC distributions to take place during the upcoming July-to-October rainy season.[4]

GiveWell-directed funding to Malaria Consortium’s SMC program is flexible. We don’t restrict its use to specific activities. That means Malaria Consortium can use GiveWell-directed funds to quickly adapt its distribution model to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Malaria Consortium will aim to provide personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves, to its community SMC distributors. It also plans to provide alcohol-based hand sanitizers, disinfecting wipes, soap, bio-waste bags, and additional T-shirts and hijabs.[5] Malaria Consortium has instructed community distributors to maintain two meters of distance in their interactions and to share information on how to prevent COVID-19 while visiting each household.[6]

Image from Malaria Consortium’s visual aid for community distributors. SPAQ (sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine and amodiaquine) is medication to prevent malaria.

Overall, Malaria Consortium expects slightly higher costs for its campaigns as a result of these changes.[7] We expect these additional costs to amount to a modest increase in the cost per child treated. In our projections of Malaria Consortium’s 2020 spending, we use an assumption of 20% higher costs due to program modifications.[8] This reduces our estimate of the cost-effectiveness of past donations to Malaria Consortium that are now being used for the 2020 SMC campaigns. Even with that adjustment, we still consider these past donations to be highly cost-effective, given our assessment of Malaria Consortium’s cost-effectiveness overall.

We expect that donations made to Malaria Consortium today will support its SMC campaigns in 2022, at which point we hope that these additional measures are no longer necessary. Our estimate of the cost-effectiveness of donations made to Malaria Consortium today thus remains high at $2,000 to $3,000 per death averted.[9]

Charities that are pausing programs and retaining staff: organizations that treat parasitic worm infections (deworming)

Our top charities list includes four organizations that support deworming programs: Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative, SCI Foundation, Sightsavers, and the END Fund. The WHO has recommended pausing deworming programs to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.[10] Our top charities are not distributing deworming treatments at this time.

As with Malaria Consortium, the donations we’ve directed to the deworming organizations we recommend have been allocated flexibly, so they may support operations as well as delivery of deworming treatments. We understand that our top charities plan to retain most staff using this and other funding. Maintaining stability in uncertain times benefits staff. It will also enable a quick and smooth transition back to providing deworming treatments once campaigns restart, as hiring and training new staff can be difficult and time-consuming.

We’re unclear how long the pause will last and thus how disruptive it will be. The hope is that it will be short-lived.

Deworming is done on an annual basis in many locations, or at most twice per year.[11] Many rounds of deworming are scheduled for later in the year and so have not yet been missed. It’s possible that in many of these cases, deworming will take place as scheduled.[12]

If the pause persists beyond the end of the year, it will impact our estimated cost-effectiveness of deworming. We estimate that the maintenance of staff costs in the absence of program implementation during a 12-month interruption of deworming would lead to a roughly 10-25% decrease in the cost-effectiveness for our deworming top charities over three years (our typical deworming funding period).[13] This estimate relies upon a number of simplifying assumptions and judgment calls; more information is in the following footnote.[14] We believe that deworming would remain a cost-effective intervention overall.

A charity that is allocating funds to respond to COVID-19: Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab’s Innovation in Government Initiative

In December 2018, we recommended a grant of $1 million to the Innovation in Government Initiative (IGI), a grantmaking entity within the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) focused on scaling evidence-based policies in collaboration with low- and middle-income country governments.[15] This grant was part of a new area of our work to explore approaches to improve government policies.[16] Our grant supported IGI’s general operations and two requests for proposals (RFPs). The RFPs sought proposals primarily for technical assistance to governments to scale up evidence-based policies.[17]

In March 2020, IGI reached out to us about allocating approximately $150,000 of the remaining funding from the GiveWell-directed grant to COVID-19 response. Specifically, IGI was interested in funding off-cycle, rapid-response grants to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in low- and middle-income countries by supporting technical assistance and analysis for governments to inform COVID-19 policy responses in areas like health and social protection.[18] This goal is in line with the original grant purpose, and we approved. A list of COVID-19 projects IGI has funded so far can be found here.

A broader list

This update highlights the importance of allocating funding flexibly so that grantees can respond to unforeseen events. But it doesn’t address all of the work our top charities and other groups we support are doing in response to the pandemic. GiveWell standout charity Development Media International is supporting public health broadcasts to promote behaviors to mitigate the spread of the pandemic. We’ve provided grant funding to expand this work. GiveDirectly has launched COVID-19 cash transfer programs in the United States, Kenya, and Uganda, and it plans to expand its COVID-19 response into five more countries.[19]

Other charities we support have adjusted their operations in large and small ways. We plan to share a more detailed look at the pandemic’s impact on charities we support later in the year.

References

Sources and footnotes for this post may be found here.

The post A brief look at how some groups we’ve supported are responding to COVID-19 appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Why you’ll see more matching campaigns at GiveWell

All Categories Blogs - Thu, 06/25/2020 - 11:52

Lots of charities run matching campaigns with claims like “Give today and double your impact!” We’re generally skeptical of these claims, which are true only if the matching donor would not have otherwise given to the charity.

We guess that many donors who are motivated to make a large gift to charity (as donors who put up funding for matches typically are) would do so whether or not their support is matched by others. What may often be happening with matching campaigns, then, is that a matching donor would have given to the charity anyway but has agreed to structure their donation as a “match” for marketing purposes. We’ve written about these concerns in the past.

But we don’t think matches are inherently problematic. In fact, if executed such that the matching donor would not have given otherwise, we believe they can be highly motivating for donors.

We’re aiming to increase the amount of funding we direct each year, and we’re planning to start regularly running matching campaigns in 2020 ourselves, in the hopes of reaching new donors and learning which channels are the most successful for marketing. We plan to take extra steps to structure our matching campaigns to offer a “true” match to the extent possible.

How we’ll structure matching campaigns

In order to make a more truthful claim about matching, we plan to verify that the donors who provide matching funds for GiveWell campaigns would not have otherwise donated. We are taking the following steps to do so:

  • Approaching donors who have shown interest in increasing GiveWell’s reach.
  • Asking if they would be interested in making an additional gift this year to underwrite our matching campaigns.
  • Assessing their giving history and our expectation of their likely giving in 2020 so that we can see if matching funds appear additive.
  • Confirming with potential matching donors that we are only interested in donations they would not have otherwise made.
  • Communicating to potential matching donors that we will only accept their gift in the amount we are able to match from other supporters. This might mean asking the donor to wait to give until the matching campaign is complete so that we only receive the correct amount, or returning unused funds to the matching donor.

It will be impossible to say with certainty that a matching donor would not have given but for the opportunity to provide matching funds, but we believe we can make a credible case following the above steps. We expect this to become more difficult over time (see footnote for details).1As we offer opportunities to fund donation matching campaigns more consistently over time, we think it’s possible that some donors may hold back their gifts to wait for a matching opportunity, and that it will be more challenging for us to tell if they are making a counterfactual gift. jQuery("#footnote_plugin_tooltip_1").tooltip({ tip: "#footnote_plugin_tooltip_text_1", tipClass: "footnote_tooltip", effect: "fade", fadeOutSpeed: 100, predelay: 400, position: "top right", relative: true, offset: [10, 10] });

Why we’re excited to run matching campaigns

We believe matching campaigns are an effective way to bring in new donors. Matching also helps improve our ability to track the performance of specific ads.

Our matching campaigns this year will build on the successful matching campaign we ran in late 2019 for podcast ads. Four donors put up a total of $250,000 in matching funds for that campaign, all of which was matched by 740 new donors.2This information comes from our internal records, which we do not plan to publish to maintain donor confidentiality. jQuery("#footnote_plugin_tooltip_2").tooltip({ tip: "#footnote_plugin_tooltip_text_2", tipClass: "footnote_tooltip", effect: "fade", fadeOutSpeed: 100, predelay: 400, position: "top right", relative: true, offset: [10, 10] });

In addition to bringing in new supporters, the 2019 campaign helped us track which podcast ads were most successful. The campaigns asked donors to visit custom landing pages where they could make use of the matching funds. This enabled us to see which ads were driving donations.

What we’ll test in 2020 matching campaigns

A key takeaway from the 2019 campaign was that podcast ads were successful in driving new donations. This year, we’re planning to scale what worked by running additional matching campaigns via podcast ads.

We also plan to offer donation-matching for new donors on our website and in paid marketing to see if it increases the number of new donors, the size of their donations, or the frequency with which they give.

We’re excited to try new things to increase our impact. We think matches may be a great way to do this.

Notes   [ + ]

1. ↑ As we offer opportunities to fund donation matching campaigns more consistently over time, we think it’s possible that some donors may hold back their gifts to wait for a matching opportunity, and that it will be more challenging for us to tell if they are making a counterfactual gift. 2. ↑ This information comes from our internal records, which we do not plan to publish to maintain donor confidentiality. function footnote_expand_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").show(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("-"); } function footnote_collapse_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").hide(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("+"); } function footnote_expand_collapse_reference_container() { if (jQuery("#footnote_references_container").is(":hidden")) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); } else { footnote_collapse_reference_container(); } } function footnote_moveToAnchor(p_str_TargetID) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); var l_obj_Target = jQuery("#" + p_str_TargetID); if(l_obj_Target.length) { jQuery('html, body').animate({ scrollTop: l_obj_Target.offset().top - window.innerHeight/2 }, 1000); } }

The post Why you’ll see more matching campaigns at GiveWell appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Why you’ll see more matching campaigns at GiveWell

Lots of charities run matching campaigns with claims like “Give today and double your impact!” We’re generally skeptical of these claims, which are true only if the matching donor would not have otherwise given to the charity.

We guess that many donors who are motivated to make a large gift to charity (as donors who put up funding for matches typically are) would do so whether or not their support is matched by others. What may often be happening with matching campaigns, then, is that a matching donor would have given to the charity anyway but has agreed to structure their donation as a “match” for marketing purposes. We’ve written about these concerns in the past.

But we don’t think matches are inherently problematic. In fact, if executed such that the matching donor would not have given otherwise, we believe they can be highly motivating for donors.

We’re aiming to increase the amount of funding we direct each year, and we’re planning to start regularly running matching campaigns in 2020 ourselves, in the hopes of reaching new donors and learning which channels are the most successful for marketing. We plan to take extra steps to structure our matching campaigns to offer a “true” match to the extent possible.

How we’ll structure matching campaigns

In order to make a more truthful claim about matching, we plan to verify that the donors who provide matching funds for GiveWell campaigns would not have otherwise donated. We are taking the following steps to do so:

  • Approaching donors who have shown interest in increasing GiveWell’s reach.
  • Asking if they would be interested in making an additional gift this year to underwrite our matching campaigns.
  • Assessing their giving history and our expectation of their likely giving in 2020 so that we can see if matching funds appear additive.
  • Confirming with potential matching donors that we are only interested in donations they would not have otherwise made.
  • Communicating to potential matching donors that we will only accept their gift in the amount we are able to match from other supporters. This might mean asking the donor to wait to give until the matching campaign is complete so that we only receive the correct amount, or returning unused funds to the matching donor.

It will be impossible to say with certainty that a matching donor would not have given but for the opportunity to provide matching funds, but we believe we can make a credible case following the above steps. We expect this to become more difficult over time (see footnote for details).1As we offer opportunities to fund donation matching campaigns more consistently over time, we think it’s possible that some donors may hold back their gifts to wait for a matching opportunity, and that it will be more challenging for us to tell if they are making a counterfactual gift. jQuery("#footnote_plugin_tooltip_1").tooltip({ tip: "#footnote_plugin_tooltip_text_1", tipClass: "footnote_tooltip", effect: "fade", fadeOutSpeed: 100, predelay: 400, position: "top right", relative: true, offset: [10, 10] });

Why we’re excited to run matching campaigns

We believe matching campaigns are an effective way to bring in new donors. Matching also helps improve our ability to track the performance of specific ads.

Our matching campaigns this year will build on the successful matching campaign we ran in late 2019 for podcast ads. Four donors put up a total of $250,000 in matching funds for that campaign, all of which was matched by 740 new donors.2This information comes from our internal records, which we do not plan to publish to maintain donor confidentiality. jQuery("#footnote_plugin_tooltip_2").tooltip({ tip: "#footnote_plugin_tooltip_text_2", tipClass: "footnote_tooltip", effect: "fade", fadeOutSpeed: 100, predelay: 400, position: "top right", relative: true, offset: [10, 10] });

In addition to bringing in new supporters, the 2019 campaign helped us track which podcast ads were most successful. The campaigns asked donors to visit custom landing pages where they could make use of the matching funds. This enabled us to see which ads were driving donations.

What we’ll test in 2020 matching campaigns

A key takeaway from the 2019 campaign was that podcast ads were successful in driving new donations. This year, we’re planning to scale what worked by running additional matching campaigns via podcast ads.

We also plan to offer donation-matching for new donors on our website and in paid marketing to see if it increases the number of new donors, the size of their donations, or the frequency with which they give.

We’re excited to try new things to increase our impact. We think matches may be a great way to do this.

Notes   [ + ]

1. ↑ As we offer opportunities to fund donation matching campaigns more consistently over time, we think it’s possible that some donors may hold back their gifts to wait for a matching opportunity, and that it will be more challenging for us to tell if they are making a counterfactual gift. 2. ↑ This information comes from our internal records, which we do not plan to publish to maintain donor confidentiality. function footnote_expand_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").show(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("-"); } function footnote_collapse_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").hide(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("+"); } function footnote_expand_collapse_reference_container() { if (jQuery("#footnote_references_container").is(":hidden")) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); } else { footnote_collapse_reference_container(); } } function footnote_moveToAnchor(p_str_TargetID) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); var l_obj_Target = jQuery("#" + p_str_TargetID); if(l_obj_Target.length) { jQuery('html, body').animate({ scrollTop: l_obj_Target.offset().top - window.innerHeight/2 }, 1000); } }

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June 2020 open thread

All Categories Blogs - Wed, 06/10/2020 - 14:22

Our goal with hosting quarterly open threads is to give blog readers an opportunity to publicly raise comments or questions about GiveWell or related topics (in the comments section below). As always, you’re also welcome to email us at info@givewell.org or to request a call with GiveWell staff if you have feedback or questions you’d prefer to discuss privately. We’ll try to respond promptly to questions or comments.

You can view our March 2020 open thread here.

The post June 2020 open thread appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

June 2020 open thread

Our goal with hosting quarterly open threads is to give blog readers an opportunity to publicly raise comments or questions about GiveWell or related topics (in the comments section below). As always, you’re also welcome to email us at info@givewell.org or to request a call with GiveWell staff if you have feedback or questions you’d prefer to discuss privately. We’ll try to respond promptly to questions or comments.

You can view our March 2020 open thread here.

The post June 2020 open thread appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

GiveWell’s plans for 2020

All Categories Blogs - Thu, 05/28/2020 - 07:10

Each spring, we share our plans for the year. Here, we highlight the work we plan to do in 2020 that is most likely to help us realize our mission of identifying and directing funding to highly cost-effective giving opportunities.1This post does not include a complete accounting of everything we plan to do in 2020. In particular, it does not include work aimed at primarily internal-facing results, such as improvements to internal staff communications. jQuery("#footnote_plugin_tooltip_1").tooltip({ tip: "#footnote_plugin_tooltip_text_1", tipClass: "footnote_tooltip", effect: "fade", fadeOutSpeed: 100, predelay: 400, position: "top right", relative: true, offset: [10, 10] }); We focus on three projects:

  1. Expanding into new areas of research.
  2. Searching for new, cost-effective funding opportunities in our traditional research areas.
  3. Building our donor community.

Sharing our annual plans and publicly reflecting back on them a year later is our typical practice. This year, of course, is atypical. The plans we laid out internally at the beginning of the year have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The plans we share in this post take the pandemic into account, but we are more uncertain than usual about what will happen in 2020. We expect that much of our work will go forward as anticipated, but we will be flexible if there are unforeseen disruptions or changes to our research agenda that result from the pandemic.

Expanding into new areas of research

Grants in response to the pandemic

We have already expanded into a new area of work in 2020: grantmaking in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We don’t typically focus on high-uncertainty, short-timeline reviews of funding opportunities. However, we think that we should be open to making grants in a lower-information environment due to the potentially severe consequences of the pandemic in low- and middle-income countries, where we focus our work, and that acting sooner may be more impactful in preventing the spread of the disease. As of the publication of this post, we’ve made three grants for COVID-19 mitigation.

We plan to consider whether there are additional grants we should make in response to the pandemic. We will make these grants if we believe they are more cost-effective than the opportunities to which we would otherwise direct funds.

Prioritizing within public health regulation

We began this year with the goal of clarifying which areas were most promising within public health regulation, a relatively new-to-GiveWell domain that we see as potentially highly cost-effective but that we made limited progress in assessing last year.

We made a lot of headway on this work in the early months of 2020. We conducted research that led us to prioritize alcohol policy and pesticide suicide prevention and to deprioritize additional work on other areas such as air pollution, tobacco, and road safety. Shortly before the pandemic intensified, we also began an investigation into a potential alcohol policy grant we might make. We were delayed in completing our investigation of the alcohol grant because the potential grantee shifted its focus to COVID-19 response.

We have paused work on public health regulation for now, outside of an investigation into a potential grant renewal for the 2017 GiveWell Incubation Grant recipient Centre for Pesticide Suicide Prevention. We plan to do more work on public health regulation in the coming months or after 2020, depending on our capacity for work outside of assessing opportunities in response to COVID-19. When we return to public health regulation, we plan to complete our investigation into the alcohol policy grant mentioned above. At that point, we plan to reflect on what we’ve learned to date about public health regulation before deciding whether to do additional work in this area.

Searching for new, cost-effective funding opportunities in our traditional research areas

We continue to assess evidence-backed global health and poverty alleviation programs that may meet our traditional criteria. We significantly expanded our research team in 2019 and expect to make great progress in vetting new evidence and moving programs through our review process in 2020.

Our research process operates as a funnel: we start by conducting shallow reviews of a large number of programs, followed by in-depth reviews of the most promising. This year, we’re planning to assess a large number of programs at various stages of the funnel. Here, we highlight a few that we’re particularly excited about:

  • New Incentives. We recently received preliminary results from a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of New Incentives‘ work. New Incentives provides cash incentives for caregivers in North West Nigeria who take their babies to a health clinic to receive routine immunizations. New Incentives is a GiveWell Incubation Grant recipient and the study of its work, which was funded by another GiveWell Incubation Grant, is the first RCT into which GiveWell has had significant input. This year, we expect to complete our review of the RCT results and to make a decision about whether to direct additional funding to support New Incentives’ work.
  • Evidence Action programs. We plan to complete additional research on two programs run by Evidence Action: GiveWell standout charity Dispensers for Safe Water and a maternal syphilis screening and treatment program.

We hope to conduct in-depth reviews of one to two other charities (most likely Precision Agriculture for Development and/or Sanku, though possibly others) as well, but may have limited capacity to do so due to COVID-19-responsive work.

Building the GiveWell donor community

We aim to grow the GiveWell donor community in 2020.

Our marketing team plans to reach new donors through advertising campaigns, including additional advertising on podcasts. The marketing team also plans to conduct and support research to inform updates to our website that may improve how we present information. For example, the team is examining how users engage with our website and where they may become confused or misinterpret our work, so that we can make improvements to those areas.

We’re hiring!

We have ambitious plans this year and are looking to hire staff to help us achieve our goals. If you think the plans above sound exciting, we encourage you to consider whether working at GiveWell would be a good fit for you. Many of our successful hires in the past have come through the community of people who engage with our work. You can read about the roles we’re hiring for here. Staff may work remotely and we accommodate flexible work schedules, including flexible hours. Additional details are in each job description.

We hope you’ll consider joining the team and sharing this with others who might like to. Thank you!

Notes   [ + ]

1. ↑ This post does not include a complete accounting of everything we plan to do in 2020. In particular, it does not include work aimed at primarily internal-facing results, such as improvements to internal staff communications. function footnote_expand_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").show(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("-"); } function footnote_collapse_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").hide(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("+"); } function footnote_expand_collapse_reference_container() { if (jQuery("#footnote_references_container").is(":hidden")) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); } else { footnote_collapse_reference_container(); } } function footnote_moveToAnchor(p_str_TargetID) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); var l_obj_Target = jQuery("#" + p_str_TargetID); if(l_obj_Target.length) { jQuery('html, body').animate({ scrollTop: l_obj_Target.offset().top - window.innerHeight/2 }, 1000); } }

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GiveWell’s plans for 2020

Evaluation of Givewell Blogs - Thu, 05/28/2020 - 07:10

Each spring, we share our plans for the year. Here, we highlight the work we plan to do in 2020 that is most likely to help us realize our mission of identifying and directing funding to highly cost-effective giving opportunities.1This post does not include a complete accounting of everything we plan to do in 2020. In particular, it does not include work aimed at primarily internal-facing results, such as improvements to internal staff communications. jQuery("#footnote_plugin_tooltip_1").tooltip({ tip: "#footnote_plugin_tooltip_text_1", tipClass: "footnote_tooltip", effect: "fade", fadeOutSpeed: 100, predelay: 400, position: "top right", relative: true, offset: [10, 10] }); We focus on three projects:

  1. Expanding into new areas of research.
  2. Searching for new, cost-effective funding opportunities in our traditional research areas.
  3. Building our donor community.

Sharing our annual plans and publicly reflecting back on them a year later is our typical practice. This year, of course, is atypical. The plans we laid out internally at the beginning of the year have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The plans we share in this post take the pandemic into account, but we are more uncertain than usual about what will happen in 2020. We expect that much of our work will go forward as anticipated, but we will be flexible if there are unforeseen disruptions or changes to our research agenda that result from the pandemic.

Expanding into new areas of research

Grants in response to the pandemic

We have already expanded into a new area of work in 2020: grantmaking in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We don’t typically focus on high-uncertainty, short-timeline reviews of funding opportunities. However, we think that we should be open to making grants in a lower-information environment due to the potentially severe consequences of the pandemic in low- and middle-income countries, where we focus our work, and that acting sooner may be more impactful in preventing the spread of the disease. As of the publication of this post, we’ve made three grants for COVID-19 mitigation.

We plan to consider whether there are additional grants we should make in response to the pandemic. We will make these grants if we believe they are more cost-effective than the opportunities to which we would otherwise direct funds.

Prioritizing within public health regulation

We began this year with the goal of clarifying which areas were most promising within public health regulation, a relatively new-to-GiveWell domain that we see as potentially highly cost-effective but that we made limited progress in assessing last year.

We made a lot of headway on this work in the early months of 2020. We conducted research that led us to prioritize alcohol policy and pesticide suicide prevention and to deprioritize additional work on other areas such as air pollution, tobacco, and road safety. Shortly before the pandemic intensified, we also began an investigation into a potential alcohol policy grant we might make. We were delayed in completing our investigation of the alcohol grant because the potential grantee shifted its focus to COVID-19 response.

We have paused work on public health regulation for now, outside of an investigation into a potential grant renewal for the 2017 GiveWell Incubation Grant recipient Centre for Pesticide Suicide Prevention. We plan to do more work on public health regulation in the coming months or after 2020, depending on our capacity for work outside of assessing opportunities in response to COVID-19. When we return to public health regulation, we plan to complete our investigation into the alcohol policy grant mentioned above. At that point, we plan to reflect on what we’ve learned to date about public health regulation before deciding whether to do additional work in this area.

Searching for new, cost-effective funding opportunities in our traditional research areas

We continue to assess evidence-backed global health and poverty alleviation programs that may meet our traditional criteria. We significantly expanded our research team in 2019 and expect to make great progress in vetting new evidence and moving programs through our review process in 2020.

Our research process operates as a funnel: we start by conducting shallow reviews of a large number of programs, followed by in-depth reviews of the most promising. This year, we’re planning to assess a large number of programs at various stages of the funnel. Here, we highlight a few that we’re particularly excited about:

  • New Incentives. We recently received preliminary results from a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of New Incentives‘ work. New Incentives provides cash incentives for caregivers in North West Nigeria who take their babies to a health clinic to receive routine immunizations. New Incentives is a GiveWell Incubation Grant recipient and the study of its work, which was funded by another GiveWell Incubation Grant, is the first RCT into which GiveWell has had significant input. This year, we expect to complete our review of the RCT results and to make a decision about whether to direct additional funding to support New Incentives’ work.
  • Evidence Action programs. We plan to complete additional research on two programs run by Evidence Action: GiveWell standout charity Dispensers for Safe Water and a maternal syphilis screening and treatment program.

We hope to conduct in-depth reviews of one to two other charities (most likely Precision Agriculture for Development and/or Sanku, though possibly others) as well, but may have limited capacity to do so due to COVID-19-responsive work.

Building the GiveWell donor community

We aim to grow the GiveWell donor community in 2020.

Our marketing team plans to reach new donors through advertising campaigns, including additional advertising on podcasts. The marketing team also plans to conduct and support research to inform updates to our website that may improve how we present information. For example, the team is examining how users engage with our website and where they may become confused or misinterpret our work, so that we can make improvements to those areas.

We’re hiring!

We have ambitious plans this year and are looking to hire staff to help us achieve our goals. If you think the plans above sound exciting, we encourage you to consider whether working at GiveWell would be a good fit for you. Many of our successful hires in the past have come through the community of people who engage with our work. You can read about the roles we’re hiring for here. Staff may work remotely and we accommodate flexible work schedules, including flexible hours. Additional details are in each job description.

We hope you’ll consider joining the team and sharing this with others who might like to. Thank you!

Notes   [ + ]

1. ↑ This post does not include a complete accounting of everything we plan to do in 2020. In particular, it does not include work aimed at primarily internal-facing results, such as improvements to internal staff communications. function footnote_expand_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").show(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("-"); } function footnote_collapse_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").hide(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("+"); } function footnote_expand_collapse_reference_container() { if (jQuery("#footnote_references_container").is(":hidden")) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); } else { footnote_collapse_reference_container(); } } function footnote_moveToAnchor(p_str_TargetID) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); var l_obj_Target = jQuery("#" + p_str_TargetID); if(l_obj_Target.length) { jQuery('html, body').animate({ scrollTop: l_obj_Target.offset().top - window.innerHeight/2 }, 1000); } }

The post GiveWell’s plans for 2020 appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

GiveWell’s plans for 2020

Each spring, we share our plans for the year. Here, we highlight the work we plan to do in 2020 that is most likely to help us realize our mission of identifying and directing funding to highly cost-effective giving opportunities.1This post does not include a complete accounting of everything we plan to do in 2020. In particular, it does not include work aimed at primarily internal-facing results, such as improvements to internal staff communications. jQuery("#footnote_plugin_tooltip_1").tooltip({ tip: "#footnote_plugin_tooltip_text_1", tipClass: "footnote_tooltip", effect: "fade", fadeOutSpeed: 100, predelay: 400, position: "top right", relative: true, offset: [10, 10] }); We focus on three projects:

  1. Expanding into new areas of research.
  2. Searching for new, cost-effective funding opportunities in our traditional research areas.
  3. Building our donor community.

Sharing our annual plans and publicly reflecting back on them a year later is our typical practice. This year, of course, is atypical. The plans we laid out internally at the beginning of the year have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The plans we share in this post take the pandemic into account, but we are more uncertain than usual about what will happen in 2020. We expect that much of our work will go forward as anticipated, but we will be flexible if there are unforeseen disruptions or changes to our research agenda that result from the pandemic.

Expanding into new areas of research

Grants in response to the pandemic

We have already expanded into a new area of work in 2020: grantmaking in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We don’t typically focus on high-uncertainty, short-timeline reviews of funding opportunities. However, we think that we should be open to making grants in a lower-information environment due to the potentially severe consequences of the pandemic in low- and middle-income countries, where we focus our work, and that acting sooner may be more impactful in preventing the spread of the disease. As of the publication of this post, we’ve made three grants for COVID-19 mitigation.

We plan to consider whether there are additional grants we should make in response to the pandemic. We will make these grants if we believe they are more cost-effective than the opportunities to which we would otherwise direct funds.

Prioritizing within public health regulation

We began this year with the goal of clarifying which areas were most promising within public health regulation, a relatively new-to-GiveWell domain that we see as potentially highly cost-effective but that we made limited progress in assessing last year.

We made a lot of headway on this work in the early months of 2020. We conducted research that led us to prioritize alcohol policy and pesticide suicide prevention and to deprioritize additional work on other areas such as air pollution, tobacco, and road safety. Shortly before the pandemic intensified, we also began an investigation into a potential alcohol policy grant we might make. We were delayed in completing our investigation of the alcohol grant because the potential grantee shifted its focus to COVID-19 response.

We have paused work on public health regulation for now, outside of an investigation into a potential grant renewal for the 2017 GiveWell Incubation Grant recipient Centre for Pesticide Suicide Prevention. We plan to do more work on public health regulation in the coming months or after 2020, depending on our capacity for work outside of assessing opportunities in response to COVID-19. When we return to public health regulation, we plan to complete our investigation into the alcohol policy grant mentioned above. At that point, we plan to reflect on what we’ve learned to date about public health regulation before deciding whether to do additional work in this area.

Searching for new, cost-effective funding opportunities in our traditional research areas

We continue to assess evidence-backed global health and poverty alleviation programs that may meet our traditional criteria. We significantly expanded our research team in 2019 and expect to make great progress in vetting new evidence and moving programs through our review process in 2020.

Our research process operates as a funnel: we start by conducting shallow reviews of a large number of programs, followed by in-depth reviews of the most promising. This year, we’re planning to assess a large number of programs at various stages of the funnel. Here, we highlight a few that we’re particularly excited about:

  • New Incentives. We recently received preliminary results from a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of New Incentives‘ work. New Incentives provides cash incentives for caregivers in North West Nigeria who take their babies to a health clinic to receive routine immunizations. New Incentives is a GiveWell Incubation Grant recipient and the study of its work, which was funded by another GiveWell Incubation Grant, is the first RCT into which GiveWell has had significant input. This year, we expect to complete our review of the RCT results and to make a decision about whether to direct additional funding to support New Incentives’ work.
  • Evidence Action programs. We plan to complete additional research on two programs run by Evidence Action: GiveWell standout charity Dispensers for Safe Water and a maternal syphilis screening and treatment program.

We hope to conduct in-depth reviews of one to two other charities (most likely Precision Agriculture for Development and/or Sanku, though possibly others) as well, but may have limited capacity to do so due to COVID-19-responsive work.

Building the GiveWell donor community

We aim to grow the GiveWell donor community in 2020.

Our marketing team plans to reach new donors through advertising campaigns, including additional advertising on podcasts. The marketing team also plans to conduct and support research to inform updates to our website that may improve how we present information. For example, the team is examining how users engage with our website and where they may become confused or misinterpret our work, so that we can make improvements to those areas.

We’re hiring!

We have ambitious plans this year and are looking to hire staff to help us achieve our goals. If you think the plans above sound exciting, we encourage you to consider whether working at GiveWell would be a good fit for you. Many of our successful hires in the past have come through the community of people who engage with our work. You can read about the roles we’re hiring for here. Staff may work remotely and we accommodate flexible work schedules, including flexible hours. Additional details are in each job description.

We hope you’ll consider joining the team and sharing this with others who might like to. Thank you!

Notes   [ + ]

1. ↑ This post does not include a complete accounting of everything we plan to do in 2020. In particular, it does not include work aimed at primarily internal-facing results, such as improvements to internal staff communications. function footnote_expand_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").show(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("-"); } function footnote_collapse_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").hide(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("+"); } function footnote_expand_collapse_reference_container() { if (jQuery("#footnote_references_container").is(":hidden")) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); } else { footnote_collapse_reference_container(); } } function footnote_moveToAnchor(p_str_TargetID) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); var l_obj_Target = jQuery("#" + p_str_TargetID); if(l_obj_Target.length) { jQuery('html, body').animate({ scrollTop: l_obj_Target.offset().top - window.innerHeight/2 }, 1000); } }

The post GiveWell’s plans for 2020 appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Reflecting on our progress in 2019

All Categories Blogs - Wed, 05/20/2020 - 12:54

GiveWell grew significantly in 2019. We hired 13 full-time staff members, bringing our total size to 37, and expanded our ability to take on new projects across domains. We feel positioned to do more and better work going forward as a result.

We see a strong indication that the amount of funding we directed to our recommended charities increased last year, too. While we haven’t reconciled all giving from 2019, the value of donations we processed increased by about 30% in 2019.

We’re proud of what we accomplished in 2019. We also fell short of some goals last year. Most notably, we failed to make as much progress as we planned in researching new areas of global health and poverty alleviation.

This blog post provides a brief look at our key successes and failures last year. A more detailed accounting of how our progress in 2019 compared to the goals we set is available on this page.

Successes

Hiring new staff

Years of planning for our needs and recruiting efforts culminated in hiring 13 new staff to join our small team in 2019. GiveWell ended last year over 50% bigger than it was at the end of 2018.

We hired across the domains of our work: seven joined the research team, two joined the outreach team, three joined the operations team, and one will serve as Managing Director. We expect each staff member will enable us to accomplish more and achieve better outcomes across these key areas of our work. Below, we highlight a few senior hires whom we expect to help steer the direction of our work.

  • Managing Director. We hired Neil Buddy Shah as our first Managing Director in late 2019. Buddy will work closely with GiveWell’s CEO Elie Hassenfeld to set GiveWell’s high-level strategy. He will also engage with the international development community to learn from and contribute to discussions of how to do as much good as possible and to identify promising funding opportunities. We expect Buddy to start at GiveWell this summer.
  • Research. We’ve been looking to hire senior researchers to expand our ability to assess new types of evidence since 2016. We described in early 2019 how our research is evolving and how we hoped to hire additional experienced researchers to enable us to do this work. We hired Alex Cohen and Teryn Mattox as Senior Fellows in 2019.
  • Outreach. We’ve gradually been expanding our outreach work since 2017. In 2019, Steph Stojanovic and Jim Bobowski joined GiveWell as a Major Gifts Officer and VP of Marketing, respectively, and will lead our future work on donor retention and acquisition.
  • Operations. Our Director of Operations, Whitney Shinkle, who joined GiveWell in 2018, built out her team by bringing on three new staff members in 2019.

GiveWell’s expansion enables us to improve in each area of our work. For example, we hope to make progress this year on evaluating new research areas as well as looking for new, cost-effective room for more funding in the areas in which we’ve traditionally worked. We also expect to increase the amount of money we direct to our recommended charities with our expanded outreach team.

Increasing the amount of funding we direct to recommended charities

We see an early indication that we directed more money to our recommended charities in 2019 than we did the previous year: the value of donations we processed in 2019 grew by around 30%.

Directing funding to our recommended charities is one of the main metrics to which we hold ourselves accountable. We aim to grow the amount of money we move to our top charities each year.

The “donations we processed” figure doesn’t account for the donations that were made through our partner organizations and directly to our recommended charities, but we think it’s a good sign of our continued influence last year. We’ll share the final figure later this year, once we have more information.

Shortcomings

Making progress in understanding new areas of research

In May 2019, we wrote that we planned to make progress on exploring new areas of research in 2019. In particular, we planned to focus on public health regulation and ways to support government aid agencies.1“We plan to look into several new areas in 2019, including public health regulation and possible paths to support government aid agencies…. We also plan to continue our investigation into possible paths to support government aid agencies; in particular, we plan to complete an investigation into an opportunity to do so in the area of results-based financing.” GiveWell blog, GiveWell’s plans for 2019, May 16, 2019 jQuery("#footnote_plugin_tooltip_1").tooltip({ tip: "#footnote_plugin_tooltip_text_1", tipClass: "footnote_tooltip", effect: "fade", fadeOutSpeed: 100, predelay: 400, position: "top right", relative: true, offset: [10, 10] }); Due to shifting responsibilities among the research team, we did not make progress in this area last year.

We had planned for a single staff member to focus on this work. As this person’s responsibilities evolved throughout the year, they were unable to dedicate significant time to this project. This led us to deprioritize making progress in this area.

Conclusion

The above highlights don’t tell the full story of what we achieved—we had a busy year! Listing everything we worked on in 2019 would lead to a very long post. But, to briefly share a few other interesting projects (this list is non-exhaustive):

  • We published research on moral weights. This was the culmination of over two years of research and will inform and improve our ability to make difficult tradeoffs in our funding decisions going forward.
  • We recommended a $1 million Incubation Grant to support the work of Fortify Health on whole wheat flour iron fortification in India. We believe Fortify Health, a young organization, may one day become a GiveWell top charity.
  • Four staff members visited Malaria Consortium, our current top recommendation for donors, to deepen our understanding of its seasonal malaria chemoprevention work in Burkina Faso.

We’re proud of what we accomplished last year and look forward to sharing our plans for 2020 in a forthcoming post. Additional details on our 2019 goals and progress are available here.

Notes   [ + ]

1. ↑ “We plan to look into several new areas in 2019, including public health regulation and possible paths to support government aid agencies…. We also plan to continue our investigation into possible paths to support government aid agencies; in particular, we plan to complete an investigation into an opportunity to do so in the area of results-based financing.” GiveWell blog, GiveWell’s plans for 2019, May 16, 2019 function footnote_expand_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").show(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("-"); } function footnote_collapse_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").hide(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("+"); } function footnote_expand_collapse_reference_container() { if (jQuery("#footnote_references_container").is(":hidden")) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); } else { footnote_collapse_reference_container(); } } function footnote_moveToAnchor(p_str_TargetID) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); var l_obj_Target = jQuery("#" + p_str_TargetID); if(l_obj_Target.length) { jQuery('html, body').animate({ scrollTop: l_obj_Target.offset().top - window.innerHeight/2 }, 1000); } }

The post Reflecting on our progress in 2019 appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Reflecting on our progress in 2019

Evaluation of Givewell Blogs - Wed, 05/20/2020 - 12:54

GiveWell grew significantly in 2019. We hired 13 full-time staff members, bringing our total size to 37, and expanded our ability to take on new projects across domains. We feel positioned to do more and better work going forward as a result.

We see a strong indication that the amount of funding we directed to our recommended charities increased last year, too. While we haven’t reconciled all giving from 2019, the value of donations we processed increased by about 30% in 2019.

We’re proud of what we accomplished in 2019. We also fell short of some goals last year. Most notably, we failed to make as much progress as we planned in researching new areas of global health and poverty alleviation.

This blog post provides a brief look at our key successes and failures last year. A more detailed accounting of how our progress in 2019 compared to the goals we set is available on this page.

Successes

Hiring new staff

Years of planning for our needs and recruiting efforts culminated in hiring 13 new staff to join our small team in 2019. GiveWell ended last year over 50% bigger than it was at the end of 2018.

We hired across the domains of our work: seven joined the research team, two joined the outreach team, three joined the operations team, and one will serve as Managing Director. We expect each staff member will enable us to accomplish more and achieve better outcomes across these key areas of our work. Below, we highlight a few senior hires whom we expect to help steer the direction of our work.

  • Managing Director. We hired Neil Buddy Shah as our first Managing Director in late 2019. Buddy will work closely with GiveWell’s CEO Elie Hassenfeld to set GiveWell’s high-level strategy. He will also engage with the international development community to learn from and contribute to discussions of how to do as much good as possible and to identify promising funding opportunities. We expect Buddy to start at GiveWell this summer.
  • Research. We’ve been looking to hire senior researchers to expand our ability to assess new types of evidence since 2016. We described in early 2019 how our research is evolving and how we hoped to hire additional experienced researchers to enable us to do this work. We hired Alex Cohen and Teryn Mattox as Senior Fellows in 2019.
  • Outreach. We’ve gradually been expanding our outreach work since 2017. In 2019, Steph Stojanovic and Jim Bobowski joined GiveWell as a Major Gifts Officer and VP of Marketing, respectively, and will lead our future work on donor retention and acquisition.
  • Operations. Our Director of Operations, Whitney Shinkle, who joined GiveWell in 2018, built out her team by bringing on three new staff members in 2019.

GiveWell’s expansion enables us to improve in each area of our work. For example, we hope to make progress this year on evaluating new research areas as well as looking for new, cost-effective room for more funding in the areas in which we’ve traditionally worked. We also expect to increase the amount of money we direct to our recommended charities with our expanded outreach team.

Increasing the amount of funding we direct to recommended charities

We see an early indication that we directed more money to our recommended charities in 2019 than we did the previous year: the value of donations we processed in 2019 grew by around 30%.

Directing funding to our recommended charities is one of the main metrics to which we hold ourselves accountable. We aim to grow the amount of money we move to our top charities each year.

The “donations we processed” figure doesn’t account for the donations that were made through our partner organizations and directly to our recommended charities, but we think it’s a good sign of our continued influence last year. We’ll share the final figure later this year, once we have more information.

Shortcomings

Making progress in understanding new areas of research

In May 2019, we wrote that we planned to make progress on exploring new areas of research in 2019. In particular, we planned to focus on public health regulation and ways to support government aid agencies.1“We plan to look into several new areas in 2019, including public health regulation and possible paths to support government aid agencies…. We also plan to continue our investigation into possible paths to support government aid agencies; in particular, we plan to complete an investigation into an opportunity to do so in the area of results-based financing.” GiveWell blog, GiveWell’s plans for 2019, May 16, 2019 jQuery("#footnote_plugin_tooltip_1").tooltip({ tip: "#footnote_plugin_tooltip_text_1", tipClass: "footnote_tooltip", effect: "fade", fadeOutSpeed: 100, predelay: 400, position: "top right", relative: true, offset: [10, 10] }); Due to shifting responsibilities among the research team, we did not make progress in this area last year.

We had planned for a single staff member to focus on this work. As this person’s responsibilities evolved throughout the year, they were unable to dedicate significant time to this project. This led us to deprioritize making progress in this area.

Conclusion

The above highlights don’t tell the full story of what we achieved—we had a busy year! Listing everything we worked on in 2019 would lead to a very long post. But, to briefly share a few other interesting projects (this list is non-exhaustive):

  • We published research on moral weights. This was the culmination of over two years of research and will inform and improve our ability to make difficult tradeoffs in our funding decisions going forward.
  • We recommended a $1 million Incubation Grant to support the work of Fortify Health on whole wheat flour iron fortification in India. We believe Fortify Health, a young organization, may one day become a GiveWell top charity.
  • Four staff members visited Malaria Consortium, our current top recommendation for donors, to deepen our understanding of its seasonal malaria chemoprevention work in Burkina Faso.

We’re proud of what we accomplished last year and look forward to sharing our plans for 2020 in a forthcoming post. Additional details on our 2019 goals and progress are available here.

Notes   [ + ]

1. ↑ “We plan to look into several new areas in 2019, including public health regulation and possible paths to support government aid agencies…. We also plan to continue our investigation into possible paths to support government aid agencies; in particular, we plan to complete an investigation into an opportunity to do so in the area of results-based financing.” GiveWell blog, GiveWell’s plans for 2019, May 16, 2019 function footnote_expand_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").show(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("-"); } function footnote_collapse_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").hide(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("+"); } function footnote_expand_collapse_reference_container() { if (jQuery("#footnote_references_container").is(":hidden")) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); } else { footnote_collapse_reference_container(); } } function footnote_moveToAnchor(p_str_TargetID) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); var l_obj_Target = jQuery("#" + p_str_TargetID); if(l_obj_Target.length) { jQuery('html, body').animate({ scrollTop: l_obj_Target.offset().top - window.innerHeight/2 }, 1000); } }

The post Reflecting on our progress in 2019 appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Reflecting on our progress in 2019

GiveWell grew significantly in 2019. We hired 13 full-time staff members, bringing our total size to 37, and expanded our ability to take on new projects across domains. We feel positioned to do more and better work going forward as a result.

We see a strong indication that the amount of funding we directed to our recommended charities increased last year, too. While we haven’t reconciled all giving from 2019, the value of donations we processed increased by about 30% in 2019.

We’re proud of what we accomplished in 2019. We also fell short of some goals last year. Most notably, we failed to make as much progress as we planned in researching new areas of global health and poverty alleviation.

This blog post provides a brief look at our key successes and failures last year. A more detailed accounting of how our progress in 2019 compared to the goals we set is available on this page.

Successes

Hiring new staff

Years of planning for our needs and recruiting efforts culminated in hiring 13 new staff to join our small team in 2019. GiveWell ended last year over 50% bigger than it was at the end of 2018.

We hired across the domains of our work: seven joined the research team, two joined the outreach team, three joined the operations team, and one will serve as Managing Director. We expect each staff member will enable us to accomplish more and achieve better outcomes across these key areas of our work. Below, we highlight a few senior hires whom we expect to help steer the direction of our work.

  • Managing Director. We hired Neil Buddy Shah as our first Managing Director in late 2019. Buddy will work closely with GiveWell’s CEO Elie Hassenfeld to set GiveWell’s high-level strategy. He will also engage with the international development community to learn from and contribute to discussions of how to do as much good as possible and to identify promising funding opportunities. We expect Buddy to start at GiveWell this summer.
  • Research. We’ve been looking to hire senior researchers to expand our ability to assess new types of evidence since 2016. We described in early 2019 how our research is evolving and how we hoped to hire additional experienced researchers to enable us to do this work. We hired Alex Cohen and Teryn Mattox as Senior Fellows in 2019.
  • Outreach. We’ve gradually been expanding our outreach work since 2017. In 2019, Steph Stojanovic and Jim Bobowski joined GiveWell as a Major Gifts Officer and VP of Marketing, respectively, and will lead our future work on donor retention and acquisition.
  • Operations. Our Director of Operations, Whitney Shinkle, who joined GiveWell in 2018, built out her team by bringing on three new staff members in 2019.

GiveWell’s expansion enables us to improve in each area of our work. For example, we hope to make progress this year on evaluating new research areas as well as looking for new, cost-effective room for more funding in the areas in which we’ve traditionally worked. We also expect to increase the amount of money we direct to our recommended charities with our expanded outreach team.

Increasing the amount of funding we direct to recommended charities

We see an early indication that we directed more money to our recommended charities in 2019 than we did the previous year: the value of donations we processed in 2019 grew by around 30%.

Directing funding to our recommended charities is one of the main metrics to which we hold ourselves accountable. We aim to grow the amount of money we move to our top charities each year.

The “donations we processed” figure doesn’t account for the donations that were made through our partner organizations and directly to our recommended charities, but we think it’s a good sign of our continued influence last year. We’ll share the final figure later this year, once we have more information.

Shortcomings

Making progress in understanding new areas of research

In May 2019, we wrote that we planned to make progress on exploring new areas of research in 2019. In particular, we planned to focus on public health regulation and ways to support government aid agencies.1“We plan to look into several new areas in 2019, including public health regulation and possible paths to support government aid agencies…. We also plan to continue our investigation into possible paths to support government aid agencies; in particular, we plan to complete an investigation into an opportunity to do so in the area of results-based financing.” GiveWell blog, GiveWell’s plans for 2019, May 16, 2019 jQuery("#footnote_plugin_tooltip_1").tooltip({ tip: "#footnote_plugin_tooltip_text_1", tipClass: "footnote_tooltip", effect: "fade", fadeOutSpeed: 100, predelay: 400, position: "top right", relative: true, offset: [10, 10] }); Due to shifting responsibilities among the research team, we did not make progress in this area last year.

We had planned for a single staff member to focus on this work. As this person’s responsibilities evolved throughout the year, they were unable to dedicate significant time to this project. This led us to deprioritize making progress in this area.

Conclusion

The above highlights don’t tell the full story of what we achieved—we had a busy year! Listing everything we worked on in 2019 would lead to a very long post. But, to briefly share a few other interesting projects (this list is non-exhaustive):

  • We published research on moral weights. This was the culmination of over two years of research and will inform and improve our ability to make difficult tradeoffs in our funding decisions going forward.
  • We recommended a $1 million Incubation Grant to support the work of Fortify Health on whole wheat flour iron fortification in India. We believe Fortify Health, a young organization, may one day become a GiveWell top charity.
  • Four staff members visited Malaria Consortium, our current top recommendation for donors, to deepen our understanding of its seasonal malaria chemoprevention work in Burkina Faso.

We’re proud of what we accomplished last year and look forward to sharing our plans for 2020 in a forthcoming post. Additional details on our 2019 goals and progress are available here.

Notes   [ + ]

1. ↑ “We plan to look into several new areas in 2019, including public health regulation and possible paths to support government aid agencies…. We also plan to continue our investigation into possible paths to support government aid agencies; in particular, we plan to complete an investigation into an opportunity to do so in the area of results-based financing.” GiveWell blog, GiveWell’s plans for 2019, May 16, 2019 function footnote_expand_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").show(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("-"); } function footnote_collapse_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").hide(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("+"); } function footnote_expand_collapse_reference_container() { if (jQuery("#footnote_references_container").is(":hidden")) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); } else { footnote_collapse_reference_container(); } } function footnote_moveToAnchor(p_str_TargetID) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); var l_obj_Target = jQuery("#" + p_str_TargetID); if(l_obj_Target.length) { jQuery('html, body').animate({ scrollTop: l_obj_Target.offset().top - window.innerHeight/2 }, 1000); } }

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Why ongoing assessment of top charities leads to more impact: HKI’s vitamin A supplementation program

All Categories Blogs - Wed, 04/29/2020 - 08:01

Charities must meet rigorous requirements to make our list of top charities. However, a common misconception about our work is that our assessment process ends with the naming of a top charity. Not so! We continually examine our top charities—in fact, four staff members are devoted to ongoing assessment of our top charities. We collect information to update our assessment of our top charities’ track records and to evaluate the effectiveness of their spending plans.

Continuous assessment is critical because we direct donations to our top charities on an ongoing basis. Donors can make a gift anytime throughout the year, and we want to ensure their support is directed to the charity or charities that will best use it. We formally assess where funds can be best used each quarter when we allocate “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion” (discretionary funds).

We allocate discretionary funds based on our understanding of charities’ spending plans and their estimated cost-effectiveness. This is heavily informed by our understanding of the cost-effectiveness of the charities’ past work and track record to date. Although our understanding of charities’ spending plans is a key part of our allocation decision, we don’t restrict discretionary funds to a particular purpose within the program we recommend. Organizations may reallocate GiveWell-directed funding as new information becomes available.

This post will highlight how this combination of continual assessment and flexible funding leads to positive outcomes by sharing the recent example of our work with Helen Keller International (HKI)’s vitamin A supplementation (VAS) program, one of GiveWell’s top charities.

HKI’s vitamin A supplementation program

In late 2019, we allocated discretionary funding from GiveWell donors to HKI to support VAS campaigns in Bauchi State, Nigeria, from 2020 to 2022. VAS campaigns target preschool-aged children and are most impactful in areas with high rates of vitamin A deficiency. The World Health Organization recommends that children in these areas receive vitamin A supplements two to three times per year.[1] We recommend HKI’s VAS program because we believe that VAS reduces children’s mortality from infectious disease.[2]

HKI told us in July 2019 that VAS campaigns were ongoing in Bauchi State but that a 2018 government survey found very low coverage rates there. At the time of the survey, only 30% of individuals targeted for VAS in Bauchi State received it. HKI proposed to help government-run VAS campaigns in Bauchi State achieve higher coverage rates.[3]

HKI had a strong track record of impact and we estimated that its work in Bauchi State would be highly cost-effective. We decided to grant discretionary funds to HKI’s VAS program. Although we expected $2.4 million of GiveWell-directed funding to be used in Bauchi State, we did not formally restrict HKI to spending it there.[4]

Before it began GiveWell-supported work in Bauchi State, we asked HKI to conduct a baseline survey to measure coverage achieved by a November VAS campaign.[5] Our goal was to have a benchmark against which to assess the difference in VAS coverage due to HKI’s assistance in 2020 to 2022. This would help us assess HKI’s track record in the future.

HKI conducted the survey in December and found a surprisingly high coverage rate of 86 percent. It learned that another organization, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), had supported the November campaign in Bauchi State. We don’t know for sure, but CRS’ support may have led to the much higher coverage rate. HKI was not aware of CRS’ support prior to the survey.[6]

Whether due to CRS or not, if the same conditions that led Bauchi State to have high coverage in December continue going forward, the value of HKI assisting VAS campaigns there is much lower than HKI and we originally estimated.[7]

HKI proposed to redirect the funding that it would have otherwise spent in Bauchi State to another state in Nigeria, Nasarawa State, believed to have low VAS coverage—and to conduct a survey before working there, as well.[8]

Conclusion

Without the Bauchi State coverage survey leading to a change in course, GiveWell donors’ support may have had little impact. It seems plausible that Bauchi State may not have needed more funding, as it already had a high VAS coverage rate.

This experience illustrates how we assess whether our top charities are using additional funds well and how we support them in doing so. Our request for a baseline survey in Bauchi State to inform our assessment of HKI’s track record showed us and HKI that the funds would not be spent as effectively as expected and enabled HKI to redirect those funds to have more impact. We make similar requests of all eight of our top charities.

The post Why ongoing assessment of top charities leads to more impact: HKI’s vitamin A supplementation program appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Why ongoing assessment of top charities leads to more impact: HKI’s vitamin A supplementation program

Charities must meet rigorous requirements to make our list of top charities. However, a common misconception about our work is that our assessment process ends with the naming of a top charity. Not so! We continually examine our top charities—in fact, four staff members are devoted to ongoing assessment of our top charities. We collect information to update our assessment of our top charities’ track records and to evaluate the effectiveness of their spending plans.

Continuous assessment is critical because we direct donations to our top charities on an ongoing basis. Donors can make a gift anytime throughout the year, and we want to ensure their support is directed to the charity or charities that will best use it. We formally assess where funds can be best used each quarter when we allocate “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion” (discretionary funds).

We allocate discretionary funds based on our understanding of charities’ spending plans and their estimated cost-effectiveness. This is heavily informed by our understanding of the cost-effectiveness of the charities’ past work and track record to date. Although our understanding of charities’ spending plans is a key part of our allocation decision, we don’t restrict discretionary funds to a particular purpose within the program we recommend. Organizations may reallocate GiveWell-directed funding as new information becomes available.

This post will highlight how this combination of continual assessment and flexible funding leads to positive outcomes by sharing the recent example of our work with Helen Keller International (HKI)’s vitamin A supplementation (VAS) program, one of GiveWell’s top charities.

HKI’s vitamin A supplementation program

In late 2019, we allocated discretionary funding from GiveWell donors to HKI to support VAS campaigns in Bauchi State, Nigeria, from 2020 to 2022. VAS campaigns target preschool-aged children and are most impactful in areas with high rates of vitamin A deficiency. The World Health Organization recommends that children in these areas receive vitamin A supplements two to three times per year.[1] We recommend HKI’s VAS program because we believe that VAS reduces children’s mortality from infectious disease.[2]

HKI told us in July 2019 that VAS campaigns were ongoing in Bauchi State but that a 2018 government survey found very low coverage rates there. At the time of the survey, only 30% of individuals targeted for VAS in Bauchi State received it. HKI proposed to help government-run VAS campaigns in Bauchi State achieve higher coverage rates.[3]

HKI had a strong track record of impact and we estimated that its work in Bauchi State would be highly cost-effective. We decided to grant discretionary funds to HKI’s VAS program. Although we expected $2.4 million of GiveWell-directed funding to be used in Bauchi State, we did not formally restrict HKI to spending it there.[4]

Before it began GiveWell-supported work in Bauchi State, we asked HKI to conduct a baseline survey to measure coverage achieved by a November VAS campaign.[5] Our goal was to have a benchmark against which to assess the difference in VAS coverage due to HKI’s assistance in 2020 to 2022. This would help us assess HKI’s track record in the future.

HKI conducted the survey in December and found a surprisingly high coverage rate of 86 percent. It learned that another organization, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), had supported the November campaign in Bauchi State. We don’t know for sure, but CRS’ support may have led to the much higher coverage rate. HKI was not aware of CRS’ support prior to the survey.[6]

Whether due to CRS or not, if the same conditions that led Bauchi State to have high coverage in December continue going forward, the value of HKI assisting VAS campaigns there is much lower than HKI and we originally estimated.[7]

HKI proposed to redirect the funding that it would have otherwise spent in Bauchi State to another state in Nigeria, Nasarawa State, believed to have low VAS coverage—and to conduct a survey before working there, as well.[8]

Conclusion

Without the Bauchi State coverage survey leading to a change in course, GiveWell donors’ support may have had little impact. It seems plausible that Bauchi State may not have needed more funding, as it already had a high VAS coverage rate.

This experience illustrates how we assess whether our top charities are using additional funds well and how we support them in doing so. Our request for a baseline survey in Bauchi State to inform our assessment of HKI’s track record showed us and HKI that the funds would not be spent as effectively as expected and enabled HKI to redirect those funds to have more impact. We make similar requests of all eight of our top charities.

The post Why ongoing assessment of top charities leads to more impact: HKI’s vitamin A supplementation program appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

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