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We’re glad to answer your questions

Tue, 12/17/2019 - 07:45

We know that many individuals make their charitable donations at this time of year. We’re here to help!

If you would like to discuss your 2019 giving decision with a GiveWell staff member, please email us at info@givewell.org or schedule a call here.

For example, we’re glad to:

  • Provide a brief overview of our 2019 top charity recommendations.
  • Assist with the logistics of making a donation and discuss options for donating, such as appreciated securities, checks, and wire transfers.
  • Answer any questions about our research or recommendations.

We look forward to hearing from you!

The post We’re glad to answer your questions appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

December 2019 open thread

Fri, 12/13/2019 - 12:31

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 September 2019 open thread here.

The post December 2019 open thread appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Staff members’ personal donations for giving season 2019

Tue, 12/10/2019 - 07:43

For this post, a number of GiveWell staff members volunteered to share the thinking behind their personal donations for the year. We published similar posts in previous years.1See our staff giving posts from 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013. 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] }); Staff are listed in order of their start dates at GiveWell.

You can click the below links to jump to a staff member’s entry:

Elie Hassenfeld

This year, I’m planning to donate to GiveWell for granting to recommended charities at its discretion.

I feel the same way I have the last two years, when I’ve written, “GiveWell is currently producing the highest-quality research it ever has, which has led to more thoroughly researched, higher-quality recommendations that have been compared to more potential alternatives than ever before.”

Natalie Crispin

I will be giving my annual gift to GiveWell for granting at its discretion to recommended charities.

We will most likely use this funding to support Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) program, which we estimate averts the death of a child for $2,300. I’m excited to support Malaria Consortium both on the strength of the evidence for the high impact and modest cost of SMC and on the strength of Malaria Consortium as an organization.

I’ve had the opportunity over the last ten years to work directly with each of our top charities, to scrutinize the information they give us, and ask them approximately a gazillion questions. All of our top charities have put an exceptional amount of effort into helping us to understand how they work and what impact they have. And that, of course, is a small part of what they do to run exceptional programs. I am very glad to be among their supporters.

Josh Rosenberg

I’m planning to give the same way that I did in previous years (slightly more explanation on my approach to giving is here):

  • 80% to GiveWell for granting at its discretion to recommended charities. GiveWell’s top charities are the most cost-effective ways to help people that I know of. I see Malaria Consortium’s work on seasonal malaria chemoprevention (the current default option for discretionary funding) as a robust and highly effective giving opportunity.
  • 10% to animal welfare charities. I believe that animal welfare is a particularly important and neglected problem.
  • 10% to charities that work to reduce global catastrophic risks. I would like to see future generations thrive, and I am compelled by moral arguments that suggest this is an extremely important priority. However, I have struggled to find particularly promising giving opportunities to support this goal. I plan to place this portion of my giving into a donor-advised fund with the expectation that I will allocate it when a promising opportunity arises in the future.

Catherine Hollander

This year marks my fifth giving season as a GiveWell employee. I’m grateful to continue to work with this group of thoughtful individuals and excited to support the top charities identified via my colleagues’ research. This year, I plan to give 100% of my year-end donation to Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) program, a GiveWell top charity that we believe is highly cost-effective and in need of additional funding ($36 million over the next three years).

I am choosing to give to Malaria Consortium directly, over giving to “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion,” because I value interventions to promote health and avert deaths very highly. I have been impressed with the organizational strength of Malaria Consortium, on top of the evidence illustrating that SMC is an effective way to prevent malaria.

I continue to strive to give regularly, in order to maintain a habit and to encourage myself to think concretely about what I believe by putting my own money at stake. I do this by committing to make my largest donation at the end of each year. I may also make smaller donations throughout the year if exciting opportunities arise or for personal reasons.

Andrew Martin

I’m allocating my annual donation to GiveWell for “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion.” I think that GiveWell as a whole is better able to assess which top charity could make the best use of additional funding at a particular time than I am as an individual donor.

In our 2019 top charity announcement blog post, we wrote:

“The top charity we model as having the highest impact per additional dollar can change throughout the year. To inform our understanding, we ask our top charities to provide us with updated information on an ongoing basis. For example, a top charity may share that it has found new opportunities for impact, such as the potential to work in a new country with a significant need for its program.”

Our blog posts on our allocation of discretionary funds from the fourth quarter of 2018 and our allocation of discretionary funds from the first quarter of 2019 are good examples of how GiveWell makes decisions about allocating discretionary funds. After taking the $10.1 million it allocated to Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program from Q4 2018 into account, GiveWell determined that additional funding from Q1 2019 would likely have a larger impact if it was allocated to the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF)—both Malaria Consortium and AMF had funding gaps with similar cost-effectiveness, but AMF’s funding needs were more urgent at the time.

It seems likely that GiveWell will allocate my donation this year to Malaria Consortium—as of November 2019, GiveWell estimates that it has the highest priority remaining funding gap among our top charities. But I’d prefer to allow GiveWell to allocate my donation at its discretion, rather than donate to Malaria Consortium directly, in order to give GiveWell additional flexibility in case it receives new information and changes its prioritization of remaining funding gaps.

Isabel Arjmand

I’m generally happy with the balance across types of giving that I struck in previous years.

The sizable majority of my annual giving, 83% this year, will go to “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion.” It’s important to me that most of my charitable giving be geared towards having as much of a positive impact as possible. I would be excited for my donation to go to any of our eight top charities as I believe all of them are doing high-quality, cost-effective work, and I’m especially excited about the prospect of my donation going to Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program, as I believe is most likely. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to visit Malaria Consortium in Burkina Faso earlier this year and I was impressed by what the program looked like in action.

While most of my giving is oriented toward trying to “do the most good” in a utilitarian sense, the remaining 17% is divided across causes I feel motivated or even obliged to support for “good citizenship” or other reasons, with the same amount going to each of the below bullet points. Like Michael Eddy (below), I think that some cause areas might be extremely important and effective but lend themselves less well to GiveWell-style evaluation; I don’t want to neglect them entirely because of that.

  • GiveDirectly and StrongMinds because I’m excited about their existence and their influence in the global health and development space. (I wrote more about this in previous years.)
  • Cool Earth and the Clean Air Task Force, two organizations addressing climate change through very different approaches.
  • ProPublica for its investigative journalism on topics like U.S. immigration and civil rights violations.
  • Sogorea Te Land Trust, an Indigenous women-led organization in Oakland, inspired by a sense of responsibility to the communities that are native to the area where I live.

I’d like to be able to understand well the impact of donations in areas outside GiveWell’s recommendations, like climate change or human rights, and make donations that I can feel confident in. Each year when I begin the project of looking for organizations outside GiveWell’s recommendations, I’m frustrated anew by how challenging it is—not only could it easily be a full-time job, but the information a person needs generally isn’t available. It’s a good reminder for me of the value of GiveWell’s work and it motivates me as a donor to give so much of my donation to our recommended charities. In the absence of in-depth research, I look for organizations with a theory of change I believe in, a decent amount of information online about their programs and finances, and to the extent possible, a track record of successful work. Each of the organizations above is one that I’d like to materially support and signal support for, although given the small scale of my donations I’m not sure how feasible that is. Making these smaller donations also encourages me each year to engage with issues I care about by (briefly) researching these areas.

I’m very grateful for the opportunity I have to make these donations, the research GiveWell has done that informs the bulk of my giving, and the many conversations I’ve had with colleagues that make my decisions more thoughtful and informed.

Nicole Zok

I’m planning to donate to GiveWell for granting to recommended charities at its discretion.

I can see good arguments for donating marginal funds to either Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) program or the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF). In particular, we estimate the cost-effectiveness of AMF and Malaria Consortium’s funding gaps, after accounting for funding that we recommended the Open Philanthropy Project donate to our top charities, to be very similar (AMF at 17x as good as cash transfers, and Malaria Consortium at 16x cash). Given the general uncertainty in our cost-effectiveness estimates, I don’t take this to be a meaningful difference.

Since the cost-effectiveness of the remaining funding gaps is so similar, other differences between the two charities—including our subjective assessment of organizational strength, the timeline on which funds would be spent if donated to each charity, the funding gaps that remain after giving season, and any new funding opportunities that charities may identify in the short term—will be more important factors in deciding where to allocate funding that’s donated to GiveWell for granting to recommended charities (assuming there are no significant changes to our estimates of the cost-effectiveness of the remaining funding gaps). We expect to have more information about some of these factors in early 2020, and I expect that will enable us to make a more informed decision about where to allocate marginal funding. I also believe that GiveWell collectively is better equipped to make this decision than I am individually.

Dan Brown

I will give 91% of my 2019 charity donation to GiveWell to allocate to recommended charities at its discretion because I would like GiveWell to have the flexibility to react to new information when allocating these funds. I expect these funds will be directed to Malaria Consortium, as explained in this post.

I will give 5% of my donation to Stonewall (UK), an organisation tackling discrimination against LGBT people. Whilst I have focused most of my donation on global health and development, I would also like to support a more justice-focused cause. I have fairly limited information with which to choose amongst charities in this area as I’m not aware of a GiveWell-type organisation to help direct my donation. However, I would like to see more done to tackle homophobia in sport, and the main organisation I am aware of that has tried to do this is Stonewall (UK) (through its Rainbow Laces campaign).

I will give the remaining 4% of my donation to Afrinspire. I have donated to this charity for a number of years. To my knowledge, the money I donate is used to help pay for school costs for orphaned children in Kampala (through the Jaguza Initiative). I do not expect this to be as cost-effective as other charitable giving opportunities, but I do not think it would be responsible to unexpectedly decrease this donation now that I am paying more attention personally to cost-effectiveness.

Olivia Larsen

I was a GiveWell donor before I started working at GiveWell, and I’m excited to continue supporting GiveWell’s recommended charities with my donation this year.

I’ll be giving 100% of my donation to “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion.” I’m continually impressed by the thoughtfulness that goes into the decision of where to allocate funds, and I’d be excited for my donation to go to Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program (our best guess of where this quarter’s discretionary grantmaking will go)—or to an even more cost-effective giving opportunity!

I feel very lucky to be in a position to be able to give to charity at all, and the prospect of being able to save a life (in expectation) for around $2,300, as we estimate seasonal malaria chemoprevention can, is really inspiring to me.

Steph Stojanovic

My husband and I have been GiveWell donors for a number of years. We were impressed by the rigor of the research from afar and I can confirm that it is even more impressive when you’re on the inside! In the past, we’ve split our giving between GiveWell top charities and meta-effective altruism (EA) organizations. This year, we plan to do this same.

We already gave half of our giving directly to AMF in a period in which GiveWell was prioritizing their funding gaps (i.e. when GiveWell was directing discretionary funding to AMF). The reason behind donating direct to charity instead of GiveWell’s discretionary fund was a boring tax deductibility reason. We will be giving the other half of our annual giving to One For The World (OFTW). OFTW is a grantee of GiveWell Incubation Grant funding, and my husband sits on their board. OFTW promotes effective giving at colleges across the country, asking students to pledge 1% of their future earnings to GiveWell recommended charities. For us, supporting OFTW is similar to supporting GiveWell operating expenses—it’s a great way to get leverage as a donor and help spread effective giving beyond traditional EA communities. It’s also important for us to support the organizations we are involved with, so we are happy to be able to support both GiveWell and OFTW this year.

James Snowden

I plan to allocate the majority of my annual giving directly to Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program, and a smaller portion to GiveWell to grant at its discretion.

The majority of my giving is decided together with my family, who have a preference to donate directly to an organization rather than through my employer. This year, I recommended that my family give to Malaria Consortium. I think Malaria Consortium is an excellent giving opportunity from a variety of different perspectives (cost-effectiveness, robustness of the evidence base, room for more funding, organizational strength, transparency, and limited downside risk). While I think all our top charities are good giving opportunities, I believe Malaria Consortium has the most robust case, so I’m excited to support them again this year.

I’m planning to give my personal donation to GiveWell to grant at its discretion for the same reasons outlined by Andrew above.

I also considered giving to the Centre for Pesticide Suicide Prevention (CPSP), one of GiveWell’s Incubation Grantees that I follow closely. CPSP works on a highly neglected issue and I believe their chosen strategy (reducing suicides through assisting governments in the targeted regulation of highly hazardous pesticides) has a track record of success. I chose not to support CPSP personally this year because GiveWell will be considering a grant renewal in 2020, and I expect to have more information at that point.

Michael Eddy

I divide my annual giving into two buckets:

  • giving that aims to directly improve people’s lives; and
  • giving that aims to address the root causes of unjust systems

For my giving that aims to directly improve people’s lives, I’m directing the entirety of my donations to GiveWell to grant at its discretion. Like others, I find that programs like Malaria Consortium’s SMC program, which can avert a child’s death for around $2,300, to be an extremely good use of my resources. Furthermore, after having joined GiveWell recently, I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the credibility and rigor of the analysis and the thoughtfulness of the staff.

At the same time, I find it unconscionable that we live with political, economic, health, and legal systems that allow such deprivation to persist. While these systems and the institutions that undergird them are difficult to affect, I’d expect the most effective ways to make human progress to not be directly measurable or evaluable using rigorous evidence. GiveWell’s focus on interventions that have strong evidence & clearly measurable outcomes is one known limitation of our research, and so in my personal giving I continue to explore what effectiveness looks like when supporting organizations and individuals to shape the institutions they live in.

This is a broad area and I have spent limited time understanding where charitable resources can go the furthest. While I aspire to give in cause areas that are important, tractable and neglected, in practice, I rely mostly on organizations that I have been impressed with through my career, cause areas that motivate me and the recommendations of trusted contacts who work on these cause areas, including Norma Altshuler & colleagues at the Hewlett Foundation. This includes:

  • Young1ove a youth-led, evidence-based movement that adapts and scales-up health and education programs. I am particularly impressed with their commitment to a long-term partnership model working hand-in-hand with the government of Botswana to generate and use evidence.
  • Namati an organization that advances justice by mixing direct delivery through a grassroots network of legal advocates with a broader network of organizations advocating for larger-scale legal change.

In addition, a cause area I’m particularly motivated by and find to be particularly neglected are organizations which elevate the voices of LGBTQ+ citizens to advocate for and defend their rights in the countries in which they live. In many countries, same-sex relations are illegal (in part due to colonial-era laws), which is just one of many deprivations faced by the marginalization of gender and sexual minorities. My giving in this bucket is particularly informed by a friend who wrote his PhD thesis on the issue. I primarily donate to Astraea Foundation, an organization that regrants to grassroots organizations, but also donate directly to a few more local organizations including:

Finally, I do a small amount of giving each year to free services that survive off of user-contributions, organizations addressing issues in my local community and giving aligned to causes that my friends and family support.

Kimberly Huynh

I plan on allocating my annual gift as follows:

  • 70% to GiveWell to grant at its discretion
  • 10% to charities that work on climate change mitigation (preventing or reducing greenhouse gas emissions)
  • 20% to miscellaneous organizations in honor of various family members and friends

I have allocated the largest share of my annual gift to GiveWell because it is highly important to me to donate to a place where I know my giving will have an impact. I have opted to let GiveWell allocate my donation at its discretion because I believe that I will do more good by being flexible. Namely, GiveWell’s staff members who work directly with its top charities understand these charities’ immediate financial needs better than I do.

I am donating to organizations that work on climate change mitigation because I would like to put a greater stake in its progress beyond my own related graduate research. I have not yet reviewed the cost-effectiveness of climate change-related organizations to a degree I feel confident in. My percent contribution to charities in this issue area is thus relatively small and will likely be divided between at least a couple of different organizations.

I plan to investigate climate change-related organizations more deeply next year. In turn, my percent contribution to this area will likely increase at the expense of my miscellaneous donations. In the future, I would like to fix my contributions to climate change-related organizations to my own actions. For example, I may choose to donate a sum equal to the number of miles I have flown that year multiplied by a percentage chosen in advance. By fixing my donations to my actions, I hope to think more critically about my carbon footprint and to act with greater intention.

My remaining donations are primarily gift donations for loved ones. The majority of this was to Médecins Sans Frontières on behalf of my younger brother per his request.

Teryn Mattox

In 2019, my family has given roughly half of our charitable donations to GiveDirectly and half to high-impact farmed animal welfare organizations. I joined GiveWell in the fall. After several months of learning more about the GiveWell process, in 2020 we will shift our donations away from GiveDirectly and towards one or two of the relatively higher-impact top charities that most closely align with our personal priorities. Specifically, my partner and I value deaths averted more highly relative to increased income than is reflected in GiveWell’s moral weights. We are also more risk averse with our giving than GiveWell is—that is, we are less willing to donate when there is very wide uncertainty around magnitude of impact. As a result of these two considerations, we will focus our giving on malaria prevention programs over deworming programs in 2020.

We will continue to give roughly half of our donations to organizations promoting animal welfare. This is based on the intensity of the suffering inflicted upon animals, the sheer number of factory-farmed animals being brutally tortured each year, the potential impact of our donations in reducing this suffering, and our beliefs about the importance of animal suffering relative to human suffering. After conversations with individuals at Open Philanthropy Project, we have decided to give about half of our animal welfare-related donations to the Effective Altruism Animal Welfare Fund.

Jim Bobowski

My family has allocated our 2019 giving in three directions. Approximately 15% is directed towards non-profits associated with our child such as school, Cub Scouts, and athletic organizations that we support throughout the year. Approximately 35% is directed towards additional causes personal to our family, including animal welfare and tackling heart disease. Fifty percent of our annual giving will be directed to Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program. Candidly, we were torn between allocating this money to “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion” versus giving to Malaria Consortium. While we 100% believe in GiveWell’s method and are confident it leads to optimal outcomes, the research team’s recent update estimating one life saved for every $2,300 donated to Malaria Consortium won the family vote. The possibility of saving a life or two seemed more tangible to our household and was the deciding factor for this in 2019.

Notes   [ + ]

1. ↑ See our staff giving posts from 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013. 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 Staff members’ personal donations for giving season 2019 appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Ask us your questions about giving on our year-end conference call

Tue, 12/03/2019 - 07:43

We invite you to join our year-end conference call on Thursday, December 12 at 3:30pm ET/12:30pm PT. GiveWell’s Executive Director Elie Hassenfeld and research staff will present our latest work and answer your questions.

Sign up here to join the call

On the call, we will provide introductory context on our top charities and research process as well as taking questions on all topics, including new research.

We hope you’ll join us!

The post Ask us your questions about giving on our year-end conference call appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

New research on moral weights

Mon, 12/02/2019 - 05:04

Each year, GiveWell identifies more great giving opportunities than we are able to fully fund. As a result, in our charity recommendation decisions, we necessarily face very challenging questions, such as: How much funding should we recommend for programs that reduce poverty versus programs that reduce deaths from malaria? How should we prioritize programs that primarily benefit children versus adults? And, how do we compare funding those programs with others that have different good outcomes, such as reducing suffering from chronic health issues like anemia?

We recently received results from research we supported to help us answer these questions from the perspective of communities similar to those our top charities operate in. This blog post provides a brief summary of the project and results. Additional details are available on this page.

Background on the project

We assess charities based on their overall impact per dollar. In order to compare the impact per dollar across programs, we assign quantitative “moral weights” to each good outcome. We have invested a significant amount of time to arrive at these weights, but we still find our conclusions unsatisfying, in large part because of the fundamental difficulty of these questions. We have worked to improve our process for valuing different outcomes over the years, but we believe our current process is far from ideal.

Moral weights seems to be a highly neglected research topic. Limited information exists on how people value different outcomes. In particular, very few researchers have asked people living in low-income countries how they would make these tradeoffs. We see this as a potentially important input into our weights but have been unable to incorporate this information because it largely did not exist.

We recently supported a project intended to help address this gap in the literature. We provided funding and guidance to IDinsight, a data analytics, research, and advisory organization, to survey about 2,000 people living in extreme poverty in Kenya and Ghana in 2019 about how they value different outcomes.

Survey results

The results from this research are now available here. Among other findings, they suggest that survey respondents have higher values for saving lives (relative to reducing poverty) and higher values for averting deaths of children under 5 years old (relative to averting deaths of individuals over 5 years old) than we had previously been using in our decision-making.

Although we see these study results as adding to our understanding, we would caution against putting too much weight on them. Research methods like those used in the survey have major limitations, discussed here. This study is one that should be put in the context of a larger literature about these questions and represents one approach to moral weights among many.

Nevertheless, we see this research as a valuable contribution to the literature on preferences and moral views in communities with high rates of extreme poverty. It seems to be the first study of its kind conducted in sub-Saharan Africa, and the people surveyed for this study had a substantially lower average consumption level than other studies using similar methods.

Preliminary conclusions and updates

We have provisionally updated our moral weights to place more emphasis on programs that avert deaths (relative to those that reduce poverty) and to value programs averting deaths at all ages more equally (relative to our previous assumption of valuing programs that avert deaths of individuals over 5 years old more highly). The direction of these updates was driven by this study and other, independent arguments for putting more weight on health relative to income. However, we have not yet thoroughly debated how to revise our framework for moral weights or fully completed our analysis of these results, so we see our current, provisionally-updated moral weights as a work in progress. We plan to revisit our framework for moral weights in the future.

These updates did not have a major impact on our recommended funding allocation to charities in 2019.

Additional details

We share additional details on the survey and our early interpretation on this page.

Josh Rosenberg and Catherine Hollander co-authored this post.

The post New research on moral weights appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Announcing our 2019 top charities

Tue, 11/26/2019 - 04:08

We’re excited to announce our top charities for 2019. After thousands of hours of vetting and review, eight charities stood out as excellent.

These charities work on evidence-backed and impactful health and poverty alleviation programs serving people in the poorest parts of the world. We’ve identified specific opportunities for our top charities to use an additional $75 million in donations to save 33,000 lives, $30 million to treat 36 million children for parasitic worm infections, and $450 million to provide unconditional cash transfers to 375,000 extremely low-income individuals. Our expectation is that our top charities can effectively use even more funding than that—that’s just a starting point.

Our 2019 recommendation: “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion”

Our top recommendation for donors giving in 2019 is to give to “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion.” We will grant these funds each quarter to the top charity or charities where we believe they will have the greatest impact.

The top charity we model as having the highest impact per additional dollar can change throughout the year. To inform our understanding, we ask our top charities to provide us with updated information on an ongoing basis. For example, a top charity may share that it has found new opportunities for impact, such as the potential to work in a new country with a significant need for its program.

In addition, top charities typically receive funding from GiveWell donors and other sources on an ongoing basis. We update our expectations of how much additional funding charities need each quarter by incorporating funding they have received since our last allocation of “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion.”

Summary
  • Our 2019 top charities (More)
  • How we prioritize our top charities’ funding needs (More)
  • New information we learned in 2019 (More)
  • Giving to GiveWell’s operations (More)
  • Tips for donating efficiently (More)
  • Questions? (More)
  • More information on our top charities and 2019 review process (More)
Our 2019 top charities

We recommend seven top charities with immediate funding needs. We list them below in the order we prioritize their funding needs. We think that Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program can use funding most effectively in the near term.

We recommend that donors give to “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion,” which we will grant quarterly to our top charities according to where we see the highest-impact funding need.
  • Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) program. Malaria Consortium provides preventive, anti-malarial medication to young children during periods of high malaria transmission, reducing their likelihood of dying from malaria. Read our full review.
  • Against Malaria Foundation (AMF). AMF provides insecticide-treated nets to hang over sleeping spaces that block and kill malaria-transmitting mosquitoes, reducing people’s likelihood of dying from the disease. Read our full review.
  • Helen Keller International (HKI)’s vitamin A supplementation program. HKI supports the provision of vitamin A supplements to young children, reducing their likelihood of dying from infectious disease. Read our full review.
  • Charities that treat parasitic worm infections. We recommend charities that implement programs to treat parasitic worm infections (deworming programs) because these cheap health treatments may lead children to earn higher incomes when they enter the workforce as adults.
  • GiveDirectly. GiveDirectly distributes no-strings-attached cash grants to very poor households. Read our full review.

The below organization has met our top charity standards in all other ways, but we are waiting for more information about its near-term needs for funding. We have listed it separately to reflect our recommendation to wait until we have more information before providing funding:

  • SCI Foundation. Formerly known as the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, SCI Foundation supports deworming programs. Read our full review.

There were no additions or removals from our top charities list in 2019, although the order in which we prioritize directing funding to our top charities has changed.

How we prioritize our top charities’ funding needs Why we recommend “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion”

Although we think all of our top charities are excellent, we don’t recommend them equally. We look at how each charity will spend the next charitable dollar it receives. In some cases, charities already have sufficient funding to work in the highest-need countries; in other cases, they may have a time-sensitive opportunity where it is particularly valuable to ensure they receive funding quickly.

We ask our top charities for information to update our prioritization each quarter when we grant funding given to “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion.” Our ability to direct this funding based on the most up-to-date information is the reason we recommend donors choose this option above all others.

Malaria Consortium’s SMC program

Some donors prefer to choose a specific charity to support. We recommend these donors consider giving to Malaria Consortium’s SMC program, which we think has the highest impact per additional dollar donated today.

Malaria Consortium-trained health workers go door-to-door during malaria season to provide young children with medication to prevent malaria. The health workers administer the first dose and instruct caregivers on how to complete the treatment over the following days. Malaria Consortium and its partners monitor the effectiveness of their work by looking into whether mosquitoes are developing resistance to the treatment, and by surveying a random selection of parents to check what proportion of children targeted by SMC programs actually receive the medication. A few GiveWell staff visited Malaria Consortium in Burkina Faso in August; a reflection on that visit describes what it’s like to witness the SMC program in the field.

Malaria Consortium’s SMC program is highly cost-effective. We estimate that every marginal $2,300 donated to Malaria Consortium’s SMC program will avert one death from malaria. Malaria Consortium can use an additional $36 million, above and beyond its current and expected funding, to implement its program over the next three years. Additional details on Malaria Consortium’s funding needs and spending plans are here.

Malaria Consortium stands out as an excellent organization and we’re excited to advise that donors who want to choose a specific charity to support donate to Malaria Consortium’s SMC program.

Click here to donate.

Note: Malaria Consortium implements a number of programs and our recommendation is limited to its SMC program. Donations made in support of Malaria Consortium via GiveWell will be restricted to SMC. If you choose to give directly to Malaria Consortium and wish to follow our recommendation, please inform Malaria Consortium that you want your support to be restricted to SMC.

New information we learned in 2019

Our 2019 top charities have all been named GiveWell top charities in the past, but we don’t stop reviewing organizations once they’re on our top charity list. Our research team continually assesses our existing top charities to determine whether we should direct more funding to them.

At the start of each year, our research team considers which new information or analysis is most likely to change our charity recommendations and/or improve our ability to share the reasoning for our recommendations with the community of supporters who rely on our work. Details on the research we conducted in 2019 is here.

Giving to GiveWell’s operations

GiveWell is a nonprofit. The research we conduct is fully funded by donors who choose to support our operations. We hope that donors will consider allocating funding in 2019 to support our work.

Our organization has grown a lot this year. We hired 12 new staff across the domains of research, outreach/marketing, and operations. We plan to continue growing in each of these areas in 2020. To increase the impact of the funds we direct in the future, we’re planning to hire researchers to help us conduct additional high-quality research into new and existing areas. To direct more funding to the top charities we recommend, we’re planning to grow our outreach and marketing team. We plan to grow our operations team to strengthen our human resources, finance, and technical systems as we expand.

We’ll need to grow the number of donors who give to our operations to support our planned expansion. We cap the amount that any individual donor can provide to our operations at 20% of our total budget to ensure a stable and diverse funding base.

Our recommendation for donors:

  • If you’ve never given to our operations in the past, we hope you’ll consider adding 10% to your donation to support our operations.
  • If you’ve supported our operations in the past, we hope you’ll consider renewing your gift.

We retain our excess assets policy, which ensures that if we fundraise for our own operations beyond a certain level, we will grant the excess to the best giving opportunities we’ve found.

Tips for donating efficiently

We appreciate your support in any way that you can give. We also offer some advice on how to maximize the efficiency of your gift:

Questions?

Please contact donations@givewell.org if you have any questions about your donation.

More information on our top charities and 2019 review process

The post Announcing our 2019 top charities appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

We’re offering matching funds to new donors via podcasts

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 16:31

We’re offering matching funds to new donors who hear about our work on podcast advertisements. A donor has agreed to make a 1:1 match of any donations to GiveWell and/or our top and standout charities. The donor will match up to $1,000 per new donor until the matching funds run out.

Offering donation matching will enable us to better track the impact of the ads we fund. However, we’ve been critical of donation matching in the past. This post will explain why and how we’re planning to match donations today.

Podcast advertising and the challenges of tracking donations

We hope to grow significantly the amount of funding our top charities receive as a result of our recommendation over the coming years. Improving and increasing our outreach efforts to reach potential donors is a key part of our strategy to achieve this goal. One of our first outreach endeavors was running ads on podcasts that were popular with GiveWell staff and existing donors.

We ran podcast ads in early 2017 and again during the peak time of year for donations (November and December) in 2017 and 2018. We believe the system we had for tracking donations made due to our ads likely missed many podcast-driven donations. We measured promising early returns but are highly uncertain about the total impact of this work. We only felt confident attributing a new donation to a podcast ad if the donor filled out an optional free-form text field on our donation forms (example) or post-donation survey to tell us that they learned about our work on a particular podcast on which we ran ads. Given that donors had to take a non-required step to report podcast ad-influenced donations to us (and because of some of the challenges of interpreting data from free-form text fields), we knew the number of donations we tracked as being due to ads was lower than the true number of donations due to our ads.

Our intuition remains that podcasts might be a great medium for connecting with new donors, based on our impressions of the popularity of podcasts among current staff and donors, the early success we saw with podcast ads in 2017,[1] and our view that we’ve so far undercounted the returns by some amount. This giving season, we’re planning to run podcast ads and provide matching funds to new donors who learn about us through these ads. We expect that matching funds will enable us to better track our impact and ultimately make informed decisions about our marketing budget and allocation. People who hear about the matching funds may also be particularly motivated to donate.

2019 matching funds

Structure of the match

First-time donors who hear our podcast ads during the 2019 giving season will be offered a 1:1 match of their gifts up to $1,000, until the total matching funds of $100,000 run out. Each podcast will direct listeners to a different landing page on GiveWell’s website through which they can submit a donation to be matched. This will enable us to better track the impact of advertising on each unique podcast.

We only plan to match new donors and we will be manually reviewing donations to process them for the match. Our intention is to only match donations of people who learned about us via podcasts, as best we can tell.

Avoiding a “false” match

Our 2011 critique of matching funds noted that many donation matches aren’t “true” matches. In other words, the donor providing the matching funds would have donated the funds anyway, and so donors aren’t really “doubling their impact” when they get the match.[2]

We plan to avoid this by having the matching funds donated by a donor who we feel confident would not have otherwise given to our operations this year. We will not receive additional funding from this donor in 2019 if it isn’t matched by new donors who hear about us on podcasts.

We referred to this type of matching in our 2011 critique as “influence matching” in which “the matcher makes a legitimate commitment to give only if others do, in an attempt to influence their giving.”[3] We promised to be explicit if we ever engaged in this type of a match (although we did not forecast the use of a match motivated by donation-tracking purposes).[4]

Conclusion

We hope that the use of matching funds will enable us to learn whether our podcast ads are successful. We also hope to better understand whether matches appeal to donors. We expect to write about whether this project is successful in the future.

Sources

Sources for this post are available here.

The post We’re offering matching funds to new donors via podcasts appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Why you might get a letter from us this giving season

Mon, 11/11/2019 - 11:41

We’re about to launch another outreach experiment: mailing letters.

Summary

This giving season, we’re planning to send a subset of approximately 4,500 GiveWell donors a physical letter encouraging them to renew or increase their support of GiveWell’s top charities. We’ve never done broad outreach to encourage donations through physical mail before.

In the letter, we plan to share our list of top charities, our overall recommendation for donors, and remit materials for individuals who feel compelled to give. We hope the letter helps communicate our research to a group of individuals who have found our work useful in the past to guide their giving. We plan to assess the success of this experiment based on incremental donations that result from the letters.

Why we’re reaching out via mail

Increasing the amount of funding we direct to our recommended charities is an important goal for GiveWell. To help us achieve this, over the past two years, we’ve prioritized expanding our organizational capacity dedicated to communicating about our top charities to donors and potential donors.

However, our retention of donors isn’t as high as we want it to be; 43% of donors who gave in 2017 also gave in 2018. In addition, we plan to increase our focus next year on identifying new donors, and so it may be particularly important to make progress now on the best ways to build an ongoing relationship with donors.

We’re trying new modes of communication, including more traditional nonprofit outreach to donors, because we think they might help us increase our retention rate and the amount of funding our top charities receive. Reaching out to donors via mail is a common strategy nonprofits use to solicit donations.

We expect the donations we receive to exceed the amount we spend on this campaign. We plan to spend $15,000 (including a conservative estimate of staff time) on the letters and we model the potential return to be around $100,000 in new donations. Details are in our model here.

Some of our donors may prefer not to receive mail at all. To avoid reaching them, we won’t send physical letters to donors who have opted out of receiving solicitations from us in previous surveys. (If you’re reading this now and are unsure which preferences you’ve shared with us, we’re happy for you to update your preferences by emailing us at donations@givewell.org.)

Plans for assessing success

We plan to assess success based on the incremental donations made due to the campaign. We’ll look at how much donors who received the letters gave relative to the previous year, compared to a smaller control group of donors who did not receive the letters. If the return on our spending on this campaign is near or better than our projection, we’d consider it a success and would want to weigh that against any serious negative feedback we might receive in a decision on whether or not to do this again in the future.

We would also be open to repeating the direct mail experiment if incremental donations made in 2019 that we attribute to the campaign roughly equal the amount we spent to conduct it. Many GiveWell donors support our top charities over multiple years and we expect some returns from the 2019 campaign in future years. In addition, we anticipate that the GiveWell staff time required to organize a campaign would be lower in subsequent years, as we could build off of the work we did this year to set it up.

Thanks for experimenting with us! We’re excited to try new ways to engage. Please let us know what you think in the comments.

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What are standout charities?

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 13:02

GiveWell’s research process focuses on finding excellent giving opportunities and deeply reviewing them. We currently recommend just eight top charities that have met our high standards.

Although the number of top charities we recommend is small, we review a large number of organizations in our ongoing work to find new top charities. We consider some of these groups to be exceptional relative to the vast majority of organizations, even though they do not meet our top charity standards. We name these organizations standout charities to recognize their exceptional status and to provide an incentive for charities to engage with our intensive review process.

The standout charity designation, though valuable for the reasons mentioned above, has created communication challenges for us. People who rely on our recommendations to make donations have expressed confusion about how our view of standout charities compares to that of top charities.

This blog post will explain why we have standout charities and how they differ from our top charities.

Summary

  • Why do we have standout charities? More
    • Recognition of excellence (More)
    • Incentives for participation (More)
  • How do standout charities compare to top charities? More
Why do we have standout charities?

Recognition of excellence

Our research process centers on finding charities that meet our four top charity criteria: (1) evidence supporting the impact of the organization’s program; (2) cost-effectiveness or impact per dollar donated; (3) the ability to use additional funding well; and (4) transparency. We have very high standards in each of these categories. Although it’s challenging to measure precisely, we estimate that we’ve reviewed at a minimum of a very shallow level (i.e. looking on a charity’s website for evidence it runs one or more of our priority programs or has a unique level of monitoring) around a thousand charities since GiveWell was founded in 2007, and have named just nine to be top charities since we moved to our current ranking system in 2011.1Top charities since 2011: (1) Against Malaria Foundation; (2) END Fund’s deworming program; (3) Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative; (4) Evidence Action’s No Lean Season (no longer a top charity); (5) GiveDirectly; (6) Helen Keller International’s vitamin A supplementation program; (7) Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program; (8) Schistosomiasis Control Initiative; (9) Sightsavers’ deworming program. 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 begin our review process at a very shallow level and spend more time assessing each group the more promising as a potential top charity it seems, culminating in hundreds of hours of review for our top charities. As we go through this process, we sometimes identify charities that don’t meet all of the above criteria but seem otherwise excellent (and exceptional relative to our impression of the average charity).

In these cases, we consider whether the organization should be named a standout charity. In all cases, the groups that are named standout charities have entered our review process as potential top charities; we don’t seek standout charities as a goal unto itself.

Standout charities should be able to provide us with:

  • A breakdown of their spending for at least one recent year and ideally the past three years.
  • A basic list of things they would do with more funding and an indication that they could absorb additional funding to support their work (or their work on a specific program of interest to GiveWell).
  • A list of types of monitoring information they have gathered, with examples of each type.

We want to make sure we have:

  • A basic understanding of value-added of the charity. What would happen if the charity did not exist?
  • Sufficient information and understanding to develop a cost-effectiveness model of the charity’s work, so that we can estimate the impact per dollar donated to the charity.
  • An estimate of cost-effectiveness for the charity that is not clearly lower than our estimate of the cost-effectiveness of providing cash transfers to very poor households, the benchmark we use for comparison.

We generally aim for standout charities to meet all of the above criteria, though we have sometimes made exceptions when a charity meets most of the standout charity criteria and otherwise seems exceptional (though still below the bar we’ve set for top charities).

Incentives for participation

In addition to recognizing charities for exceptional work, we hope the standout designation incentivizes charities to engage with our intensive review process. We typically ask promising organizations to provide us with detailed information as well as to join us for several phone calls, and we ask charities to allow us to publish our views of their work (including any negative impressions we have) so that we can be publicly transparent in our reasoning. The fact that we recommend so few top charities limits the incentive for groups to engage with our process because the odds of becoming a top charity aren’t very good, even though the benefits of being named a top charity are substantial. Top charities have annually received at least $2.6 million and an average of $13.5 million each as a direct result of our recommendation over the last three years.2See calculation and sources here. 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] });

The standout charity designation offers a chance for groups that engage but don’t become top charities to receive recognition and funding. Standout charities have annually received an average of $356,000 each as a direct result of our recommendation over the last three years.3See calculation and sources here. jQuery("#footnote_plugin_tooltip_3").tooltip({ tip: "#footnote_plugin_tooltip_text_3", tipClass: "footnote_tooltip", effect: "fade", fadeOutSpeed: 100, predelay: 400, position: "top right", relative: true, offset: [10, 10] });

Beyond financial incentives, GiveWell’s designation of a program as standing out from that of most charities may be a reputational incentive to engage with our process. For example, a number of standout charities point to our recommendation as a stamp of approval on their websites.4See, for example: Living Goods, Awards & Testimonials; Development Media International, Homepage; Sanku-Project Healthy Children, Awards; Food Fortification Initiative, Homepage; and Iodine Global Network, Homepage. jQuery("#footnote_plugin_tooltip_4").tooltip({ tip: "#footnote_plugin_tooltip_text_4", tipClass: "footnote_tooltip", effect: "fade", fadeOutSpeed: 100, predelay: 400, position: "top right", relative: true, offset: [10, 10] });

How do standout charities compare to top charities?

We note at the top of our list of standout charities that “we do not feel as confident in the impact of these organizations as we do in our top charities.”5“The organizations listed below support programs that may be extremely cost-effective and are evidence-backed. We do not feel as confident in the impact of these organizations as we do in our top charities. However, we have reviewed their work and believe these groups stand out from the vast majority of organizations we have considered in terms of the evidence base for the program they support, their transparency, and their potential cost-effectiveness. We have published reviews of all of these organizations.” (GiveWell, Standout Charities) jQuery("#footnote_plugin_tooltip_5").tooltip({ tip: "#footnote_plugin_tooltip_text_5", tipClass: "footnote_tooltip", effect: "fade", fadeOutSpeed: 100, predelay: 400, position: "top right", relative: true, offset: [10, 10] }); We don’t advise giving to our standout charities over our top charities because we believe that top charities have a greater impact per dollar donated. By definition, top charities have cleared a higher bar of review from GiveWell. We also spend significantly less time following up on our standout charities’ work on an ongoing basis and thus are less confident in their plans for and ability to use additional donations relative to our top charities.

Standout charities have met a very high bar of review—though not our highest bar—and we think they are exceptional. We’re excited to recognize them on our website.

Notes   [ + ]

1. ↑ Top charities since 2011: (1) Against Malaria Foundation; (2) END Fund’s deworming program; (3) Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative; (4) Evidence Action’s No Lean Season (no longer a top charity); (5) GiveDirectly; (6) Helen Keller International’s vitamin A supplementation program; (7) Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program; (8) Schistosomiasis Control Initiative; (9) Sightsavers’ deworming program. 2, 3. ↑ See calculation and sources here. 4. ↑ See, for example: Living Goods, Awards & Testimonials; Development Media International, Homepage; Sanku-Project Healthy Children, Awards; Food Fortification Initiative, Homepage; and Iodine Global Network, Homepage. 5. ↑ “The organizations listed below support programs that may be extremely cost-effective and are evidence-backed. We do not feel as confident in the impact of these organizations as we do in our top charities. However, we have reviewed their work and believe these groups stand out from the vast majority of organizations we have considered in terms of the evidence base for the program they support, their transparency, and their potential cost-effectiveness. We have published reviews of all of these organizations.” (GiveWell, Standout Charities) 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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How this year’s winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics influenced GiveWell’s work

Fri, 10/18/2019 - 13:40

On Monday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced that the development economists Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer are this year’s recipients of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.

Banerjee, Duflo, and Kremer’s work to understand the global poor has influenced our research in myriad ways over the years. Some GiveWell staff cite Banerjee and Duflo’s 2011 book, Poor Economics, as a catalyst for their interest in working in global health and poverty alleviation. All three development economists have contributed to our understanding and prioritization of programs, including microfinance, education, and treating intestinal parasites.

The research of Michael Kremer and his co-author Ted Miguel has been especially critical in shaping our annual recommendations of outstanding charities and thus has guided the donations of many donors who rely on our work. Miguel and Kremer’s 2004 study on the impacts of treating intestinal parasites (deworming) and follow-ups to that work are the reason that we have included deworming programs on our very short list of top charities each year since 2011.

Miguel and Kremer’s study looked at the impact of providing deworming medicine to children in Western Kenya. They assessed the short-term impact of deworming on education (school attendance and test scores) and health (sickness, height, and weight). Critically, a series of studies co-authored by Sarah Baird and Joan Hamory Hicks followed up with the children who participated in the Miguel and Kremer study. They found that when children who had received deworming treatments entered the workforce as adults, their earnings were higher than those of children who had not—a result that might seem surprising for a cheap, simple health intervention!

The evidence for deworming is complex and controversial, but we have long believed that gifts to deworming programs represent an excellent opportunity to do good—thanks to Miguel and Kremer’s study and the experiments that followed. As a result of our recommendation, donors in our community have provided an estimated $130 million to support four deworming organizations since we added them to our top charities list, which we estimate adds up to an impressive 319 million or more deworming treatments provided to children.

We’re excited for the important recognition that Banerjee, Duflo, and Kremer received this week. We also want to thank the donors in our community whose gifts have been shaped by this work over the years. Thank you, and congratulations to the newest laureates!

Interested in learning more about our views on deworming?

We’ve published a number of blog posts over the years explaining our recommendation of deworming:

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Our recent visit to Burkina Faso

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 14:55

GiveWell staff recently visited Burkina Faso to meet with staff of one of our top charities, Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) program, and observe its work. Through its SMC program, Malaria Consortium distributes preventative anti-malarial medication at a time of year when it is needed most.

As I write below, GiveWell donors have directed more than $37 million to Malaria Consortium over the last 18 months at our recommendation. We expect that this will provide preventative treatments to 4.8 million children and avert over 16,000 deaths. We’re so appreciative of the support of our community in enabling this tremendous impact.

We originally sent a version of the following message to supporters of Malaria Consortium’s SMC program in late August. We received positive feedback on this message and decided to share it more broadly on our blog. We plan to publish more information about the 2019 Burkina Faso site visit in the future.

Hello from Burkina Faso!

I’m here on a site visit of Malaria Consortium, one of our recommended charities, to see its malaria prevention program in action.

This visit helped me relate more deeply to the program by getting to know some of the people who run it and some of the people who benefit from it. I wanted to share my experience with you.

It’s currently the rainy season, which means that children in Burkina Faso are at a higher risk of contracting malaria. Today, I shadowed Abibata and Diedonne, two community distributors, as they visited households to administer preventative anti-malarial medication to every child they could find between 3 months and 5 years of age.

This is a three-day course of medication that will be dissolved in water and given to children under five.

In my role at GiveWell, I speak with donors almost daily to describe this program and why we think it is effective. I know the research back-to-front and understand the impact each dollar can have when directed to Malaria Consortium. But seeing the program being implemented made it more tangible. I saw Abibata and Diedonne going door-to-door helping coax children into taking the bitter medicine and teaching caregivers how to administer it. This made me feel like I had a closer connection to people on the other side of GiveWell’s analysis—people going about their daily lives, pausing briefly to receive a simple spoonful of medication that may prevent them from getting very sick.

GiveWell and Malaria Consortium staff members after meeting to discuss their Burkina Faso
program. I’m the one on the right side of the front row!

And when my two hours of shadowing were up and we had offered medicine to our tenth child, I felt a real sense of pride in our donor community. GiveWell donors have given more than $37 million to Malaria Consortium over the last 18 months. Together, we expect that this will provide preventative treatments to 4.8 million children over the course of the high malaria season and avert over 16,000 deaths. Working with a community of so many donors having so much impact is inspiring. At its heart, giving is about helping others—and without GiveWell’s supporters, we would not be able to support Malaria Consortium’s work to provide simple, lifesaving medication to children who need it. Thank you. We’re so grateful to have you by our side.

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September 2019 open thread

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 13:20

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 2019 open thread here.

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GiveWell’s money moved and web traffic in 2018

Mon, 09/09/2019 - 12:54

GiveWell is dedicated to finding outstanding giving opportunities and publishing the full details of our analysis. In addition to evaluations of other charities, we publish substantial evaluation of our own work. This post lays out highlights from our 2018 metrics report, which reviews what we know about how our research impacted donors. Please note:

  • We report on “metrics years” that run from February through January; for example, our 2018 data cover February 1, 2018 through January 31, 2019.
  • In an effort to present a more comprehensive measure of our influence on charitable giving, this year’s metrics report includes GiveWell Incubation Grants in our headline “money moved” figure. In previous reports we have excluded Incubation Grants from this figure.

Summary of influence: In 2018, GiveWell influenced charitable giving in several ways. The following table summarizes our understanding of this influence.

Headline money moved: In 2018, we tracked $141 million in money moved to our recommended charities and via our Incubation Grants program. Our money moved only includes donations that we are confident were influenced by our recommendations.

Money moved by charity: Our nine top charities, including Evidence Action’s No Lean Season which is no longer a top charity, received the majority of our money moved. Our eight standout charities received a total of $2.7 million. We also tracked $0.5 million in unrestricted donations to organizations that run programs we recommend and $15.9 million in Incubation Grants.

Money moved by size of donor: We have less reliable data on individual donors in 2018 than in previous years, primarily as a result of new European privacy regulations that have led some of our recommended charities to share less detailed data with us. We have estimated the number of donors in each size category we track. We estimate that the number of donors in most categories was roughly unchanged compared to 2017 and that the amount of money in most categories increased slightly. Notably, we saw a large increase in the amount donated from donors giving $1 million or more. In 2018, we estimate that 92% of our money moved (excluding Good Ventures) came from the 20% of our donors who gave $1,000 or more. Details on how we produced these estimates are available in the full report.


GiveWell’s expenses: GiveWell’s total operating expenses in 2018 were $4.3 million.

Donations supporting GiveWell’s operations: GiveWell raised $12.4 million in unrestricted funding (which we mostly use to support our operations) in 2018, compared to $5.7 million in 2017. The eleven largest individual donors, plus Good Ventures, contributed 67% of GiveWell’s operational funding in 2018.

Web traffic: The number of unique visitors to our website declined 22% in 2018 compared to 2017 (when excluding visitors driven by AdWords, Google’s online advertising product).

For more detail, see our full metrics report (PDF).

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Allocation of discretionary funds from Q2 2019

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 11:38

In the second quarter of 2019, donors gave a combined $2.3 million to GiveWell for granting to recommended charities at our discretion. We greatly appreciate this support, which enables us to direct funding where we believe it can be used most effectively. We grant this funding to one or more of our top charities each quarter.

We decided to allocate all $2.3 million to the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF). AMF is a GiveWell top charity that provides support for the distribution of long-lasting insecticide-treated nets to prevent malaria. AMF has been named a GiveWell top charity seven times. We chose to allocate the second-quarter funding to AMF because we believe AMF has a highly cost-effective and time-sensitive opportunity to spend it.

Our bottom line

We continue to recommend that donors giving to GiveWell choose the option on our donation form for “grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion” so that we can direct the funding to the top charity or charities with the most pressing funding needs. For donors who prefer to give to a specific charity, we note that if we had additional funds to allocate at this time, we would very likely allocate them to AMF, which we believe could use additional funding for highly cost-effective work, even after receiving the $2.3 million in funding mentioned above.

Summary

In this post, we discuss:

  • what AMF will do with additional funding. (More)
  • other possibilities we considered. (More)
  • our process for deciding where to allocate funds. (More)
What will AMF do with additional funding?

AMF told us that it will use additional funding to support a distribution of nets scheduled for 2020 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Distributions are often delayed by a few months. Our best guess is that these nets will be delivered in late 2020 or in 2021.

DRC has a higher malaria burden than most of the other countries where AMF supports distributions. We model AMF’s work in DRC to be more than 1.5 times as cost-effective as AMF’s past work, on average—we estimate that a donation of roughly $2,000 to support work in DRC will avert a death, compared to $3,600 for AMF’s work overall.1You can see our calculations by making a copy of our 2019 version 4 cost-effectiveness model; this will enable you to edit the sheet and change the values in the drop-down menu as described below:
1. Our estimate of the cost-effectiveness of AMF’s work in general: Go to the “Nets” tab. In cell B125, you’ll see the “Median cost per death averted (after accounting for leverage and funging)” for AMF. The value is $3,554.
2. Go to the “Country selection” tab, change the value for the Against Malaria Foundation in cell B7 from “Overall” (which includes all countries AMF works in) to “DRC” on the drop-down menu.
3. Our estimate of the cost-effectiveness of AMF’s work in DRC: Go back to the “Nets” tab. The value in cell B125 is now $2,072.
4. $3,554 divided by $2,072 = ~1.7.

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We consider this to be the most promising funding need among our top charities, in terms of timeliness and cost-effectiveness. Our process for comparing top charities’ needs each quarter is described in greater detail below.

Open questions and uncertainties

Although we see this as a very promising opportunity, we are somewhat unsure how AMF will actually allocate the funding it receives. AMF’s role in net distributions is to:

  1. identify countries with funding gaps (funding needs that aren’t otherwise expected to be met) for nets;
  2. find distribution partners (in-country non-profit organizations or government agencies) to carry out the distributions;
  3. purchase nets; and
  4. work with distribution partners to monitor the distribution and use of nets.

While AMF has told us that it will allocate additional funding to DRC, it is possible that AMF will deviate from its funding plans in the face of changing circumstances, primarily changes in the status of discussions with governments and changes in the amount of funding it has available to allocate. The most common changes in AMF’s plans in recent years have been (a) delays in distributions, often due to governments taking longer to sign agreements than AMF had originally estimated, and (b) changes in the quantity of nets purchased by AMF due to larger population numbers being found during registration than the government had estimated at earlier stages of planning.

According to AMF, the total funding gap in DRC over the next two years (2020-2021) is $55 million. In addition to its plans to fund work in DRC, AMF currently holds $39 million to fund distributions in three other countries. Although AMF is in discussions about funding these distributions, it has not yet signed formal agreements to do so. If any of the discussions fall through, we expect AMF to reallocate the funding it has set aside. In addition, AMF raised $38 million in 2018,2More specifically, this is AMF’s total revenue between February 1, 2018 and January 31, 2019, which is GiveWell’s 2018 “metrics year.” 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] }); and we estimate that AMF will continue to raise at least half of that amount annually, independent of whether GiveWell allocates additional discretionary funding to AMF. This suggests that AMF will raise enough funding in the next year to substantially reduce the size of the funding gap in DRC, though the timing of when funding is received may affect the timing of distributions. If AMF fully fills the DRC funding gap, it seems intuitively likely that there would be other bottlenecks that might impede its progress, such as ability to find partner organizations with the capacity to implement the distributions and fulfill AMF’s reporting and monitoring requirements. We do not know where or when AMF would choose to fund nets if it had more funding than it could allocate to DRC in 2019 to 2021.

We incorporate our uncertainty about where AMF will use additional funding into our cost-effectiveness estimate of its work. When we made our first-quarter discretionary funding allocation, which also went to AMF, we modeled an 87 percent chance of AMF’s additional funding supporting nets in DRC.3This model has not been published. jQuery("#footnote_plugin_tooltip_3").tooltip({ tip: "#footnote_plugin_tooltip_text_3", tipClass: "footnote_tooltip", effect: "fade", fadeOutSpeed: 100, predelay: 400, position: "top right", relative: true, offset: [10, 10] }); As we considered where to grant second-quarter discretionary funding, we made a minor downward adjustment to 75 percent due to AMF’s continued lack of signed agreements with other countries and thus our greater uncertainty over how funds will be spent. Even with this uncertainty incorporated, we model AMF’s funding gap in DRC as a highly cost-effective opportunity.

Other possibilities we considered

Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) program

When we granted discretionary funding we received in the first quarter, we focused on AMF and another top charity, Malaria Consortium’s SMC program, as the most promising recipients. Our decision centered on our comparison of the two organizations:

  • Against Malaria Foundation
    • We modeled additional funding to AMF as more cost-effective than additional funding to Malaria Consortium’s SMC program. Our best guess, which we did not subject to our formal internal review process, was that AMF was 38 percent more cost-effective than Malaria Consortium’s SMC program.
    • We viewed AMF’s funding gap in DRC as time-sensitive because our expectation is that AMF receiving funding now will allow it to distribute nets sooner than if it receives the same amount of funding later this year.
  • Malaria Consortium’s SMC program
    • We viewed Malaria Consortium’s SMC program as likely to have more overall impact per dollar based on unmodeled qualitative factors described in “Principle 2” here.
    • We did not expect that directing additional funding to Malaria Consortium would influence its spending on 2019 and 2020 programs—in other words, we didn’t see providing funding to Malaria Consortium as being particularly time-sensitive.

Weighing these factors, we ultimately chose AMF over Malaria Consortium based on its somewhat higher modeled cost-effectiveness and more time-sensitive funding need.

We now model additional funding to AMF as roughly 33 percent more cost-effective than additional funding to Malaria Consortium’s SMC program, as a result of adjusting the chance of additional funding supporting nets in DRC from 87 percent to 75 percent. We have not received any new information to update us on the time sensitivity of Malaria Consortium’s funding needs, and we continue to view Malaria Consortium as stronger than AMF on unmodeled qualitative factors.

We don’t view the comparison of the two organizations as meaningfully different than in the previous quarter, and we thus chose to prioritize AMF over Malaria Consortium again.

Other top charities

As far as we know, our six other top charities have not had any major changes in their funding needs or cost-effectiveness since March. We did not update our cost-effectiveness model since making our last quarterly allocation decision, nor did we receive any updates on our top charities’ room for more funding, beyond the $4.7 million in first-quarter discretionary funds that we allocated to AMF.

Process for deciding where to allocate funds

We follow the principles described in this blog post when deciding between funding opportunities.

We ask our top charities to alert us throughout the year if they learn of any new funding opportunities that we should consider in our discretionary funding decisions. None of our top charities informed us of such an opportunity for second-quarter funding.

With no new funding opportunities presented to us, we returned to our first-quarter funding recipient, AMF. When we granted first-quarter funding to AMF, we noted that AMF had a time-sensitive and cost-effective funding opportunity in DRC and a funding gap that was much larger than we were able to fill. As we considered where to allocate second-quarter funding, we asked AMF for information to help us assess whether that continued to be true. We asked AMF about its progress in signing net-distribution agreements, its ability to absorb additional funding for work in DRC, and whether additional funding sent to AMF in the next few months would contribute to filling the funding gap in DRC.

Notes   [ + ]

1. ↑ You can see our calculations by making a copy of our 2019 version 4 cost-effectiveness model; this will enable you to edit the sheet and change the values in the drop-down menu as described below:
1. Our estimate of the cost-effectiveness of AMF’s work in general: Go to the “Nets” tab. In cell B125, you’ll see the “Median cost per death averted (after accounting for leverage and funging)” for AMF. The value is $3,554.
2. Go to the “Country selection” tab, change the value for the Against Malaria Foundation in cell B7 from “Overall” (which includes all countries AMF works in) to “DRC” on the drop-down menu.
3. Our estimate of the cost-effectiveness of AMF’s work in DRC: Go back to the “Nets” tab. The value in cell B125 is now $2,072.
4. $3,554 divided by $2,072 = ~1.7.

2. ↑ More specifically, this is AMF’s total revenue between February 1, 2018 and January 31, 2019, which is GiveWell’s 2018 “metrics year.” 3. ↑ This model has not been published. 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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Experiments in GiveWell communication

Tue, 07/23/2019 - 12:38

One of our top priorities is to increase the amount of money we direct to our recommendations. As part of our effort to do this, we’re planning to try new kinds of communication. We hope to reach people who haven’t heard of or connected with GiveWell in the past, and to increase retention of our current donors by making the experience of donating through GiveWell more compelling.

We are experimenting on our homepage and in emails with using images and making our cost-effectiveness estimates more prominent. Our goal is to improve people’s connection to our work without compromising the accuracy of what we share.

There are potential downsides to this approach. We expect to balance our goal of communicating in a way that is emotionally compelling with our commitment to honesty and not misleading donors or overstating the case for our recommendations.

We’re not planning a major overhaul of GiveWell’s website or other communications in the near term, and we are unsure if we will make major changes in the future. Most of GiveWell’s communications will look as they always have. Our hope in the coming months is to learn whether there are new ways we can communicate about our work to increase our impact. We’re writing this post to share with you the context behind these experiments.

Summary

In this post, we discuss:

  • Our communication experiments. (More)
  • Challenges and potential downsides of our approach. (More)
  • How you can help us improve. (More)
Our communication experiments

We’re initially experimenting with using images and emphasizing cost-effectiveness information in our communications. We selected these experiments based on our intuition, our understanding of best practices in the nonprofit sector, and the feedback we’ve received from GiveWell’s donors and others.

Over the years, we’ve heard from a number of our supporters that they wish GiveWell had more emotionally-oriented content so that they could more easily share GiveWell with their peers or feel more connected to their own gifts. We also understand that most charity fundraisers make emotional appeals tied to specific individuals or projects. Fundraisers may use cost figures to promote their causes, although these figures can be misleading (for example, claiming you can save a child’s life by donating $0.50—we estimate that even a very cost-effective program requires closer to $2,400 to avert the death of a child).

Taking these considerations into account, we want to move in the direction of sharing content that people can easily connect to without sacrificing honesty and accuracy. We plan to make these changes gradually and to see what works before committing to a long-term path. We’re starting by making the following changes to our homepage and certain email content we share:

  1. Adding images. We believe we can create a closer connection to our top charities by showing pictures of the work they do—either to illustrate how the program is carried out or to show the people they have helped. We want to do this respectfully.
  2. Featuring our cost-effectiveness figures more prominently. Although we don’t advise taking our cost-effectiveness estimates literally, we do think they are one of the best ways we can communicate about the rough magnitude of expected impact of donations to our recommended charities.

    A few years ago, we decided not to feature our cost-effectiveness estimates prominently on our website. We had seen people using our estimates to make claims about the precise cost to save a life that lost the nuances of our analysis; it seemed they were understandably misinterpreting concrete numbers as conveying more certainty than we have. After seeing this happen repeatedly, we chose to deemphasize these figures. We continued to publish them but did not feature them prominently.

    Over the past few years, we have incorporated more factors into our cost-effectiveness model and increased the amount of weight we place on its outputs in our reviews (see the contrast between our 2014 cost-effectiveness model versus our latest one). We thus see our cost-effectiveness estimates as important and informative.

    We also think they offer a compelling motivation to donate. We aim to share these estimates in such a way that it’s reasonably easy for anyone who wants to dig into the numbers to understand all of the nuances involved.

We’ve chosen two places to run our initial experiments with using images and emphasizing cost-effectiveness estimates: GiveWell’s homepage and certain email content.

Homepage updates

Our intuition is that someone spending a few minutes on GiveWell’s homepage would not come away with a clear understanding of what GiveWell does or an emotional connection to our work. We hypothesize that adding images, illustrations, and cost-effectiveness estimates will help new visitors better understand and connect to GiveWell’s work. We are also planning to link to a citations page that provides sources for the calculations we use on the homepage and enables readers to easily access the details of our research if they want to vet or understand our claims.

We plan to test two new versions of the homepage this summer; you can see preliminary versions here and here. We’ll be testing these pages against each other and our current homepage. We expect to update our homepage pending the results of this experiment—we’ll likely be looking at visits to our top charities page from the homepage, the bounce rate on the homepage (the percentage of visitors who leave the page without going to other parts of our website), and the duration of time spent on the homepage.

Impact emails

We hypothesize that drawing clearer connections between our donors’ support and what it enables charities to achieve will increase retention of GiveWell’s donors. We think doing so will make the experience of giving through GiveWell more meaningful and memorable. One way we think we can do this is by reporting to donors what we expect the impact of their gifts to be.

Information about impact has always been available on our website via our cost-effectiveness model, but it has neither been linked to individual donation amounts nor sent directly to donors. Up until recently, if a GiveWell donor was interested in the impact of their gift, they’d have to track down the relevant part of our cost-effectiveness model and do their own calculation.

Now, we’re experimenting with more proactively sharing this information. In the fall, we sent an email to a group of our donors who gave to the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF), a GiveWell top charity that distributes insecticide-treated nets to prevent malaria. This email explained how AMF works, using photographs of net distributions, and included our best estimate of the impact each individual’s donation would have, in terms of the nets purchased and deaths averted. You can see an example of this email here. We ended this experiment after a few weeks due to a technical glitch.

This year, we piloted sending an email to donors who supported “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion.” We grant these discretionary funds each quarter to the GiveWell top charity or charities that we believe have the most pressing funding needs. When we made these grants in 2019, we sent an email to donors who contributed to the discretionary funds. The email announced where we chose to grant the discretionary funds and why, along with a description of the charity that received the funds—including images of its work—and a calculation of each donor’s expected impact based on our cost-effectiveness analysis. You can see an example of this email here.

Anecdotally, these emails have been positively received. Over a dozen recipients of the “Grants to recommended charities” emails have contacted us (unprompted) to let us know they appreciated the information. We do not yet feel confident in extrapolating the impact of these emails on donor retention, as most donors give on an annual basis. We plan to continue sending these emails each quarter when we decide where to grant discretionary funds and to assess over the long term whether they impact donor retention.

Challenges and potential downsides

A major challenge we face with this project is striking the right balance between communicating clearly, creating a connection to our work, and honoring our values. We anticipate that:

  1. the use of images could fail to treat beneficiary populations with the respect they deserve (for a discussion of some simplistic narratives about the relationship between donors and beneficiaries, see this blog post). We plan to be particularly careful about our selection of images and avoid depictions that do not respect the dignity of our beneficiaries.
  2. the use of images might make our marketing harder to distinguish from typical charity outreach.
  3. the use of cost-effectiveness figures may make it harder to distinguish GiveWell’s carefulness (the hundreds of hours our researchers collectively spend per year on cost-effectiveness analysis) from charities’ often unjustified claims about cost per impact.
  4. the use of cost-effectiveness figures may cause donors to take these estimates literally rather than as a rough sense of the magnitude of expected impact of donations to our recommended charities. To mitigate this and item (3) above, we plan to make links to the detailed analysis behind our cost-effectiveness figures readily available.

The upside of moving more money to top charities and increasing donors’ engagement with our work seems worth tackling this challenge and its potential downsides.

How you can help us

We’re planning to move relatively slowly in this direction and adjust our actions based on the feedback we receive. If you have feedback about how our new communications are changing your view of the GiveWell brand (positively or negatively), please let us know by emailing info@givewell.org.

We’re excited to be on this new path and hopeful it will lead to more funding for our top charities.

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June 2019 open thread

Mon, 06/17/2019 - 12:03

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 2019 open thread here.

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Allocation of discretionary funds from Q1 2019

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 12:45

In the first quarter of 2019, donors gave a combined $4.7 million for granting to recommended charities at our discretion.

We really appreciate the generosity of our supporters in making it possible for us to regularly allocate funding to the top charity or charities that we believe can best use additional funding. Thank you!

In this post, we discuss our decision to allocate this $4.7 million to the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF), as well as the process we followed to arrive at this decision.

We continue to recommend that donors giving to GiveWell choose the option on our donation form for “grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion” so that we can direct the funding to the top charity or charities with the most pressing funding needs. For donors who prefer to give to a specific charity, we note that if we had additional funds to allocate at this time, we would very likely allocate them to AMF, which we believe could use additional funding for highly cost-effective work, even after receiving the $4.7 million in funding mentioned above.

Our bottom line

As we did last quarter, we focused our efforts on deciding between allocating funding to Malaria Consortium vs. AMF. We currently believe that AMF has a more time sensitive funding need than Malaria Consortium, and our best guess is that it will have equivalent impact per dollar to Malaria Consortium. This led us to allocate funding to AMF.

What changed since last quarter?

In March 2019, we modeled AMF as somewhat more cost-effective than Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) program, believed that both organizations had time-sensitive funding opportunities, but believed that Malaria Consortium would have more overall impact per dollar, when taking into account unmodeled qualitative factors (see “Principle 2” here). For this round of grantmaking, we updated slightly positively on AMF’s cost-effectiveness and believed that AMF had a time-sensitive funding opportunity while Malaria Consortium did not. These factors were sufficient to tip the balance in favor of allocating this funding to AMF.

What AMF will do with additional funding

AMF expects to allocate all funding that it receives in the near future toward distributing insecticide-treated nets in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2020.

The vast majority of the funding AMF currently has on hand is set aside for distributions in a series of other countries (we are aware of which countries but have been asked not to name them while discussions are continuing) in 2020, and in DRC in 2019 and 2020; this funding totals $57 million. It has made verbal agreements with those countries for those distributions, but has not yet signed contracts to commit the funding. There is a chance that one or more of these agreements will fall through, which could change when or how AMF uses the additional funding it receives now; we think the risk is real but that AMF’s other options (particularly to put more funding into DRC distributions in 2020-2021) are good and so we don’t see this as a major concern. According to AMF, agreements that have reached this stage with countries AMF has worked with before (as it has with each of these four countries) have not fallen through in the past. AMF also has an additional $5.5 million in uncommitted funds on hand, which it plans to allocate to DRC for 2020 distributions.

AMF estimates it could use up to an additional $12.0 million in DRC in 2020, after the $4.7 million we are granting to it, and up to an additional $36.8 million in DRC in 2021.

Our process

Our process for making this granting decision was less intensive than the process we used for the funds we received in the last quarter of 2018. We focused on making some updates to the information we had relied on last quarter, including:

  1. Estimating Malaria Consortium’s room for more funding for SMC, in light of its receiving the $10.1 million in discretionary funds we granted last quarter.
  2. Speaking with AMF and Malaria Consortium to discuss how additional funds would be used. We did not speak with other top charities for updates, as we believed, based on our work in late 2018 and earlier this year, that either Malaria Consortium or AMF could most cost-effectively use additional funding.
  3. Updating our estimates of the cost-effectiveness of additional funds to AMF and Malaria Consortium. We applied the same changes as are discussed in the first footnote in this blog post to the latest version of our published cost-effectiveness model, which was updated in March to correct for an error in our model of insecticide-treated nets. These updates to the published model have not been published or vetted, and so are more likely to contain errors than our published cost-effectiveness model. We took this shortcut at this time to enable us to pursue other research work and because modest changes in the cost-effectiveness analysis (as a result of minor errors) would not have changed our conclusion here. We thoroughly revisit our comparisons between top charities once per year for our annual recommendations refresh in November; we are also developing a process to make it easier to update our published model throughout the year to reflect new information about how top charities would spend additional funding. The difference between our unvetted best guess and our published estimate for AMF is largely due to modeling the majority of marginal funding as going to DRC (which has a higher malaria burden that most of the other countries where AMF operates).

We ultimately relied on the same six principles as are described in this blog post.

Updates since March 2019

We wrote in March 2019 about our decision to allocate the funding we received in the fourth quarter of 2018 to Malaria Consortium’s SMC program. Below, we discuss updates to our understanding of the value of allocating marginal funds to AMF and Malaria Consortium’s SMC program since March 2019.

AMF

We identified and corrected an error in our cost-effectiveness analysis of insecticide-treated nets, which increased the estimated cost-effectiveness of AMF. As a result of this update, our (unvetted and unpublished) best guess is that marginal funding to AMF is approximately 40% more cost-effective than marginal funding to Malaria Consortium’s SMC program; in March, our best guess was that marginal funding to AMF was approximately 20% more cost-effective.

Malaria Consortium’s SMC program

Our understanding is that additional funding received at this point in time would be unlikely to influence Malaria Consortium’s spending on 2019 and 2020 programs, and that decisions regarding 2021 spending will likely be made in early 2020, after we have made our (larger) year-end funding recommendations.

This is a change from the previous quarter: due to our allocation of $10.1 million to Malaria Consortium last quarter, Malaria Consortium currently has enough funding to fund its work on SMC through 2020, even if it were to expand to the maximum scale it is considering reaching in 2020. (Our calculations, which were reviewed by Malaria Consortium, are available here.)

We expect that Malaria Consortium will have a large funding gap for SMC work in 2021, and we may fill some of that funding gap later in 2019.

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Evidence Action is shutting down No Lean Season

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 11:59

This post discusses a set of issues with Evidence Action’s No Lean Season program. No Lean Season is a former GiveWell top charity and GiveWell Incubation Grant recipient. It is now shutting down. Evidence Action discusses its decision in this blog post.

Here, we share a significant amount of detail about this decision and the factors that contributed. Proactively sharing detailed information about a charity’s shortcomings may be unusual, but it is core to GiveWell’s mission. We are dedicated to transparency about our recommendations—the good and the bad.

Evidence Action has reviewed this post, and we’ve discussed our thinking at length with its senior leadership; however, the views expressed are our own. We have been impressed with Evidence Action’s commitment to transparency and continue to support its other work. These updates have not substantially changed our view of Evidence Action; we expect large programs to experience problems, to a certain extent. We believe Evidence Action responded to these problems responsibly, although we have several open questions.

Summary

Evidence Action is shutting down No Lean Season, a former GiveWell top charity that distributed no-interest subsidies to support seasonal migration in Bangladesh.

As we have discussed previously, a study of the No Lean Season program in 2017 found disappointing results; this led to our removal of No Lean Season, in agreement with Evidence Action, from our list of top charities.

In early 2019, Evidence Action’s senior leadership received allegations that a junior employee of the government agency in Bangladesh responsible for approving the No Lean Season program allegedly forged the government approval, allegedly in collaboration with an employee of the program’s implementing partner. The government agency allegedly later asked the implementing partner for a bribe to grant approval of the program. Senior leadership at Evidence Action then began an investigation that was largely unsuccessful in its attempts to learn more due to lack of full cooperation from the implementing partner. Evidence Action terminated its relationship with the implementing partner as a result. Evidence Action’s senior leadership also found that some Evidence Action program staff who worked directly with the partner did not fully cooperate with its investigation and had violated internal Evidence Action policy.

Evidence Action decided to shut down No Lean Season because the cost of finding and supporting a new implementing partner was too high, given the disappointing 2017 study results.

Separately, Evidence Action also informed us of a tragic accident involving migrants from households that had received No Lean Season subsidies. We do not believe this contributed to the decision to shut down No Lean Season, but we are sharing it in this post as the investigation into this accident recently concluded.

We will provide additional information on the following in this blog post:

  • We outline below the factors contributing to Evidence Action’s decision to shut down its No Lean Season program (More):
    • The disappointing 2017 study of the program at scale. (More)
    • Evidence Action’s termination of its partnership earlier this year with the organization implementing the program in Bangladesh. After learning of the alleged improprieties (referenced above) in February 2019, senior leadership at Evidence Action began an investigation, conducted by external, independent legal counsel. Given the seriousness of the original allegations, Evidence Action also terminated its contract with the partner. The implementing partner largely refused to cooperate with the investigation, and as a result Evidence Action will not reengage with this partner in the future. (More)
  • In the course of its investigation, senior leadership at Evidence Action found evidence of an approximately $400 payment by an Evidence Action program staff member that violated its internal policies, as well as contradictory and potentially misleading statements made by some program staff members to investigators. This finding was not material in the decision to shut down the program, as the implementing partner’s lack of cooperation was already known at that point. (More)
  • We summarize the findings of the investigation into the accident involving migrants whose families had received subsidies from the program. (More)
  • We do not see any of the above issues as a significant update on Evidence Action as an organization. We expect challenges when working in international development, and think senior leadership at Evidence Action responded responsibly to address these challenges. We do retain open questions about Evidence Action’s selection of implementing partners and its process for hiring and evaluating staff. Finally, we and Evidence Action agree that it should continue to strengthen its financial controls going forward. (More)
  • Evidence Action expects No Lean Season to have some funding remaining after the program fully closes out. We expect to ask Evidence Action to redirect the remaining funding it received from GiveWell for No Lean Season to Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative, a GiveWell top charity. We (and Evidence Action) will also take into account donors’ preferences for reallocating this funding; we provide instructions for donors who supported No Lean Season to communicate their preferences to us below. (More)
Shutting down No Lean Season

Mixed evidence of impact for program

We removed our top-charity recommendation of No Lean Season after reviewing the results of a large randomized controlled trial (RCT) of its program during the 2017 “lean season.” Evidence Action agreed with GiveWell’s decision.

The study found that the program did not increase rates of migration in 2017, the first year in which the program was implemented at scale. This implied that, at a minimum, the impact of the program was sensitive to details of implementation, and, potentially, the program was not effective at scale. In either case, the results reduced our and Evidence Action’s expectations about the program’s future cost-effectiveness. As of late 2018, Evidence Action had stopped seeking donations for the program but was continuing to operate it and collect additional data on its impact. Evidence Action ran another large trial of the program in 2018 (for which data collection is ongoing in 2019), and we planned to reassess No Lean Season as a potential top charity in 2019, upon receiving the results from that trial.

Investigation into allegations against Evidence Action’s implementing partner

Termination of partnership with implementing partner

In early 2019, Evidence Action terminated its partnership with its partner in Bangladesh; this partner bore primary responsibility for implementing the program. Evidence Action reports that the termination of its implementing partnership accelerated consideration of shutting down the program, rather than waiting for results from the 2018 trial of the program, and tipped the balance in favor of ending it.

According to multiple Evidence Action program staff (and reported to GiveWell by the law firm that subsequently led an investigation into what happened), the implementing partner told these Evidence Action program staff in February 2019 that it had discovered that the government licenses for it to operate the program had been improperly granted, and that there was a possibility that bribes were paid to government officials to obtain the improper licenses. According to these Evidence Action program staff, the implementing partner said that it had approached the government agency to rectify the issue with the licenses and a high-level official asked for a bribe to issue the licenses. The Evidence Action program staff said that the implementing partner had asked Evidence Action for authorization to pay the bribe. The Evidence Action program staff reported this immediately to senior leadership at Evidence Action, who shared it with us and other major donors to the program soon after.

Evidence Action terminated its contract with the implementing partner as a result, shortly after learning of this event. Senior leadership at Evidence Action hired DLA Piper, a global law firm, to lead an investigation into the issue. DLA Piper told us that it was not able to learn significantly more about the circumstances around the allegedly improperly granted licenses because the implementing partner did not cooperate with the investigation; the implementing partner provided only incomplete financial records and declined to participate in interviews. What we know about these circumstances, therefore, is based on DLA Piper’s interviews with the Evidence Action program staff who were in the February meeting; these staff were consistent in their reports that the implementing partner said that a government official had requested a bribe, but they were inconsistent on some other details.

Payment in violation of internal policies and contradictory and potentially misleading statements by Evidence Action program staff

In the course of its investigation, DLA Piper found that some Evidence Action program staff made contradictory and potentially misleading statements to the investigators, including statements about a payment one of them made in 2018 (of approximately $400) that went against Evidence Action policy.

According to the investigation findings, these staff members had learned that the implementing partner’s application to a government agency for licenses to operate the program in 2018 had been questioned and two of the staff discussed hiring a consultant to help with obtaining the licenses. The staff members requested approval from Evidence Action’s finance team to make a payment to hire a consultant; Evidence Action’s finance team responded that such consultant payments were not allowed by Evidence Action policy. The staff members later submitted a reimbursement request to Evidence Action for a cash payment for the same purpose. It is unclear whether a consultant was hired or how the funding was used. Evidence Action’s finance department sent the reimbursement. Senior leadership at Evidence Action has told us that the reimbursement should not have been sent and that its financial oversight practices were not adequate to detect this payment; it expects to make some changes to its controls and finance staff training as a result of this experience.

We are unsure what to make of these findings. The investigation only established that these staff received reimbursement for a use of funds they had been informed was not permissible under Evidence Action policy, and that they made misleading statements to the investigators. There are missing pieces in the story that we are unable to account for (due to the implementing partner’s lack of cooperation with the investigation and conflicting and potentially misleading statements from some Evidence Action program staff). Senior leadership at Evidence Action has taken what we see to be appropriate corrective action in its staffing; we have chosen not to discuss details about individuals.[1]

We understand that charities may on occasion experience malfeasance by staff, and we believe Evidence Action could not have prevented all possible scenarios where malfeasance might occur. We were disappointed to learn that Evidence Action staff appear to have made a payment in violation of Evidence Action policy and that this payment was approved; we are also disappointed that these staff made misleading statements to DLA Piper. We also believe that senior leadership at Evidence Action responded to the issues described above in a timely, thorough manner by investigating what occurred.

While it is disappointing to learn of improper behavior at one of our top charities, our ultimate focus is whether the program accomplishes good in the world.[2] Of course, if we learned of wrongdoing that was not responsibly handled, and/or reflected a large and serious gap in internal controls, that could lead us to remove a top charity from our list. But broadly speaking, we would not expect to be aware of every instance of fraud (nor do we believe it would be cost-effective for most organizations to put in place controls that would absolutely prevent all malfeasance).[3]

From discussions with senior leadership at Evidence Action, we do not believe the improper behavior by some Evidence Action program staff contributed to the decision to shut down the program, though it was uncovered as part of the investigation into the implementing partner.

Decision to end the program

In light of the 2017 RCT results, the need to find a new implementing partner, and the costs of doing so, Evidence Action decided to terminate the No Lean Season program.

We agree with Evidence Action’s decision. This is a nuanced position: we agree with the decision to shut down the program, but we do not believe that the program is “bad” or “ineffective.” Instead, we believe that continued investment in No Lean Season—taking into account all of the challenges this would involve—is unlikely to be one of the best opportunities we or Evidence Action have to cost-effectively save or improve lives. We discuss how the 2017 study changed our assessment of No Lean Season’s cost-effectiveness here.

The program was completed for the 2018-2019 season, with the exception of some subsidy repayment at the end of the season. Data collection and analysis for the 2018 RCT is ongoing and will be completed; we plan to write about the results once they are available.

Cumilla accident

A few weeks before the conversation that led to the termination of Evidence Action’s partnership with its implementing partner, there was an accident involving migrants from households that had received No Lean Season subsidies. We were saddened to hear of this tragic event. This tragedy did not trigger the shutdown of the program, but the investigation that Evidence Action conducted into the circumstances surrounding the accident recently concluded, so we include it here for completeness.

According to news reports[4] (and reported to us by Evidence Action), in January 2019, a coal-laden truck struck a shed at a brick kiln in Cumilla District in Bangladesh. The shed collapsed, killing 13 individuals sleeping inside. Five of the individuals were from households that had received migration subsidies from No Lean Season. Four of those were between the ages of 15 and 17. It is No Lean Season’s policy to only provide subsidies to individuals over the age of 18 and No Lean Season had a number of protocols in place to enforce this policy[5]; senior leadership at Evidence Action told us that it believes that the teenagers did not receive subsidies directly. The teenagers may have migrated independently of the program or individuals from their households who were over the age of 18 may have accepted the subsidies and given them to the teenagers to use to migrate.

Senior leadership at Evidence Action hired investigators to look into the circumstances around the use of No Lean Season subsidies by underage individuals. The investigators conducted a limited investigation (it was limited, at least in part, because the implementing partner did not provide requested documentation or interviews) and concluded that Evidence Action had “robust safeguards” in place for preventing underage migration, including checking birth dates on personal documents before issuing loans. We don’t see good reason to think that the program systematically increases overall risks of this type of accident.

Has our view of Evidence Action changed?

Taken together, the updates have raised questions about Evidence Action (see below). In general, malfeasance at a charity or its implementing partner could lead us to change our opinion of a charity. However, the details of this case have not led us to significantly reduce our confidence in Evidence Action. The decision to scale up No Lean Season was reasonable: high-quality evidence from when the program was operated at a small scale indicated that it had the potential to be cost-effective. Evidence Action decided to scale up based on that evidence, and ran another high-quality study to test the program’s impact at scale. While there were ethical and managerial lapses by some Evidence Action program staff and its implementing partner, as well as a failure of financial controls to catch an improper payment, we broadly believe that senior leadership at Evidence Action responded quickly, with transparency, and responsibly when the issues were uncovered, both to rectify the lapses and to consider how it might improve and prevent such lapses in the future. Overall, our high-level view of Evidence Action is very similar to what it was before we learned of these developments.

We’ve written before that we see Evidence Action as a group we are highly aligned with and that we are excited to support its growth and development (see, for example, here). We have recommended GiveWell Incubation Grants to support Evidence Action’s operations as well as to support its work to develop potential new GiveWell top charities, and we count two of its programs, the Deworm the World Initiative and Dispensers for Safe Water as a top and standout charity, respectively.

We expect large programs to experience problems, to some extent. We think senior leadership at Evidence Action took quick, thorough action to address the situation by launching an investigation and sharing updates with its major funders, as well as terminating its work with its implementing partner and taking corrective action with program staff who did not comply with Evidence Action’s policies.

We have the following open questions about Evidence Action deriving from these developments:

  • Evidence Action’s selection of implementing partners. Should Evidence Action do more to vet its partners? Evidence Action has told us that it plans to make changes to its vetting practices as a result of this experience.
  • Evidence Action’s processes for hiring and evaluating staff. Evidence Action staff members violated its financial policies. How should Evidence Action improve its processes for hiring and evaluating staff?
  • Evidence Action financial oversight. While we think prevention of all malfeasance would be challenging (and may not be the best use of resources), are there cost-effective ways to reduce the likelihood of funds being misused in the future? What changes to its financial controls should Evidence Action implement?

We plan to continue discussions with Evidence Action to better understand its work in these areas.

What will happen with unused funds?

Over the course of operating No Lean Season, Evidence Action received funding earmarked for this program specifically and spent down a portion of that funding. Evidence Action expects to have funding remaining that is designated for No Lean Season when it has fully closed out its work on the program. A large portion of the remaining funding is from Good Ventures, a large foundation with which we work closely, which donated to No Lean Season as a result of GiveWell’s recommendation.

We expect to ask Evidence Action to redirect the remaining funding it received from GiveWell (donations made through our website or to GiveWell via check, wire transfer, or other means), including funding from Good Ventures, for No Lean Season to Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative, which is a GiveWell top charity. If you made a donation to support No Lean Season and prefer that your donation (less the portion of total revenue that No Lean Season has spent) go to an Evidence Action program other than Deworm the World, please contact us at donations@givewell.org by July 31. We will also be emailing donors whose contact information we have. By default, if we don’t hear anything, funding will be directed to Deworm the World.

Note that by “remaining funding,” we mean the original donation size multiplied by the percentage of total revenue for No Lean Season that will remain when the program is fully closed out. We then expect to recommend that Good Ventures reduce its next annual grant to Deworm the World (assuming Deworm the World remains a GiveWell top charity, which we expect it to) in December by the same amount, so that Deworm the World does not receive more GiveWell-directed funding in 2019 than it would have in the absence of No Lean Season’s remaining funds.

We will post an update on our blog about how remaining GiveWell-directed funding for No Lean Season was reallocated.

Evidence Action’s implementing partner holds some program funding, primarily the grant from Evidence Action to the implementing partner for the subsidies for migrants that was collected for the 2018 implementation of the program. It is unclear whether it will return these funds to Evidence Action; it has not yet agreed to do so.

Notes

1. Evidence Action has told us that there is complexity in discussing in general terms the situations with the staff members involved because of the differences in the structure of their employment across several legal jurisdictions.

2. We generally agree with the “results not receipts” approach advocated by the Center for Global Development in this paper.

3. We did learn about two cases of staff fraud at GiveDirectly, another GiveWell top charity, in the past. You can read more in our review of GiveDirectly’s work here.

4. News reports of the accident are available here and here (among other places).

5. From Evidence Action’s blog: “The investigation found that the safeguards we had in place were robust, though ultimately could not fully eliminate the risk of an adult recipient choosing to pass their cash transport subsidy to a teenager in his place, contrary to program rules and protocols. These protocols were multilayered, and included verbally informing subsidy recipients of the condition that migrants must be at least 18 years of age; requiring subsidy recipients to sign or thumbprint an acknowledgement that both recipients and migrants (where different individuals) must be at least 18 years of age; reviewing national identification cards to verify that the subsidy recipient and any person that the recipient says plans to migrate from the household is at least age 18; and utilizing mobile data collection software that is programmed to prohibit field staff from including individuals reporting to be under the age of 18, in order to prevent accidental enrollment.”

The post Evidence Action is shutting down No Lean Season appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

GiveWell’s plans for 2019

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 12:50

Our top priorities this year support our goals to (a) increase the impact per dollar of the funds we direct and (b) increase our money moved. In 2019, we are focused on:

  • Building research capacity. (More)
  • Experimenting with approaches to outreach to find ones that we can scalably use to drive additional money moved. (More)
  • Exploring new areas of research. (More)
  • Improving GiveWell’s organizational strength. (More)
  • Ongoing research. (More)
Building research capacity

We announced earlier this year our plans to hire researchers at three levels of seniority, listed here from most junior to most senior: Research Analyst, Senior Research Analyst, and Senior Fellow. Our goal is to have 3-5 signed offer letters in hand from new research staff by the end of 2019.

We’re hoping that additional research capacity will enable us to expand the scope of GiveWell’s research, with the aim of finding opportunities that are more cost-effective than our current top charities. We’re planning to roughly double the size of the research team over the next few years.

Outreach experimentation

We plan to expand our outreach to current and potential donors going forward, with the aim of increasing the amount of money we direct to our recommended charities. As part of this work, we recently hired Stephanie Stojanovic as our first Major Gifts Officer. Our goal is to decide by the end of the 1st quarter of 2020 whether to scale our staff capacity further in the area of major gifts, based on Stephanie’s initial work.[1]

We’re also planning to conduct experiments in 2019 related to how we message about our work to reach more people. These experiments could include work on search engine optimization and building landing pages that aim to communicate what GiveWell does and why it’s valuable, among other possibilities. We expect to have results by early 2020, as the bulk of donations we receive are made in December.

Finally, we’re planning to search for a VP of Marketing to oversee work across outreach domains (including major gifts, donor retention, advertising, marketing, and written communications). We guess there is a 50 percent chance we make a hire for this role in 2019.

Exploring new areas of research

As mentioned above, we’re in the early stages of expanding the scope of GiveWell’s research. We plan to look into several new areas in 2019, including public health regulation and possible paths to support government aid agencies.

This work is new for GiveWell, and as noted in our 2018 review post, we failed to make as much progress as we hoped in 2018 on our work on public health regulation. In 2019, we’re aiming to get substantially closer to the point where we have the staff structure to support grantmaking in new areas, though given how early we are in this work, we don’t yet have concrete goals we’re confident that we’ll achieve.

A stretch goal for 2019 is to settle on a structure that we believe will support grantmaking in public health regulation and begin recommending grants in that area.

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.

Improving GiveWell’s organizational strength

We expect to need additional operations capacity to maintain critical functions as GiveWell grows and to improve the organization going forward. We plan to hire one Operations Associate this year to assist with general operations needs, such as improving HR practices.

We plan to hire many new staff over the coming years. In preparation, we plan to improve our procedures and information for recruiting, vetting, and onboarding staff to GiveWell this year, such as by improving inclusive recruitment practices and updating the substantive content of our onboarding activities. We also plan to improve our systems for soliciting feedback from staff about how GiveWell can improve as an organization, in order to give management better insight into how things are going.

To accommodate our planned expansion, we plan to move to a new office that better suits our expected size and staff requirements.

Ongoing research

We have a number of ongoing research projects, detailed here. These include:

  • Completing a full draft of qualitative assessments of our top charities. In theory, we aim to maximize one thing with our top charity recommendations—total improvement in well-being per dollar spent—and this is what our cost-effectiveness estimates intend to capture. In practice, there are costs and benefits that we do not observe and are not estimated in our models, and so we allow for qualitative adjustments to affect our recommendations. We’re in the process of laying out a framework for qualitatively assessing relative organizational strength.
  • Updating key inputs into our cost-effectiveness estimates, such as:
    • How we use vitamin A deficiency data.
    • Using new malaria prevalence and child mortality data.
    • Using new data to update our estimates of costs incurred and target population reached for five of our top charities: Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program, the Against Malaria Foundation, Helen Keller International’s vitamin A supplementation program, Sightsavers’ deworming program, and Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative.
    • Better understanding the counterfactual to the work Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative has done in India. This goal is one we hope to achieve if we have time, but is not critical to our assessment.
Conclusion

The concrete goals we aim to achieve in 2019 follow. We plan to revisit this list in early 2020 to assess our progress relative to our expectations, and to publish a blog post accounting for our work:

  • Building research capacity
    • Have 3-5 signed offer letters in hand from new research staff.
  • Outreach experimentation
    • Decide whether to scale up Major Gifts work.
    • Conduct experiments related to messaging about our work to reach more people.
    • Complete search for a VP of Marketing.
  • Exploring new areas of research
    • Look into several new areas, including public health regulation and possible paths to support government aid agencies. Get substantially closer to the point where we have the staff structure to support grantmaking in new areas.
    • Stretch goal: Settle on a structure that we believe will support grantmaking in public health regulation and begin recommending grants in that area.
  • Improving GiveWell’s organizational strength
    • Hire one Operations Associate.
    • Improve the staff onboarding process at GiveWell.
    • Improve systems for soliciting feedback from staff.
    • Move to a new office.
  • Ongoing research
    • Our full list of concrete research goals for 2019 is in this document.

Notes

1. The majority of donations in support of GiveWell’s recommended charities are made in the fourth quarter of the year, and we generally don’t have a clear sense of the total amount given to GiveWell directly until the first quarter of the following year (and the second quarter for direct-to-charity donations that are reported to us), so we think this is the right time frame on which to assess major gifts work.

The post GiveWell’s plans for 2019 appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Review of GiveWell’s work in 2018

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 12:47

2018 was a successful year for GiveWell. We achieved most of our goals and our money moved (donations made to our recommended charities due our research) increased significantly.

Each year, we look back at the goals we set the previous year and reflect on how our progress compared to our expectations.

This post will briefly discuss our key achievements and failures in 2018. We describe in detail our progress on the goals we outlined in 2018 here.

In 2018, we:

  • Directed an estimated $65 million in donations to our top charities, not including the contributions of Good Ventures, a large foundation with which we work closely.
  • Added senior hires in operations and outreach: a Director of Operations (Whitney Shinkle) and Head of Growth (Ben Bateman). We expect Whitney and Ben to make major contributions to our work in these domains.
  • Continued to improve and expand our core research product, completing new intervention reports, deepening our analysis for several key inputs into our cost-effectiveness model, and providing more transparent explanations for how we decided to allocate funds between top charities.
Key achievements

Donations made to top charities as a result of our research

We currently estimate that the amount of money we directed to our top charities in 2018 was more than $65 million, not including the contributions from Good Ventures, a large foundation with which we work closely. This represents an increase of more than $20 million over 2017. The increase largely came from two multi-million dollar donations from donors who had supported GiveWell and/or our recommended charities in the past.

We plan to publish a full report on our 2018 donations and web traffic shortly.

Outreach and operations

We made two key senior hires in 2018: (1) Whitney Shinkle, who joined us in April as our new Director of Operations, and (2) Ben Bateman, who joined us in June as our first-ever Head of Growth.

We expect Whitney and Ben to play critical roles in laying the foundation to increase the amount of funding we can direct to our top charities. Whitney’s team, for example, is responsible for processing donations to our recommended charities, and for preparing GiveWell to increase the size of its staff. Ben is leading experiments to evaluate different ways we might increase the amount of funding we direct to our top charities via marketing and outreach.

Full details of our performance against our 2018 outreach and operations goals are here.

Research

We completed several projects that improved the quality of our cost-effectiveness estimates and how we write about them, and that we believe led to better decisions about where to allocate funds. For example, we made a major change to how we calculate worm intensity in the areas where our top charities work.

We also improved our transparency about these decisions, breaking our blog posts announcing our top charities into component parts to make them easier to follow (see 1, 2, and 3) and delving into more detail on our principles and funding gap analyses.

We published five new intervention reports, two of which were on the evidence for community-based management of acute malnutrition and syphilis screening and treatment during pregnancy, and recommended five new GiveWell Incubation Grants and two grant renewals. Two of our new grants supported Evidence Action Beta’s incubator and J-PAL’s Innovation in Government Initiative, respectively.

Full details of our performance on our 2018 research goals are here.

Key failures

Outreach and operations

We took a number of steps to improve our outreach to GiveWell’s existing donors. We had hoped this would lead to material improvements in retention of our donors as well as the amount of funding we were able to direct to our top charities from our donors. We haven’t completed a careful assessment of this work, but our belief at this point is that the steps we took last year are unlikely to have had a significant impact on donor retention.

Research

We made relatively little progress in exploring new areas of research (i.e., policy-oriented causes).

Additional information

This page has more details on our progress toward the goals we laid out in early 2018.

We plan to publish a post soon detailing our plans for 2019.

The post Review of GiveWell’s work in 2018 appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

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