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September 2021 open thread

Tue, 09/14/2021 - 11:45

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 previous open threads here.

The post September 2021 open thread appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

June 2021 open thread

Mon, 06/14/2021 - 09:04

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 previous open threads here.

The post June 2021 open thread appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Early signs show that you gave more in 2020 than 2019—thank you!

Tue, 05/11/2021 - 11:40

Our donor community appears to have given significantly more in 2020 than 2019, according to early data on donations we processed.

Growth was strong relative to previous years—even 2019, which also had strong growth—and across many different dimensions. Overall, donations to GiveWell more than doubled in 2020.

We estimate that these donations will collectively save more than 12,000 lives; provide over 2 million deworming treatments to children, leading to an approximate increase in that group’s lifetime earnings of more than $21 million; and deliver almost 3,000 cash transfers to low-income households. For simplicity, the impact estimates in this paragraph exclude some donation types, and so don’t represent the full impact of donations to GiveWell in 2020.[1]

“Donations to GiveWell” refers to donations that we received directly:

  • It includes donations to GiveWell for our recommended organizations—including for the Maximum Impact Fund—and unrestricted funding, which may be used for our operations.[2]
  • It excludes donations that were made directly to our recommended organizations (via their own donation platforms) as a direct result of our research, or to other groups that accept donations for GiveWell and/or our recommended organizations, since we don’t yet have complete information about those donations.[3] It also excludes GiveWell Incubation Grant funding.[4] Most donations from Open Philanthropy, a major philanthropic grantmaker with which we work closely, are part of this excluded category because they were made directly to our recommended organizations.[5]We expect these excluded donations to account for a large proportion of total funding we influenced last year. For example, in 2019, we received $54.9 million in “donations to GiveWell.” When we received complete information about donations made directly to our recommended organizations or groups supporting them due to our research, and included them in our assessment of our influence, the amount of money we tracked increased to $155.1 million.[6]

While this post is only a preliminary look at our donors’ collective giving last year, the early signs show incredible growth. Thank you to our donor community!

The takeaway: donations to GiveWell more than doubled

We received more than twice as much funding in 2020 as we did in 2019.

Please click to see larger image.

All amounts are rounded to the nearest $100,000. This chart excludes most support from Open Philanthropy and most GiveWell Incubation Grants.[7]

A caveat: we can slice our data in many different ways. Please take care when comparing the figures in this post to previously-published data on our metrics, which may include or exclude donations differently. (And don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments!)

The details: growth was strong across many dimensions last year

Amount given by donor size category

In 2020, we saw growth in total donations from every donor size category.

Please click to see larger image.

All amounts are rounded to the nearest $100,000. Donors’ size buckets are determined by their total giving over the course of the metrics year.

Amount of unrestricted funding

Donors collectively gave more than twice as much unrestricted funding in 2020 as in 2019.

Unrestricted support is especially valuable to us because of its flexibility. We use it to support our operations and may grant it to our recommended organizations, following our “excess assets” policy, which caps the amount of funding we can hold for our own work.

Please click to see larger image.

All amounts are rounded to the nearest $100,000.

We expect to grant a portion of the unrestricted support we received in 2020 to organizations we recommend.

Number of donors

The total number of donors who gave to GiveWell in 2020 was up 67% from the previous year. Over 40,000 donors gave to GiveWell last year.

Please click to see larger image. What caused this growth? (It’s hard to say!)

As far as we can tell, the vast majority of our growth was organic: people found GiveWell and donated, for reasons we can’t directly attribute to our outreach efforts. For example, people may have searched for “effective donations” online and landed on GiveWell’s website, or heard about GiveWell from a friend and decided to donate.

It’s difficult to measure the impact of our outreach activities, such as advertising, on our growth. Many donors neither report what causes them to donate (by filling out our donor survey) nor give in such a way that we can independently determine what led them to give (for example, by donating through a custom link we share on a podcast advertisement).

Even when donors do report their donation as being due to a particular activity, we may still be missing important parts of the story. For example, if someone donates because their friend told them about GiveWell, and the friend heard about GiveWell through a podcast, we would guess the donor would be likely to report this as a “personal referral” and that we wouldn’t know that the podcast played a role at all. This challenge, while not unique to GiveWell, makes it difficult to tell satisfying stories about what leads people to give.

That said, we do have some limited data. In 2020, we tracked about $5 million in growth that was directly due to our outreach efforts. Now, moving into the realm of speculation: we know that 2020 was an unusual year, and it’s likely that some donations are attributable to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the United States’ Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was designed to encourage charitable giving.[8] Several large donors told us that the CARES Act influenced the amount they gave last year. More speculatively, while many people have experienced economic hardship due to the pandemic, for some donors pandemic restrictions in activities last year might have freed up some disposable income, which they chose to donate. It seems likely to us that these factors contributed to the growth that we saw among our donor community.

We’ll publish a complete metrics report later this year

For now, we’re celebrating this early positive news and the huge impact that our donor community had last year. Thank you for your generosity during this difficult time.

The post Early signs show that you gave more in 2020 than 2019—thank you! appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Update on Board meeting transparency

Thu, 04/15/2021 - 12:29

One of GiveWell’s organizational values is maintaining a high degree of transparency about our work. As part of our transparency efforts, we’ve published written materials and audio recordings from each meeting of GiveWell’s Board of Directors since we were founded.

We recently increased the quality of and level of detail in the written materials we share with our Board members prior to each meeting. We made this update to improve our engagement with our Board. As we’re continuing to publish these written materials, this update will also improve our public transparency.

We’ve decided to stop publishing audio recordings going forward, as we don’t think they were very helpful to understanding our work and there were costs to producing them.

Overall, we believe that our updated written Board materials provide a better view of our governance than the previous combination of less-detailed written materials and audio.

As no longer sharing audio is the end of a longstanding practice, we want to explain in a bit more detail what you can expect from our Board meeting materials going forward and why we’re making this change.

Why we share Board meeting materials

We’ve published materials from our Board meetings since GiveWell was founded in 2007. While we don’t share everything publicly—we redact sensitive or confidential information, such as details about staff performance (more here)—the amount we share is uncommon in the nonprofit sector. Our aim is to be open about key topics and questions related to GiveWell’s progress and future plans.

We’ve increased Board engagement through written materials, which we publish on our website

Before each meeting, we share written materials with Board members.1You can see an example of the materials here, under “Attachments.” jQuery('#footnote_plugin_tooltip_13254_1_1').tooltip({ tip: '#footnote_plugin_tooltip_text_13254_1_1', tipClass: 'footnote_tooltip', effect: 'fade', predelay: 0, fadeInSpeed: 200, delay: 400, fadeOutSpeed: 200, position: 'top right', relative: true, offset: [10, 10], }); We’ve recently set the goal of using these materials to tell Board members approximately everything they need to know about the topics on the meeting agenda, which means these materials are more substantive now. In the past, we weren’t committed to writing everything down.

We now ask the Board to closely review the materials before each meeting so that they can send us questions, which we answer in writing. Meetings center on any remaining questions about our written responses.

We publish all of these materials on our website after each meeting, including (starting with the August 2020 meeting) Board member questions and our answers.

We’re no longer publishing audio recordings due to limited benefit

Our transparency goal is to be open about our governance. We don’t think sharing Board audio meaningfully increases our openness, and it involves costs.

Board meetings tend to focus on in-depth discussion of a small number of issues rather than the overall story of our progress and priorities. Given that, we don’t think meeting audio by itself adds much to our audience’s overall understanding of our work. As with written materials, there’s a cost to publishing audio; redacting sensitive information takes time. We also suspect that recording the meetings for publication imposed minor costs on the quality of the discussions.

Taking these costs into consideration along with the limited benefits, we’ve decided to stop publishing meeting audio. The August 2020 meeting, materials from which were published today, is the last one for which we expect to publish audio.

We remain committed to transparency

Although we’re ending the practice of sharing audio, we remain committed to significant transparency about our governance and believe that we’re better achieving our goals through the improvements we’ve made to our written materials.

We would appreciate hearing from you in the comments if you have any feedback on our approach.

Notes[+]

↑1 You can see an example of the materials here, under “Attachments.” function footnote_expand_reference_container_13254_1() { jQuery('#footnote_references_container_13254_1').show(); jQuery('#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button_13254_1').text('−'); } function footnote_collapse_reference_container_13254_1() { jQuery('#footnote_references_container_13254_1').hide(); jQuery('#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button_13254_1').text('+'); } function footnote_expand_collapse_reference_container_13254_1() { if (jQuery('#footnote_references_container_13254_1').is(':hidden')) { footnote_expand_reference_container_13254_1(); } else { footnote_collapse_reference_container_13254_1(); } } function footnote_moveToAnchor_13254_1(p_str_TargetID) { footnote_expand_reference_container_13254_1(); 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 * 0.2 }, 380); } }

The post Update on Board meeting transparency appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

March 2021 open thread

Wed, 03/24/2021 - 13:07

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 previous open threads here.

The post March 2021 open thread appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Donors in the Netherlands can now make tax-deductible gifts through GiveWell

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 12:54

We’re excited to announce that donations to GiveWell are now tax-deductible in the Netherlands!

Dutch donors can make donations on the GiveWell donate page. Our top recommendation for all donors is to give to GiveWell’s Maximum Impact Fund, which we grant regularly to our recommended charities according to where we believe donations can do the most good.

Additional details for donors in the Netherlands

GiveWell is a registered Public Benefit Organization (Algemeen Nut Beogende Instelling, or ANBI) in the Netherlands. Our status is listed here, under our legal name, The Clear Fund. Our identification number, or RSIN, is 8262.78.516.

We are happy to accept one-time donations, recurring donations, and five-year gift agreements (periodic gift agreements) for donors in the Netherlands. For general questions, please contact donations@givewell.org. Dutch donors who are specifically interested in setting up a periodic agreement should email operations@givewell.org.

Information for donors outside of the Netherlands

Our donors have requested additional giving options outside of the United States. The Netherlands is the first country in which we have registered outside of the U.S. We plan to register in additional countries going forward.

Current information about tax-deductibility for GiveWell donors outside of the Netherlands and the United States may be found here.

We would like to thank Effective Altruism Netherlands for their help with our registration process. Thank you!

The post Donors in the Netherlands can now make tax-deductible gifts through GiveWell appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Do you have questions about giving in 2020?

Mon, 12/21/2020 - 14:00

Many people make charitable donations in December. If you’re considering making a gift in the coming weeks and you want more information before doing so, we’re happy to help!

We’re glad to answer questions in writing and on the phone. For written responses, please email donations@givewell.org or leave a comment on this blog post. For a phone call, please fill out this form to request a call with a GiveWell staff member.

We’re happy to field questions on topics like:

  • which organizations we recommend most highly today and why,
  • the pros and cons of different donation methods,
  • the tax deductibility of different giving options and the implications of the CARES Act for U.S. donors,
  • support for logistical questions about making a donation,
  • additional details on the Maximum Impact Fund, our top recommendation for donors,
  • and more.

We hope to hear from you!

The post Do you have questions about giving in 2020? appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

December 2020 open thread

Tue, 12/15/2020 - 14:49

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 2020 open thread here.

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

Staff members’ personal donations for giving season 2020

Thu, 12/10/2020 - 12:13

For this post, a number of GiveWell staff members volunteered to share the thinking behind their personal donations for the year. We’ve published similar posts in previous years.1See our staff giving posts from 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013. jQuery('#footnote_plugin_tooltip_13135_1').tooltip({ tip: '#footnote_plugin_tooltip_text_13135_1', tipClass: 'footnote_tooltip', effect: 'fade', predelay: 0, fadeInSpeed: 200, delay: 400, fadeOutSpeed: 200, position: 'top right', relative: true, offset: [10, 10], }); Staff are listed alphabetically by first name.

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

Andrew Martin (Senior Research Associate)

It’s remarkable to me that the programs of GiveWell’s top charities—several of which we estimate can save a life for $3,000 to $5,000—are bottlenecked by limited funding. With additional funding, we expect that our top charities could scale up their work further or expand their programs to new countries.

I’m excited to make a very small dent in our top charities’ funding gaps by giving my annual donation to GiveWell’s Maximum Impact Fund.

Catherine Hollander (Senior Research Communications Officer)

This year, I am planning to give 80% of my donation to GiveWell’s Maximum Impact Fund. I am excited to support all of our recommended organizations. I am glad for the research team to choose where my donation can achieve the most when it’s granted—plus, I look forward to the email letting me know what impact my contribution had.

I plan to allocate the remaining 20% of my donation to support criminal justice reform and the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). These decisions have been informed by the work of Chloe Cockburn and Alexander Berger at Open Philanthropy.

Most years, I save up and make all of my donations at the end of the year. While I am allocating the majority of my donation this year in December as usual, I also made several donations throughout the year to social justice organizations.

Devin Jacob (Technical Project Manager)

This year I am giving 22% of my donation to GiveWell’s Maximum Impact Fund. In previous years I have selected specific GiveWell-recommended charities to support, for reasons varying from greater confidence in specific interventions to placing less value on saving lives relative to improving lives. This year I gave most of my charitable budget away prior to the end-of-year giving season, and am choosing to give the remainder to the Maximum Impact Fund, where I am confident it will do a lot of good.

My other giving in 2020 breaks down as follows:

  • Social justice and policy-related causes – 25%. This includes organizations working on issues including immigration, the Black Lives Matter movement and criminal justice reform, COVID-related campaigns not related to health care, support for labor activism, etc.
  • Domestic political campaigns – 19%. I donated more than I usually do to political campaigns this year.
  • Nonprofit news organizations – 7%. For example, CalMatters, The Center for Investigative Reporting, etc. Much of this giving is done jointly with my partner.
  • Local charity, both formal and informal – 19%. This is a rough estimate of cash gifts to people in my community and a local mutual aid organization.
  • GiveWell-recommended charities, various – 7%. In the course of my regular work I make many small donations through GiveWell while testing payment platforms. These are spread somewhat randomly amongst our top charities, with occasional gifts to standout charities as well. I choose not to refund these donations, which results in a somewhat haphazard allocation of charitable dollars. I am comfortable with that because I believe all of the charities on our list do great work, and I’m not particularly concerned with optimizing the impact of all my donations.

Elie Hassenfeld (Chief Executive Officer)

We’re giving the vast majority of our donation to GiveWell’s Maximum Impact Fund. GiveWell’s top charities have huge, direct impacts on the people they serve.

We also gave smaller amounts to other organizations: ~10% to a political campaign, ~5% to support people in our local community who were struggling financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and much smaller amounts to other organizations.

Isabel Arjmand (Internal Communications Officer)

With my annual giving, the most important thing to me is to have an impact on improving the lives of people who are in need and to play a small role in alleviating global inequality. I’m extremely lucky to be in a position to donate, and I believe I have an obligation to give away a portion of my disposable income. There is so much injustice and suffering one could address, but of all the issues in the world, global poverty and inequality is especially massive—and it’s an area where, thanks to GiveWell, I can have an impact.

So, I’ll be giving the vast majority (over 80%) of my donation to GiveWell’s Maximum Impact Fund. The Maximum Impact Fund is, as the name implies, the best place I know of to donate in terms of expected impact.

I feel conflicted about giving any of my annual charitable contribution to something other than the Maximum Impact Fund, because the most important aspect of my giving is how much it helps other people. But I’m inclined to support some other causes that I believe to be very important, but that lend themselves less well to GiveWell-style evaluations in some cases, and that in other cases may well be less impactful per dollar donated. The rest of my giving will go to:

  • Organization(s) working to address climate change. I haven’t chosen one yet, but I plan to look at the research done by Founders Pledge and by Giving Green, and also consider Earthjustice, which I’ve given to in previous years.
  • The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), to support and facilitate immigration to the U.S. I learned about IRAP through the work of Open Philanthropy.
  • GiveDirectly (in Africa, not its U.S. program). As a financially privileged person in the U.S., I like the idea of giving some cash directly to people who really need it. I essentially believe that in an ideal world, the distribution of global wealth would be radically different, and a donation to GiveDirectly is a small step toward and signal of support for that future. This donation is small because I expect the Maximum Impact Fund has a greater impact on global poverty per dollar donated.

I also made small donations to racial justice organizations and political organizing, and to directly support people in need, earlier this year. Those donations were more emotionally motivated and came out of what I’d otherwise have spent on myself rather than my charitable budget.

James Snowden (Program Officer)

This year, I’m giving all of my donation to GiveWell’s Maximum Impact Fund. GiveWell’s recommendations continue to be the best way I know of to help people.

Earlier this year, I considered giving to organizations working to address racial injustice in the United States or the U.K. I decided not to. My conception of justice is centered on inequality. The greatest source of inequality in the world continues to be the accident of where someone is born. I think I can do more to create a just world, as well as help people as much as possible, by continuing to focus my giving internationally through GiveWell.

Jim Bobowski (Director of Marketing)

Although not by design, my family typically gives in three categories about equally each year. One third is directed locally toward community programs (school, Scouts, sporting programs) that we have a direct connection with and need support. One third is directed domestically to causes outside of our community. The final third is directed internationally, so we consciously think about and help people who face incredible economic and health hardships.

Our end-of-the-year decision was made significantly easier this year. Since we contributed extensively to political races, we needed to allocate only our international giving, a task made easier through the Maximum Impact Fund. After a year working at GiveWell and seeing the rigor and care with which the research team approaches each funding decision, I am convinced there is no better way I can help people abroad than entrusting Elie and the research team to allocate my family’s donation.

We also decided to take a portion of our planned 2021 international giving and turn it into a recurring GiveWell donation, also directed to the Maximum Impact Fund. I am hopeful that doing this will make giving more naturally embedded in our lives. I’m also hopeful it will provide our research team a bit more funding throughout the year and flexibility over which programs they support.

Justin Loiseau (Senior Research Associate)

My partner and I focused our giving this year on three overlapping objectives: maximize impact, increase incomes, and reduce climate change.

  • To maximize impact, we gave to GiveWell’s Maximum Impact Fund. We especially like this fund because it allocates money based on timely opportunities and overall room for more funding among GiveWell’s top charities.
  • Since we personally place a higher value on increasing incomes relative to saving lives than GiveWell, we also gave directly to GiveDirectly. With COVID-19, we expect GiveDirectly’s transfers have had a greater cushioning effect on household economic shocks than normal.
  • We are in the process of offsetting our (current and future) family’s carbon footprints. Rather than directly offsetting via carbon credits, we believe radical policy change and innovation are more likely to mitigate catastrophic climate change. We are therefore donating our carbon-footprint-equivalent cost to organizations working on these issues. This year, we donated to the Founders Pledge Climate Change Fund to take advantage of its match offer, but would otherwise have donated to the Clean Air Task Force (CATF). The CATF is included in the Founders Pledge’s prospectus and is also recommended by IDinsight’s Giving Green initiative.

Miranda Kaplan (Content Editor)

Though I haven’t been as thoughtful as I’d hoped to be this year about charitable giving, I’m happy to report that the majority of my family’s total giving will go to GiveWell’s Maximum Impact Fund.

My partner and I are longtime monthly donors to GiveDirectly, have remained so this year, and plan to continue that support in the future. We think the idea behind GiveDirectly’s work is important, and with our contributions we hope to both directly finance GiveDirectly and encourage the practice of empowering those living in poverty by providing them with cash they can use as they see fit. Ultimately, though, I want the bulk of our giving to do as much good as possible, and donating to the Maximum Impact Fund both is more cost-effective and allows GiveWell the flexibility to respond to changing levels of need among our recommended charities. Earlier this year, we committed to donating the federal stimulus payments we received in response to COVID-19, a total of $2,400; after many months of hemming and hawing, we’ve decided that all of that money will go to the Maximum Impact Fund.

Beyond that, my partner and I have made many small donations throughout the year to a number of causes, including organizations advocating for racial justice, journalism nonprofits, political campaigns, and individuals we know facing financial hardship here and abroad. Together these gifts made up probably no more than 20% of our total giving. In many of these cases, we felt fairly confident that a small amount of money would mean a great deal to the recipient and would be near-immediately forgotten by us. Though I hope to continue steering more of our giving to the most cost-effective opportunities possible, I imagine we’ll always reserve some of it for similar funding emergencies that are literally or metaphorically closer to home.

Natalie Crispin (Program Officer)

We will be giving our annual gift to GiveWell’s Maximum Impact Fund.

GiveWell is considering a few options for allocating Maximum Impact Fund donations received in the last quarter of 2020, including both life-saving and income-increasing programs. We are unlikely to be able to close all of the highly cost-effective funding gaps we see this year, and I am excited to help narrow the gap.

I’ve had the opportunity over the last ten years to work directly with each of our top charities. In early 2020, it looked like this year would be very different from past years. At the start of the pandemic, it seemed inevitable that the programs our top charities support would be significantly disrupted, if not fully cancelled, for an indefinite amount of time. But these predictions did not play out, with most programs going forward close to their original schedules with modifications to keep health workers and program participants safe. This is in no small part because of the flexibility and dedication shown by the staff of our top charities and their partners in government health and education ministries, who redesigned programs, handled new logistical challenges, stepped up coordination in a time of remote work, and added new processes to already full workloads. I am very glad to be among their supporters.

Neil Buddy Shah (Managing Director)

The overall goal of my partner’s and my giving is to improve the well-being of living beings as much as possible. Therefore, we plan to split our giving this year roughly evenly between:

  • GiveWell’s Maximum Impact Fund, because it has incredibly cost-effective, direct impacts on saving and improving lives, better than anything I have been able to find elsewhere.
  • IDinsight, because of its work to ensure that large-scale poverty alleviation programs are informed by rigorous evidence on what is most effective. I also used to be CEO and co-founder of IDinsight and believe in its long-term potential to create large-scale improvements in people’s lives, especially through its partnerships with governments across Africa and Asia and with large, evidence-oriented funders and nonprofits like GiveWell.
  • Animal welfare causes, supporting a collection of opportunities to reduce animal suffering.

Nicole Zok (Content Editing Lead)

For the past few years I’ve been donating 10% of my income, which is what I intend to do ~indefinitely. I believe that most of my impact comes through my work, but also find it incredibly motivating that as an individual donor I can save multiple lives per year with my donations.

I feel like someone says this every year, but I think GiveWell’s research team is in the strongest position it’s ever been in, and I believe even more strongly than in previous years that our recommendations are some of the best opportunities I could give to. Since I want my donation to go where it’s most needed, I’m giving to the Maximum Impact Fund. When I’ve donated to this option in past years (what we previously called “grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion”), knowing that some of my own money was on the line made me feel a lot more invested when it came time to think about where to direct this funding. I think that’s a helpful motivator, though not a crux for why I chose this option.

This year in particular, lots of causes have tugged at my heartstrings. Humanity has come an incredibly long way in the past 100,000 years (I’d much rather be alive now than at any other time in the past), but it’s clear that there’s still a lot that could be better for the people on this blue dot. All of the reminders this year of the many ways in which people are suffering have really solidified for me that there will always be tons of causes in need of support, which makes me feel even more committed to spending my scarce resources in a way that I believe will do the most good (according to my values). I believe that my donation to the Maximum Impact Fund will save a couple of children’s lives, and I don’t know of anything I’d rather support.

Olivia Larsen (Philanthropy Advisor)

I’m very excited that I gave the vast majority of my annual donation to GiveWell’s Maximum Impact Fund! I continue to be thrilled at the prospect of being able to donate to charities that can save a human life for just a few thousand dollars, and I’m very lucky to be in a financial position to donate.

With most of my annual charitable giving, I want to have as much of an impact as I can. But I also come across opportunities during the year to support causes I care about, and it feels important to me to contribute toward those (most notably, a few different bail funds in the United States) as ways to take tangible action toward values I hold, rather than spending on myself.

Steph Stojanovic (Director of Development)

My family committed to giving 10% of our income several years ago. We will likely split our giving between GiveWell’s Maximum Impact Fund and unrestricted support of One for the World. We think it’s important to support groups that introduce new audiences to effective giving. My husband is a former board member of One for the World, and we give to it because we think it is doing a good job of spreading the concept of effective giving to college and graduate students. If I didn’t work at GiveWell, we would donate to GiveWell in an unrestricted manner to support operations and outreach expenses, but it feels a little weird to pay some of my own salary in a roundabout way, so we chose the Maximum Impact Fund instead! It is the best way to maximally leverage GiveWell’s research expertise.

Teryn Mattox (Program Officer)

I am extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to make the world a better place through both my day-to-day work and my monthly giving. I am so proud of and excited by the work we do at GiveWell to find giving opportunities that improve the lives of the global poor, and I think the Maximum Impact Fund is one of the best ways donors can improve human welfare with their money.

I also strongly weigh the welfare of animals in the moral calculus that drives my giving. In 2020, my family decided to transition nearly all of our giving to organizations promoting animal welfare. I feel comfortable making this switch given the amount of time and energy I devote to furthering GiveWell’s work improving the lives of the global poor. We felt particularly compelled to do this based on the intensity of the suffering inflicted upon animals, the staggering numbers 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. We give to a variety of organizations promoting farmed animal welfare, most of which are recommended by Animal Charity Evaluators. We also give to the Effective Altruism Animal Welfare Fund and give additional money to several of the charities endorsed by the fund.

Whitney Shinkle (Director of Operations)

I am a relative outlier among GiveWell staff. I believe strongly in GiveWell’s work and the need for effectiveness to be a critical consideration in deciding where public and private “development” dollars are spent. However, I also feel a particularly strong obligation to support people who are suffering harm caused by other people. There are a lot of nuances that could be drawn, but generally I am most concerned by war, criminal and political violence, and related social injustices. Not least among the reasons that I find them particularly galling is the degree to which these problems disrupt and prevent access to simple, well-known, cost-effective life improvements like basic health care, particularly for vulnerable people.

This year I am giving ~10% of my donation to GiveWell’s Maximum Impact Fund. I think all the programs GiveWell recommends do excellent work, and I trust the research team to identify where these funds can do the most good at any given time.

The remaining ~90% went to a number of organizations that work in areas less amenable to GiveWell’s particular analyses (though I hold out hope that future years might see more work in these arenas). I mostly donate to organizations with which I and/or respected colleagues have personal professional experience and that I believe to be making good efforts to demonstrate effectiveness.

Of this amount, the majority went to organizations that work on:

  • International conflict mitigation: supporting refugees and internally displaced persons, positive peace-building efforts, and economic redevelopment.
  • Domestic social justice: racial and restorative justice, immigration, anti-human trafficking, and anti-domestic violence.

A small minority was directed to organizations that address my concerns less directly. These organizations work on:

  • Specific political campaigns and democracy-building
  • Environmental conservation and climate change
  • Nonprofit news

My volunteer time this year went mostly toward U.S. political campaigns, as well as some advocacy on behalf of U.S.-based racial equity organizations.

Notes[+]

↑1 See our staff giving posts from 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013. function footnote_expand_reference_container_13135() { jQuery('#footnote_references_container_13135').show(); jQuery('#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button_13135').text('−'); } function footnote_collapse_reference_container_13135() { jQuery('#footnote_references_container_13135').hide(); jQuery('#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button_13135').text('+'); } function footnote_expand_collapse_reference_container_13135() { if (jQuery('#footnote_references_container_13135').is(':hidden')) { footnote_expand_reference_container_13135(); } else { footnote_collapse_reference_container_13135(); } } function footnote_moveToAnchor_13135(p_str_TargetID) { footnote_expand_reference_container_13135(); 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 * 0.20 }, 380);/*duration*/ } }

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GiveWell’s money moved in 2019

Wed, 12/09/2020 - 14:50

GiveWell donors contributed over $150 million to our recommended charities in 2019. This is the first year in our 13-year history we have reached this remarkable milestone.

While it is easy to celebrate this large headline figure, we should not lose sight of the transformative impact this number represents, nor should we overlook the compassion and generosity of the donors behind these dollars. We estimate that donations made to our top charities in 2019 will:

  • Avert the deaths of between 19,000 and 32,000 people,
  • Provide parasitic worm treatments to over 12 million children, and
  • Deliver unconditional cash transfers to over 14,000 families.[1]

The research we do to identify and recommend charities is only one part of the equation—it is the generosity of donors that turns our recommendations into tangible impact. It is a privilege to partner with donors to create real, measurable change and to direct funding where it can make the most difference in people’s lives. Thank you to our community of donors.

While we shared a preliminary update in February on the funding we directed to our recommended charities in 2019 (our “2019 money moved”), we have since completed all data gathering to present a full and complete picture of funding in 2019. This post lays out highlights from our final 2019 money moved report and shares more details about how donors gave to GiveWell’s recommended charities in 2019.[2]

Summary of influence: In 2019, GiveWell influenced charitable giving in several ways. The following table summarizes our understanding of this influence.[3]

Headline money moved: In 2019, we confidently tracked $152 million in money moved to our top charities, standout charities, and via our GiveWell Incubation Grants program. This amount, which we call “headline money moved,” only counts donations that we are confident were influenced by our recommendations. This includes the grants we make through the Maximum Impact Fund.

We also estimate that we played a significant role in influencing an additional $20 million in donations, but we are unable to attribute these donations directly to GiveWell. Because we are more uncertain about this influence, we do not include this amount in our “headline money moved” figure but include it in our “best guess of total money directed to charities” figure.[4]

The chart below shows the breakdown of our headline money moved into the following categories: grants that Open Philanthropy made to our recommended charities, donations from other donors to our recommended charities, and Incubation Grants. Please note that Open Philanthropy support (marked in gray) does not include funding it provided for GiveWell Incubation Grants, which are shown separately in purple.

Money moved by charity: Our eight top charities received the majority of our money moved. Our eight standout charities received a total of $10.7 million.

Money moved by program: Our top and standout charities implement a variety of health and poverty alleviation programs. But some of our recommended charities work on the same type of program. For example, we recommend four charities for their programs that support treatments for parasitic worm infections (deworming programs), two charities for their programs to prevent malaria (Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program and the Against Malaria Foundation), and four charities for their food fortification programs. Here, we look at the breakdown of money moved by program type.

The majority of our money moved, including donations to our Maximum Impact Fund, was directed to malaria prevention programs—followed by cash transfers, vitamin A supplementation, deworming, and mass media campaigns. Other programs each received less than 1% of our total money moved.

Money moved by size of donor: We also analyze our money moved by the amount that different donors give, which we categorize into six different “size buckets” (see the chart below, which excludes funding from Open Philanthropy).

A caveat: Our analysis of money moved by donor size is incomplete because we do not have data disaggregated by individual donor for all of the donations we track as money moved—primarily as a result of new European privacy regulations that have led some of our recommended charities to share less-detailed data with us.[5] Among the donations we can attribute to individual donors, the amount of money given increased across all donor size categories compared to 2018. Details are available in the full report.


Donations supporting GiveWell’s operations: In expectation of organizational growth, GiveWell raised $17.3 million in unrestricted funding (which we mostly use to support our operations) in 2019, compared to $12.4 million in 2018. The 14 largest individual donors, plus Open Philanthropy, contributed 66% of GiveWell’s operational funding in 2019. GiveWell’s total operating expenses in 2019 were $5.9 million.

We restrict the amount that any one individual or entity can provide to our operations to 20% of our operating budget.

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

References

Footnotes for this post may be found here.

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Our recommendations for giving in 2020

Thu, 11/19/2020 - 13:21

You can have a major, positive impact today by choosing to support organizations backed by strong evidence: our top charities.

We recommend the nonprofits that offer the most impact per dollar we’re aware of. In fact, we estimate that you can save a life by donating $3,000-$5,000 to our top recommendation.[1]

If you’re a longtime donor, you’ll recognize most of this year’s top charities. You may even wonder why our list hasn’t changed much. However, a tremendous amount of research—truly thousands of hours—has been done to ensure that these organizations continue to meet our high standards. And although there are many familiar names, one is entirely new: New Incentives.

We’re proud to share our recommendations and grateful to you for considering supporting them. We hope you’ll read on!

Summary

In this post, we’ll cover:

How to give in 2020

Our nine top charities are the best opportunities we’ve found for donors to save or improve lives.

We conduct an intense, monthslong assessment of each top charity before determining it can be added to our list. All top charities meet our high standards for evidence of effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and transparency. We believe they will use donations well.

However, our work to ensure that our top charities meet our standards isn’t the end of our process. We continually assess where funding is most needed within our list of top charities. Donors can support the highest-priority needs by giving to our Maximum Impact Fund.

The Maximum Impact Fund is our top recommendation for donors who want to do as much good as possible with their gift. We regularly make grants from the Maximum Impact Fund to our top charities. We direct these grants where we believe they will achieve the most good at the time they’re given.

Our top charities’ funding needs constantly change. For example, a top charity might identify an opportunity to work in a new country that requires more funding than it has on hand. Another might receive a large grant that fills its immediate funding needs. We continually monitor these changes and re-prioritize our top charities’ needs.

Giving to the Maximum Impact Fund is the best way to take advantage of our latest research and to ensure your donation is used as well as possible, even within this great group of organizations.

If you prefer to select an individual charity instead, our 2020 top charities are:

  • Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program
  • Against Malaria Foundation (AMF)
  • Helen Keller International’s vitamin A supplementation program
  • SCI Foundation
  • Sightsavers’ deworming program
  • New Incentives (new this year!)
  • Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative
  • The END Fund’s deworming program
  • GiveDirectly

They are listed in order of how we currently prioritize funding them. When we prioritize our charities’ needs at this time of year, we account for donations from the Maximum Impact Fund in the third quarter of the year and our recommendations to Open Philanthropy, the largest single donor to our top charities.[2]

Open Philanthropy takes GiveWell’s recommendations into account when deciding how much to grant to each top charity. Usually, we make all of our recommendations to Open Philanthropy in November. This year, we made some of our recommendations in November and asked Open Philanthropy to make a second round of grants to our top charities in January 2021. If other donors fully meet the highest-priority needs we see today before Open Philanthropy makes its January grants, we’ll ask Open Philanthropy to donate to priorities further down our list. It won’t give less funding overall—it’ll just fund the next-highest-priority needs.[3]

Our work on COVID-19

We spent several months in 2020 assessing potential giving opportunities that could mitigate the effects of COVID-19. We followed research about emerging needs and spoke with experts and charities, including GiveWell’s top charities, about the needs they foresaw or were experiencing.

As part of this work, we looked for giving opportunities outside of our top charities list that could be as cost-effective or more cost-effective than our top charities, although we had less confidence in the impact of these opportunities due to our short review timelines and the uncertain nature of the pandemic. We recommended six grants totaling $3,656,000.[4] Beyond these six, we did not find opportunities that we believed to be as or more cost-effective than our top charities.

Our top charities implement crucial, cost-effective health programs that are continuing even during the pandemic. However, it was important to understand how the pandemic would impact their work—they all support programs that typically involve direct contact with people, such as hosting community meetings and visiting people’s homes. We looked at how our top charities adapted their delivery models during COVID-19, as well as funding needs and plans that were disrupted due to the pandemic. Overall, the pandemic had a fairly modest effect on the cost-effectiveness and funding needs of our top charities.[5] We continue to recommend that donors support our top charities via GiveWell’s Maximum Impact Fund.

We plan to follow needs that continue to emerge due to the pandemic, which may lead us to make additional recommendations in the future.

Key research updates

All year long, we follow our top charities’ work to confirm that they continue to meet our standards and to understand their funding needs and plans. There are a few major ways in which we do this:

  • We speak with each top charity regularly. Depending on whether we have major open questions, we typically check in every one to four months.
  • We ask each top charity for detailed information on the delivery of its programs, so we can see if it’s successfully reaching people.
  • We ask each top charity for its latest spending information and what it plans to do next.
  • We monitor new academic research and conduct our own analyses to improve our understanding of our top charities’ programs.

This year, we completed several large research projects to improve our understanding of our top charities, including:

  • Digging deeply into AMF’s monitoring. Although we always ask our top charities for information on the delivery of their programs, we conducted a particularly deep investigation this year into how AMF monitors whether it is successfully reaching people with malaria nets.[6] We have higher confidence in our cost-effectiveness estimate of AMF as a result. (More)
  • Updating how long we expect malaria nets to last. An important input into our assessment of AMF’s impact is how long AMF-distributed malaria nets last. This year, we did an analysis to more accurately estimate the coverage we should expect from its nets. This was a major project, but it did not significantly change our estimate of the durability of nets, although we now have much higher confidence in our estimate. (More)
  • Improving how we model parasitic worm infections among populations reached by the deworming programs we support. We looked at data on the prevalence and intensity of worm infections to more accurately assess the impact of deworming treatments. We also updated the way we account for infection intensity. This project had a significant impact—sometimes positive, sometimes negative—on our cost-effectiveness estimates for the four deworming charities we recommend and led us to reprioritize their funding needs. (More in 2020 GiveWell cost-effectiveness analysis — version 2, “Deworm the World” tab, cell A41)

We also completed smaller projects, such as:

  • Better understanding and more transparently sharing how GiveWell-directed support for malaria charities influences other malaria funders. We now estimate the impact on malaria funders in each country, rather than using a general estimate across countries. However, because our estimates did not significantly change in the largest countries in which AMF and Malaria Consortium work (the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria, respectively), the overall impact on their cost-effectiveness was small. (More)
  • Developing a new approach to modeling the impact of receiving vitamin A supplements on children’s future productivity and earnings in adulthood. In most countries, this led to a small decrease in our estimate of Helen Keller International’s cost-effectiveness. (More)
  • Surveying a subset of our donors to understand how they compare the value of averting deaths at different ages to use as an input in our moral weights. This update had a minimal effect on our cost-effectiveness estimates for our top charities. (More)

In addition to all of our work to improve our understanding of our existing top charities, we also researched new, promising programs and charities to potentially recommend. We’re excited to announce a new top charity this year: New Incentives.

Introducing New Incentives

New Incentives incentivizes caregivers of infants to complete a series of routine, potentially life-saving childhood immunizations by providing them with a small cash transfer when each vaccine is given. It operates in North West Nigeria, where childhood immunization rates are low.

We named New Incentives a top charity this year after considering many factors, including the results of a high-quality study of its program. The study was conducted from July 2018 to February 2020 by IDinsight and was funded by Open Philanthropy at our recommendation. Based on that study, we estimate that New Incentives increases the use of incentivized vaccines by 22 percentage points.[7]

The study results, combined with New Incentives’ track record and plans for scaling up, led us to calculate a high cost-effectiveness for donations to the program: $3,000 to $5,000 per life saved, comparable to our other life-saving top charities.[8]

You can learn more in our New Incentives review.

Giving to GiveWell’s operations

GiveWell is a nonprofit. We rely on donations for our own operations. If you’re using our research to guide your giving, we hope you’ll also consider supporting GiveWell.

When you do, you’re contributing to the research we conduct and share with the public—like this blog post and all of the analysis that went into it. We recommend:

  • If you’ve never given to GiveWell’s operations before, consider adding 10% to your donation in support of our work.
  • If you’ve supported our operations in the past, we hope you’ll renew your support.

If you’re worried about us getting too much funding, please know that our “excess assets” policy prevents us from holding more funding than we expect to need for our own work in the coming years. It requires us to grant any operations funding we hold over a certain threshold to our recommended charities.

We also cap at 20 percent the proportion of our operating budget that any one individual or organization can contribute. This helps us avoid overly relying on a single source of support.

How to give efficiently

In addition to our recommendations for where to give, we also have advice for donors who want to know how to give to maximize the efficiency of their donations. See our:

Ways to learn more

Additional information is linked below:

  • Our latest cost-effectiveness analysis of our top charities. Please note that while we dedicate significant resources to making these estimates and while they are an important part of our work, we have significant uncertainty about the final figures. You can read more about this here.

    While we aim to maximize the good accomplished per dollar donated, these estimates are only one factor we consider when deciding how to prioritize among our top charities’ needs. We also consider charities’ qualitative strengths and weaknesses, the urgency of their funding needs, and other factors.

  • Qualitative assessments of our top charities are available here.
  • Our up-to-date reviews of our top charities are linked from this page,
  • You can contact us at info@givewell.org and in the comments below if you have any questions about our latest recommendations.

Thank you for being part of our community. We hope you’ll join us in funding these excellent organizations!

Footnotes

Footnotes for this post can be accessed here.

The post Our recommendations for giving in 2020 appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Maximum Impact Fund update: We estimate GiveWell donors’ $15.3 million to the Against Malaria Foundation will save over 3,000 lives

Tue, 10/13/2020 - 13:07

Thanks to our donors, we have disbursed $23.3 million in flexible funding to our top charities this year. This generous, flexible support is worthy of celebration!

This post focuses on our decision to grant $15.3 million to the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF), which includes the $11.7 million that donors gave to “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion” in the first half of 2020.[1]

AMF supports the distribution of insecticide-treated nets in areas with high rates of malaria. The nets stop mosquitoes from biting and spreading the disease. We estimate our donors’ support for AMF will collectively save over 3,000 lives, mostly of young children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Guinea.[2] Without this grant, we think net distributions in DRC and Guinea would have been delayed.

We believe that AMF was the highest-impact choice for this grant. We chose AMF after assessing the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on our top charities, the urgency of our top charities’ funding needs, and our estimates of their impact per dollar. We’re grateful for GiveWell donors’ trust in providing flexible funding to fill this need.

Why we chose AMF

We typically allocate flexible donations to our top charities every quarter. However, we delayed allocating the donations we received to “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion” in the first quarter of 2020. We wanted to better understand the impact of the growing COVID-19 pandemic on charities’ budgets and plans before making a decision about where funding would have the greatest impact.

AMF was a top contender for receiving this grant because of its high estimated impact per dollar. It is continuing its work during the pandemic, with some delays and modifications.[3] However, we wanted to resolve a couple open questions about its work before making a grant.[4]

First, we wanted to make sure that AMF needed additional funding. At the end of 2019, it held around $70 million that was earmarked for specific distributions, but we were unsure how much of this funding would be formally committed.[5] As of June 2020, AMF had committed nearly all of this funding and held only around $4 million in uncommitted funds.[6] Distributions AMF hoped to carry out in DRC and Guinea in late 2021 to early 2022 would require significantly more than $4 million.[7] There is a strong case the distributions would be delayed without this grant, as funding needs to be secured well before nets are provided.[8]

Second, we wanted to confirm that AMF had solid processes for checking that nets reached their intended recipients and were in use and in good condition. We expect strong monitoring from all of our top charities. We investigated AMF’s current monitoring practices in detail this year and believe AMF meets our high standards.[9] We plan to share more about this work in the coming months.

Other options considered

We considered making grants to Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) program and Helen Keller International (HKI)’s vitamin A supplementation program, as we estimated that they were similarly cost-effective to AMF when we began our decisionmaking process. However, our investigation into their current plans and budgets did not turn up urgent funding needs. We had directed an $8 million grant to Malaria Consortium’s SMC program in June because of its high estimated cost-effectiveness, and we did not believe that it had additional time-sensitive needs following receipt of those funds.[10] We decided to wait until the end of the year to revisit making grants to Malaria Consortium and HKI.[11]

AMF emerged as our clear choice with its time-sensitive need for funding that we estimated would save a lot of lives.

Our bottom line for donors giving today

Going forward, we recommend that donors give to the Maximum Impact Fund (formerly known as “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion”). We will direct these funds where we believe they can be used most effectively.

We expect the $15.3 million grant to cover most of AMF’s urgent needs. For donors who wish to support a specific charity today, we recommend Malaria Consortium’s SMC program. We now model donations there as having the highest impact among our top charities.

We expect donations to Malaria Consortium will support its work in 2022. Providing funding to enable work in the future can be a high-impact option for donors, and we believe that supporting Malaria Consortium today is a great choice for donors seeking to maximize the good they accomplish per dollar donated.

We’re so grateful to our community of donors for providing flexible funding that will support the distribution of nets in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Guinea. Thank you!

References

Sources and footnotes for this post may be found here.

The post Maximum Impact Fund update: We estimate GiveWell donors’ $15.3 million to the Against Malaria Foundation will save over 3,000 lives appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

September 2020 open thread

Fri, 09/11/2020 - 18:13

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

You can view our June 2020 open thread here.

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

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

Tue, 08/25/2020 - 16:21

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

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

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

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

1. Upfront coordination and planning increases charities’ impact.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What we’re balancing

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

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

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

Responding to urgent needs

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

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

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

References

Sources and footnotes for this post may be found here.

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

Thu, 07/16/2020 - 14:45

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

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

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

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

Examples of how charities are responding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A broader list

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

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

References

Sources and footnotes for this post may be found here.

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Why you’ll see more matching campaigns at GiveWell

Thu, 06/25/2020 - 11:52

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

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

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

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

How we’ll structure matching campaigns

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

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

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

Why we’re excited to run matching campaigns

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

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

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

What we’ll test in 2020 matching campaigns

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

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

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

Notes   [ + ]

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

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June 2020 open thread

Wed, 06/10/2020 - 14:22

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

You can view our March 2020 open thread here.

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GiveWell’s plans for 2020

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 07:10

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

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

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

Expanding into new areas of research

Grants in response to the pandemic

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

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

Prioritizing within public health regulation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building the GiveWell donor community

We aim to grow the GiveWell donor community in 2020.

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

We’re hiring!

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

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

Notes   [ + ]

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

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Reflecting on our progress in 2019

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 12:54

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

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

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

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

Successes

Hiring new staff

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

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

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

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

Increasing the amount of funding we direct to recommended charities

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

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

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

Shortcomings

Making progress in understanding new areas of research

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Notes   [ + ]

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

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

Wed, 04/29/2020 - 08:01

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

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

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

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

HKI’s vitamin A supplementation program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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