Last Updated: October 2017
GiveWell researches and recommends outstanding giving opportunities which donors use to guide their charitable giving. Each year we publish a short list of top charities. In 2016, donors gave a total of $91.6 million to GiveWell's recommended charities. For more information about money moved to GiveWell's top charities, see our impact page.
This page provides:
- the initial criteria charities must meet to be considered
- instructions on how to apply for a recommendation
- the application process timeline
Please note: we do not intend to complete a review for all organizations that apply. We only intend to complete reviews for organizations whose applications indicate that they may qualify for our top rating. As of November 2016 (when this page was last updated), seven of approximately 1,000 organizations we have considered currently qualify for our highest rating.
We're also running a separate process to identify and support potential future top charities. This work is discussed here.
Initial criteria applicant organizations must meet
We require that applicant charities meet both of the following criteria:
- The organization is working on a program that serves the global poor and has strong independent evidence of being effective and cost-effective.
- The organization is willing to provide detailed information with GiveWell about its programs, most or all of which can be shared with the public. This involves committing a significant amount of time to communicating with GiveWell in order to answer our questions.
Criterion 1: program area
We have created this list of programs we will consider. In some cases, we have already assessed the evidence for these programs and believe they are effective (or have strong reason to suspect they are). We call these programs "priority programs." We also list "promising programs" – these are programs that we have yet to assess but would consider assessing a charity working on one of these programs.
If the program your organization runs is not on the list but you think it should be, please contact us with information about your program with the case for why it should be included in our list. The first step in our process is to consider the independent (i.e., not specific to your organization) evidence of effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a program. Please direct us to rigorous evidence supporting your program (e.g., randomized controlled trials, meta-analyses).
We seek organizations that are running the target program at a significant scale. By "significant scale" we mean either (a) organizations that have spent in excess of $1 million on this program in the past calendar year and anticipate maintaining at least this level of spending OR (b) organizations whose sole focus is the target program and either have or expect to direct at least $1 million within the next two years.
Criterion 2: commitment to sharing meaningful evaluative information publicly
Charities that apply should be willing to be "an open book" in terms of their operations, programs and plans. In general, this means that (a) the charity collects, evaluates and is open to sharing meaningful information about its activities publicly and (b) is ready to give GiveWell permission to write candidly about the charity's successes and shortcomings as we do with ourselves.
When submitting your application materials, please indicate whether or not you give us permission to publish your application materials on our website. While we will honor requests for confidentiality and will only publish materials when we have been given explicit permission to do so, we value transparency, and organizations that expect to keep a large proportion of information private should not apply (though we honor all requests to keep information private, and understand that there is some information for which there are good reasons not to share).
For examples of the type of information we seek to share, please see our reviews and updates for current and past top-rated charities (linked below).
- Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) review; AMF updates
- Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI); SCI updates
- VillageReach; VillageReach updates
Time investment of application
These reviews and updates require a significant time investment from applying organizations, although our process is designed to ask for relatively little time in the first phase before we tell a charity whether they are a promising candidate. Charities should expect a review that reaches the final stages of consideration to include:
- Sharing specific documents with GiveWell, most of which are likely to already exist in some form
- Some email correspondence
- A handful of two-hour phone conversations with GiveWell
- A multi-day site visit with GiveWell staff
More details on our process here.
Additionally, once charities are recommended they should plan to:
- Review and comment on our recommendation before publication
- Participate in ongoing updates (2-4 times per year), including:
- Sharing updated documents
- An update phone call that normally lasts one to two hours
- Reviewing and commenting on the update before publication
In general, we appreciate more rather than less detail. Therefore, please err on the side of submitting more rather than less information. That said, we advise organizations to avoid creating reports tailored to GiveWell unless we specifically ask for them. If there is documentation that you do not yet have available, but could create, please note this in your application and we'll respond regarding whether or not this is something we'd ask you to put together.
Please submit all of the following information:
- Demonstration that your organization works substantially on the target program.
- Budget for at least 3 past years showing (a) total organizational spending and (b) spending on the target program. We appreciate as much detail as possible for budgets and prefer programmatic budgets (i.e., those that present the conceptual ways funds were spent to implement a project, broken down by geographic region and project for example) rather than accounting budgets, tax forms or audited financials.
- Complete details of projects implemented over the past 3 years, providing total figures (e.g., bednets distributed, cash provided, surgeries completed) for each location worked. Providing additional narrative context for each project implemented may be helpful but is not necessary.
- Monitoring and evaluation of past activities. Substantive information about the success or failure of your organization's past activities. This could be satisfied by submitting raw data related to the vast majority of projects you have carried out (e.g., data on all bednets distributed or surgeries performed). If data is collected via survey, please also submit the technical details behind this data collection including survey instruments and methods for selecting participants to survey.
This could also be satisfied by submitting in-depth, technical evaluations of past projects your organization has carried out. (We define "technical evaluation" as one that specifies the complete methodology for data collection and analysis.) Please submit as many evaluations as you have available and specify the proportion of your past projects that these evaluations cover (e.g., Are all past projects evaluated or only a subset? If a subset, what proportion of projects was evaluated?)
- Narrative of plans for utilizing additional funding with scenario analyses for use of different levels of funds (e.g., how would you utilize an additional $500,000, $1 million, and $5 million). Please describe (as specifically as possible) how you would utilize additional funding, the efforts you have made to date to raise these funds, and the results of these fundraising efforts.
Examples of current and former top charities' room-for-more-funding information:
- Basic organizational materials. Please submit audited financials for the previous 3 years. Please submit the tax forms you file with the country in which you are based (e.g., IRS Form 990 in the United States) for the previous 3 years. If you have not existed for this number of years, please submit as much history as you have available.
Additional information you can submit that may help us but is not required:
- Narrative describing your process (in general) for selecting locations to work and specifics of the way in which you applied this process in at least 1 location
- Narrative describing your organization's unique value added and whether/how you're different from other organizations working in the same space
- Narrative describing the process by which your organization was founded and how it came to its current stage
- Narrative describing the key people involved in running the organization and/or the target project and their qualifications
- Organizational chart
For examples of information provided by our current top-charities, please see the reviews linked from our top charities page.
For each document submitted, please explicitly state which of the above requests it fulfills. Please submit this list as an additional document along with your application.
We'll review your application and respond within 6 weeks of submission. We may request additional documents over email or we may ask to speak over the phone. When we speak over the phone, we'll ask to take notes to publish to our website. (Past conversations notes are on our conversations page.) You will have the opportunity to review and edit these notes before we publish them, and we will only publish what you give us permission to.
For applicants under serious consideration for our top rankings, we estimate a minimum of 3 months (and more likely 4-6 months) between the time we initially respond to your application and completion of our review. This period would include the activities discussed above.
Thank you for your interest in GiveWell. We look forward to hearing from you. If you have any questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org.