Top Charities - November 2013 Archived Version

We have published a more recent list of top charities. See our most recent list.

These are evidence-backed, thoroughly vetted, underfunded organizations. We discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of these organizations in this post, and we discuss our process for reaching these recommendations below.

GiveDirectly Donate

Distributing cash to very poor individuals in Kenya and Uganda

Directly transferring money to poor individuals allows them to purchase that which they believe will help them most. Strong evidence indicates that cash transfers lead recipients to spend more on their basic needs (such as food) and may allow recipients to make investments with high returns, with no evidence of large increases in spending on items like alcohol or tobacco. (For more, see our full report on cash transfers.) We believe that GiveDirectly effectively distributes cash to extremely low-income individuals. More.


Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI) Donate

Treating people for parasite infections in sub-Saharan Africa

SCI supports programs that treat people for parasitic worm infections that cause short-term symptoms such as anemia, and may cause longer-term developmental problems. These worms are extremely inexpensive to treat. (For more, see our full report on deworming.) We believe that SCI cost-effectively expands access to deworming treatment. More.


Deworm the World Initiative (led by Evidence Action) Donate

Treating children for parasite infections in developing countries

The Deworm the World Initiative (DtWI), led by Evidence Action, supports programs that treat children for parasitic worm infections that cause short-term symptoms such as anemia, and may cause longer-term developmental problems. These worms are extremely inexpensive to treat. (For more, see our full report on deworming.) DtWI focuses on advocacy and technical assistance to governments providing deworming, and we believe that it cost-effectively increases the number of children receiving deworming treatment. More.

Past top-rated charities with limited room for more funding

The Against Malaria Foundation (AMF), which distributes insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent deaths from malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, was a top-rated charity from 2009 to November 2013, when we concluded that it had limited short-term room for more funding. We've written about this decision more extensively on our blog here, and have also published detailed reviews of AMF and the evidence in favor of distributing bed nets. Donations to AMF are tax-deductible in the US, UK, Canada, and a number of other countries.

If you would like to support AMF, donate here.

Tax-deductibility of donations to our top charities

Donations to GiveWell are tax-deductible in the US., and we are able to take donations for the support of any of our top charities. In addition:

  • UK donors can make a tax-deductible donation to the Giving What We Can Trust for the support of one or more or GiveWell's recommended charities. Donations by UK tax-payers via the trust are eligible for Gift Aid.
  • Canadian donors giving CAD 5,000 or more can make a tax-deductible gift to Tides Canada Foundation for the support of one or more of GiveWell's recommended charities. Please email us for more information.

More information on tax-deductibility of donations to our top charities.

Our charity evaluation process

For details, see our process.

GiveWell's process broadly consists of:

  • Identifying charities focused on proven, cost-effective programs serving the global poor
  • Deeply investigating and thoroughly vetting the ones that participate in our process
  • Publishing all the details of our charity recommendations and the full details of our reasoning on this website
  • Following up over time to report on recommended charities' progress

Identifying eligible charities

We have conducted extensive searches for charities that focus on our priority programs. These programs represent, according to our research, the most evidence-backed approaches to helping the global poor. More

In-depth charity reviews

We invite eligible charities to participate in our intensive evaluation process, which aims to deeply and critically question the case for the charity's impact, and lay out what we see as the strengths and weaknesses publicly.

Our process includes conversations with representatives; examination of internal documentation including monitoring and evaluation reports, budgets, and plans for using additional funding; reviewing independent literature and evidence of effectiveness of the charities' programs. For the strongest contenders, we conduct visits to programs in the field.

We focus our investigation on the following questions: (a) What does the charity do? (b) What is the evidence that its activities are executed and work as intended? (c) How cost-effective are the charity's activities (in terms of good accomplished per dollar spent?) (d) What will be the impact of increased revenue on the charity's activities (the room for more funding question)?

Following up

Because our recommendation directs substantial donations to a charity, top charities are generally willing to engage substantively with us and help us deepen our understanding of their activities and progress over time. We follow up intensively and publicly discuss charities' progress, including both the good and the bad news.

Pros and cons of giving to our top charities

Over the years, we've substantially changed our outlook on what a good giving opportunity should look like, and we are working to produce giving opportunities that could look very different from these ones.

We think the principal advantages of our current top charities are that:

  • They represent the best opportunities we're aware of to help low-income people with relatively high confidence and relatively short time horizons. If you're looking to give this year and you don't know where to start, we'd strongly recommend supporting our top charities.
  • Due to the emphasis on thorough vetting, transparency, and following up, our top charities represent excellent learning opportunities, and we feel that one of the most desirable outcomes of giving is learning more that will inform later giving. Supporting our top charities helps GiveWell demonstrate impact and improves our ability to learn, and we are dedicated to sharing what we learn publicly.

Some counter-considerations:

  • There is an argument for saving money rather than giving, and giving at the point where better information on top giving opportunities is available. We do expect to make substantial progress on the Open Philanthropy Project over the next few years.
  • If you have access to other giving opportunities that you understand well, have a great deal of context on and have high confidence in — whether these consist of supporting an established organization or helping a newer one get off the ground — it may make more sense to take advantage of your unusual position and "fund what others won't," since GiveWell's research is available to (and influences) large numbers of people.

Past recommendations

Archives of our past charity recommendations: