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About this page
GiveWell aims to find the best giving opportunities we can and recommend them to donors. We tend to put a lot of investigation into the organizations we find most promising, and de-prioritize others based on limited information. When we decide not to prioritize an organization, we try to create a brief writeup of our thoughts on that charity because we want to be as transparent as possible about our reasoning.
The following write-up should be viewed in this context: it explains why we determined that we wouldn't be prioritizing the organization in question as a potential top charity. This write-up should not be taken as a "negative rating" of the charity. Rather, it is our attempt to be as clear as possible about the process by which we came to our top recommendations.
A note on this page's publication date
The last time we examined Women for Women International was in 2010. In our latest open-ended review of charities, we determined that it was unlikely to meet our criteria based on our past examination of it, so we did not revisit it.
We invite all charities that feel they meet our criteria to apply for consideration.
The content we created in 2010 appears below. This content is likely to be no longer fully accurate, both with respect to what it says about Women for Women International and with respect to what it implies about our own views and positions. With that said, we do feel that the takeaways from this examination are sufficient not to prioritize re-opening our investigation of this organization at this time.
Women for Women International seeks to empower women in the developing world by providing emotional support, training, and cash grants.1
We reviewed Women for Women in late 2009 as part of our process to distribute $250,000 in funds to an economic empowerment organization in Sub-Saharan Africa.
We investigated Women for Women further than other organizations because of its focus on directly providing cash grants. We feel that direct cash grants are a simple and relatively rare approach to improving the lives of individuals suffering from extreme poverty. (For more on our view of this program, see our overview of cash grant programs.)
What do they do?
Women for Women runs a one-year program for "women survivors of war, civil strife, and other conflicts."2 Participants receive "direct financial aid and emotional support, rights awareness education, vocational skills training and income generation assistance."3
After completing our review of Women for Women's documents and speaking on the phone with multiple representatives,4 we remain concerned about the following two issues:
- Does Women for Women's training program significantly improve the lives of those who complete it?
- Does Women for Women effectively transfer wealth directly to individuals in extreme poverty?
Impact of the training program
Women for Women submitted an evaluation that did not, in our view, demonstrate its program's impact on participants. Women for Women has not given us permission to publish this evaluation and we therefore cannot comment further on it.
We believe that donors should approach a program in an area as complex and difficult as job training and employment skills with skepticism, and that the organization running the program bears the burden of proof to provide evidence of impact.
Efficient distribution of cash grants
We find some appeal in direct cash grants, but also feel that the practice raises several challenges. (For more, see our discussion of cash transfer programs.)
- Are cash grants the main use of donations? Women for Women distributes slightly less than 20% of donated funds as cash grants.5 This is likely due to the fact that the training program (discussed above) consumes resources. However, as we discuss above, we don't believe the evidence of impact for the training program, itself, is compelling. Women for Women gives a significantly smaller portion of donations back out as grants than the Village Enterprise Fund.
- Is the size of cash grants carefully determined based on women's needs? Women for Women sent us some data on this question, but has not given us permission to share it.
- Does direct provision of funds distort the local economy? It appears to us that Women for Women has not assembled a strong response to this question.
- Are funds delivered to those in need? We have not given careful attention to Women for Women's process for determining who receives grants; we ceased investigation due to the concerns listed above.
- Sherman, Karen and Erica Tavares. Women for Women Executive Director of Global Programs and Director of Institutional Advancement. Phone conversation with GiveWell, January 5, 2010.
- Tavares, Erica. Women for Women Director of Institutional Advancement. Phone conversation with GiveWell, November 16, 2009.
- Women for Women. Annual report (2007) (PDF).
- Women for Women. Community assessment checklist. Women for Women did not give us permission to share this document.
- Women for Women. Consolidated financial statements (PDF).
- Women for Women. Country office budget summaries.
Women for Women did not give us permission to share this document.
- Women for Women. Income generation strategy for the DRC: Evaluation & selection report. Women for Women requested that we keep this document confidential.
- Women for Women. Number of participants per country. Women for Women did not give us permission to share this document.
- Women for Women. Outcome report for Nigeria, Kosovo, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Women for Women requested that we keep this document confidential.
- Women for Women. Preliminary survey data results from the July 2009 SWSN-DRC research. Women for Women requested that we keep this document confidential.
- Women for Women. Program information--GiveWell application (DOC).
- Women for Women. Sudan enrollment form. Women for Women did not give us permission to share this document.
"WfWI provides socially excluded women survivors of war with a year-long program of direct aid and emotional support, rights awareness and life skills education, market-based vocational skills training and income generation assistance." Women for Women, "Program Information--GiveWell Application."
Women for Women, "Annual Report (2007)," Pg 5.
Women for Women, "Annual Report (2007)," Pg 6.
Erica Tavares, phone conversation with GiveWell, November 16, 2009.
Erica Tavares and Karen Sherman, phone conversation with GiveWell, January 5, 2010.
In 2008, $4,641,941 was spent on "Sponsorship distributions" out of a total $25,074,604 in expenses for the organization as a whole.
Data from Women for Women, "Consolidated Financial Statements (2008)," Pg 4.