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2009 GiveWell Grants for Economic Empowerment in Sub-Saharan Africa

This page provides important background information for potential applicants for GiveWell's 2009 grant(s) for economic empowerment in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Who is eligible for this grant?

To be eligible, you must:

  • Be (or be affiliated with) a US-registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
  • Have audited financials available for either 2007 or 2008, showing at least $250,000 in expenses for that year.
  • Conduct a significant amount of activity focused on economic empowerment in sub-Saharan Africa. "Economic empowerment" refers to programs that focus directly on - and ultimately measure themselves by - raising incomes, as opposed to improving schooling or health. Economic empowerment programs include:
    • Microfinance programs.
    • Agricultural development programs.
    • Small and medium enterprise support (providing grants, investment capital, mentoring, and other assistance to developing-world enterprises).
    • Provision of materials, training, and other services with the aim of directly raising people's incomes.

How much money will GiveWell grant?

We will grant a total of $250,000 within this area (economic empowerment in sub-Saharan Africa) in 2009. Grants will be one-time and non-recurring.

Will the grant be restricted or unrestricted funding?

Our preference is for grants to be unrestricted. However, if no organization meets our criteria (see below), we may:

  • Provide funding to an organization to replicate or expand a program that has demonstrated impact according to our criteria.
  • Provide funding to an organization to perform a rigorous evaluation of a promising project.

When will the grant be made?

$250,000 will be disbursed by 12/31/2009.

How many grants will GiveWell make?

The number of grants we make will depend on the results of our research. We may make one grant of $250,000, or we may make several smaller grants. We will make at least one grant of $100,000 or more.

How many organizations will apply for this grant?

We expect at least 100 organizations to apply.

What are the criteria by which this grant will be awarded?

We seek to fund a program that helps to bring people from extreme poverty to moderate self-sufficiency (definitions below), in a way that is:

  • Proven. Our aim is not to experiment or innovate; it is to fund a program that is as similar as possible to one or more program(s) that have been shown, as conclusively as possible, to achieve the desired outcome (bringing people from extreme poverty to moderate self-sufficiency – more on this outcome and how it will be measured below).

    As such, demonstrated results from past programs are more important in our process than plans for demonstrating future results.

    In particular, we seek programs that can demonstrate at least one of the following: (a) a past impact on client incomes, relative to what likely would have happened in the absence of the program; (b) that they are transferring wealth to people with low standards of living; (c) that they are creating value in low-income areas by starting programs that eventually become self-sustaining. More on these criteria, and the reasoning behind them, at our overview of economic empowerment from our current report.

    More on this criterion in general, and our use of it in our existing international aid recommendations - here.

  • Cost-effective. Conceptually, we define the cost-effectiveness of a program in this area through the number of people brought from extreme poverty to moderate self-sufficiency, per dollar of donations spent. We do not expect to be able to calculate such a metric with any precision, but in the case of programs that rate similarly on our other criteria, cost-effectiveness will be considered.

    More on this criterion in general, and our use of it in our existing international aid recommendations - here.

  • Scalable. We seek to expand and/or replicate a program that has been shown to work in the past. We will seek evidence that replication is feasible, as well as “funding gap” analysis showing the need for more funds.

    More on this criterion in general, and our use of it in our existing international aid recommendations - here.

  • Transparent. We prefer organizations that are willing to share as much substantive information as possible. All materials submitted for this grant application will be publicly posted unless an explicit confidentiality statement is provided. If you would like us to keep any submitted materials confidential, please note that in your application.

GiveWell's broad, intuitive characterizations of extreme poverty and moderate self-sufficiency are based on the 10 Indicators of the Grameen Bank:

  • Extreme poverty is characterized as living with chronic health problems, poor nutrition, low or negative savings, and large exposure to risk from disruptions (health crises, weather, etc.), often accompanied by poor access to education, clean water, latrines, beds and a roof, clothing, and/or sanitation.
  • Moderate self-sufficiency is characterized as living without chronic health problems or nutritive disorders (including anemia, protein-energy malnutrition, iodine or vitamin A deficiency), maintaining a level of income and savings sufficient to guard against disruptions, drinking clean water, sending all children to a reasonably effective school, using sanitary latrines, living with a roof and beds, and having adequate clothing for all seasons.

What is the application process?

Interested charities should contact us at povertygrant@givewell.net. We are still accepting applications. The first-round application is intended to be simple and low-hassle; the aim is to determine what sort of documentation your organization already has available. A central requirement of this application form is the provision of an already completed technical report on client income levels.

We will contact organizations with next steps. If your organization is among the most promising, we will request a conference call with program staff to get a more substantial sense of your organization's strategy and of what information is available. We will request more information, and may have several rounds of back-and-forth before making our final decisions and grant disbursements by 12/31/09.

What information will be required in order to receive the grant?

The evaluation process is tailored to individual organizations. Please contact us if you are planning to apply.

Will GiveWell publicly publish and comment on submitted materials?

Yes. GiveWell is committed to the principle that our readers should be able to see as much as possible of what goes into our decisions, including our reasoning and the materials we consider.

Our focus is on identifying outstanding organizations, not on rating organizations comprehensively. Therefore, our most detailed writeups are generally those covering stronger charities. We encourage you to see our current international aid content for a sense of how we comment on charities.

All materials submitted for this grant application will be publicly posted unless an explicit confidentiality statement is provided. If you would like us to keep any submitted materials confidential, please note that in your application.

What is the application timeline?

  • We are currently accepting applications.
  • October - December 2009: We expect to speak directly with grant applicants to discuss our remaining questions and further information we seek to reach a decision.
  • December 31, 2009: All grants will be disbursed on or before this date.

Additional questions?

If you have any additional questions, please contact us directly via email at poverygrant@givewell.net and we will try to respond to you as quickly as possible.