Unrestricted Fund

Donations to our unrestricted fund can be spent on any GiveWell priority, including grantmaking and our own operating expenses. It is the maximally flexible way to support GiveWell and our recommendations, and is the best option for donors who want to both support the full spectrum of GiveWell’s grantmaking and underwrite our ability to continue doing what we do.


What you can expect if you give to the unrestricted fund

We generally use unrestricted funding for operating expenses (which includes staff salaries, travel expenses, website maintenance, and other routine operational costs).

However, GiveWell has an "excess assets" policy, specifying that once we surpass a certain level of unrestricted assets available for our operations, we earmark the excess for grantmaking rather than continue to hold it ourselves. You can read more about our excess assets policy here. This policy ensures that donors to GiveWell do not need to worry about our room for more funding: when we have more funding than we can productively use ourselves, we use that funding to make more grants to the best giving opportunities we've found.

We also cap at 20 percent the proportion of our operating budget that any one individual or organization can contribute (we call this the “single donor cap”). This helps us avoid overreliance on a single source of support.

In practice, the single donor cap and excess assets policy are often activated at the same time. When our excess assets policy is triggered, we typically designate a portion of our largest unrestricted donation or donations as the “excess,” which ensures we’re also fulfilling the single donor cap. This means that for most donors, their gifts to the unrestricted fund are spent on GiveWell’s operating expenses.

How much does GiveWell spend on operations?

Our operating expenses have grown moderately from around $4 million in 2015 to around $11 million in 2021. See the chart below for how our expenses break down across staff and contractors, administrative costs, and outreach costs.

Operating Costs Breakdown 2015 2016 2017 2018​​ 2019​​ 2020​​ 20211 ​​
Administrative Costs2 $1,571,466 $2,631,412 $2,209,474 $1,327,323 $1,774,779 $1,899,779 $2,869,934
Outreach3 $42,052 $93,467 $242,872 $577,953 $364,493 $1,028,945 $2,118,049
Staff and Contractors $2,206,975 $3,733,177 $2,949,508 $2,674,775 $3,890,001 $5,758,041 $6,328,027
Total operating cost $3,820,493 $6,458,056 $5,401,854 $4,580,051 $6,029,273 $8,686,765 $11,315,469

Additional resources

For more information about our operations, please see:

  • 1

    Please note that our 2021 figures have not yet undergone an audit and are therefore subject to change.

  • 2

    This includes costs for audit, insurance, legal, supplies, staff recruitment, staff cohesion, travel, and rent.

  • 3

    This includes costs for advertising, donor events, website hosting and developer fees, and PR firms.

Source URL: https://www.givewell.org/unrestricted-fund