What to look for when researching charities on your own

If GiveWell hasn't reviewed your favorite cause, what should you look for when evaluating a charity?

If you're interested in conducting your own due diligence, use our "do-it-yourself" charity evaluation questions.

Keep in mind that your donation is going to fund an organization, not a program. Even when a donation restriction is formally honored, the donation can often be effectively unrestricted (more at our blog post on "room for more funding"). A foundation can fund UNICEF to implement a single project in a single country, but an individual giving to UNICEF is ultimately supporting the whole organization – so you have the much harder task of understanding all (or nearly all) of UNICEF's activities if you are to give effectively.

We believe that you should look for the following in order to make truly informed decisions (these are all items we've received and reviewed for our top-rated charities):

  • A “bird's-eye view” of a charity's activities: all of its programs and locations, along with how much funding is going to each.
  • Meaningful and systematic (not anecdotal) evidence of impact.
  • Information about the likely impact of additional donations, including both plans for expansion and “funding gap” analysis (projections of how much a charity could productively spend, and how much current expected revenue falls short of this figure).