You are here

Footnotes for "Our recommendations for giving in 2020"

[1] Our top recommendation is to give to the Maximum Impact Fund, which we grant regularly to the top charity or charities where we believe donations will do the most good. If we granted the Maximum Impact Fund today, our best guess is that it would go to Malaria Consortium's seasonal malaria chemoprevention program, to which we estimate a $3,000-$5,000 donation will save a life. As we note on this webpage, "We present cost-effectiveness estimates as a range rounded to the nearest thousand dollars on our Top Charities page. This reflects the degree of precision we believe our model can estimate, as well as the range of cost-effectiveness that charities are likely to achieve across the countries they work in. Charities' cost-effectiveness can vary widely by geography, depending on the underlying burden of disease and the costs of operating in a given country."

See 2020 GiveWell cost-effectiveness analysis — version 2, "Malaria Consortium" tab, cell B256 for the cost per death averted by donating to Malaria Consortium's seasonal malaria chemoprevention program.

[2] Open Philanthropy is a major philanthropic grantmaker with which we work closely. In November 2020, we recommended that Open Philanthropy make the following grants to GiveWell's recommended charities:

  • Malaria Consortium's seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) program: $27.0 million. We also expect to grant an additional $3.8 million to Malaria Consortium's SMC program from donors who gave to the Maximum Impact Fund between July and September 2020.

    We decided where to allocate the Maximum Impact Fund donations at the same time as we made our recommendation to Open Philanthropy. We decided to allocate Maximum Impact Fund donations to Malaria Consortium's SMC program because it was the highest priority gap after we accounted for our recommendation to Open Philanthropy. However, we could have instead chosen to allocate them to the highest priority gap before our recommendation to Open Philanthropy was accounted for, Helen Keller International's vitamin A supplementation program, since our Maximum Impact Fund decision and Open Philanthropy recommendation were made at the same time. In each case, the overall effect would be the same—if Open Philanthropy gave according to our recommendation, the combined Maximum Impact Fund and Open Philanthropy donations would enable us to fill $73.8 million of the highest-priority needs on our top charities list.

  • New Incentives: $16.8 million
  • Helen Keller International's vitamin A supplementation program: $8.1 million.
  • Against Malaria Foundation: $6.7 million
  • Evidence Action's Deworm the World Initiative: $4.1 million
  • SCI Foundation: $3.1 million
  • Sightsavers' deworming program: $2.8 million
  • END Fund's deworming program: $0.5 million
  • GiveDirectly: $0.5 million
  • GiveWell standout charities (combined): $0.4 million

Open Philanthropy confirmed that it plans to make the grants as outlined above, contingent on the recipient organizations satisfying due diligence reviews as they have in past years.

[3] Open Philanthropy sets an annual budget for GiveWell top charities, GiveWell standout charities, and GiveWell Incubation Grants. As of our year-end allocation period, Open Philanthropy's remaining 2020 budget for these grants was $100 million. Of that, we recommended in November that it give $70 million to GiveWell's recommended charities, as outlined in the previous footnote.

We've asked Open Philanthropy to hold the remaining $30 million to grant in January. We're completing several GiveWell Incubation Grant investigations and may ask Open Philanthropy to fund these opportunities. We will also ask Open Philanthropy to provide more funding to one or more of our top charities, according to where we see the greatest need at the time the funds are granted. The top charities we see as most likely potential recipients of that funding are:

  • Malaria Consortium's SMC program for work in 2023. We are excited about this opportunity, but it's less time-sensitive than the others listed below. We may prioritize the below opportunities first, pending the additional information we expect to receive about them by January. We don't expect to receive additional information on Malaria Consortium's funding needs by January.
  • Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) for work in 2023. The November recommendation to Open Philanthropy covers AMF's most urgent funding opportunities. Before recommending further funding to AMF, we'd like to review the first set of monitoring results from AMF's biggest program, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is just now becoming available.
  • Funding to allow Helen Keller International to expand to Cameroon from 2021 to 2023. Our key question in deciding whether to recommend funding for this need is whether another funder is going to renew support for this program that expires at the end of 2020. We think there's a 40% chance we'll have an update on the other funder's decision by January.
  • SCI Foundation (SCI). SCI can use additional funding to expand in 2022. However, we are uncertain which countries it would prioritize, which has implications for our cost-effectiveness estimate for its work. SCI also has room to extend its funding runway to 2023 and has told us that it would prefer to have a 3-year runway. We are also uncertain how SCI might trade off between expanding in 2022 and extending its runway to 2023. We may increase our confidence in SCI's cost-effectiveness and forward plans in the coming months by engaging further with SCI.

[4] We made three initial grants in April: $200,000 to Development Media International, $150,000 to IDinsight, and $100,000 to the Yale Research Initiative on Innovation and Scale. Further details on these grants are available here.

We made two additional grants to IDinsight: a $656,000 grant in June and a $550,000 follow-up grant in August. These grants funded IDinsight’s continued work supporting government decision-making related to COVID-19, and we will be publishing a full write-up of those grants shortly.

In July, we made a $2,000,000 grant to Innovations for Poverty Action to study the effects of an intervention to promote mask use. We will publish information about this grant once the study is complete.

[5] Overall, we saw:

  • Modest increases in costs for this year, which are likely to continue into the next year. These were due to the purchase of personal protective equipment for workers, and the costs associated with adapting programs and training workers on new procedures.
  • Some programs were delayed, and some distributions, primarily of school-based deworming treatments, were missed.
  • Charities' collection of monitoring data was disrupted in some cases.

Due to the combination of small increases in operating costs and small decreases in costs resulting from some activities being skipped, the overall impact on charities' cost-effectiveness and funding needs was fairly modest. The largest effects were on the four charities we recommend for deworming programs; the smallest were on the two charities we recommend for programs to prevent malaria.

Additional information is available here.

[6] We describe the work we did on this project in footnote 9 on this page.

[7] "We estimate the program leads to a 22 percentage point increase in the use of (directly and indirectly) incentivized vaccines in three states in North West Nigeria. This estimate is based on a GiveWell-funded randomized controlled trial (RCT) of New Incentives by IDinsight, to which we apply adjustments for partial vaccination and attenuation due to self-reporting bias." GiveWell, New Incentives (Conditional Cash Transfers to Increase Infant Vaccination), 2020

[8] New Incentives CEA for evidence and cost-effectiveness writeup, "Cost per death averted estimate" tab, cell B10. See footnote [1] for why we present our estimate as a range.


  • The standard deduction for 2020 is $12,400. To promote charitable giving, the CARES Act allows for an additional above-the-line deduction for charitable gifts made up to $300 in 2020. So, even if you won't be itemizing, you can deduct an additional $300.
  • If you are an itemizer, you can usually only deduct 60% of your Adjusted Gross Income. This year, to incentivize charitable giving, the CARES Act allows people to deduct 100% of their Adjusted Gross Income in gifts made directly to charity.


"For those who itemize their deductions:

"Donors who itemize their deductions can now give more to charity before reaching their adjusted gross income (AGI) limitation. Formerly set at 60%, the limitation for cash contributions to certain public charities has now been raised to 100% of an individual’s AGI for 2020. Any giving beyond this 100% limitation may be carried over and used in the next five years.

"This provision excludes giving to private nonoperating foundations and supporting organizations, along with any contributions made to establish or maintain donor-advised funds (DAFs) like those held at Vanguard Charitable.

"This means that Vanguard Charitable donors who exhaust the 60% limit with cash contributions to their DAFs in 2020 could make any additional donations outside their DAF and have those donations qualify for a deduction (up until reaching the 100% limit). Please consult a tax advisor to discuss your specific circumstances.

"For those who don’t itemize their deductions:

"The CARES Act allows for up to $300 in charitable contributions to qualify as an above-the-line deduction, meaning you don’t have to itemize deductions in order to claim the $300 as a deduction. Qualifying donations must be made in cash or cash equivalents (as opposed to stock, for example) and cannot be directed to supporting organizations or DAFs." Vanguard Charitable, How does the CARES Act affect your giving?, May 06, 2020 (archive)

Please note that the above is not tax, legal, or financial advice. We recommend speaking to your tax accountant, lawyer, or financial advisor for specific tax, legal, or financial advice for your situation.