The nonprofit charity evaluator GiveWell is known for its rigorous Silicon Valley-style of scientific analysis: In order to be become a recommended recipient for donors, organizations must prove that they can save lives both effectively and economically.
The group has funneled $260 million to cause groups since 2007, even if there aren’t that many that pass muster. “Our goal is to develop a short list of cost-effective organizations that we put thousands of hours into vetting,” says cofounder and executive director Elie Hassenfeld. “The idea is that anyone who wants to give to charity can use our research and have a big impact.”
It may be a high bar, but the list actually just expanded fairly substantially. Based on its 2017 findings, GiveWell recommends nine groups across five different cause areas, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. That’s up from seven nonprofits in 2016, which tapped into just three areas of need.
GiveWell’s Recommended Charities:
Against Malaria Foundation: Preventing mosquito-related deaths with insecticide-treated bed nets.
END Fund: Delivering deworming drugs to children for improved health and later life potential.
Evidence Action’s Deworming the World Initiative: Funding and assisting government-run, school-based deworming programs
Schistosomiasis Control Initiative: Starting, scaling, and supporting government-run deworming programs.
Sightsavers: Offering more deworming program funding and support.
Evidence Action’s No Lean Season: Giving no-interest loans that encourage farmers in rural Bangladesh to relocate for off-season work.
GiveDirectly: Providing direct cash transfers to the extreme poor in Kenya and Uganda.
Helen Keller International: Funding and assisting government vitamin-A supplementation programs to reduce child blindness and deaths.
Malaria Consortium: Running a seasonal chemoprevention treatment programs that give anti-malaria medicine to young children.
Previously, the evaluator supported two kinds of anti-malaria efforts: insecticide-laced bed nets from the Against Malaria Foundation, and preventative drugs distributed by the Malaria Consortium. It endorsed four deworming programs to battle parasitic infections in children by END Fund, Evidence Action, Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, and Sightsavers. And, lastly, mobile-based cash transfers to people in extreme poverty, provided by GiveDirectly.
This year’s additions are a vitamin-A supplementation program for children five and under in Sub-Saharan Africa run by Helen Keller International, and a small, no-interest loan program to encourage rural workers in northern Bangladesh to go work in cities during their lean seasons; it’s called No Lean Season and run by Evidence Action.
GiveWell has seen promise in No Lean Season since 2014, when it awarded the group a separate series of experimental grants to continue to prove its worth. That program, now called GiveWell Incubation Grants, is backed by GoodVentures, a foundation cofounded by Cari Tuna and Dustin Moskovitz, who give heavily to GiveWell’s top causes. But Hassenfeld considers the inclusion of No Lean Season especially important because its shows that their rubric can be applied beyond “straightforward health commodity delivery programs.”
After all, demonstrating value takes time: GiveWell’s process relies on groups not just sharing budget and methodology, but systematically tracking the services they provide over time to prove that their organization is consistent and the remedy has no confounding variables. The group also has specific thoughts about how much money each group should be apportioned. After all, if one group receives far more than any other, that’s not helpful for either–even excellent nonprofits only have the capacity to make so much change at once.
To that end, GiveWell is recommending that donors give to its centralized fund, which the group will redistribute (with no additional costs) while taking into account sizable pledges from GoodVentures or other major donors. For those who still want to contribute independently and don’t have specific interests in any of the organizations, GiveWell suggests that 70% go to the Against Malaria Foundation, with 30% to Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, because both have large operations to ensure the incoming funding isn’t bottlenecked and can be used immediately.
Or people can take a look at the list, factor in a personal passion, and do their own math. “All nine of the groups that are top charities are exceptional and will do a ton of good with additional donations,” Hassenfeld adds. “Donors will have a lot of impact by giving to any of them.”