The GiveWell Blog

How this year’s winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics influenced GiveWell’s work

On Monday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced that the development economists Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer are this year’s recipients of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.

Banerjee, Duflo, and Kremer’s work to understand the global poor has influenced our research in myriad ways over the years. Some GiveWell staff cite Banerjee and Duflo’s 2011 book, Poor Economics, as a catalyst for their interest in working in global health and poverty alleviation. All three development economists have contributed to our understanding and prioritization of programs, including microfinance, education, and treating intestinal parasites.

The research of Michael Kremer and his co-author Ted Miguel has been especially critical in shaping our annual recommendations of outstanding charities and thus has guided the donations of many donors who rely on our work. Miguel and Kremer’s 2004 study on the impacts of treating intestinal parasites (deworming) and follow-ups to that work are the reason that we have included deworming programs on our very short list of top charities each year since 2011.

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Our recent visit to Burkina Faso

GiveWell staff recently visited Burkina Faso to meet with staff of one of our top charities, Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) program, and observe its work. Through its SMC program, Malaria Consortium distributes preventative anti-malarial medication at a time of year when it is needed most.

As I write below, GiveWell donors have directed more than $37 million to Malaria Consortium over the last 18 months at our recommendation. We expect that this will provide preventative treatments to 4.8 million children and avert over 16,000 deaths. We’re so appreciative of the support of our community in enabling this tremendous impact.

We originally sent a version of the following message to supporters of Malaria Consortium’s SMC program in late August. We received positive feedback on this message and decided to share it more broadly on our blog. We plan to publish more information about the 2019 Burkina Faso site visit in the future.

Hello from Burkina Faso!

I’m here on a site visit of Malaria Consortium, one of our recommended charities, to see its malaria prevention program in action.

This visit helped me relate more deeply to the program by getting to know some of the people who run it and some of the people who benefit from it. I wanted to share my experience with you.

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September 2019 open thread

Our goal with hosting quarterly open threads is to give blog readers an opportunity to publicly raise comments or questions about GiveWell or related topics (in the comments section below). As always, you’re also welcome to email us at or to request a call with GiveWell staff if you have feedback or questions you’d prefer to discuss privately. We’ll try to respond promptly to questions or comments.

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GiveWell’s money moved and web traffic in 2018

GiveWell is dedicated to finding outstanding giving opportunities and publishing the full details of our analysis. In addition to evaluations of other charities, we publish substantial evaluation of our own work. This post lays out highlights from our 2018 metrics report, which reviews what we know about how our research impacted donors. Please note:

  • We report on “metrics years” that run from February through January; for example, our 2018 data cover February 1, 2018 through January 31, 2019.
  • In an effort to present a more comprehensive measure of our influence on charitable giving, this year’s metrics report includes GiveWell Incubation Grants in our headline “money moved” figure. In previous reports we have excluded Incubation Grants from this figure.

Summary of influence: In 2018, GiveWell influenced charitable giving in several ways. The following table summarizes our understanding of this influence.

Headline money moved: In 2018, we tracked $141 million in money moved to our recommended charities and via our Incubation Grants program. Our money moved only includes donations that we are confident were influenced by our recommendations.

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Allocation of discretionary funds from Q2 2019

In the second quarter of 2019, donors gave a combined $2.3 million to GiveWell for granting to recommended charities at our discretion. We greatly appreciate this support, which enables us to direct funding where we believe it can be used most effectively. We grant this funding to one or more of our top charities each quarter.

We decided to allocate all $2.3 million to the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF). AMF is a GiveWell top charity that provides support for the distribution of long-lasting insecticide-treated nets to prevent malaria. AMF has been named a GiveWell top charity seven times. We chose to allocate the second-quarter funding to AMF because we believe AMF has a highly cost-effective and time-sensitive opportunity to spend it.

Our bottom line

We continue to recommend that donors giving to GiveWell choose the option on our donation form for “grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion” so that we can direct the funding to the top charity or charities with the most pressing funding needs. For donors who prefer to give to a specific charity, we note that if we had additional funds to allocate at this time, we would very likely allocate them to AMF, which we believe could use additional funding for highly cost-effective work, even after receiving the $2.3 million in funding mentioned above.

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Experiments in GiveWell communication

One of our top priorities is to increase the amount of money we direct to our recommendations. As part of our effort to do this, we’re planning to try new kinds of communication. We hope to reach people who haven’t heard of or connected with GiveWell in the past, and to increase retention of our current donors by making the experience of donating through GiveWell more compelling.

We are experimenting on our homepage and in emails with using images and making our cost-effectiveness estimates more prominent. Our goal is to improve people’s connection to our work without compromising the accuracy of what we share.

There are potential downsides to this approach. We expect to balance our goal of communicating in a way that is emotionally compelling with our commitment to honesty and not misleading donors or overstating the case for our recommendations.

We’re not planning a major overhaul of GiveWell’s website or other communications in the near term, and we are unsure if we will make major changes in the future. Most of GiveWell’s communications will look as they always have. Our hope in the coming months is to learn whether there are new ways we can communicate about our work to increase our impact. We’re writing this post to share with you the context behind these experiments.


In this post, we discuss:

  • Our communication experiments. (More)
  • Challenges and potential downsides of our approach. (More)
  • How you can help us improve. (More)

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