The GiveWell Blog

Why you might get a letter from us this giving season

We’re about to launch another outreach experiment: mailing letters.

Summary

This giving season, we’re planning to send a subset of approximately 4,500 GiveWell donors a physical letter encouraging them to renew or increase their support of GiveWell’s top charities. We’ve never done broad outreach to encourage donations through physical mail before.

In the letter, we plan to share our list of top charities, our overall recommendation for donors, and remit materials for individuals who feel compelled to give. We hope the letter helps communicate our research to a group of individuals who have found our work useful in the past to guide their giving. We plan to assess the success of this experiment based on incremental donations that result from the letters.

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What are standout charities?

GiveWell’s research process focuses on finding excellent giving opportunities and deeply reviewing them. We currently recommend just eight top charities that have met our high standards.

Although the number of top charities we recommend is small, we review a large number of organizations in our ongoing work to find new top charities. We consider some of these groups to be exceptional relative to the vast majority of organizations, even though they do not meet our top charity standards. We name these organizations standout charities to recognize their exceptional status and to provide an incentive for charities to engage with our intensive review process.

The standout charity designation, though valuable for the reasons mentioned above, has created communication challenges for us. People who rely on our recommendations to make donations have expressed confusion about how our view of standout charities compares to that of top charities.

This blog post will explain why we have standout charities and how they differ from our top charities.

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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 info@givewell.org 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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