The GiveWell Blog

Where should we donate?

We need your help. We’re about to contact all the charities we’ve identified as being potential Clear Fund grant recipients. We’ve mostly found these organizations through a systematic search through a gigantic stack of Form 990s (let me know if you want more details – they’re fantastically boring), and have found a few others in one-off ways. We don’t want to miss anyone good. So If you know of a charity that would be great to donate to, now is the time to plug them.

What we’re looking for: broadly, we want organizations with proven, effective, scalable ways of helping people. That means they reliably can turn more money into more lives affected. Innovative and totally untested experiments, research organizations, etc. certainly have value to society – but that isn’t what we’re looking for. Ditto for small organizations where we can’t predict what would result from an influx of funding. Ditto for political advocacy. We want to buy better lives for others, as cheaply and confidently as we can.

More narrowly, for our first year, we are focusing on New York City and Africa. Global or national organizations are fine, if their scope includes these areas – we just don’t want to evaluate organizations who don’t do any work in the areas we’re going to be able to see in person. For New York City, we are looking for organizations that help children get better opportunities to succeed in life (whether through education, child care, or addressing basic needs) and that help adults get out of poverty for good (supportive housing, job training, etc.) For Africa, we are focusing more on reducing suffering: fighting disease, malnutrition, extreme poverty, etc.

As our regular readers know, we couldn’t possibly care less how much a charity spends on overhead or what watchdogs including Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau think of them. We want organizations that are great at helping people, no matter how good they are at accounting.

Finally, we’re looking for organizations that want to share what they do. Charities that are afraid to tell the unfiltered truth about their strategies, achievements and shortcomings (and let’s face it, there are always shortcomings) simply won’t get anywhere with us. I don’t care if Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Britney Spears and Mona Lisa have all given the thumbs up – we’re not spending money without an idea of what it’s going to buy.

I know I’ve been very vague and broad, and that’s because the goal is vague and broad: help people. We will ultimately divide charities up by category so they can be more reasonably compared to each other, and we will firm up our categories (already drafted) when we know how many interested charities are in each category. For now, we’re trying to cast the net wide. So hit me. Tell me who’s good.