The GiveWell Blog

Cash as a benchmark?

Franck Wiebe, guest-blogging at Aid Watch, proposes:

in the interest of aid effectiveness and as a starting point, donors could agree not to fund projects unless they can be demonstrated to be at least as good as a cash transfer. Is that too much to ask of aid?

In concept, we think it’s a great idea (and we proposed something similar for evaluations of U.S. charities). However, one major issue for individual donors is simply that we know of no charity that focuses on delivering cash directly to low-income people.

Women for Women and Village Enterprise Fund both are putting about 1/3 of their total expenses toward grants to individuals, a figure as high as we’ve seen anywhere.

If you have no practical vehicle for making cash gifts, it may unfortunately make sense to give to a charity that can’t demonstrate that it’s “beating cash” in terms of impact. This is another case where an individual donor is constrained by the choice of vehicles, not just the choice of programs.


  • jsalvati on October 3, 2009 at 10:35 am said:

    That is a very interesting observation. It strongly suggests that in general that “charity isn’t about helping”, as Robin Hanson would say. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make it be about helping.

  • Apparently, German Aid workers have been experimenting with using state funding to create a minimum income guarantee. According to Spiegel Online it works rather well.

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