The GiveWell Blog

Economic empowerment grants awarded

We have completed the process of allocating $250,000 in grants for economic empowerment organizations in sub-Saharan Africa.

49 organizations applied for our grant, out of 157 invited. From these, we felt that two stood out in making a strong, evidence-based case that they are improving the financial situations of low-income people in the developing world. We have awarded $125,000 to each.

The Village Enterprise Fund is a microenterprise organization providing cash grants as well as business training and mentoring services to extremely poor business owners in rural Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. As we have written before, we feel that cash transfers are a relatively direct and promising way of helping people, a reasonable default approach in an area where little evidence is available on what works. Village Enterprise Fund stands out for its clear targeting of extremely poor clients (and data collection to ensure that the targeting is working), addressing a key concern about cash grants.

The Small Enterprise Foundation is a microfinance institution in South Africa. We have written before that we see great promise in microfinance charity, but also have serious concerns about it; these concerns led us to investigate individual microfinance institutions overseas, rather than sticking with large U.S. charities. The Small Enterprise Foundation stands out for its ability to answer our key questions about microlending. (Note: SEF is not a U.S.-registered charity.)

Within the next few weeks, we’ll be publishing everything we’re allowed to publish about how this decision was made: which organizations applied, what materials they submitted, what criteria we used, and how we made the final call.

For now, see the audio and documents from the board meeting where we made the grant decision.