The GiveWell Blog

Giving to GiveWell’s recommended charities helps GiveWell

GiveWell does not solicit donations from the general public. We cover our operating expenses mostly by privately soliciting donations from people (and institutions) who are big fans of our work. This allows us to operate – when dealing with those outside our “inner circle” – as a pure advisor, without having to “compete with our own top charities.”

Occasionally this policy creates some confusion for donors interested in giving to promote “effective giving” in general, not just interested in directly funding proven interventions. Such donors sometimes express interest in donating directly to GiveWell, and when we state that we aren’t seeking donations from them, they conclude that their giving can’t help us. But it can, significantly, if they give to our recommended charities (in such a way that we can track the donation).

The main way this takes place is through our money moved metric, which tracks the donations given to our recommended charities on the basis of our recommendations. This figure has several important implications for our mission:

We advertise our “money moved” figure for charities in order to make the case that our investigations are worth their time. Since our founding 2007, we’ve seen continuously improving access to the people whom we need to speak with in order to do our research well: charity representatives, academics, etc. We believe our growing “money moved” has been a key factor. Because of this dynamic, higher “money moved” directly improves the quality and efficiency of our research process.

More generally, our “money moved” figure serves as a general indicator for interest in effective giving. We hope that in the future, the “effective giving” world will be much larger, with more organizations devoted to helping to find the best giving opportunities. People who would consider starting such organizations can learn about the size of the potential “market” from our figures. Charities that are outside our current scope may still wish to start planning for a future in which our sort of analysis plays a larger role, and our figures may serve as an indication of how likely this future is.

Our “money moved” figure is a major tool for our own fundraising, and a major input into the size of our operating budget. The higher the figure, the stronger the case for a growing operating budget, and the easier time we have raising the funds we need for it.

Our growth in money moved has been strong so far. If this weren’t the case, we’d have had far more trouble raising money, doing research, and making the case for our influence.

If you’re a donor looking to help GiveWell in our mission, please consider

  • Donating to our top charities.
  • Making sure that the donation is attributable to GiveWell and thus countable in our “money moved” metric. You can do this by giving using GiveWell’s website (note that in the case of our #1 charity, AMF, our website points to AMF’s website and AMF provides the tracking function) or by using our donation report form.
  • Telling your friends about us using Facebook, Twitter, email, or in-person conversations. Note that we track the number of donations we influence as well as the number of dollars, and we pay attention to (and advertise) the robustness of our “money moved” figure as well as the level.


  • Julia Wise on November 4, 2012 at 5:24 pm said:

    Thank you for clearing this up. I’ve talked to several people who had questions about how GW is funded and how we might help.

  • Sharon Lipinski (@SharonGives) on November 5, 2012 at 9:34 am said:

    Thanks for writing this post. My giving circles always check what GiveWell has to say before we make our donation. We include your insights in our charity report and in our discussions. Donating money is serious business, and your site helps us make more informed donations.

    I had not realized that donating through your site would help you, and we’ll try to do so in the future.


  • Thanks Holden and GiveWell for sharing their strategy. Hope, we would learn from here how to manage funds and online donation.

  • On what basis have you decided to exempt the money you get from “private donors” from the oversight that you apply to everyone else’s giving?

    Either giving money to Givewell is effective, or it isn’t. Where the money comes from doesn’t matter.

  • Ian Turner on December 6, 2012 at 2:39 pm said:

    adm, can you elaborate on your concern? I don’t see the phrase “private donors” mentioned anywhere in this blog post.

  • Holden Karnofsky on December 7, 2012 at 1:49 pm said:

    adm, I wouldn’t describe us as “applying oversight” to others’ giving. I’d describe us as providing information.

    We are open both with people in our inner circle and with the general public (for example, in this post) about how we raise funds and how these funds are used. People can then make informed decisions to support us, to support or top charities, or to do neither. We have made a tactical choice to *solicit* only from our inner circle. I’m not aware of any contradictions or other issues with these practices.

    Also, we disagree in general that “either giving money to [organization X] is effective, or it isn’t.” We believe that for any given organization, there are levels of support that are appropriate and effective and levels of support that are excessive. (More at our guide to “room for more funding” analysis.) Thus, it does make sense to solicit until we have raised a certain amount, and then to stop soliciting. Soliciting only from our “inner circle” is a method of implementing this.

  • Holly Morgan on June 17, 2013 at 1:16 pm said:

    Can GiveWell send an automated email to us when we fill in the donation form, with a summary of our entries? I just submitted an entry but I wasn’t sure if I’d emailed you about it before – a confirmation email with details of data submitted would be very helpful to keep us reporting accurately, I think!

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