The GiveWell Blog

How to help GiveWell

We often get the question, “how can I most help GiveWell?”

First and foremost, you can donate to our top charities. Giving to our top charities accomplishes good directly, but it also really helps GiveWell too (as long as we know about your gift). You may not have much to give, but by giving what you can, you’re helping GiveWell commensurate with your resources.

Second, you can spread the word about GiveWell. You can introduce your friends to effective altruism and point them to helpful starting points like Peter Singer’s book The Life You Can Save, his recent TED talk, or our Giving 101.

You can also like/share our Facebook posts with your network or re-tweet what we post on Twitter. Looking out for opportunities to share interesting things we write with your network will really help us.

Third, if you have time, you can use it to help us. You can help most by reading the content we put out and letting us know — via blog comments or emailing our public email list — if you have questions, comments, or concerns. We work hard to make our research available to everyone and we really appreciate active engagement from our audience.

Alternatively, if you have a blog or other audience of your own, we always really appreciate when others discuss the work we’re doing. The best way to view all the content we’re publishing is our newly published materials list, which you can follow via email, RSS, or Twitter.

In very rare cases, we’re open to working with volunteers or even hiring people as full-time staff. If you’re passionate about what we do, and have specific skills or interests that could help us, let us know by following the instructions on our jobs page.


  • Rob Wiblin on June 7, 2013 at 11:23 am said:

    Is $1 given to your top charities on your recommendation more valuable to you than $1 in your own bank account? I can understand if you are reluctant to fundraise directly here, but that would seem pretty surprising to me.

  • Elie on June 7, 2013 at 11:37 am said:

    Hi Rob,

    Thanks for the question. We get this question a lot, and we’re going to be writing more clearly about it in the near future.

    It’s a fact that we face a very clear conflict of interest when publicly raising money for ourselves. We’ve decided to ask the general public to support our top charities rather than give to us because we don’t want to compete with our recommended organizations.

  • Jonah Sinick on June 7, 2013 at 1:49 pm said:

    Hi Elie,

    I don’t understand the rationale behind the (implicitly expressed) view that donating to GiveWell’s current top ranked charities is an optimal way of helping GiveWell. Holden wrote

    >…we would guess that the best giving opportunities are likely to lie outside of our traditional work…Our traditional criteria apply only to a very small subset of possible giving opportunities, and it’s a subset that doesn’t seem uniquely difficult to find funders for…. While we do believe that being able to measure something is a major plus holding all else equal – and that it’s particularly important for casual donors – we no longer consider ourselves to be “casual,” and we would guess that opening ourselves up to the full set of things a funder can do will eventually lead to substantially better giving opportunities than the ones we’ve considered so far.

    With this in mind, my guess is that it would help GiveWell more to signal the availability of funding to potential recipients outside of the scope of GiveWell’s traditional work rather than potential recipients within the scope of GiveWell’s traditional work.

    Because some donors to GiveWell’s current top ranked charities prefer giving based on GiveWell’s traditional approach, the signal of money moved to GiveWell’s current top ranked charities is a noisy one for potential funding recipients outside of GiveWell’s traditional work.

    It seems to me that donors could help GiveWell more by pre-committing to give to one of GiveWell’s future recommendations, rather than by giving to GiveWell’s current top ranked charities.

    [Note: I formerly worked as a research analyst at GiveWell.]

  • Elie on June 7, 2013 at 2:18 pm said:

    Hi Jonah,

    Thanks — that’s a good question. A couple points:

    First, signaling is not a simple matter, and my instinct is that being able to point to funds we have directed is more valuable than being able to point to pre-commitments. In my experience talking to donors (who are trying to gauge GiveWell’s influence), prospective recruits, and representatives from charities, the actual money moved number is more compelling than our attempts to point to pre-commitments. (Note that we’ve had the experience discussing pre-commitments before.)

    One way of saying this is that when it comes to signaling credibility, simplicity matters.

    Second, I don’t think potential recommendations in labs are concerned that GiveWell’s current money moved is a poor predictor of potential money moved to recommendations we make via Labs. I think this impression is fair.

    So, our preference is that donors who support and want to help us give to our current top charities rather than trying to signal their support for GiveWell by making pre-commitments.

  • Jonah Sinick on June 7, 2013 at 3:49 pm said:

    Thanks, this makes sense.

    Maybe this is a tangential point, but I still see some tension between GiveWell’s guessing that its future recommendations will be substantially better than its current recommendations (for reasons unrelated to giving to AMF resulting in direct learning opportunities), and GiveWell urging donors to donate to its current top-ranked charities.

    I recognize that GiveWell is aiming to have found concrete giving opportunities within its new paradigm in short order.

  • Lee Crawfurd on June 8, 2013 at 2:01 pm said:

    What are your thoughts about the question of what is an appropriate % of income for people to give?

  • Holly Morgan on June 9, 2013 at 10:11 am said:

    FYI, the eBook version of The Life You Can Save is currently on sale for $0.99 in the US:

  • Alexander on June 10, 2013 at 2:25 pm said:

    Lee – we haven’t formulated an official view on this question but we’re considering writing more about it in the future. Sorry not to be more helpful.

  • Ian Turner on June 12, 2013 at 9:26 pm said:


    I think the short answer is that the appropriate percentage depends on your means, as well as on what other obligations you may have in life. For example, if you have dependents, that could be reasonably expected to reduce the amount of money you would have available for giving.


  • Jonah Sinick on July 20, 2013 at 12:08 pm said:

    I was reminded of this recently, and want to elaborate a little bit on my last comment.

    In order for giving to GiveWell’s current top charities to be optimal, it has to be the case that the benefit to GiveWell of donating to the current top charities has higher expected value than the difference between the direct (expected) value of donating to a future recommendation and the direct (expected) value of donating to a current recommendation.

    If the amount donated to GiveWell’s current recommendations were really small, I could see how the marginal help to GiveWell coming from donating to a current recommendation could be a lot bigger than the difference above. But it seems very unclear whether increasing the amount donated to GiveWell’s current recommended charities from $10 million/year to $20 million/year is better than holding off for future recommendations. I think that the question of how large the decline in (indirect) marginal returns to donating to GiveWell’s current recommendations is, and the point at which they’d be lower than the above difference, deserves careful consideration.

    If the break-even point is lower than GiveWell’s anticipated money moved in 2013, a practical solution would be to advise larger donors to wait until after December to decide whether to donate to GiveWell’s 2013 recommendations, and then donate to increase GiveWell’s money moved to the break-even point.

Comments are closed.