The GiveWell Blog

Good Ventures matching gift to GiveDirectly and grants to top charities

Good Ventures has announced:

  • Grants to our top charities: $2 million to GiveDirectly, $1.5 million to Deworm the World Initiative, $750,000 to Schistosomiasis Control Initiative.
  • A match, up to $5 million total and $100,000 per donor, on donations made to GiveDirectly from today through January 31, 2014.

Good Ventures spells out its reasoning here.

We very much appreciate Good Ventures’ generous support of our top charities.

These decisions were made by Good Ventures and not GiveWell, but we were part of the discussions leading up to them, and thought we ought to briefly summarize what recommendations we’ve made and thoughts we’ve shared on this front.

On the grants, we advised Good Ventures to do as it did and agree with the reasoning stated in its announcement. We believe that Good Ventures will have better giving opportunities available to it in the future than today, and we also see negative aspects to “crowding out” the donations of individuals, so we did not advise it to close top charities’ full funding gaps, but we did advise it to help ensure that the minimum targets are hit.

On the match, we raised the possibility of matching donations to GiveDirectly. We stated that we saw positive value in encouraging other individuals to give to a top charity, and that we believed money given to any top charity – particularly GiveDirectly, which seems to have the most absorptive capacity and which most staff are favoring for their personal donations this year – is money well spent. Ultimately, Elie and I recommended against the match (feeling that these funds would be better spent on a future giving opportunity), while stating that we believed there were strong arguments both ways and that we respected and supported Good Ventures’ decision. Alexander recommended in favor of the match.

We’re aware of the tension between supporting a match and our previous writing on matches. We believe that a maximally rational approach to giving should not be influenced by most donation matching. However, Good Ventures’ match is targeted at influencing a broad range of donors, many of whom may not fully align with our view and may be positively influenced by the match offer. And we also believe it is not misleading in the way that many matches are: the purpose of the match is to bring in more donors, and there is a legitimate possibility that the full match will not be taken advantage of (in which case those funds simply won’t be donated to GiveDirectly). If the full amount of the match is reached, we believe Good Ventures will be giving more in total to our top charities this year than they would have been had a match not been a possibility.

Good Ventures is more positive on GiveDirectly than on our other top charities, to a greater degree than most GiveWell staff. We’re still planning for individual staff members to discuss their planned personal allocations in the next couple weeks.


  • Carl Shulman on December 3, 2013 at 3:17 pm said:

    “We believe that Good Ventures will have better giving opportunities available to it in the future than today, and we also see negative aspects to ?crowding out? the donations of individuals”

    There is a pool of casual donors who want to make a quick and simple donation now, and are averse to delay (who wouldn’t use devices like donor-advised funds or the Giving What We Can Charitable trust). It makes sense to craft some policies, like matching funds, to influence them.

    Increasing the number of individual donors using GiveWell and GiveDirectly should increase word-of-mouth, which I think depends more on the total number of such donors than on the amount they each give.

    However, it doesn’t make as much sense for donors who are already committed to donating effectively to mimic new casual donors. They are already ‘in the game’, so why donate proportionately more than Good Ventures, in the name of convincing themselves to donate in the future and spread word of effective charity? They plan to do so regardless, and can bind themselves to using a DAF or the GWWC trust while claiming tax deductions and keeping giving pledges. Not to mention that to the extent Good Ventures is spending cash to ‘buy’ new small donors, committed donors who donate during the match will be wasting Good Ventures funds.

    If Good Ventures has a pool of $N billion, and overwhelmingly holds it back for future “better giving opportunities” then it would presumably do almost the same thing with $N billion plus $10,000. So for the dedicated donor it looks better to use a DAF, trust, or foundation and push the overall distribution of donations over time towards the allocation Good Ventures would make if it already held the cash one is considering donating.

    Exceptions would include cases where there is some barrier to Good Ventures donating. For example, GiveWell says that they do not wish to accept too much of their operating budget from Good Ventures to preserve some independence from any one donor. Variations in tax deductibility, PR consequences, and similar might also apply.

  • Holden on December 3, 2013 at 3:45 pm said:

    Carl, I tend to agree with your reasoning, though I think it’s very much a judgment call and feel that others may rationally disagree.

    You may be interested in “Pros and Cons of giving to our Top Charities” (see or the bottom of

  • Carl Shulman on December 4, 2013 at 3:31 am said:

    If the match is intended mainly to elicit new donors, then one would want to avoid committed donors partaking of the matching funds. It’s possible to pay for that more directly: this year Peter Thiel created a matching grant with a higher match for new large donors.

    Donors in general receive 1:1 matching, while donors giving over $5,000 for the first time (“new large donors”) get 3:1 matching. The details are worth empirical testing and could go wrong (in the long-run expectation of matches structured this way might lead some people to delay donations until they can make large ones to claim a match; this effect could be reduced with a match cap). Nonetheless, it seems worth keeping in mind the possibility of explicitly distinguishing between new and old donors for future matches.

  • Carl Shulman on December 8, 2013 at 7:22 pm said:

    Giving What We Can has a post explaining how UK donors can use the GWWC trust to claim gift aid/keep pledges/etc now while waiting to see if AMF gets more room for more funding later in 2014, or for GiveWell Labs to produce recommendations:

  • Randall on December 8, 2013 at 9:10 pm said:

    Glad to see the match!

  • Carl Shulman on December 8, 2013 at 11:54 pm said:

    Addendum: the Giving What We Can Trust’s page for GiveWell-linked donation.

  • so…I donated $11,000 to GiveDirectly today…How do I get it matched?

  • Detailed information on how we apply for the matching contribution seems to be missing both from this article as well as Good Ventures’ site. I would like to encourage some folks to take advantage of this match, but I imagine that the more roadblocks that non internet-savvy folks run into the less contributions GiveDirectly will receive.

  • Alexander on December 21, 2013 at 2:12 pm said:

    Xander: all contributions to GiveDirectly are automatically eligible for the match; no further action is required. Sorry that wasn’t clear.

  • Thanks very much for the clarification!

  • Army1987 on January 26, 2014 at 1:45 pm said:

    @Alexander: how do you know nobody is donating $100,000 anonymously twice?

  • Alexander on January 26, 2014 at 2:54 pm said:

    Army1987 – donors of that magnitude, in our experience, are rarely anonymous to the organization that they’re supporting. I would guess that GiveDirectly has no donors at the 100k+ level whose identity it does not know; GiveWell doesn’t. The donor you describe would also have to want to explicitly subvert Good Ventures’ will, which we think is unlikely to be a problem in practice.

    If GiveDirectly receives multiple anonymous donations of >$50k, we may try to look into the possibility of manipulation.

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