The GiveWell Blog

Nothing But Nets

In 2014, we prioritized Nothing But Nets ( as a potential GiveWell top charity because it funds insecticide-treated nets to prevent malaria, one of our priority programs.

In early 2014, we contacted Nothing But Nets to explain our process and to invite it to apply for a recommendation. Nothing But Nets provided brief responses to questions we had previously sent them (.docx), but has decided not to fully participate in our review process at this time.

In our 2013 annual review, we wrote that we were seeing more interest from charities in participating in our process and expected fewer organizations to decline to participate. We’ve written this post to share our impression about Nothing But Nets’ decision.

Our understanding is that Nothing But Nets has a small team (~2 staff members) focused directly on fundraising, and that it would be challenging for its existing staff to engage with GiveWell in our process. Our review process would require a significant time investment, including at the very least, (a) several lengthy (~2-hour) phone calls to understand Nothing But Nets’ role and value added; (b) submission of documents we request and email responses to questions we ask; c) a multi-day site visit with GiveWell staff, and (d) review of any write-up we produce about Nothing But Nets.

Although GiveWell’s recent money moved is high relative to Nothing But Nets’ funding — in 2013, GiveWell directed more than $17 million to the 4 organizations recommended throughout the year, with more than $2 million going to each organization, and Nothing But Nets has raised approximately $50 million since its founding in 2007 — it would not surprise us if the amount of time needed to meaningfully engage with us would be a major cost for an organization Nothing But Nets’ current size.

With that said, based on the information Nothing But Nets has shared with us (its brief responses to questions we had previously sent, linked above) – as well as our view that we have been clear about the requirements and the likely benefits of becoming recommended – our impression is that that Nothing But Nets’ decision not to apply has not caused us to miss out on a likely top charity.

Notwithstanding this impression, we remain interested in Nothing But Nets and hope that they will engage with us in the future.


  • Luke Muehlhauser on May 21, 2014 at 11:14 am said:

    Did you get the impression that NBN would be substantially more likely to engage with GiveWell’s process if GW’s money-moved metric were above a certain threshold?

  • Elie on May 21, 2014 at 1:10 pm said:

    We didn’t. My guess is that even if our money moved were higher by a factor of 2-3x, it wouldn’t have made a difference.

    My impression was that the fact that we have substantial money moved led Nothing But Nets to consider applying; had we just been a “charity evaluator” without any funding to direct, they would have not have considered it.

  • Peter Hurford on May 21, 2014 at 4:49 pm said:

    “Our understanding is that Nothing But Nets has a small team (~2 staff members) focused directly on fundraising”

    Is their fundraising per hour higher than the amount of GiveWell money moved divided by the number of hours it takes to participate in a GiveWell review? If not, are they just turned off by the risk of spending time and not becoming a top charity? (And if they are turned off by that risk, is that risk aversion, or a rational decision?)

    If they’re worried about their time fundraising being better than time spent on a GiveWell review, has GiveWell thought about promising a certain grant to defray the costs of staff time / uncertainty involved?

    Do you think it would be beneficial for a “lower burden” charity evaluator to look into them for a recommendation (e.g., Giving What We Can)?

  • Elie on May 21, 2014 at 7:56 pm said:

    Thanks for the good questions, Peter. I’ll answer each in turn.

    1. I don’t know whether their fundraising per hour is higher than the amount of GiveWell money moved, but my best guess is that the expected value of participating in our process is significantly higher than their fundraising cost per hour if they have the type of monitoring data we’re looking for and significantly lower if they don’t.

    2. We haven’t worked out all the details yet but are planning to offer grants to organizations that commit a certain amount of time to our process and seem sufficiently promising.

    3. I don’t think a lower burden evaluation would yield much in this case. The burden for Nothing But Nets is already reasonably low as we have reasonably strong context on the way net distribution programs work, the evidence for and cost-effectiveness of net programs, the global funding gap, and the type of monitoring information a malaria net charity would have to provide to be competitive for a recommendation. So, the burden in this case is already significantly lower than it would normally be.

  • Robert Wiblin on May 22, 2014 at 6:51 am said:

    Looking at the numbers this seems like a peculiar decision on their part, especially as they could be recommended for several years in a row.

    I wonder if they considered the counterfactual (i.e. if they are not recommended, someone else roughly as good – like AMF – will be, and so it wouldn’t be best for the world for them to invest time competing against other outstanding charities).

  • Peter Hurford on May 22, 2014 at 10:48 am said:

    @Elie: “my best guess is that the expected value of participating in our process is significantly higher than their fundraising cost per hour if they have the type of monitoring data we’re looking for and significantly lower if they don’t.”

    Could that be considered good evidence that they don’t actually have the monitoring data you’re looking for?

  • Elie on May 22, 2014 at 1:06 pm said:

    Hi Peter, I’m not sure. I’d say it’s suggestive evidence. We ultimately know relatively little about Nothing But Nets.

  • Debra More on August 21, 2014 at 12:16 am said:

    If nothing but nets has been given 50 million since 2007 where exactly has the money gone? They say they are affiliated with Bill Gates foundation but I found the name no-where on Gates site. Simple question: Where do I find out who owns nothingbutnets and does anyone question who gets the funds. They are soliciting in Facebook and I wanted to check the site out before donating. Who can give me an answer as to is this a legitimate charity or not. Thanks, Deb

  • Peter Brown on August 27, 2014 at 1:10 pm said:

    Is the number of nets they have purchased known? Whom do they distribute through? This is a question for a research paper on malaria related charities I am working on.

  • Natalie on August 28, 2014 at 10:50 am said:

    Hi Peter Brown,

    The most recent information we have seen about how many nets Nothing But Nets has purchased is at this page, which says 7 million nets.

    In Nothing But Nets’ responses to our questions (see link in post), it noted that its implementing partners include “UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), as well as others.”

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