The GiveWell Blog

March 2018 open thread

Our goal with hosting quarterly open threads is to give blog readers an opportunity to publicly raise comments or questions about GiveWell or related topics (in the comments section below). As always, you’re also welcome to email us at or to request a call with GiveWell staff if you have feedback or questions you’d prefer to discuss privately. We’ll try to respond promptly to questions or comments.

You can view our December 2017 open thread here.


  • Are there any really small charities you can recommend, where a gift of around $1,000 would be enough to impact on what the charity does?

  • Eric Anderson on March 14, 2018 at 1:17 pm said:

    Hello there! I was looking over your cause area report on salt iodization, and noticed that while you look into the effect of prenatal iodine on cretinism, and of childhood iodine on cognitive ability, you don’t show any analysis of prenatal iodine on cognitive ability. Some studies (linked below) show a strong effect in areas with severe deficiency.

    Is there a reason you don’t go over that possibility? Either the evidence base not being strong enough, or severe deficiency not being typical of where most programs are able to operate?


  • Cameron Holloway on March 14, 2018 at 3:47 pm said:

    Have GiveWell (and EA funds) considered a ranking system which ranks the most effective charities by cause, as Giving What We Can has? Currently, I worry about the scalability of their approach. Say, as EA becomes more influential, a very large percentage of charitable donations are given to AMF, and they are able to provide bed nets to everybody in the developing world who needs them. This sounds like a good thing, and those funds could then be redirected to the next most effective charity not working on malaria, say Schistosomiasis Control Initiative. We then solve Schistosomiasis, and those funds are redirected again to Give Directly, and in this way we solve the world’s problems one by one. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

    But it just doesn’t work like that. The world’s problems cannot all be dealt with one by one – in fact, pretty much the opposite is true. If we all spend our donations on buying enough bed nets for every person threatened by malaria, that means that we are not providing clean water in Somalia, or food in South Sudan, or doctors in Yemen. The idea, and for now the reality, is that these things will happen anyway, because there are many large organisations focused on disaster relief, providing clean water, education, food etc. and these sorts of projects are more likely to draw donations anyway, as they attract more sympathy. But what if that were no longer the case, as effective altruists must surely desire? Are GiveWell currently looking at trying to cover a wider range of areas with their top charities, and are they concerned about the bias inherent in the fact that some issues, such as malaria and worms, are clearly far more effective to work on than others?

  • Milan Griffes on March 14, 2018 at 3:50 pm said:

    How has Chris Blattman’s 10-year follow-up of a cash transfer program in Uganda affected GiveWell’s view of the effectiveness of GiveDirectly?

    From Blattman’s conversation with Tyler Cowen, the upshot is that non-recipients caught up with transfer recipients after 10 years:

    “We recently went back to some cash transfers that were given almost 10 years ago, following up a randomized control trial in Uganda in the north, and we’re just, in some sense, putting out those results.

    What we found is, the initial result after two and four years was like other places seeing big advances in incomes. People get cash. They’re poor. They couldn’t invest in some of their ideas, but they had good ideas, and so they take off.

    Now what we’ve seen is, essentially, they’ve converged with the people who didn’t get the cash. The people who didn’t get the cash have caught up because they saved and accumulated slowly and got up to the point where they have the same levels of success.

    They converged to a good level. But this means that cash transfers are much more of a temporary acceleration than they are some sort of permanent solution to poverty.”

  • Has GiveWell disbursed any of the finds collected due to their end of 2017 recommendations? Or, has GiveWell released publicly the total amount raised over the key giving season? (I haven’t seen this information, but I may have missed it) And how does the amount compare to the impact of recommendations in previous years?

  • Eric Anderson on March 16, 2018 at 10:59 am said:

    Gary, the best advice I’m aware of on that front is what Peter Hurford put together on the EA forum:

  • Eric Anderson on March 16, 2018 at 11:51 am said:

    Gary, it also might be worth looking into organizations EA Funds have given small grants to, as they try not to be the sole source of funding for any organization, so there are likely to still be some funding gaps remaining.

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