The GiveWell Blog

June 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 March 2018 open thread here.


  • Drake Thomas on June 14, 2018 at 4:35 pm said:

    It seems like most short summaries of GiveWell research give brief descriptions of what a particular charity does, and its rough effectiveness; in the more in-depth studies, one finds plenty of consideration and weighing of different factors for moral importance, but it seems this doesn’t usually make it out of such longer (and thus less accessible) reports.

    Is there somewhere where one can see some medium-length looks at the benefits and drawbacks of different causes, as weighed by moral considerations? For instance:

    “Charity A’s benefit originates primarily from saving lives of young children; if you’re an anti-natalist or concerned about overpopulation, you may place a lower value on its work. Current evidence (Smith et al. 2003) suggests that the death of a child in region X rarely leads to the parents having an additional child that would not otherwise have been born, so the number of total human lives is likely net positive (potentially relevant if you value current and future lives equally).”

    “Charity B provides definite short-term benefits from a hedonic perspective, but the evidence for substantial long-term impact remains thin; whether you prioritize more long-term efforts may affect your valuation of B. Givewell currently believes around 20% of the expected impact of B comes from short-term benefits, and 80% from the long-term efforts (despite the uncertainty about their existence).”

    “We currently estimate that with 10% probability, charity C is able to reduce the number of chickens in factory farms (not moving them to humane environments, but simply decreasing the marginal number of chickens in existence) by around 17 per dollar donated; however, this relies on a single study (Jones et al. 2014) whose veracity and methods are uncertain. We expect that a more probable level of efficacy is around $5 per negative chicken, though a study funded by Animal Charity Evaluators is likely to provide more evidence which will be incorporated into our 2019 report. The importance of C’s work is dependent on the extent to which one considers chickens to be moral patients, and (conditional on their moral value) whether the existence of additional chickens in factory farming conditions is a moral harm.”

  • Catherine (GiveWell) on June 15, 2018 at 6:58 pm said:

    Hi Drake,

    Thanks for the question. We do not have a medium-depth page of the precise nature you describe. We really appreciate the suggestion, and we’ll consider putting something like this together.

    We have a few additional resources that may be helpful in thinking about this question:

    * A detailed write-up examining how various views of population ethics might lead you to update your view of the cost-effectiveness of our top charity the Against Malaria Foundation: link.
    * A look at how GiveWell’s approach to moral weights compare to other global actors: link.

    Our cost-effectiveness model is the primary place in which weights of moral considerations are explicitly drawn; in the “Moral weights” tab, you can see how staff members assign different moral values. We also summarize the key differences between our top charities, including the different outcomes from which their recommendations are drawn (about which individuals might have varying moral intuitions), in a table in this blog post: link.

    We will keep your interest in this type of content in mind going forward, as we consider how best to present our research.

    Thank you for the suggestion!

  • As a reaction to recent atrocities, a non-profit called RAICES is receiving a huge influx of money to help families reunite with their loved ones (~$10MM to date). I can’t seem to find information about their non-profit on GiveWell or CharityNavigator. I want to help this noteworthy cause but am also hesitant to contribute to this non-profit. The skeptic in me wonders if they have the infrastructure set up to utilize the huge sum of money appropriately. What are the steps I need to take to ease my concerns to make the best impact on the situation (and future similar situations to come)?

    Read more:

  • Catherine (GiveWell) on June 20, 2018 at 5:30 pm said:

    Hi JY,

    We’re sorry – this isn’t an area that we have looked into. Our general advice for donors interested in accomplishing a lot of good with their donation is here:

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