The GiveWell Blog

March 2020 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 2019 open thread here.


  • Tejas Subramaniam on March 10, 2020 at 10:37 pm said:

    One thing to consider is the difference, among health charities, between charities that specialize in building systems and charities that specialize in particular rigorously-tested interventions. For example, while the Malaria Consortium might have a highly cost-effective program for seasonal malaria chemoprevention, it’s hard to weigh that against—say—Partners in Health working on improving health infrastructure and hospitals in Sierra Leone, especially because, while such investments have high fixed costs, their returns last well into the future (rather than being immediate). How does GiveWell take into account such “systems-based” charitable efforts?

  • Brian Slesinsky on March 12, 2020 at 7:03 pm said:

    I expect that eventually people are going to be asking about coronavirus charities. It’s early but I hope you’re investigating?

  • Erin (GiveWell) on March 13, 2020 at 3:48 pm said:

    Hi Tejas,

    We’ve written about this here:

    “In our traditional work, we’ve focused on finding effective organizations carrying out interventions that are relatively cost-effective and have strong evidence behind them. Generally, the evidence for interventions addressing ‘symptoms’ is much stronger than for those addressing underlying causes. In addition, by improving people’s general health and wellbeing, we believe they will be better positioned to make long-term gains for themselves. In this way, treating health is itself arguably a way to address other problems. You can read more here.

    “As GiveWell begins to evaluate more complex evidence bases, we foresee a future in which GiveWell better understands the philanthropic opportunities for encouraging [systems-based] growth and structural change in low- and middle-income countries, and has information to share about how they compare with our top charities. Although this area has been outside the scope of GiveWell’s past research, we hope it won’t always be too speculative for us to consider…

    “The following blog posts may also provide some helpful context for how we’ve thought about the question of what to recommend in the past; while we are exploring a broader scope of research evaluations going forward, we think the core points these posts raise are worth keeping in mind:

  • Erin (GiveWell) on March 13, 2020 at 3:49 pm said:

    Hi Brian,

    We are exploring opportunities to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. We are prepared to make grants that explicitly target coronavirus or its broader health and economic effects, if they seem promising (i.e., appear to be at least as or more cost-effective than the charity to which we’d otherwise direct funds).

    We would not be surprised if the coronavirus pandemic has significant negative impacts in low- and middle-income countries. We are also monitoring how the coronavirus pandemic may impact our current top charities’ programs.

    We’re in the early stages of this work and will share more information, aligned with our usual transparency practices, as we have it.

  • Pierre on March 15, 2020 at 4:48 am said:

    If I have 1k$, what can I do to help fight the COVID19?

    I wan thinking to help here:

    But I’m not sure. Thanks for your work and comments.

  • Erin (GiveWell) on March 17, 2020 at 6:14 pm said:

    Hi Pierre,

    We discuss how we plan to look into coronavirus (COVID-19) in the comment above. Unfortunately, we do not have any recommendations at this time.

  • +1 to add that I too am really interested to see any donation recommendations you come out with for combating Covid-19 in the developing world

  • George Fitts on May 17, 2020 at 9:42 am said:

    Hello my name is George Fitts. I am reaching out for help due to desperation and fear of being hungry and homeless. I am on a veru small fixed income and cannot work due to injuries. Also my wife is very sick with a life threatening illness. I cant even provide safe transportation back and forth to the hospital. Against my pride and shame of asking for help i pray to find some resources for relief. Is there anyone i can contact to help. Thank you so much

  • Erin (GiveWell) on May 19, 2020 at 3:29 pm said:

    Hi George,

    Unfortunately, we do not provide this type of support. We are sorry to not be more helpful and we send you our best wishes during this difficult time.

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