The GiveWell Blog

The impact of COVID-19 on GiveWell’s plans

We hope everyone is staying well during these difficult times. We are publishing this blog post to provide a brief update on how the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic impacts our plans.

We are looking into the impact of the pandemic on the organizations we support as well as opportunities to mitigate its effects. We are in the early stages of this work and will update you as we reach conclusions.

We don’t have a new recommendation for donors: our bottom line continues to be to donate to “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion,” which we allocate quarterly to the highest priority need we see.

Monitoring the organizations we support

We are monitoring how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting the organizations we support. We’re in the early stages of seeing the myriad ways in which the pandemic is expected to impact their programs in 2020, such as:

  • Restrictions (mandated by government or self-imposed) on reaching program participants in their homes.
  • School closures that affect school-based deworming programs.
  • Reduced availability of government resources for organizations that typically rely on health ministries or government-run networks of health workers.
  • Additional costs for protective equipment for staff.
  • Challenges obtaining commodities for distribution.

The organizations we support are updating their program implementation plans in response to the coronavirus. One of our top charities, the Against Malaria Foundation, suspended the monitoring it typically conducts after distributing malaria nets for at least one month in Ghana, though it says its overall operations have been minimally impacted so far. Another top charity, GiveDirectly, paused door-to-door operations for its cash transfer program and has begun exploring a contactless operational model to prevent the spread of the virus.

We are working to get a complete picture of the effects of the coronavirus on the organizations we support so that we can update our assessment of their funding needs and expected impact. Overall, we expect low- and middle-income countries, in which our charities operate, to have greater funding needs for healthcare in 2020 due to the coronavirus.

Exploring opportunities to mitigate the effects

We are also exploring opportunities to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Consistent with our usual practice for assessing giving opportunities, we are prepared to make new grants or to work with partners to reallocate our funding if there appear to be more cost-effective uses than the program to which we’d otherwise direct funds. These opportunities could explicitly target the coronavirus and its broader health and economic effects or could respond to its impact on the funding landscape for global health and poverty alleviation.

We are unsure if we will find new cost-effective giving opportunities that haven’t received government or philanthropic funding. If we do, we will report on any grants or funding decisions we recommend as a result of our investigation.

We are open to the landscape of opportunities in 2020 looking different than we expected before the pandemic. That said, we expect a continued need for funding for the programs implemented by the organizations we support.

Continuing our work

Thanks to our donors’ generous support of GiveWell’s own operations—enabling us to pay our staff to conduct research, process donations, and keep the lights on—we remain in a solid financial position. We expect to fundraise to ensure we can continue our work over the long term, but we don’t expect the pandemic to have a direct effect on our ability to do our work. We remain dedicated to our mission of finding and recommending highly cost-effective giving opportunities, and we’ll keep you posted, as we always do, on our findings. In the meantime, please stay safe and be well.


  • Bobby Shen on March 26, 2020 at 8:11 pm said:

    YESSS an update!
    I’ve seen comments here and there that supply chains for lots of goods could be disrupted; pharmaceuticals being the biggest one. I know almost no specifics though. Maybe particularly interesting supply chain changes could be interesting to write about.

    I am also interested in what you think the WHO solidarity fund does. I have not contributed to them.

    Maybe promoting access to the internet and medical experts could be impactful. I think that a video testimony of a doctor is powerful, and town halls by politicians are an imperfect substitute.

    Here is a video that a senior coworker linked. I don’t know if their medical statements are completely accurate (such as main transmission factor being prolonged contact or like shaking hands).

  • Warren on March 29, 2020 at 2:55 pm said:

    Looking forward to more updates! Eager to pull the trigger to see where our dollars can do the most good in this crisis.

  • Jacob Opiyo on April 2, 2020 at 12:26 pm said:

    Hello, am from Kenya.
    I am a graduate who has remained jobless for 5years. I have been living on menial jobs.
    Due to the COVID19 PANDEMIC, I have remained jobless and dying from starvation. Kindly help me with any cash transfer.
    Telephone number +254 718227127

  • Warren on April 10, 2020 at 2:55 pm said:

    For your next blog post, it’d be valuable to know the decision-making / evaluation process you performed, in addition to a list of opportunities you evaluated (e.g. GiveWell, HKI, AMF, etc.) – even if you don’t end up recommending anyone so that donors understand the reasons why.

  • Catherine (GiveWell) on April 10, 2020 at 3:03 pm said:

    Hi Warren,

    Thanks for letting us know this would be helpful. We appreciate it!

  • Katherine wilcox on April 20, 2020 at 9:42 am said:

    Hello I am from United States I been jobless for almost 4years I have 7kids and am struggling to even pay my rent and bills and keep food on the table and covid 19 has made it even worst there isn’t many jobs hiring and I just need little assistance to get back on my feet I can’t work due to covid 19 anything will help

  • Catherine (GiveWell) on April 21, 2020 at 11:07 am said:

    Hi Jacob and Katherine,

    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.

  • Ronald Pacetti on June 2, 2020 at 1:18 pm said:

    I hope you promote the testing for the Covid 19 Virus. The president has everyone tested at the White House every day. I think that everyone that has to go back to work should know that everyone that they work with does not have the virus. There has to be a way to at least get the testing that far.

  • Emma on July 9, 2020 at 10:18 am said:

    Thanks for this update Givewell, to be honest it seems vague, awfully late and shows an inherited lack of agility. As a big supporter of some of your causes and the effective altruism movement, I find it appalling that you have not already redirected funds from smaller organisations that have yet to prove impact and have made menial progress in their infrastructure and network setups. Why not move money from these organisations to more effective, need and time based interventions for Coronavirus in countries like Brazil. Or maybe even get these organisations where you have pumped millions of dollars to switch their not very developed business models to short term interventions, maybe even leveraging their not very developed but still existent informal networks and rural contacts? Believe me, I dont mean pull support from incredible work like IDInsights or the against malaria foundation. Just smaller programs that seem to have secured your funding on mirages of commitments from suppliers and a lack of actual action. Seems like a mis allocation of funds really and I’d love for you to address this comment with specific examples of how you are tackling this rather than generic, subjective statements that are not rooted in action when the world is in a time of need.

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