The GiveWell Blog

September 2020 open thread

Added October 2022: From 2020 to 2022 we used the name “Maximum Impact Fund” to refer to the fund used to support the highest-priority funding needs among our top charities each quarter. In September 2022, we changed the name of this fund to the “Top Charities Fund” to better describe what opportunities this fund supports; more information here.

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 June 2020 open thread here.


  • Have there been any updates to your plans for discretionary grantmaking? Any background you can provide about your thought process on when to restart that would be appreciated.


  • Any update on what is going to be encompassed in the next maximum impact fund? Curious to hear with the climate of COVID and new research on deworming.

  • Ethan Kennerly on September 13, 2020 at 7:51 pm said:

    After reading the 2020 update on Charity vs Cash, I felt informed! I’m still attempting to translate the “units of value” per dollar spent into something I can visualize and describe to a friend. For example in the linked sheet, Deworm the World appears to have roughly 30x the impact as Give Directly. And in the Deworm the World sheet, there’s a summary of roughly 1 unit of value created for each $10 donated (before matching). In the moral weights sheet, it looks like 1 unit of value is roughly equivalent to 10 people raising their income about 7%.

    So is that to suggest that the effect of each marginal $1 donated to Deworm the World would be roughly equivalent to raising 1 person’s income for one year around 7%?

    Since Deworm the World is rated about 30x of Give Directly, is that to say that Deworm the World’s about as effective as raising the income of about 30x more people per dollar donated?

    Would the effect of donating about $30 to Give Directly be equivalent to raising 1 person’s annual income about 7%?

    I know I’m oversimplifying what has already been oversimplified, yet even an crude and cautious approximation that I could crisply and concretely visualize would clarify the help we would be offering.

  • Erin Wolff (GiveWell) on September 16, 2020 at 12:51 pm said:

    Hi Luke,

    Thanks for your question about granting donations from our Maximum Impact Fund (previously known as Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion). We are planning to publish a blog post and notify donors shortly of our allocation of funds from the first half of the year. We expect to grant donations received in the third quarter of 2020 on our typical schedule, with no further COVID-19-related delays.

  • Erin Wolff (GiveWell) on September 16, 2020 at 12:56 pm said:

    Hi Warren,

    We grant our Maximum Impact Fund to the highest-value funding opportunities we see among our recommended charities, which are listed here. We are planning to publish a blog post and notify donors shortly of our allocation of funds from the first half of the year. We’re not yet sure which charity or charities will receive our next allocation from the fund (donations received in the third quarter of 2020). Right now, we model Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program as having the most cost-effective funding need among our top charities. However, we revisit the funding needs among our top charities each time we grant out the Maximum Impact Fund, so it is possible we will identify a higher-priority need at the time we are making the next grant!

    You can read more about our previous allocations from this fund here.

  • Erin Wolff (GiveWell) on September 16, 2020 at 1:17 pm said:

    Hi Ethan,

    Thanks for your question!

    To introduce a friend to the cost-effectiveness of our top charities in a clear and concrete way, we might suggest focusing on the cost estimates per outcome for each top charity. We summarize the cost-effectiveness of each of our top charities’ programs on a new top charities page that we’re currently testing:

    • Deworming: “Donating $100 will deworm about 120 children,* leading to a cumulative $600 in additional earnings over the course of the children’s lives.* This program is implemented in areas where people on average live on $650 per year.* This is significantly more cost-effective than cash transfers.”
    • GiveDirectly: “The majority of people in the world live on less than $3,700 per year.* … Program participants receive $83 out of every $100 donated.*”
    • Vitamin A supplementation: “About $2 to deliver a vitamin A supplement.* We estimate that $3,000-$5,000 will save the life of a child under 5.*”
    • Nets to prevent malaria: “About $5 to provide one net.* We estimate that $3,000 – $5,000 will save a life.*”
    • Seasonal malaria chemoprevention: “About $7 to protect a child from malaria.* We estimate that $3,000 – $5,000 will save a life.*”

    Citations for each of the figures marked with a (*) above can be found here.

    One additional thing that may be helpful to have in mind when exploring the differences in cost-effectiveness between our top charities is that while our cost-effectiveness estimates are an important input into our charity recommendations, we still consider them to be extremely rough, and we do not make charity recommendations solely on the basis of modeled cost-effectiveness. We also consider qualitative factors when weighing where we think charitable dollars can have the greatest impact. We discuss this here. For donors who are interested in giving to the highest-value funding opportunity we identify among our recommended charities, we suggest supporting the GiveWell Maximum Impact Fund.

  • Hi,
    Evidence Action states that worming treatment costs $0.51 per person, and my reading of your Cost Effectiveness spreadsheet directly relates a giver’s donation to multiples of that amount (i.e. $100,000 deworms c. 200,000).

    However, if my understanding is correct, a donation to Evidence Action doesn’t fund the medicine (only 2.7% of their 2018 budget contributed towards helping authorities procure drugs). Most of their initiative’s costs are:
    Project Management (42%),
    Other Costs / Adjustments (18%),
    Monitoring (17%),
    Training (12%).

    Reading your own write-up, it seems that in Indian states where Evidence Action is mainly operating, the government both runs the programs and procures drugs for children themselves. You also spoke to an official on one of your site visits who said Evidence Action doesn’t play much of a role in the success of these programs.

    Is there an argument to say Evidence Action are misrepresenting their impact, as ‘facilitators’ or ‘supporters’ of these programs which are being primarily funded by local authorities?

    What data would help clarify whether this is the case? If you have a breakdown on that $0.51 cost per treatment that would help. A breakdown of the spending of local authorities would also make it clearer what the overall cost of the programs are, and who is really paying for the medicine and staffing effort.

  • Erin Wolff (GiveWell) on September 24, 2020 at 2:52 pm said:

    Hi Hamish,

    Thanks for your question! We believe Evidence Action’s impact comes from advocating for and supporting effective deworming programs, and it is on that basis we make our recommendation.

    When we calculate the impact of donations to Evidence Action’s Deworm the World, we ask: “Does providing funding to Deworm the World increase the number of children who receive deworming treatments and, if so, by how much?” The increase in children receiving deworming treatments can happen due to: a) Evidence Action’s direct funding of deworming medicine; b) its advocacy to governments to implement deworming programs; and c) its support for government-run programs that increase the efficacy of those programs, leading them to reach more children successfully or to target the populations most in need. We take all of these roles into account when we calculate Deworm the World’s cost-effectiveness.

    You’re right that Evidence Action is not the primary funder of deworming treatments in all places that it works—in some cases, its role is more focused on advocacy and support. We discuss the role Deworm the World plays in government-led deworming programs and how it varies by country in more detail here. Additional information and sources may be found in the footnotes and in the supplementary page linked from that section.

    We discuss how we model the impact of Evidence Action’s work with governments on cost-effectiveness here. We revisited our approach to calculating charities’ “leverage,” including that of Deworm the World, in 2018. Additional details on that work may be found here.

  • Katriel on October 14, 2020 at 4:06 pm said:

    Hi GiveWell,

    Given your recent broadening of focus to include policy change, have you looked into The ONE Campaign as a potential recommendation? Do you have any plans to?

  • Katriel on October 14, 2020 at 4:18 pm said:

    Hi GiveWell,

    Same question, but now for the Borgen Project (


  • Erin Wolff (GiveWell) on October 21, 2020 at 3:30 pm said:

    Hi Kat,

    Thanks for your questions! As you mentioned, we are in the process of evolving our research to consider a broader range of evidence and programs, including policy advocacy. We remain in the relatively early stages of this work at this time. We have not looked into The ONE Campaign or Borgen Project as part of this work to date, though we may in the future.

  • Hi team,

    I want to help GiveWell get more donations via crypto. Would you be willing to do a meeting together to discuss increasing crypto donations?

    I’ve also built the free website to help non-profits with this.

    Thank you for your time

  • Colin Rust on December 3, 2020 at 4:28 pm said:

    Dawson, not an answer to your question exactly, but in case you haven’t seen it, GiveWell accepts donations in several cryptocurrencies; details here.

Comments are closed.