You can have a major, positive impact today by choosing to support organizations backed by strong evidence: our top charities.
We recommend the nonprofits that offer the most impact per dollar we’re aware of. In fact, we estimate that you can save a life by donating $3,000-$5,000 to our top recommendation.
If you’re a longtime donor, you’ll recognize most of this year’s top charities. You may even wonder why our list hasn’t changed much. However, a tremendous amount of research—truly thousands of hours—has been done to ensure that these organizations continue to meet our high standards. And although there are many familiar names, one is entirely new: New Incentives.
We’re proud to share our recommendations and grateful to you for considering supporting them. We hope you’ll read on!
In this post, we’ll cover:
- How to give in 2020
- Our work on COVID-19
- Key research updates
- Introducing New Incentives
- Giving to GiveWell’s operations
- How to give efficiently
- Ways to learn more
How to give in 2020
Our nine top charities are the best opportunities we’ve found for donors to save or improve lives.
We conduct an intense, monthslong assessment of each top charity before determining it can be added to our list. All top charities meet our high standards for evidence of effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and transparency. We believe they will use donations well.
However, our work to ensure that our top charities meet our standards isn’t the end of our process. We continually assess where funding is most needed within our list of top charities. Donors can support the highest-priority needs by giving to our Maximum Impact Fund.
The Maximum Impact Fund is our top recommendation for donors who want to do as much good as possible with their gift. We regularly make grants from the Maximum Impact Fund to our top charities. We direct these grants where we believe they will achieve the most good at the time they’re given.
Our top charities’ funding needs constantly change. For example, a top charity might identify an opportunity to work in a new country that requires more funding than it has on hand. Another might receive a large grant that fills its immediate funding needs. We continually monitor these changes and re-prioritize our top charities’ needs.
Giving to the Maximum Impact Fund is the best way to take advantage of our latest research and to ensure your donation is used as well as possible, even within this great group of organizations.
If you prefer to select an individual charity instead, our 2020 top charities are:
- Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program
- Against Malaria Foundation (AMF)
- Helen Keller International’s vitamin A supplementation program
- SCI Foundation
- Sightsavers’ deworming program
- New Incentives (new this year!)
- Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative
- The END Fund’s deworming program
They are listed in order of how we currently prioritize funding them. When we prioritize our charities’ needs at this time of year, we account for donations from the Maximum Impact Fund in the third quarter of the year and our recommendations to Open Philanthropy, the largest single donor to our top charities.
Open Philanthropy takes GiveWell’s recommendations into account when deciding how much to grant to each top charity. Usually, we make all of our recommendations to Open Philanthropy in November. This year, we made some of our recommendations in November and asked Open Philanthropy to make a second round of grants to our top charities in January 2021. If other donors fully meet the highest-priority needs we see today before Open Philanthropy makes its January grants, we’ll ask Open Philanthropy to donate to priorities further down our list. It won’t give less funding overall—it’ll just fund the next-highest-priority needs.
Our work on COVID-19
We spent several months in 2020 assessing potential giving opportunities that could mitigate the effects of COVID-19. We followed research about emerging needs and spoke with experts and charities, including GiveWell’s top charities, about the needs they foresaw or were experiencing.
As part of this work, we looked for giving opportunities outside of our top charities list that could be as cost-effective or more cost-effective than our top charities, although we had less confidence in the impact of these opportunities due to our short review timelines and the uncertain nature of the pandemic. We recommended six grants totaling $3,656,000. Beyond these six, we did not find opportunities that we believed to be as or more cost-effective than our top charities.
Our top charities implement crucial, cost-effective health programs that are continuing even during the pandemic. However, it was important to understand how the pandemic would impact their work—they all support programs that typically involve direct contact with people, such as hosting community meetings and visiting people’s homes. We looked at how our top charities adapted their delivery models during COVID-19, as well as funding needs and plans that were disrupted due to the pandemic. Overall, the pandemic had a fairly modest effect on the cost-effectiveness and funding needs of our top charities. We continue to recommend that donors support our top charities via GiveWell’s Maximum Impact Fund.
We plan to follow needs that continue to emerge due to the pandemic, which may lead us to make additional recommendations in the future.
Key research updates
All year long, we follow our top charities’ work to confirm that they continue to meet our standards and to understand their funding needs and plans. There are a few major ways in which we do this:
- We speak with each top charity regularly. Depending on whether we have major open questions, we typically check in every one to four months.
- We ask each top charity for detailed information on the delivery of its programs, so we can see if it’s successfully reaching people.
- We ask each top charity for its latest spending information and what it plans to do next.
- We monitor new academic research and conduct our own analyses to improve our understanding of our top charities’ programs.
This year, we completed several large research projects to improve our understanding of our top charities, including:
- Digging deeply into AMF’s monitoring. Although we always ask our top charities for information on the delivery of their programs, we conducted a particularly deep investigation this year into how AMF monitors whether it is successfully reaching people with malaria nets. We have higher confidence in our cost-effectiveness estimate of AMF as a result. (More)
- Updating how long we expect malaria nets to last. An important input into our assessment of AMF’s impact is how long AMF-distributed malaria nets last. This year, we did an analysis to more accurately estimate the coverage we should expect from its nets. This was a major project, but it did not significantly change our estimate of the durability of nets, although we now have much higher confidence in our estimate. (More)
- Improving how we model parasitic worm infections among populations reached by the deworming programs we support. We looked at data on the prevalence and intensity of worm infections to more accurately assess the impact of deworming treatments. We also updated the way we account for infection intensity. This project had a significant impact—sometimes positive, sometimes negative—on our cost-effectiveness estimates for the four deworming charities we recommend and led us to reprioritize their funding needs. (More in 2020 GiveWell cost-effectiveness analysis — version 2, “Deworm the World” tab, cell A41)
We also completed smaller projects, such as:
- Better understanding and more transparently sharing how GiveWell-directed support for malaria charities influences other malaria funders. We now estimate the impact on malaria funders in each country, rather than using a general estimate across countries. However, because our estimates did not significantly change in the largest countries in which AMF and Malaria Consortium work (the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria, respectively), the overall impact on their cost-effectiveness was small. (More)
- Developing a new approach to modeling the impact of receiving vitamin A supplements on children’s future productivity and earnings in adulthood. In most countries, this led to a small decrease in our estimate of Helen Keller International’s cost-effectiveness. (More)
- Surveying a subset of our donors to understand how they compare the value of averting deaths at different ages to use as an input in our moral weights. This update had a minimal effect on our cost-effectiveness estimates for our top charities. (More)
In addition to all of our work to improve our understanding of our existing top charities, we also researched new, promising programs and charities to potentially recommend. We’re excited to announce a new top charity this year: New Incentives.
Introducing New Incentives
New Incentives incentivizes caregivers of infants to complete a series of routine, potentially life-saving childhood immunizations by providing them with a small cash transfer when each vaccine is given. It operates in North West Nigeria, where childhood immunization rates are low.
We named New Incentives a top charity this year after considering many factors, including the results of a high-quality study of its program. The study was conducted from July 2018 to February 2020 by IDinsight and was funded by Open Philanthropy at our recommendation. Based on that study, we estimate that New Incentives increases the use of incentivized vaccines by 22 percentage points.
The study results, combined with New Incentives’ track record and plans for scaling up, led us to calculate a high cost-effectiveness for donations to the program: $3,000 to $5,000 per life saved, comparable to our other life-saving top charities.
You can learn more in our New Incentives review.
Giving to GiveWell’s operations
GiveWell is a nonprofit. We rely on donations for our own operations. If you’re using our research to guide your giving, we hope you’ll also consider supporting GiveWell.
When you do, you’re contributing to the research we conduct and share with the public—like this blog post and all of the analysis that went into it. We recommend:
- If you’ve never given to GiveWell’s operations before, consider adding 10% to your donation in support of our work.
- If you’ve supported our operations in the past, we hope you’ll renew your support.
If you’re worried about us getting too much funding, please know that our “excess assets” policy prevents us from holding more funding than we expect to need for our own work in the coming years. It requires us to grant any operations funding we hold over a certain threshold to our recommended charities.
We also cap at 20 percent the proportion of our operating budget that any one individual or organization can contribute. This helps us avoid overly relying on a single source of support.
How to give efficiently
In addition to our recommendations for where to give, we also have advice for donors who want to know how to give to maximize the efficiency of their donations. See our:
- Tips for giving efficiently
- Advice for larger donors
- Table of country-specific tax-deductibility of our recommended charities. Note that for donors in the United States, the CARES Act provides additional incentives for giving in 2020.
Ways to learn more
Additional information is linked below:
Our latest cost-effectiveness analysis of our top charities. Please note that while we dedicate significant resources to making these estimates and while they are an important part of our work, we have significant uncertainty about the final figures. You can read more about this here.
While we aim to maximize the good accomplished per dollar donated, these estimates are only one factor we consider when deciding how to prioritize among our top charities’ needs. We also consider charities’ qualitative strengths and weaknesses, the urgency of their funding needs, and other factors.
- Qualitative assessments of our top charities are available here.
- Our up-to-date reviews of our top charities are linked from this page,
- You can contact us at email@example.com and in the comments below if you have any questions about our latest recommendations.
Thank you for being part of our community. We hope you’ll join us in funding these excellent organizations!
Footnotes for this post can be accessed here.