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.
We aim to maximize our impact. That means we focus on directing funds as cost-effectively as we can. Rather than recommending a long list of potential giving options, we focus on finding the organizations that save or improve lives the most per dollar.1We focus on providing a short list of impact-maximizing options that we have intensely vetted. We don’t aim to recommend a long list of potential options for donors.
Going forward, we will no longer publish a list of standout charities alongside our list of top charities. We think our standout charities are excellent, but we believe donors should support top charities.2For example, in a 2019 blog post on standout charities (“What are standout charities?”), we wrote: “We don’t advise giving to our standout charities over our top charities because we believe that top charities have a greater impact per dollar donated. By definition, top charities have cleared a higher bar of review from GiveWell.”
Removing standout charities will lead our website to better reflect our recommendations for donors. We hope it will reduce confusion about the difference between top and standout charities and help us direct funding as cost-effectively as possible.
We continue to see the nine standout charities we’ve shared as very strong organizations. This decision doesn’t in any way reflect changes in our evaluation of their programs.
What are standout charities?
We define standout charities as follows:
Standout charities “support programs that may be extremely cost-effective and are evidence-backed. We do not feel as confident in the impact of these organizations as we do in our top charities. However, we have reviewed their work and believe these groups stand out from the vast majority of organizations we have considered in terms of the evidence base for the program they support, their transparency, and their potential cost-effectiveness.”
In other words, we expect that funds directed to top charities are more likely to have a significant impact than those directed to standout charities. We created the standout charity designation to recognize organizations we reviewed that didn’t quite meet our criteria to be top charities, but were very good relative to most. We also hoped the designation would incentivize organizations to engage in our intensive review process.3We discussed this in “What are standout charities?”
Confusion between top charities and standout charities
However, we’ve realized that it’s confusing to have two different designations for organizations on our website.4In the 2019 blog post referenced above, we wrote: “The standout charity designation, though valuable for the reasons mentioned above, has created communication challenges for us. People who rely on our recommendations to make donations have expressed confusion about how our view of standout charities compares to that of top charities.” Our recommendation for donors is (and always has been) to give to top charities. Our number-one recommendation for GiveWell donors who want to do as much good as possible is to give to our Maximum Impact Fund, which is allocated to the most cost-effective funding opportunities among our top charities. We don’t allocate the Maximum Impact Fund to standout charities.
Maintaining a list of standout charities for donors is not consistent with our goal of directing funds as cost-effectively as possible.
No changes in our evaluation of standout charities
We made this decision by thinking through how we can communicate more clearly—it wasn’t spurred by any change whatsoever in our views of the standout charities we’ve featured.
We think our standout charities are doing great work, even though we’re discontinuing the “standout charity” designation. We’ve recommended that Open Philanthropy make a $100,000 exit grant to each standout charity on our list.
We’re no longer accepting donations for standout charities. We’re contacting donors who have recurring donations set up for our standout charities. If you have an open recurring donation and you haven’t heard from us, please contact us to make sure we accommodate your preferences for cancelling or redirecting your donations.
If you’d like to continue to donate to any of the standout charities, you can do so at the following links. (Note: the links below show tax-deductible options for donors based in the United States. If you’re donating from another country and interested in information on tax-deductibility, please check each organization’s website or contact it directly.)
- Development Media International
- Evidence Action’s Dispensers for Safe Water. Select “Dispensers for Safe Water” in the drop-down “What would you like your donation to support?”
- Food Fortification Initiative
- Georgetown University Initiative on Innovation, Development, and Evaluation — Zusha! Road Safety Campaign. Write “gui2de – Zusha” under “Other,” where it says, “Please indicate the school, department, program, or other designation.” For general information about giving, please see this page.
- The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition — Universal Salt Iodization program. Select “Iodize salt” in the drop-down “Apply my donation to.”
- Iodine Global Network. If you have any questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Living Goods
- Precision Development (formerly Precision Agriculture for Development)5Please note that Precision Development’s mailing address has changed to 1150 Walnut Street, 2nd floor, Waltham, MA 02461.
- Project Healthy Children
If you have any questions about your donations, please don’t hesitate to contact us at email@example.com.
|↑1||We focus on providing a short list of impact-maximizing options that we have intensely vetted. We don’t aim to recommend a long list of potential options for donors.|
|↑2||For example, in a 2019 blog post on standout charities (“What are standout charities?”), we wrote: “We don’t advise giving to our standout charities over our top charities because we believe that top charities have a greater impact per dollar donated. By definition, top charities have cleared a higher bar of review from GiveWell.”|
|↑3||We discussed this in “What are standout charities?”|
|↑4||In the 2019 blog post referenced above, we wrote: “The standout charity designation, though valuable for the reasons mentioned above, has created communication challenges for us. People who rely on our recommendations to make donations have expressed confusion about how our view of standout charities compares to that of top charities.”|
|↑5||Please note that Precision Development’s mailing address has changed to 1150 Walnut Street, 2nd floor, Waltham, MA 02461.|
You recommend GiveDirectly as a Top Charity. Last year, you moved $17m to them. The cost/effectiveness of GD money moved is 1x.
You aim to maximize your impact. How confident are you that your Standout Charities have lower cost-effectiveness than GiveDirectly?
If you are uncertain about the answer to that question, then why do you continue to recommend GiveDirectly, but not Top Charities?
Thanks for your question. You’re right that we model GiveDirectly as the least cost-effective top charity on our list, and we prioritize directing funds to other top charities (e.g. through the Maximum Impact Fund). GiveDirectly is the benchmark against which we compare the cost-effectiveness of other opportunities we might fund.
As we write in the post above, standout charities were defined as those that “support programs that may be extremely cost-effective and are evidence-backed” but “we do not feel as confident in the impact of these organizations as we do in our top charities.”
Our level of confidence, rather than their estimated cost-effectiveness, is the key difference between our recommendation of GiveDirectly and standout charities.
We consider the evidence of GiveDirectly’s impact to be exceptionally strong. We’re not sure that our standout charities were less cost-effective than GiveDirectly (in fact, as we wrote, some may be extremely cost-effective), but we felt less confident in making that assessment, based on the more limited evidence in support of their impact, as well as our more limited engagement with them.
Is there any page on the main site or blog where the list of standout charities and any updates about them will still be maintained?
I’ve found the list to be a good sense check for situations where tax deductibility may improve the cost effectiveness of me donating to standout charities vs the maximum impact fund (which is not tax deductible for me).
You previously used the standout charity designation as an incentive to participate in GiveWell’s intensive charity review process. Do you foresee removing this category will make it more difficult to get charities to participate?
Relatedly, do you plan to re-consider these (formerly) standout charities for the top charities category? Do you have incentives for them to continue/re-engage with evaluation? I can imagine they would not be likely to participate further as they already have evidence that they are not likely to qualify,
Hi Joseph George,
Thanks for your question!
We’re no longer planning to publish updates on standout charities going forward.
In addition to sharing information about how we allocate our Maximum Impact Fund, we will continue to update and maintain the individual reviews of our nine top charities. These reviews are linked here (select the “Full Research Report” option under each organization’s name).
Tax-deductibility information for each of our top charities is available on this webpage.
I hope this helps!
1) When deciding whether to continue having standout charities, we looked back at the designation’s success as an incentive for participation. Ultimately, we don’t think it’s been a major factor in organizations’ willingness to work with us. (With one exception: we do think it made organizations more willing for us to publish reviews of their work that include non-public information. Without an end point of a recommendation, we expect this may be a bit harder for us. However, we don’t expect this to play a major role in our ability to share well-supported research with donors.)
2) We’re open to considering our former standout charities as potential future top charities, particularly if there’s new evidence that changes our understanding of their impact. We’ve had several conversations with standout charities about this possibility. Based on these, we expect they would generally be open to a top charity review.
Did you consider continuing to accept donations for a time to mitigate the effect on the standout charities? It seems that could have been done without creating confusion for website visitors (e.g., the donation page could have been buried on the website with an explanation of what it was for, where existing donors looking to support former standout charities could find it).
Looking at (as an example) IGN’s financials, it seems that support received through GiveWell was a systematically important chunk of their income. The $100,000 exit grant recommendation doesn’t really mitigate that concern to me, since Open Phil or Good Ventures have historically made a grant each year in that amount to the standout charities.
As we planned to discontinue the standout charity designation, we worked closely with the standout charities on how to facilitate a smooth transition, including discussing the timeline on which we would cease to accept donations on their behalf. We believed it was important to transition donors sooner rather than later to support standout charities directly so that standout charities could develop those relationships going forward. We also coordinated with standout charities on communicating with the individual donors that have made up a large proportion of their annual donations.
While we’ve made this update so that donors can more easily understand our giving recommendations, we hope that we have made it easy for donors to continue supporting standout charities directly if they wish to do so. We shared instructions for how to give to standout charities in an email to donors who have given to standout charities in the past, as well as those who have open recurring donations to standout charities. In addition, we have included instructions for donating directly to standout charities in this post.
Ben Todd recently tweeted that “People don’t seem to have realised that, setting aside GiveDirectly, GiveWell’s top charities will probably be ~fully funded. A July analysis had the gap at $74m by the end of *2023*. But GiveWell moves $160m+ per year, so this should be filled soon.” https://mobile.twitter.com/ben_j_todd/status/1454093966299877380
Wouldn’t it make sense to maintain the Standout Charities list if GiveWell’s Top Charities are likely to be fully funded soon?
Thanks for sharing, Michael. We’ve seen the post, and haven’t yet responded because it ties into major updates we’re making later this month.
We’ll have much more detail to share then. A few high-level points we’ll address:
-Room for more funding has gone up significantly. This has been a major focus of our work in 2021, and we’ve succeeded.
-We expect our funds raised will continue to increase rapidly
Given that we expect to continue to find additional RFMF that’s significantly more cost-effective than our standout charities, we are confident in our decision to remove this list. We’ll share more details and answer further questions once our update is live.
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