The GiveWell Blog

How we work, #1: Cost-effectiveness is generally the most important factor in our recommendations

This post is the first in a multi-part series, covering how GiveWell works and what we fund. We’ll add links to the later posts here as they’re published. Through these posts, we hope to give a better understanding of our research and decision-making.

Why cost-effectiveness matters

The core question we try to answer in our research is: How much good can you do by giving money to a certain program?

Consider how much good your donation could do if you give to a program that costs $50,000 to save a life versus one that costs $5,000 to save a life (which is roughly what we estimate for our top charities). Giving to the latter would have 10 times more impact. While in an ideal world both programs would receive funding, we focus on identifying the most cost-effective programs so that the limited amount of funding available can make the greatest difference.

The basics

We’ve written in detail here about our approach to cost-effectiveness analysis and its limitations. Our bottom-line estimates are always uncertain, and we don’t expect them to be literally true. At the same time, they help us compare programs to each other so that we can direct funding where we believe it will have the greatest impact.

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October 2023 updates

Every month we send an email newsletter to our supporters sharing recent updates from our work. We publish selected portions of the newsletter on our blog to make this news more accessible to people who visit our website. For key updates from the latest installment, please see below!

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Open Philanthropy’s 2023-2025 funding of $300 million total for GiveWell’s recommendations

This year, Open Philanthropy plans to give $300 million for GiveWell to spend over the next three years. We’re grateful for what this support will enable us to do.

Annualized, this is similar to what Open Philanthropy gave in 2020 and roughly in line with what we projected earlier this year. It’s less than Open Philanthropy gave in 2021 and 2022, and we’ll need strong growth in donations in order to make up the difference. We expect to identify more great funding opportunities than we’ll be able to fund, and your support can fill those cost-effective gaps, helping to save and improve people’s lives.

Below, we share:

  • How this update affects GiveWell’s work
  • More background on Open Philanthropy and GiveWell’s relationship
  • Why Open Philanthropy’s spending is changing
  • The impact donors can have by supporting GiveWell’s recommendations

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