The GiveWell Blog

Staff members’ personal donations for giving season 2023

For this post, a number of GiveWell staff members volunteered to share the thinking behind their personal donations for the year. We’ve published similar posts in previous years.1See our staff giving posts from 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013. Staff are listed alphabetically by first name.

You can click the below links to jump to a staff member’s entry: Alex Singal, Audrey Cooper, Carley Moor, Charlotte Fisken, Dilhan Perera, Elie Hassenfeld, Isabel Arjmand, Kameron Smith, Kaymin Martin-Burnett, Lauren Imholte, Maggie Lloydhauser, Olivia Larsen, Paige Henchen, Steph Stojanovic, Teryn Mattox, Vicky Yu, Victoria N Krauss.

Alex Singal (Philanthropy Associate)

I am still working out the exact amounts and timing of my giving this year (I may need to wait until January to make the actual donations for tax reasons), but I am planning to direct the majority of my giving (60-80%) to GiveWell’s Top Charities Fund.

Even though GiveWell’s top giving recommendation for donors with a high degree of trust in GiveWell and willingness to take on more risk is our All Grants Fund, my personal preference (for now) is to maximize near-term impact. I trust GiveWell’s incredible team of researchers that the long-run expected value of the All Grants Fund is higher than that of the Top Charities Fund, but I take comfort in knowing that my donation is guaranteed to be used by one or more of our excellent top charities to provide life-saving health interventions in the immediate future.

That said, I will also be giving a smaller amount to the All Grants Fund, which covers the full range of our grantmaking, as there are many amazing programs outside of our top charities that I want to support.

The remainder of my giving will go to GiveDirectly. While I am confident the programs GiveWell supports are ultimately more impactful (and likely significantly so) than unconditional cash transfers, I have immense respect for GiveDirectly and the simplicity of its mission to reduce suffering by sending money directly to those living in extreme poverty, and I want to support that effort.

Audrey Cooper (Philanthropy Advisor)

My husband and I give 10% of our income each year—we chose this number somewhat arbitrarily, but it’s important to us to commit to consistently invest in the world we want to see with the resources we’re very fortunate to have. (This calculator from Giving What We Can gives a helpful perspective.)

I’ve always enjoyed volunteering and investing in my local community. I’ve also felt very aware not only that I’m extremely lucky to have been born into the particular family, place, and time that I was, but also that my local community is relatively well-off in the broader scheme of things. That awareness has been top of mind for me when thinking about where I can have an impact with my career and my giving.

When I joined GiveWell, I was particularly excited to be able to use my career to help save and improve the lives of people around the world who were born into different circumstances. I also want to help people living in global poverty with my personal giving. We haven’t worked out the details of our donation for this year, but we’ll likely give the majority of our support to GiveWell’s Top Charities Fund.

Carley Moor (Philanthropy Associate)

This year was the inaugural year of making joint giving decisions with my husband (we got married in September)! We started to define what is important to us and gave to several causes.

We know our dollars can have a greater impact abroad and want to support people living in extreme poverty. I read How Europe Underdeveloped Africa by Walter Rodney this year, which highly motivated me to direct donations to support people living in low-income countries in Africa as reparations. We donated to GiveDirectly’s unconditional cash transfer program so people who receive the funds can choose the best way to use them. We decided not to contribute to GiveWell’s funds while I’m working here and contributing professional skills and time, but we may change that decision in the future.

We also want to be accountable to our local community. We are contributing to the Mni Sota Makoce Honor Tax, a payment to the Lower Sioux Indian Community to recognize we live and work on land taken from them by force and deception through the United States’ broken treaty promises.

We’re also passionate about dismantling legal, political, and structural barriers to gender equity. We support Gender Justice, an organization working towards economic justice, reproductive freedom, and trans and LGBQ liberation through strategic and impact litigation, expert legal analysis, policy advocacy, coalition building, and education.

Finally, we’re continuing to donate to causes my husband has supported for years to combat climate change through local and political advocacy. We’re supporting Greenpeace and Environment Minnesota.

Charlotte Fisken (Philanthropy Associate)

This year I’m giving significantly for the first time. In past years I’ve given relatively small ad hoc donations to the environmental education non-profit I used to work at, the youth sports non-profit my brother-in-law started, the shelter we adopted our dog from, my teacher friends’ classroom fundraisers, and so on.

I won’t stop making those types of donations, but I’ve also decided to donate 10% of my income to the All Grants Fund. I’m less quantitatively-oriented than the typical GiveWell donor and more likely to be motivated by people than numbers, so I wanted to share a bit about the people who have inspired this change in my giving:

  • I care a lot about saving the lives of children and about improving the lives of their caregivers. Fortunately, I think the two go hand-in-hand. Many programs we fund—like nets, vaccines, preventive medication, and nutritional supplementation—both save the lives of children, and, I imagine, might give their caregivers hope and a sense of agency. I think the presence or absence of hope and agency can be life-defining, and although we don’t model these inherently uncertain emotional effects, I think about them often. Everyone should be able to protect their loved ones from preventable suffering.
  • This is regrettably cliché, but my colleagues really do live all of our organizational values, all of the time (at least in their professional lives!). There’s no one I trust more than our truth-seeking researchers when it comes to maximizing the impact of my donations.
  • Every GiveWell donor I’ve talked with has been kind and thoughtful, and many seem to have a zest for life that I don’t encounter as often in other conversations. I’ve been particularly inspired by those who don’t make huge salaries and still decide to dedicate a significant portion of what they earn to others, and do so with gratitude, humility, and joy! I know the causality isn’t clear, but it seems easier to delight in all life has to offer—in a deeply flawed world—if instead of wallowing in guilt you do something (however small) to improve things.

I love animals and nature a lot, too, but I’m less confident in the impact of my marginal dollar in those areas. I’ll continue advocating for and supporting those causes in other ways.

Dilhan Perera (Senior Research Associate)

My partner and I have taken the Giving What We Can pledge and donate 10% of our monthly paychecks to organizations that we believe are among the most effective at improving the lives of others. We feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to live safe, comfortable lives when so many others do not, and donating a tenth of our income feels like a relatively small sacrifice to make.

Our donations are split between GiveWell’s All Grants Fund (40%), the Effective Altruism Animal Welfare Fund (40%), and Longview Philanthropy’s Emerging Challenges Fund (20%). The allocations roughly reflect a mix of factors: the weight we collectively place on the problems each fund attempts to address, the contributions we try to make through our careers, and our beliefs about how tractable each class of problems is likely to be. We’re not certain that we’ve chosen the absolute best giving option within each class (particularly for animal welfare and global catastrophic risks), but our impression is that these are among the best.

On top of our pledge-based giving, we also make smaller donations throughout the year to local nonprofits in London and to fundraising initiatives by friends and family. These span a range of causes, including homelessness alleviation and mental health. We make these donations primarily because we feel that contributing to collective action is an important part of living in a community, and we don’t feel like this comes at the expense of donating to help address the world’s biggest problems.

Elie Hassenfeld (Co-Founder and CEO)

This year, my family is planning to give 75% of our annual donation to GiveWell’s All Grants Fund, 20% to the Effective Altruism Animal Welfare Fund, and 5% to GiveDirectly.

We’re giving to GiveWell’s All Grants Fund because it gives GiveWell the most flexibility to direct funds where we (GiveWell staff) think they will do the most good. This may mean supporting programs at Top Charities, but it could mean funding newer organizations, research, or more speculative opportunities that are high (expected) impact. I am very excited about the potential impact of the grantmaking opportunities our team is finding.

This is the first year that my family has allocated a substantial amount of our giving to animal welfare, although we have considered this several times before. In short, I am convinced that factory farming inflicts enormous unnecessary and preventable suffering. Although I have chosen to prioritize human welfare in my career and my giving, I also believe that animal welfare is an important and neglected cause area.

I consulted Lewis Bollard, Program Officer at Open Philanthropy, in deciding where to give to support animal welfare most effectively. He recommended the EA Animal Welfare Fund (EAAWF) or the Giving What We Can Effective Animal Advocacy Fund (which is 50% EAAWF and 50% the Humane League). I chose to support EAAWF because of my limited knowledge. I know relatively little about the track record of EAAWF, but I trust Lewis and other colleagues of mine who’ve given there in the past, and I hope to learn more in the future.

Finally, we are giving to GiveDirectly for the same reasons as in previous years. I continue to believe that GiveDirectly plays a critical role in providing a highly legible, transparent, and straightforward opportunity for people in low income countries.

Isabel Arjmand (Special Projects Officer)

I’m grateful to be in a position to make donations that can have meaningful impacts on the lives of others without substantially affecting my own quality of life. When deciding how much to give, I often feel some anxiety around giving away a large (to me) sum of money. This year, the Giving What We Can calculator helped put this in perspective for me.

My general thinking around giving is similar to what I wrote last year and in previous years. The vast majority of my giving this year will be split equally between global health and well-being and reducing factory-farmed-animal suffering. These are the two causes where I believe my donations can have the greatest impact. I don’t have a good way to choose between them, so I’m supporting them equally.

  • GiveWell. I’m currently planning to give 45% of my annual donation to GiveWell’s Top Charities Fund. I appreciate knowing which program my donation supported (which is possible with the Top Charities Fund but isn’t possible in the same way with the All Grants Fund), and I prefer supporting programs rather than research with my giving. As a staff member, I’m extremely excited about the full breadth of GiveWell’s grantmaking; as a donor, I prefer having a bit more confidence and insight into how my donation is being used.
  • Farmed animal welfare. With another 45% of my donation, I’ll support ​​organizations working to improve the welfare of farmed animals. I believe that animal suffering due to factory farming is extremely overlooked relative to the scale of the harm it causes. Last year, I gave to Faunalytics, The Humane League, the Fish Welfare Initiative, and Shrimp Welfare Project. This year, I’m also considering giving to Legal Impact for Chickens. Or, I might do most of my giving in this area via the EA Animal Welfare Fund in light of Giving What We Can’s recent evaluation.
  • Other causes. I’ll use the remaining 10% of my giving to support a handful of other causes I think are important, including migration (International Refugee Assistance Project, Malengo) and a few locally organized groups like Sogorea Te’.

Kameron Smith (Senior Content Editor)

I’ve pledged through Giving What We Can to give 10% of my income each year to highly effective organizations, and I find it easier to make sure that happens by setting up recurring donations that come out of my bank account automatically. Throughout this year, I gave monthly donations to GiveWell’s All Grants Fund and the Coalition for Rainforest Nations. I also made one-off gifts beyond my pledged 10% to organizations or funds that may be less impactful per dollar (or whose impact is difficult to quantify) but which I think are doing important work worth supporting. These included abortion funds and political campaigns.

At the end of each year, I double check that I’ve met my goal of giving 10% to impactful opportunities and consider whether there are any gaps in my giving that I want to fill. This year I expect to make an additional gift to an organization supporting Native American rights.

Kaymin Martin-Burnett (Project Manager)

As a recent grad, I’m excited to make my first significant contribution to GiveWell now that I have a regular paycheck! While supporting GiveWell’s operations, I have learned first-hand how much care and detail my colleagues put into our research and fundraising activities. Therefore, I plan to give 75% of my giving this season to the All Grants Fund.

I’m a plant-based eater and highly excited about cultured meat’s environmental and animal welfare benefits and its potential to provide greater access to nutritious food. I intend to donate about 25% to the Good Food Institute. I am inspired by GFI’s international approach to solving a global problem through scientific, political, and industry support.

Lastly, I plan to continue donating a small amount to the Wikipedia Foundation and start a recurring donation to Khan Academy as a thank-you for being a significant part of my education.

Lauren Imholte (Philanthropy Advisor)

I had a baby in February and she has (of course) profoundly reshaped not only my day-to-day life but also my perspective on giving. Parenthood has deepened my understanding of life’s vulnerability, and this year, I feel an even stronger connection to the impact my contributions can make.

My family will be directing the majority of our giving towards GiveWell’s All Grants Fund. We feel confident that our donations will be allocated to areas where they can make the most significant impact on people’s lives. In addition to this, we’ll also give a small portion to the Mill City Market Charitable Fund, which supports farmers and local food producers in Minnesota.

This is a blend of giving that feels right for us, especially in this new chapter in our lives.

Maggie Lloydhauser (Philanthropy Advisor)

In 2016, I sat under a tree in Prospect Park chatting with a friend who had taken the Giving What We Can Pledge. I was genuinely stunned to learn that someone my age was giving 10% of his income to improve the world, and found myself noticing my own anxiety when I thought about giving at a similar scale. I think it’s a common (and understandable) human instinct to want to hold on to resources, and I find myself feeling squeamish every year when it comes time to actually make a transfer of assets to the organizations my family supports.

I was going to write that this year I particularly struggled to renew my annual gifts due to various personal financial factors, but rereading my post from last year kept me honest to the fact that I was equally hesitant to actually make my gifts then, too. This financial anxiety is something I hear about a good amount in conversations with donors, though they also often share that (like me) they don’t think again about what else they would have done with the money they gave.

As I started getting my thoughts down for this year’s post, I also initiated my gift to GiveWell’s All Grants Fund. In doing so, I pulled my own records up in our donor database to remind myself of my donation amount last year and saw my donation total, which is more than enough to save the lives of two children. My own two children are in the kitchen below my office as I type this; I can hear my son blowing bubbles in his milk and my daughter, born this year, laughing at him.
I’m actually crying a bit right now, with gratitude for the health of my own babies and of other babies I know and love. This year more than ever, I’m aware that it could be otherwise had my family not been born into the privilege of our citizenship and personal circumstances.

It’s easy for anyone to disconnect from the impact of their giving, and easy for me in particular to write off my own support of GiveWell as insignificant in comparison to the profoundly generous gifts of the major GiveWell donors I advise in my role here, but I do occasionally have little moments where the significance of what this community achieves month over month and year over year breaks through to me. In those moments, I’m aware that disciplined generosity serves as a source of joy and perspective for me.

This year, as last year, we’ll be giving the bulk of our support to GiveWell’s All Grants Fund. I feel very privileged to be able to pool my support alongside the support of our inspiring and thoughtful community of donors to fund programs that save lives of children who are as cherished by their families as my children, niece, and nephew are by me.

As in past years, we’ll also be supporting the local library where our children benefit from phenomenal programming, the local land conservancy, and the civil rights advocacy group where I worked prior to GiveWell, all with much smaller gifts.

Olivia Larsen (Philanthropy Advisor)

My first donation to GiveWell was $25 in August 2014. I’ve ramped up my donations since then, most notably through the Giving What We Can pledge, in which I pledged to give 10% of my income to effective charities.

Last year, my incredible mom passed away. In addition to making a legacy gift to GiveWell, she left me some money. I’m planning to use part of that to make my largest donation yet this year.

I’ll give the bulk of that donation to GiveWell; the opportunity to save a life for less than $5,000 is a tremendous one! This year, GiveWell has had to pass on some great grants because we don’t have the funds available to support all of the opportunities that we think could be really impactful. My donation is small compared to the size of our funding gap, but I’m glad to be able to contribute. I’m giving to the All Grants Fund, because I’m happy to support the breadth of GiveWell’s grantmaking, including research grants and support of earlier-stage initiatives.

I also might allocate a smaller portion of my giving to organizations that aim to increase effective giving—many of these organizations focus on fundraising for GiveWell! I haven’t yet decided if or how I’d make these gifts, but I’m excited about some of the nascent fundraising groups in Europe, which I think cover a really important gap. The organizations I’m considering—Gi Effektivt in Norway, Doneer Effectief in the Netherlands, and Effektiv Spenden in Germany and Switzerland—fundraise for effective charities like those GiveWell recommends.

Paige Henchen (Chief of Staff)

I gave my first donation to GiveWell in 2011. Since then, I have done the majority of my charitable giving either through GiveWell or directly to its recommended charities. I recently made an unrestricted donation to GiveWell to celebrate my first day on staff. (Yay!)

This year I’m also supporting two small startup organizations working in global health and development. In both cases, I have a personal relationship with the founders. I’m excited to be able to make relatively small “bets” on these founders and their potential impact.

Steph Stojanovic (Director of Development)

My family has given 10% of our income to GiveWell (or its recommendations) since ~2014 and this year will be no different. We’re supporting the All Grants Fund because it feels a little odd to give to the Unrestricted Fund (which would mean indirectly paying my own salary), and because we trust GiveWell to allocate our funds.

I’m really glad we have set a norm of giving 10% over the last decade. We were in the fortunate position of having a bit of a windfall this year and it may have been tempting to do other things with those funds but for the expectation we set for ourselves of giving it away. I feel moved when I think about the impact that this giving will have. GiveWell thinks in numbers and it’s easy to lose sight of the people behind them. Now that we have a one-year-old and three-year-old, those numbers mean a lot more to me because it’s so hard to imagine what life would be like without them. I’m really grateful for the work our research team does to find giving opportunities that allow kids like mine on the other side of the world to thrive.

Teryn Mattox (Director of Research)

I am extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to make the world a better place through both my day-to-day work and my charitable giving. My family’s giving is largely the same as it was last year; below, I’m sharing an updated version of what I wrote in 2022.

I am so proud of and excited by the work we do at GiveWell, and I think the All Grants Fund is one of the best ways donors can save and improve human lives with their money.

My family also strongly weighs the welfare of animals in the moral calculus that drives our giving. Since I joined GiveWell, we’ve transitioned all of our significant giving to organizations promoting (largely farmed) animal welfare. I feel comfortable with this allocation given the amount of time and energy I devote in my day to day work to furthering GiveWell’s work improving the lives of the global poor.

The reason we feel compelled to do this is based on the intensity of the suffering inflicted upon farmed animals, the staggering numbers of factory-farmed animals alive at any given moment, the potential impact of our donations in reducing this suffering, and our beliefs about the importance of animal suffering.

We give to a variety of organizations including the Effective Altruism Animal Welfare Fund, the Humane League, Fish Welfare Initiative and other assorted organizations supported by the Animal Welfare Fund or Animal Charity Evaluators. We’ve increased our giving to Fish Welfare Initiative this year. I’m concerned that fish welfare is especially neglected within the animal welfare space, and I’m impressed with their recent progress.

We also have a number of small, recurring monthly donations that we don’t consider part of our core giving, but are more like extra “fun money” we spend to support our local community in Oregon.

Vicky Yu (Research Associate)

Historically, I’ve donated the majority of my giving (roughly 60%) to GiveWell’s top charities, roughly 30% to GiveDirectly, and the remaining 10% to a variety of organizations that fluctuate due to idiosyncratic year-to-year interests. The split hasn’t been rigorously calculated; but roughly reflects my personal values, priorities, and risk tolerance (low!).

Since starting at GiveWell, I’ve considered shifting the majority of my giving to causes outside of global health and well-being, given I would be devoting a substantial amount of time to working directly on these problems. Examples of potential other areas include farmed animal welfare, climate change, and a variety of social justice issues. While I haven’t settled on anything yet, conversations with my colleagues at GiveWell have also helped me more thoughtfully consider donations outside of our usual scope of work.

Because I believe my individual giving can do the most good directed at global causes, that’s where I direct the vast majority of my monetary donations. However, I also believe it’s important and valuable (for unquantifiable reasons), to help my local community. For that reason, I volunteer around 20 to 25 hours a month between several local organizations focused on reducing food insecurity and conserving the environment. I’ve also considered volunteering time with organizations who aid in tax preparation for low-income households, provide grief counseling, and improve access to justice for victims of domestic violence. None of my local giving (monetary or time) is focused on cost-effectiveness; rather, it’s largely driven by qualitative impressions of organizations and issues I care about.

Victoria N Krauss (Philanthropy Advisor)

My husband and I have been proud supporters of GiveWell since 2020, first discovering it through the Sam Harris podcast.

We’re still considering our allocations for the year, but one thing is certain: we’re committed to continuing our support to GiveWell! Becoming parents last year has further emphasized the importance of saving lives, making GiveWell’s work even more significant to us now.

We’re also thinking about directing our support to refugees via The International Rescue Committee, and BEAM, a UK non-profit that provides training and employment opportunities to individuals facing homelessness.

We feel fortunate to be in a position where we can contribute, and thanks to the work of GiveWell and all the incredible non-profits GiveWell supports, we are firm believers that one can make an impact, no matter how small a donation might be!

Notes

Notes
1 See our staff giving posts from 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013.

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