The GiveWell Blog

The impact of COVID-19 on GiveWell’s plans

We hope everyone is staying well during these difficult times. We are publishing this blog post to provide a brief update on how the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic impacts our plans.

We are looking into the impact of the pandemic on the organizations we support as well as opportunities to mitigate its effects. We are in the early stages of this work and will update you as we reach conclusions.

We don’t have a new recommendation for donors: our bottom line continues to be to donate to “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion,” which we allocate quarterly to the highest priority need we see.

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Allocation of discretionary funds from Q4 2019

We recently allocated donations made from October through December 2019 to “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion.” We granted $11.9 million to Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program and $1.5 million to Helen Keller International’s vitamin A supplementation program.

We allocate donations to “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion” (discretionary funds) quarterly, according to where we see the highest-priority funding needs. Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) program and Helen Keller International (HKI)’s vitamin A supplementation (VAS) program had the top-priority needs among our top charities at the time we made this decision.

Malaria Consortium provides preventive anti-malarial medication to young children during the time of year when malaria transmission is highest. HKI supports provision of vitamin A supplements to young children, which reduces their risk of dying of infectious disease.[1] We estimate that the combined discretionary grants to these organizations will save 5,600 lives.[2]

In this post, we discuss:

  • Our process for deciding where to allocate discretionary funds. (More)
    • We share updates on:
      • HKI’s VAS program. (More)
      • Malaria Consortium’s SMC program. (More)
      • SCI Foundation. (More)
    • We also discuss uncertainties in our decision. (More)
  • Our bottom line for donors giving today. (More)

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How did we do in 2019? A preliminary look at our growth.

We see an early indication that GiveWell continued its trajectory of robust donor growth last year. The total value of donations processed by GiveWell increased 30% in 2019.[1]

We’re sharing this data now because we believe it is an informative early update about our growth last year. However, GiveWell-processed donations don’t tell the full story of our impact. Many donors who rely on our research give via our partner organizations or directly to our top charities. Their gifts account for the majority of donations due to our work and are not processed by GiveWell. Information about these gifts is time-consuming to gather and has usually led us to release our metrics data many months after the end of the year. We plan to release a complete 2019 metrics report and assessment of our impact, including donations not processed by GiveWell, later this year.

Here’s what we know so far, based on the nearly complete information we have about donations we processed:

  • We processed $54.1 million in donations in 2019. Sixty-five percent of this amount was restricted to our recommended charities and 35% was unrestricted, which we may use to support GiveWell’s operations.
  • Support from donors giving $10,000 to $100,000 comprised the largest proportion of our growth (35%).[2]
  • Returning donors who gave more than last year made up 75% of our growth in funds donated (excluding anonymous donations).[3]
  • We believe that the majority of our growth was organic and would have occurred without any outreach and marketing efforts from GiveWell, although we can attribute some to specific outreach and marketing initiatives.[4]

We’re encouraged by this growth and excited to write about it. We also discuss below some ways that GiveWell-processed donations could be a misleading indicator of our overall impact.

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Update on our work on Fistula Foundation

Although our list of top charities is short (just eight excellent organizations), we’re always on the lookout for other groups to add. Fistula Foundation is one of the charities we’re planning to prioritize highly for further evaluation. Donating to Fistula Foundation is not yet one of our recommendations—as it’s still under active investigation—but we’re excited to share an update on our work so far and next steps.

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We’re glad to answer your questions

We know that many individuals make their charitable donations at this time of year. We’re here to help!

If you would like to discuss your 2019 giving decision with a GiveWell staff member, please email us at info@givewell.org or schedule a call here.

For example, we’re glad to:

  • Provide a brief overview of our 2019 top charity recommendations.
  • Assist with the logistics of making a donation and discuss options for donating, such as appreciated securities, checks, and wire transfers.
  • Answer any questions about our research or recommendations.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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Staff members’ personal donations for giving season 2019

For this post, a number of GiveWell staff members volunteered to share the thinking behind their personal donations for the year. We published similar posts in previous years.1See our staff giving posts from 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013. Staff are listed in order of their start dates at GiveWell.

You can click the below links to jump to a staff member’s entry:

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