The GiveWell Blog

GiveWell’s 2023 recommendations to donors

We’re excited about the impact donors can have by supporting our All Grants Fund and our Top Charities Fund. For donors who want to support the programs we’re most confident in, we recommend the Top Charities Fund, which is allocated among our four top charities. For donors with a higher degree of trust in GiveWell and willingness to take on more risk, our top recommendation is the All Grants Fund, which goes to a wider range of opportunities and may have higher impact per dollar. Read more about the options for giving below. We estimate that donations to the programs we recommend can save a life for roughly $5,000 on average, or have similarly strong impact by increasing incomes or preventing suffering.

Why your support matters

We expect to find more outstanding giving opportunities than we can fully fund unless our community of supporters substantially increases its giving. Figures like $5,000 per life saved are rough estimates; while we spend thousands of hours on our cost-effectiveness analyses, they’re still inherently uncertain. But the bottom line is that we think donors have the opportunity to do a huge amount of good by supporting the programs we recommend.

For a concrete sense of what a donation can do, let’s focus briefly on seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC), which involves distributing preventive medication to young children.

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How we work, #2: We look at specific opportunities, not just general interventions

This post is the second in a multi-part series, covering how GiveWell works and what we fund. The first post, on cost-effectiveness, is here. Through these posts, we hope to give a better understanding of our research and decision-making.

Looking forward, not just backward

When we consider recommending funding, we don’t just want to know whether a program has generally been cost-effective in the past—we want to know how additional funding would be used.

People sometimes think of GiveWell as recommending entire programs or organizations. This was more accurate in GiveWell’s early days, but now we tend to narrow in on specific opportunities. Rather than asking whether it is cost-effective to deliver long-lasting insecticide-treated nets in general, we ask more specific questions, such as whether it is cost-effective to fund net distributions in 2023 in the Nigerian states of Benue, Plateau, and Zamfara, given the local burden of malaria and the costs of delivering nets in those states.

Geographic factors affecting cost-effectiveness

The same program can vary widely in cost-effectiveness across locations. The burden of a disease in a particular place is often a key factor in determining overall cost-effectiveness. All else equal, it’s much more impactful to deliver vitamin A supplements in areas with high rates of vitamin A deficiency than in areas where almost everyone consumes sufficient vitamin A as part of their diet. Similarly, one of our top charities, New Incentives, has chosen to operate in northern Nigeria largely because relatively low baseline vaccination rates mean its work is especially impactful there.

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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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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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How much funding does GiveWell expect to raise through 2025?

We’re optimistic that GiveWell’s funds raised will continue to increase in the long run. Over the next few years, we believe our annual funds raised are more likely to stay relatively constant, due to a decrease in expected funding from our largest donor, Open Philanthropy, offset by an expected increase in funding from our other donors.

In November 2021, we wrote that we were anticipating rapid growth and aiming to influence $1 billion in 2025. Now, our best guess is that we’ll raise between $400 million and $800 million in 2025 (for comparison, we raised around $600 million in 2022). We now think it’s possible but unlikely that we’ll raise close to $1 billion in 2025, and we also think it’s possible but unlikely that our funds raised in 2025 will be substantially lower (e.g. around $300 million) than they were in 2022.

We’re excited about the impact we can have at any of those levels of funding, and we’ll be continuing to direct as much funding as we can raise to the most cost-effective opportunities we can find.

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