The GiveWell Blog

What we fund, #1: We fund many opportunities outside our top charities

GiveWell aims to find and fund programs that have the greatest impact on global well-being. We’re open to funding whichever global health and development opportunities seem most cost-effective. So while our top charities list is still what we’re best known for, it’s only part of our impact; we also dedicate substantial funding and research effort to opportunities beyond top charities.

In 2022, 71% of the funds we directed supported our four current top charities, and 29% were directed to other programs. However, most of our research capacity goes toward programs other than our top charities. This is because (a) most programs we direct funding to aren’t top charities (we have four top charities but directed funding to about 40 other grantees in 2022), and (b) it requires more effort to investigate a program we know less deeply.

In this post we’ll share:

  • The overall scope of our grantmaking
  • Why we dedicate funding and research capacity to programs other than our top charities
  • The types of opportunities we support

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GiveWell from A to Z

To celebrate the end of 2023, we’re highlighting a few key things to know about GiveWell—from A to Z. These aren’t necessarily the 26 most important parts of our work (e.g., we could include only “transparency” or “top charities” for T) but they do fit the alphabet, and we’ve linked to other pages where you can learn more.

All Grants Fund. Our recommendation for donors who have a high level of trust in GiveWell and are open to programs that might be riskier than our top charities.

Bar. We set a cost-effectiveness bar, or threshold, such that we expect to be able to fully fund all the opportunities above that level of cost-effectiveness. This bar isn’t a hard limit; we consider qualitative factors in our recommendations, as discussed here. This post also discusses our bar in more detail.

Cost-effectiveness. The core question we try to answer in our research is: How much good can you do by giving money to a certain program? This blog post describes how we approach cost-effectiveness estimates and use them in our work.

Donors. Unlike a foundation, we don’t hold an endowment. Our impact comes from donors choosing to use our recommendations.

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GiveWell’s 2022 metrics report

In 2022, the most recent year for which data is available and analyzed, GiveWell raised the largest amount of money in our history, over $600 million. We thank our donors for continuing to trust us to find and recommend highly cost-effective giving opportunities. The following table summarizes our funds raised and our funds directed to programs in metrics year 2021 and 2022.

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How we work, #3: Our analyses involve judgment calls

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

Our goal is to recommend funding to the programs we believe have the greatest impact per dollar donated. There’s no simple algorithm for this question. Answering it necessarily involves making judgment calls. Our first post in this series discussed the importance of cost-effectiveness analyses and the many factors we consider; in this post, we’ll share:

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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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