The GiveWell Blog

Our recommendations for giving in 2020

You can have a major, positive impact today by choosing to support organizations backed by strong evidence: our top charities.

We recommend the nonprofits that offer the most impact per dollar we’re aware of. In fact, we estimate that you can save a life by donating $3,000-$5,000 to our top recommendation.[1]

If you’re a longtime donor, you’ll recognize most of this year’s top charities. You may even wonder why our list hasn’t changed much. However, a tremendous amount of research—truly thousands of hours—has been done to ensure that these organizations continue to meet our high standards. And although there are many familiar names, one is entirely new: New Incentives.

We’re proud to share our recommendations and grateful to you for considering supporting them. We hope you’ll read on!

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Maximum Impact Fund update: Q1 and Q2 2020

Thanks to our donors, we have disbursed $23.3 million in flexible funding to our top charities this year. This generous, flexible support is worthy of celebration!

This post focuses on our decision to grant $15.3 million to the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF), which includes the $11.7 million that donors gave to “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion” in the first half of 2020.[1]

AMF supports the distribution of insecticide-treated nets in areas with high rates of malaria. The nets stop mosquitoes from biting and spreading the disease. We estimate our donors’ support for AMF will collectively save over 3,000 lives, mostly of young children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Guinea.[2] Without this grant, we think net distributions in DRC and Guinea would have been delayed.

We believe that AMF was the highest-impact choice for this grant. We chose AMF after assessing the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on our top charities, the urgency of our top charities’ funding needs, and our estimates of their impact per dollar. We’re grateful for GiveWell donors’ trust in providing flexible funding to fill this need.

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Why you’ll see more matching campaigns at GiveWell

Lots of charities run matching campaigns with claims like “Give today and double your impact!” We’re generally skeptical of these claims, which are true only if the matching donor would not have otherwise given to the charity.

We guess that many donors who are motivated to make a large gift to charity (as donors who put up funding for matches typically are) would do so whether or not their support is matched by others. What may often be happening with matching campaigns, then, is that a matching donor would have given to the charity anyway but has agreed to structure their donation as a “match” for marketing purposes. We’ve written about these concerns in the past.

But we don’t think matches are inherently problematic. In fact, if executed such that the matching donor would not have given otherwise, we believe they can be highly motivating for donors.

We’re aiming to increase the amount of funding we direct each year, and we’re planning to start regularly running matching campaigns in 2020 ourselves, in the hopes of reaching new donors and learning which channels are the most successful for marketing. We plan to take extra steps to structure our matching campaigns to offer a “true” match to the extent possible.

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GiveWell donors supported more than direct delivery: AMF and new net research

Supporters of the Against Malaria Foundation in recent years may have had even more impact than they expected.

The Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) is a GiveWell top charity because we believe its program to distribute insecticide-treated nets prevents people from dying of malaria. AMF-supported net distributions are incredibly cost-effective; we estimate that a $2,000-3,000 donation averts one death.[1] AMF’s work is important in and of itself to fund.

Not all AMF donations, however, just support typical net distributions. In recent years, AMF supported research on a new type of insecticide-treated net, the piperonyl butoxide (PBO) net. This research itself (i.e., researcher time, equipment, and administrative costs) was funded by a small number of AMF donors who explicitly agreed to support it. The research was conducted on nets that were contributed by a broad group of AMF donors.

Preliminary data suggest that PBO nets are more effective at preventing malaria than standard insecticide-treated nets in areas where mosquitoes have developed insecticide resistance. We think it is likely that AMF sped up the completion of a large-scale, high-quality study of these new nets.

We’re thrilled to recommend charities that contribute research in the fields in which they operate. AMF doesn’t just prevent deaths from malaria by distributing nets—it has improved our and others’ understanding of which nets can work best in the future. This post is to share this story with our donors, whose contributions make this work possible.

Summary

In this post, we’ll discuss:

  • Insecticide resistance and the potential of PBO nets. (More)
  • AMF’s role in PBO net research. (More)

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Three grants in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

We began exploring opportunities to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic in March. We are excited to announce that we granted a total of $450,000 to support coronavirus-response projects run by Development Media International (DMI), IDinsight, and Yale professor Mushfiq Mobarak, respectively.

With our grant funding, we expect DMI to run or support mass media campaigns to promote essential health messages. We expect IDinsight and Professor Mobarak to support policymakers responding to the pandemic in low- and middle-income countries through data collection and analysis and by making recommendations.

Our goal at GiveWell is always to direct funding to maximize impact. This typically leads us to conduct thorough, monthslong investigations into potential grantees. However, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, we believe we can have more impact by acting quickly to prevent the spread of the disease—even if it means completing only relatively shallow grant investigations.

These three grants may save or improve lives as well as or better than our current top charities. Nevertheless, we are more uncertain about their potential impact, given our brief review. The $450,000 in grants is the full amount we’re comfortable directing to these opportunities at this time; we do not suggest additional donations beyond this amount today.

We remain very worried about the effects of the pandemic on non-coronavirus health programs as the global funding landscape shifts in response to coronavirus. The need for the programs operated by our top charities is already large and we are unsure if our top charities will receive less funding than usual in the coming year. We expect that our top charities will require significant additional resources to continue to carry out their programs.

Our recommendation to individual donors is thus unchanged: our top recommendation is to give to “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion,” which we will allocate quarterly among our recommended charities where we believe it will do the most good. For donors who prefer to give directly to a GiveWell top charity, we recommend Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program. We do not expect to make coronavirus-specific recommendations for individual donors.

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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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