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.

Read More

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.

Read More

GiveWell’s money moved and web traffic in 2018

GiveWell is dedicated to finding outstanding giving opportunities and publishing the full details of our analysis. In addition to evaluations of other charities, we publish substantial evaluation of our own work. This post lays out highlights from our 2018 metrics report, which reviews what we know about how our research impacted donors. Please note:

  • We report on “metrics years” that run from February through January; for example, our 2018 data cover February 1, 2018 through January 31, 2019.
  • In an effort to present a more comprehensive measure of our influence on charitable giving, this year’s metrics report includes GiveWell Incubation Grants in our headline “money moved” figure. In previous reports we have excluded Incubation Grants from this figure.

Summary of influence: In 2018, GiveWell influenced charitable giving in several ways. The following table summarizes our understanding of this influence.

Headline money moved: In 2018, we tracked $141 million in money moved to our recommended charities and via our Incubation Grants program. Our money moved only includes donations that we are confident were influenced by our recommendations.

Read More

Evidence Action is shutting down No Lean Season

This post discusses a set of issues with Evidence Action’s No Lean Season program. No Lean Season is a former GiveWell top charity and GiveWell Incubation Grant recipient. It is now shutting down. Evidence Action discusses its decision in this blog post.

Here, we share a significant amount of detail about this decision and the factors that contributed. Proactively sharing detailed information about a charity’s shortcomings may be unusual, but it is core to GiveWell’s mission. We are dedicated to transparency about our recommendations—the good and the bad.

Evidence Action has reviewed this post, and we’ve discussed our thinking at length with its senior leadership; however, the views expressed are our own. We have been impressed with Evidence Action’s commitment to transparency and continue to support its other work. These updates have not substantially changed our view of Evidence Action; we expect large programs to experience problems, to a certain extent. We believe Evidence Action responded to these problems responsibly, although we have several open questions.

Summary

Evidence Action is shutting down No Lean Season, a former GiveWell top charity that distributed no-interest subsidies to support seasonal migration in Bangladesh.

As we have discussed previously, a study of the No Lean Season program in 2017 found disappointing results; this led to our removal of No Lean Season, in agreement with Evidence Action, from our list of top charities.

In early 2019, Evidence Action’s senior leadership received allegations that a junior employee of the government agency in Bangladesh responsible for approving the No Lean Season program allegedly forged the government approval, allegedly in collaboration with an employee of the program’s implementing partner. The government agency allegedly later asked the implementing partner for a bribe to grant approval of the program. Senior leadership at Evidence Action then began an investigation that was largely unsuccessful in its attempts to learn more due to lack of full cooperation from the implementing partner. Evidence Action terminated its relationship with the implementing partner as a result. Evidence Action’s senior leadership also found that some Evidence Action program staff who worked directly with the partner did not fully cooperate with its investigation and had violated internal Evidence Action policy.

Evidence Action decided to shut down No Lean Season because the cost of finding and supporting a new implementing partner was too high, given the disappointing 2017 study results.

Separately, Evidence Action also informed us of a tragic accident involving migrants from households that had received No Lean Season subsidies. We do not believe this contributed to the decision to shut down No Lean Season, but we are sharing it in this post as the investigation into this accident recently concluded.

We will provide additional information on the following in this blog post:

  • We outline below the factors contributing to Evidence Action’s decision to shut down its No Lean Season program (More):
    • The disappointing 2017 study of the program at scale. (More)
    • Evidence Action’s termination of its partnership earlier this year with the organization implementing the program in Bangladesh. After learning of the alleged improprieties (referenced above) in February 2019, senior leadership at Evidence Action began an investigation, conducted by external, independent legal counsel. Given the seriousness of the original allegations, Evidence Action also terminated its contract with the partner. The implementing partner largely refused to cooperate with the investigation, and as a result Evidence Action will not reengage with this partner in the future. (More)
  • In the course of its investigation, senior leadership at Evidence Action found evidence of an approximately $400 payment by an Evidence Action program staff member that violated its internal policies, as well as contradictory and potentially misleading statements made by some program staff members to investigators. This finding was not material in the decision to shut down the program, as the implementing partner’s lack of cooperation was already known at that point. (More)
  • We summarize the findings of the investigation into the accident involving migrants whose families had received subsidies from the program. (More)
  • We do not see any of the above issues as a significant update on Evidence Action as an organization. We expect challenges when working in international development, and think senior leadership at Evidence Action responded responsibly to address these challenges. We do retain open questions about Evidence Action’s selection of implementing partners and its process for hiring and evaluating staff. Finally, we and Evidence Action agree that it should continue to strengthen its financial controls going forward. (More)
  • Evidence Action expects No Lean Season to have some funding remaining after the program fully closes out. We expect to ask Evidence Action to redirect the remaining funding it received from GiveWell for No Lean Season to Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative, a GiveWell top charity. We (and Evidence Action) will also take into account donors’ preferences for reallocating this funding; we provide instructions for donors who supported No Lean Season to communicate their preferences to us below. (More)

Read More

Evaluation of American Red Cross Haiti response

We’ve been working on an update of our disaster relief report, and came across an American Red Cross evaluation from December 2010 stating: If you would like to access this report, please get in contact with the ALNAP secretariat. We emailed the ALNAP secretariat, saying: I am writing from GiveWell, an independent, non-profit charity evaluator…

Read More

The Global Fund and transparency

We recently complained that “UNICEF provides no information about where the money goes and what projects are in progress.” Some might feel that this complaint comes from unrealistically high standards of transparency, especially for organizations such as UNICEF. How is an organization spending $2.7 billion a year supposed to report its activities? Our answer would…

Read More