The GiveWell Blog

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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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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March 2020 open thread

Our goal with hosting quarterly open threads is to give blog readers an opportunity to publicly raise comments or questions about GiveWell or related topics (in the comments section below). As always, you’re also welcome to email us at info@givewell.org or to request a call with GiveWell staff if you have feedback or questions you’d prefer to discuss privately. We’ll try to respond promptly to questions or comments.

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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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Introducing our new Managing Director: Dr. Neil Buddy Shah

I’m very excited to announce that Dr. Neil Buddy Shah is joining GiveWell as Managing Director starting this summer.

We’re beyond thrilled that Buddy, a leader in the global health and development space, has chosen to be part of our team at this exciting time. We have significantly expanded our research focus over the past few years to identify high-impact giving opportunities beyond our current top charities list. In addition to working with me to set our strategy generally, a core component of Buddy’s work will be pushing our research and funding expansion forward by leading GiveWell’s efforts to learn from and contribute to the broader international development community.

He is exceptionally qualified to do so. Buddy has spent the last eight years as Founding Partner and CEO of IDinsight, a group GiveWell has worked closely with and supported through our Incubation Grants program. We’re confident that IDinsight will continue to do great work over the coming years.

Buddy is now heading the leadership transition process at IDinsight. He expects to join GiveWell around July. Welcome to the team!

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