Sunday, December 2, 2012


Charity recommendations
My favorite charity evaluator, GiveWell, has announced its recommended charities for the year.

Last year's picks, Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) and the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI), are still highly recommended.  AMF primarily distributes insecticide-treated bednets in the developing world to prevent malaria.  SCI provides medication for tropical diseases, mostly parasitic infections, to children in Africa.

The newcomer this year is Give Directly, which makes unconditional cash grants to poor people in Kenya.  It seems to have two advantages: in a field where it's often hard to tell what charities are doing with your donation, it's clear that Give Directly is giving out the cash.  Also, if you value charity recipients' ability to choose what will most help themselves and their families, Give Directly is especially well suited to that.

The downside to Give Directly is that it's not clear what benefit comes of the cash transfers.  There's evidence that people eat more food for a while after receiving the money, but any long-term effects are unclear.  It sounds like GiveWell is planning to write more about why they chose this intervention, so I'll be interested to see what they have to say.

I think that donating to GiveWell's recommended charities has a benefit beyond the work they will do with your donation this year.  It rewards organizations that can demonstrate their work is effective, which gives other charities an incentive to demonstrate and improve their effectiveness.  I believe in data, and I believe that being more evidence-based will improve the work done by any charity.

Job openings
Giving What We Can, 80,000 Hours, The Life You Can Save, and Effective Animal Activism are all hiring.  Details here.  GiveWell is also hiring researchers.


  1. Hey Julia, a question occurred to me about charitable giving this season, so I thought you'd be the person to ask. :) Several of my friends are doing fundraising for different causes -- flood victims in Pakistan, research on wartime violence against civilians -- plus I've gotten appeal letters from Philly-area nonprofits like EQAT that I feel an affinity with, although I'd already wanted to give money to Planned Parenthood this year. So... should I give all of the money I've earmarked for giving, to PP? Or should I divide it among the 10 or so causes? Everyone says 'even $5 helps', but is that better than $100 to one place?

  2. Hi Joanna,
    If you want to do the most good, I'd give it to your top pick. Two reasons why: first, each donation costs money to process. If it costs maybe $5 to process a donation (staff time, check processing/credit card fees, mailing your receipt), more of your donation goes to charity if you give to only one place.

    Second, your money will accomplish more with the best charity you can find. So giving money to your second and third picks just means the money won't go as far. Of course, there are social benefits to giving to charities that benefit you or your friends are fundraising for. Personally, I donate to those out of my "fun" budget rather than my "charity" budget.

    In general, dollars go farther in the developing world than in the US - if family planning is the cause you find best, have you considered orgs that work more internationally, like the UN Population Fund or Population Services International? I know PP does some international work, but it looks like most of their services target Americans.

    1. Hi Julia, thanks for these responses! I appreciate the reminder that donation-processing costs the org money, and I know from occasionally reading your blog that the money is best used for the most effective charity.

      I definitely feel the most emotional affinity for US causes, but I understand your point that money goes farther in the developing world, so maybe I'll split the money I've saved in half. Still more effective than splitting it in 10. ;)

    2. P.S. Do you have other evaluation resources you'd recommend, besides For instance, they haven't found a charity to recommend for reproductive health -- which maybe says something about those charities, or maybe is simply a limit of the research they've been able to do so far.