If you’re looking for the biggest bang for your charitable buck, givewell.org might be able to help.
The nonprofit was founded in 2006 by Holden Karnofsky and Elie Hassenfeld, who met while working for the Westport hedge fund Bridgewater Associates. The goal was to analyze what your charitable dollar bought in terms of impact. Located in Silicon Valley since 2013, the company continues to publish a list of “top charities” on its website.
“We intensely vet and recommend a shortlist of excellent charities,” says Catherine Hollander, senior research communications officer at GiveWell. “Our goal is to help donors give in such a way that their dollar can go as far as possible, or save or improve as many lives as possible.”
She adds, “We’re agnostic about what location those charities work in and what program they implement. We just want to find the places where your dollar can go the very furthest.
So, that research and our interest intensely vetting and recommending this shortlist has led us to focus on nonprofits that work in global health and poverty alleviation because we found that those are the areas in which donor dollars can do the most good.”
Donor dollars go further with these types of programs for two reasons, Hollander says. “One is that these programs tend to be very well studied and well understood. For example, two of our current top charities work on programs that prevent malaria. Malaria is a disease that's been very well studied and how to prevent malaria is something that has had a lot of research behind it. So we know what works to prevent malaria.”
The second reason is based on cost. “What we found is that programs like malaria prevention or distributing cash transfers to very poor households or delivering cheap Vitamin A supplements to children in areas where vitamin A deficiency is common, those programs tend to be extremely inexpensive but very effective. And so if you're looking to do as much good with your dollar, they really represent some of the best buys, the best opportunities that we have found.”
An organization that has long been hailed by GiveWell as one of the best charitable-giving opportunities is Malaria Consortium, which runs seasonal malaria chemoprevention programs that substantially reduce cases of malaria. GiveWell estimates that $7 is enough to protect a child from malaria, and a life is saved per $3,000-$5,000 donated. That’s an investment worth making.