GiveWell releases updated charity recommendations

GiveWell releases updated charity recommendations December 2, 2014

Effective-altruism poster-child GiveWell, a charity-evaluating non-profit aimed at finding which charities are the most empirically validated and cost-effective, recently updated their list of recommended charities. Just in time for #GivingTuesday, too.

Check below for the list of GiveWell’s “evidence-backed, thoroughly vetted, underfunded” charities, as well as the proportion of your donation GiveWell suggests you distribute to each cause (h/t Robby Bensinger for the breakdown):

1. The Against Malaria Foundation (60%)

After a brief hiatus,the Against Malaria Foundation is back at the top of the list. AMF provides pesticide-treated bed nets to prevent the spread of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, and though it seemed to be having difficulties spending all the money it had raised, it looks like GiveWell has greater confidence in AMF’s ability to scale up their malarian net distribution. They write:

Does it work? There is strong evidence that distributing nets reduces child mortality and malaria cases. AMF has relatively strong reporting requirements for its distribution partners and provides a level of public disclosure and tracking of distributions that we have not seen from any other net distribution charity. AMF has begun building a track record of funding and tracking fairly large-scale ($1 million or more) distributions.

What do you get for your dollar? We estimate that the cost to purchase and distribute an AMF-funded net is $5.30 in Malawi and, very roughly, $7.50 in DRC (the two countries that AMF has worked most extensively in). The numbers of malaria cases prevented and lives saved are a function of a number of difficult to estimate factors, which we discuss in detail below.

2. GiveDirectly (12%)

GiveDirectly is one of my favorite charities, just because the concept is so simple. People are dying and struggling because they don’t have enough money, so give them money. GiveWell writes:

What do they do? GiveDirectly ( transfers cash to households in developing countries via mobile phone-linked payment services. It targets extremely low-income households (more).

Does it work? We believe that this approach faces an unusually low burden of proof, and that the available evidence supports the idea that unconditional cash transfers significantly help people. It appears that GiveDirectly has been effective at delivering cash to low-income households. GiveDirectly has one major randomized controlled trial of its impact, and took the unusual step of making the details of this study public before data was collected (more).

What do you get for your dollar? The proportion of total expenses that GiveDirectly delivers directly to recipients is approximately 87% (more).

3. Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (12%) and Deworm the World Initiative (6%)

I’m lumping these two together because they tackle the same problem, though on different scales and using different tactics. More than 200 million people suffer from schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection with staggering economic costs in the developing world. The Life You Can Save explains:

Worms and other parasitic and bacterial Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) affect two billion people worldwide, most of whom live on less than $2 a day. 300 million of these, roughly the population of the United States, suffer from severe illness, and half of those are school-aged children. Schistosomiasis kills 280,000 people a year . NTDs are responsible for a range of serious health problems from malnutrition, to impaired cognitive development, to blindness. They can increase the morbidity and mortality of malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, and infected children are often too sick to attend school.

In describing the cost-effectiveness of SCI’s method, which directly administers deworming procedures, GiveWell writes:

SCI is recommended because of its:

  • Focus on a program with a strong track record and excellent cost-effectiveness. (More)
  • Track record – SCI has repeatedly demonstrated success at starting and expanding national deworming programs.
  • Room for more funding – we believe SCI will use be able to use additional funds to deliver additional treatments. (More)

DtWI treats the same parasites as SCI but on a broader scope and through influencing government policy rather than direct action. This makes things thornier, but it’s still a worthy cause. GiveWell writes:

The Deworm the World Initiative (DtWI), led by Evidence Action, supports programs that treat children for parasitic worm infections that cause short-term symptoms such as anemia, and may cause longer-term developmental problems. These worms are extremely inexpensive to treat. (For more, see our full report on deworming.) DtWI focuses on advocacy and technical assistance to governments providing deworming, and we believe that it cost-effectively increases the number of children receiving deworming treatment.

4. GiveWell (10%) 

Evaluating charities is tough work, and GiveWell does it fantastically. If you donate to GiveWell at the following link, you can fund all of the above charities at either the proportions reported here or one of your own choosing.

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