GiveWell have released their 2020 recommendations (including a new top charity)

post by lukefreeman · 2020-11-19T23:18:22.979Z · EA · GW · 1 comments

This is a link post for


  How to give in 2020
  Our work on COVID-19
  Key research updates
  Introducing New Incentives
  Giving to GiveWell’s operations
  How to give efficiently
  Ways to learn more
1 comment

Here's their blog post with the announcement:

You can have a major, positive impact today by choosing to support organizations backed by strong evidence: our top charities.

We recommend the nonprofits that offer the most impact per dollar we’re aware of. In fact, we estimate that you can save a life by donating $3,000-$5,000 to our top recommendation.[1]

If you’re a longtime donor, you’ll recognize most of this year’s top charities. You may even wonder why our list hasn’t changed much. However, a tremendous amount of research—truly thousands of hours—has been done to ensure that these organizations continue to meet our high standards. And although there are many familiar names, one is entirely new: New Incentives.

We’re proud to share our recommendations and grateful to you for considering supporting them. We hope you’ll read on!

How to give in 2020

Our nine top charities are the best opportunities we’ve found for donors to save or improve lives.

We conduct an intense, monthslong assessment of each top charity before determining it can be added to our list. All top charities meet our high standards for evidence of effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and transparency. We believe they will use donations well.

However, our work to ensure that our top charities meet our standards isn’t the end of our process. We continually assess where funding is most needed within our list of top charities. Donors can support the highest-priority needs by giving to our Maximum Impact Fund.

The Maximum Impact Fund is our top recommendation for donors who want to do as much good as possible with their gift. We regularly make grants from the Maximum Impact Fund to our top charities. We direct these grants where we believe they will achieve the most good at the time they’re given.

Our top charities’ funding needs constantly change. For example, a top charity might identify an opportunity to work in a new country that requires more funding than it has on hand. Another might receive a large grant that fills its immediate funding needs. We continually monitor these changes and re-prioritize our top charities’ needs.

Giving to the Maximum Impact Fund is the best way to take advantage of our latest research and to ensure your donation is used as well as possible, even within this great group of organizations.

If you prefer to select an individual charity instead, our 2020 top charities are:

They are listed in order of how we currently prioritize funding them. When we prioritize our charities’ needs at this time of year, we account for donations from the Maximum Impact Fund in the third quarter of the year and our recommendations to Open Philanthropy, the largest single donor to our top charities.[2]

Open Philanthropy takes GiveWell’s recommendations into account when deciding how much to grant to each top charity. Usually, we make all of our recommendations to Open Philanthropy in November. This year, we made some of our recommendations in November and asked Open Philanthropy to make a second round of grants to our top charities in January 2021. If other donors fully meet the highest-priority needs we see today before Open Philanthropy makes its January grants, we’ll ask Open Philanthropy to donate to priorities further down our list. It won’t give less funding overall—it’ll just fund the next-highest-priority needs.[3]

Our work on COVID-19

We spent several months in 2020 assessing potential giving opportunities that could mitigate the effects of COVID-19. We followed research about emerging needs and spoke with experts and charities, including GiveWell’s top charities, about the needs they foresaw or were experiencing.

As part of this work, we looked for giving opportunities outside of our top charities list that could be as cost-effective or more cost-effective than our top charities, although we had less confidence in the impact of these opportunities due to our short review timelines and the uncertain nature of the pandemic. We recommended six grants totaling $3,656,000.[4] Beyond these six, we did not find opportunities that we believed to be as or more cost-effective than our top charities.

Our top charities implement crucial, cost-effective health programs that are continuing even during the pandemic. However, it was important to understand how the pandemic would impact their work—they all support programs that typically involve direct contact with people, such as hosting community meetings and visiting people’s homes. We looked at how our top charities adapted their delivery models during COVID-19, as well as funding needs and plans that were disrupted due to the pandemic. Overall, the pandemic had a fairly modest effect on the cost-effectiveness and funding needs of our top charities.[5] We continue to recommend that donors support our top charities via GiveWell’s Maximum Impact Fund.

We plan to follow needs that continue to emerge due to the pandemic, which may lead us to make additional recommendations in the future.

Key research updates

All year long, we follow our top charities’ work to confirm that they continue to meet our standards and to understand their funding needs and plans. There are a few major ways in which we do this:

This year, we completed several large research projects to improve our understanding of our top charities, including:

We also completed smaller projects, such as:

In addition to all of our work to improve our understanding of our existing top charities, we also researched new, promising programs and charities to potentially recommend. We’re excited to announce a new top charity this year: New Incentives.

Introducing New Incentives

New Incentives incentivizes caregivers of infants to complete a series of routine, potentially life-saving childhood immunizations by providing them with a small cash transfer when each vaccine is given. It operates in North West Nigeria, where childhood immunization rates are low.

We named New Incentives a top charity this year after considering many factors, including the results of a high-quality study of its program. The study was conducted from July 2018 to February 2020 by IDinsight and was funded by Open Philanthropy at our recommendation. Based on that study, we estimate that New Incentives increases the use of incentivized vaccines by 22 percentage points.[7]

The study results, combined with New Incentives’ track record and plans for scaling up, led us to calculate a high cost-effectiveness for donations to the program: $3,000 to $5,000 per life saved, comparable to our other life-saving top charities.[8]

You can learn more in our New Incentives review.

Giving to GiveWell’s operations

GiveWell is a nonprofit. We rely on donations for our own operations. If you’re using our research to guide your giving, we hope you’ll also consider supporting GiveWell.

When you do, you’re contributing to the research we conduct and share with the public—like this blog post and all of the analysis that went into it. We recommend:

If you’re worried about us getting too much funding, please know that our “excess assets” policy prevents us from holding more funding than we expect to need for our own work in the coming years. It requires us to grant any operations funding we hold over a certain threshold to our recommended charities.

We also cap at 20 percent the proportion of our operating budget that any one individual or organization can contribute. This helps us avoid overly relying on a single source of support.

How to give efficiently

In addition to our recommendations for where to give, we also have advice for donors who want to know how to give to maximize the efficiency of their donations. See our:

Ways to learn more

Additional information is linked below:

Our latest cost-effectiveness analysis of our top charities. Please note that while we dedicate significant resources to making these estimates and while they are an important part of our work, we have significant uncertainty about the final figures. You can read more about this here.

While we aim to maximize the good accomplished per dollar donated, these estimates are only one factor we consider when deciding how to prioritize among our top charities’ needs. We also consider charities’ qualitative strengths and weaknesses, the urgency of their funding needs, and other factors.

Thank you for being part of our community. We hope you’ll join us in funding these excellent organizations!


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2020-11-20T08:00:31.367Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I was unaware of the GiveWell Incubation Grants, it looks very interesting! It is a program to fund potential future top charities.

The new GiveWell Top Recommended Charity, New Incentives, has received incubation grants since 2014 at a total of a bit less than $2M up to April 2017 and an additional $6M in November 2017 intended to support them until the end of RCT trials (independently performed by IDinsight, itself also funded by Givewell) in May 2020. 

 In August 2019, IDinsight received about $2M for endline evaluation of the RCT.  This research has itself been evaluated at 10x as direct cash. I find this quite surprising, especially given that IDinsight has about $16M room for funding in the next couple of years. It seems that the results of the RCT have been positive :)