Charity Evaluations

This page contains links to our in-depth investigations into specific charities. We focus our research on types of charities which appear to be potentially highly cost-effective.

Please pass on feedback to research@givingwhatwecan.org.

Comprehensive Investigations

The Copenhagen Consensus Center (post-MDGs project) - (September 2013)
See also Blog posts #1 and #2


Water, sanitation and hygiene (September 2013)


Micronutrient fortification as an intervention (July 2013)


Project Healthy Children (March 2013)
See also Blog posts #1 and #2


RESULTS/ACTION USA (December 2012)
See also this blog post.



Overview Investigations

GiveDirectly

  • GiveWell recommended GiveDirectly for the first time in late 2012. As a result we looked at the evidence for this charity compared with our existing recommendations.
  • While it was clear that GiveDirectly was an exemplary evidence-based organisation, we were not convinced that the benefit to cost ratio of unconditional cash transfers was as high as the delivery of basic health services provided by our other charities. This is discussed further in the following blog posts:

Pratham

  • Giving What We Can searched for education charities focussed on scaling up cost-effective methods for improving education outcomes in developing countries.
  • We could only identify one that met this criteria and accepted public donations: Pratham. Pratham has also received a commendation from GiveWell.
  • Pratham is a large education charity in India. It appears to be unusually responsive to evidence and is applying techniques suggested to be effective by researchers at J-PAL.
  • However, cost effectiveness analysis suggests that its approaches are unlikely to be better at raising well-being than our existing health focussed recommendations, so we declined to investigate them in greater detail.

WHO-CHOICE Research

  • We looked into recommending funding a full cross-comparison of the cost effectiveness of funding major health treatments, by the World Health Organisation
  • WHO-CHOICE is read by developing country health departments, though whether it changes decisions is hard to determine. Its results are highly cited.
  • The work itself would have brought figures produced using different methodologies into alignment, and funded a document to explain the important take-aways for medical professionals and decision-makers.
  • However, before we could make a decision on this the work was fully funded from another source.
  • Afterwards we did post some blog posts on how we would recommend this work be presented [#1 #2 #3], and an interview with WHO-CHOICE lead researcher Jeremy Lauer.

Multiple climate change charities

  • Cool Earth
  • Solar Aid
  • Sandbag
  • Giving What We Can completed a preliminary investigation of climate change charities in the summer of 2013. We considered over fifty specific organizations, and many of the varied methods they use to combat climate change. During the search, we have come across many general considerations and arguments pointing to some categories of approach over others. Some of the key considerations we encountered are as follows:
    • The 'price elasticity of supply' and the 'price elasticity of demand'. These measure how much more wood is harvested if the price of wood goes up by one percent, and how much more wood is wanted if the price goes down by one percent.
    • The value of reducing activities such as deforestation by small increments and whether this can be seen as any contribution at all. As atmospheric carbon dioxide is measured continuously rather than discreetly, there is some value to these actions.
    • We went on to investigate the organisations Cool Earth, Sandbag and Solar Aid. Whilst not as effective as our top recommended charities (which could avert a DALY for $32.07 to $71.20), Cool Earth can avert a DALY for about $3,950, Sandbag could avert a DALY for somewhere between $70 using advocacy and avert a DALY for $35,000 by directly buying permits, and Solar Aid can avert a DALY for about $75,000.
  • You can read more on our Climate Change page.

AidGrade

  • AidGrade was contacted as part of our search for a high-impact research organisation.
  • AidGrade performs meta-analysis to determine which development interventions are the most effective. Much of this is performed by volunteers.
  • It then promotes the findings through a user-friendly website and book.
  • While this work could be very valuable, AidGrade only commenced operations in 2012 and so it does not have a track record from which we can evaluate its influence. However, we may come back to evaluate AidGrade in more detail in future.

APOPO

  • Were investigated as having a cheap method for improving diagnostics of an easily treated disease, Tuberculosis.
  • Early indications were that they were well managed and applying an approach that might be expected to suffer a funding gap.
  • However, after a few conversations, APOPO declined to pursue the investigation in depth due to limited time available among the necessary staff.
  • This may be reconsidered in 2014.

Stop TB

  • StopTB alliance was initially recommended on the basis of their ability to scale up delivery of cheap and effective antibiotic treatments for tuberculosis.
  • Further investigation raised doubts about their capacity to use additional funding for this purpose at an affordable cost, given bottlenecks in diagnosis of ordinary untreated Tuberculosis.
  • This caused us to drop them from the list of recommended charities.
  • Since then, during our evaluation of RESULTS/ACTION, we have reconsidered whether identifying drug resistant.

Hilleman Laboratories

  • Inspired by the achievements of past disease eradication efforts such as smallpox, we sought outstanding biomedical research projects, looking to develop new treatments for major diseases in the developing world.
  • A series of interviews with experts in the field led us to Hilleman Laboratories.
  • They are investigating new mechanisms to deliver effective vaccines to rural areas.
  • In particular, we looked at their efforts to improve the rotavirus vaccine for wider delivery in India. Due to large the ongoing damage done by rotavirus, this research had the potential to compete with our recommended charities.
  • However, further discussion showed that their research would not face a funding gap for several years, thanks to major donations from pharmaceutical companies.
  • If a funding gap were to appear in future, we might return to look into Hilleman Laboratories in more detail.

Chlorine Sanitisers

  • We looked into Chlorine Sanitisers as distributed by Evidence Action as a way of preventing the spread of contagious diseases
  • Our video interview with Alix Zwane illustrates our research in this area.
  • Initial results suggest a high degree of cost effectiveness.
  • Polio eradication

    • We looked into research suggesting that increasing the probability of Polio eradication, even slightly, would be extremely good value. This work painted a very positive picture.
    • However, we could not easily find charities working on Polio eradication with an obvious funding gap.
    • We stopped searching for charities working to eradicate Polio when some major donors pledged over $5 billion for Polio eradication, likely filling any remaining funding gap.

    Groups we are currently investigating:

    PATH

    Helen Keller International