When you care about making a difference in the world, it's natural to ask: "Where can my donations do the most good?"
The great news is that we live in unprecedented times where your donations can do an astonishing amount of good.
However, not all giving opportunities are equal: depending on where you choose to give, your impact can vary by orders of magnitude.
Our current recommendation for most donors is to donate through Effective Altruism Funds.
It’s easy, and it lets you support the grantmaking of experts in promising fields.
Keep scrolling to find our list of top recommended individual charities.
1. Identify a promising cause to support. We find that the most promising problems are generally:
- Bigger (i.e., they strongly impact many lives)
- More tractable (i.e., there are clear and practical ways of making progress)
- Less crowded (i.e., they are still in need of more funding and support)
2. Find which charity is working most effectively to support the cause: Indicators of reputable, worthwhile organisations include: reliance on evidence, cost-effectiveness, transparency, room for funding, and track record.
3. Pick an efficient way to donate: Try getting your donation matched by your employer, salary sacrifice your donations, set up a recurring donation, use a local grantmaking organisation, or donate using a fund.
Cause and charity selection can take a lot of time and effort, and many donors aren’t able to work it into their busy schedules. To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of trustworthy, effective charities working on some of the most pressing causes.
Contents What are the best charities to donate to in 2021?
- How to Donate Effectively
- Our Effective Giving Recommendations
- Questions? Need help?
The following recommendations are listed roughly in order of convenience and suitability for most donors. The right giving opportunity for you will depend on your particular values and circumstances.
For most people, we recommend donating through a reputable regranting fund that's focused on charity effectiveness.
Funds are both easy for donors and highly effective. They help donors to pool their money together so that they can find outstanding giving opportunities that are evaluated by expert grantmakers and trusted charity evaluators.
Using a regranting fund is similar to using an investment fund instead of trying to pick which individual stocks will be the best investments. The regranting fund distributes your donation among multiple grantees. Just as diversifying your investment portfolio increases the safety of your investments, diversifying your giving portfolio increases the chances that your donations will have a positive impact.
You can donate to the following funds using Effective Altruism Funds. Donations are tax-deductible in the U.S., the U.K., and the Netherlands:
|Global Health and Development Fund||Effective Altruism Funds||Donate||Learn More|
|Animal Welfare Fund||Effective Altruism Funds||Donate||Learn More|
|Long-Term Future Fund||Effective Altruism Funds||Donate||Learn More|
|EA Infrastructure Fund||Effective Altruism Funds||Donate||Learn More|
|Maximum Impact Fund||GiveWell||Donate||Learn More|
|Center on Long-Term Risk Fund||Center on Long-Term Risk||Donate||Learn More|
|Climate Change Fund||Founders Pledge||Donate||Learn More|
|ACE’s Recommended Charity Fund||Animal Charity Evaluators||Donate||Learn More|
The best donation advice will vary based on your personal circumstances, such as the country you live in. (Our community has members from 96 countries!)
The following grantmaking organisations help donors from around the world to support outstanding charities individually or to pool their donations together to direct funding to where it is most needed.
Please bear in mind that some giving opportunities can be hundreds of times more effective than others, so it might be best to donate abroad while incurring international fees and missing out on a tax deduction if you believe the international organisation will do more to improve the lives of others.
|EA Funds||Various||United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands|
|GiveWell||Global Health & Development||United States, Netherlands|
|Animal Charity Evaluators||Animal Welfare||United States, Netherlands|
|Long-Term Risk Fund||Long-Term Future||Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands|
|Effective Altruism Australia||Global Health & Development||Australia|
|Effective Altruism New Zealand||Global Health & Development||New Zealand|
|The Life You Can Save||Global Health & Development||United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Netherlands|
|Fundación Ayuda Efectiva||Global Health & Development||Spain|
|Gi effektivt||Global Health & Development||Norway|
|Ge effektivt||Global Health & Development||Sweden|
Another easy way to identify highly effective charities is to follow the advice of charity evaluators who prioritise effectiveness in their charity reviews. We recommend checking out the following evaluators:
- GiveWell (Global Health & Development)
- Animal Charity Evaluators (Animal Welfare)
- Founders Pledge (Various Cause Areas)
You can donate to many of the charities they recommend in one place using EA Funds.
It can be valuable to do your own research to find the most worthwhile giving opportunities. If you're going to do your own research, consider how much time to invest given (a) how much you're giving; and (b) how much you might give in the future. If you're giving a lot — now or in the future — it can be worth investing significant time.
If you're donating to individual charities, we also recommend: (i) discussing your options with other people interested in effective giving (such as the Giving What We Can community), (ii) looking at the research conducted by charity evaluators, and (iii) reading our guide on how to evaluate charities.
Our recommended charities work on a range of causes. Some use established, evidence-based strategies and some use strategies that are more innovative or speculative (but potentially higher impact).
We recommend donating to the following high-impact charities, and we regularly update this list. These highly effective charities are selected in collaboration with our evaluation partners and Effective Altruism Funds. You can also use the Effective Altruism Funds platform to donate directly to most of these organisations.
Donating to meta-charities can help you increase the impact of your donations.
Instead of directly helping others with specific interventions (e.g., distributing bed nets or vaccines), meta-charities take a more indirect approach. This could include promoting effective giving (as we do here at Giving What We Can), conducting research into charity effectiveness (as GiveWell does), or conducting research into global priorities (which is the specialty of the Forethought Foundation).
Meta-charities are often able to raise more money than they need for their own operations, and the surplus typically supports their recommended charities. For example, GiveWell, whose main activity is cost-effectiveness research, tracks their "money moved." For every $1 they spend on research, they influence roughly $30 in donations to their top charities. Learn more about meta-charities.
The following meta-charities can be donated to using Effective Altruism Funds:
- 80,000 Hours
- Animal Charity Evaluators
- Center on Long-Term Risk
- Centre for Effective Altruism
- Charity Entrepreneurship
- Forethought Foundation
- Happier Lives Institute
- Giving What We Can
- Rethink Charity
- Rethink Priorities
This interactive chart shows which organisations Giving What We Can members donate to (by the number of members who have donated to the organisation).
Donors with specific needs and a substantial amount of funding can benefit from working with a philanthropic advisor. Startup founders should consider connecting with Founders Pledge, which provides philanthropic advice to their members. If you're an individual donor interested in working with an advisor, please fill out this form and we will connect you with an appropriate person or organisation.
Donating money from your estate to effective charities could help you to leave behind an incredible legacy.
Leaving a gift in your will to charity is typically called a bequest, but can also be known as planned giving. Learn more about making a bequest.
If you’ve made it this far, we hope you’re inspired to give more, and to give more effectively.
Join the Giving What We Can community by pledging to donate a meaningful portion of your income to help improve the lives of others. It can help you to live up to your values, meet like-minded people, and inspire others to follow in your footsteps.
Not ready to pledge? You can also donate to an effective charity, sign up for our newsletter, read our blog, attend an event, join an effective altruism group, or get in touch if you’d like to discuss anything.
If you have any questions or need assistance, we're more than happy to help out! Please get in touch via our contact page, and we'll respond as quickly as possible.