Image credit: Alexandra Lammerink

What are the best charities to donate to in 2021?

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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 your donations can have an astonishing impact.

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.

Donate

Keep scrolling to find our list of top recommended individual charities.

How to Donate Effectively

  1. Identify a promising cause to support.
    We find that the most important causes are generally:
    • Large in scale (i.e., they significantly impact many lives)
    • Neglected (i.e., they still need more funding and support)
    • Tractable (i.e., there are clear and practical ways of making progress)
  2. Choose an excellent organisation working to support the cause.
    Indicators of worthwhile organisations include: reliance on evidence, cost-effectiveness, transparency, room for funding, and a strong 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.

Choosing a cause and evaluating charities 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.

Our Effective Giving Recommendations

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.

Give together, as a community

For most people, we recommend donating through a reputable fund that's focused on 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 fund is similar to using an investment fund instead of trying to pick which individual stocks will be the best investments. The fund distributes your donation among multiple grantees with the goal of maximising your overall impact.

Donors from the US, UK, and the Netherlands can make tax-deductible donations to the following funds using Effective Altruism Funds. For other countries, you can read our tax deductibility guide by country, though we still think these funds are likely to be your best option even if they are not tax deductible.

NameOrganisationDonate
Global Health and Development FundEffective Altruism FundsDonate
Animal Welfare FundEffective Altruism FundsDonate
Long-Term Future FundEffective Altruism FundsDonate
EA Infrastructure FundEffective Altruism FundsDonate
Maximum Impact FundGiveWellDonate
Climate Change FundFounders PledgeDonate
ACE’s Recommended Charity FundAnimal Charity EvaluatorsDonate

Other ways our members give as a community include donor lotteries, giving circles, and giving games.

Follow the advice of trusted charity evaluators

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:

You can donate to many of the charities they recommend in one place using Efective Altruism 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).

For giving season 2021, we recommend the following high-impact charities based on their support from our trusted partners at GiveWell, Animal Charity Evaluators, Founders Pledge, 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:

Learn from our members

This interactive chart shows which organisations Giving What We Can members donate to (by the number of members who have donated to the organisation).

Our members also discuss their giving at our events, on our private Facebook group, on our blog, and on the Effective Altruism Forum.

Seek trustworthy philanthropic advice

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.

Make a bequest

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.


Join our effective giving community

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.

Learn more about our pledges

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.

Questions? Need help?

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.