Blog post

Highlights from 2014 - 2015

7 min read
26 Nov 2015

At Giving What We Can, we're all about measuring impact. So, we regularly review our progress and activities. We're pretty proud of our last 12 month period — here are some of the highlights.


We want to make sure that we're keeping members, donors, and the general public in the loop with what we've been doing, and what we've got planned for the future. If you need more detail, you can also download:

Highlights & Key Numbers

From July 2014 - June 2015:

  • 589 people took the pledge, more than doubling the number of members we had in June last year, which took us up to 1,118 members.
  • New members pledged $170 million, bringing the total to $443 million
  • Members reported that they donated over $3.4 million
  • More than $1 million moved1 through the Trust to highly effective charities, donated by around 1400 donors2.
  • 15 new Giving What We Can chapters started around the world, bringing the total to around 40

Key events

Chapter Growth

We had a large surge in membership in December and January — 223 people joined in those two months alone (for comparison, that is nearly double the number who joined during the whole of 2013). This seemed to be spurred largely by a pledging event held by students linked with the chapter in Cambridge, and perhaps also by a rise in charitable activity associated with the giving season.

Around this time we realised it would be more efficient to move away from organising outreach events ourselves, towards supporting chapters to run these around the world. Jon Courtney, previously Director of Community, switched to Director of Outreach to focus more of his attention of chapters in March.

As part of this new focus, in the first half of 2015 we supported the development of 15 new chapters, bring the total to around 40. We have also noted from Skype conversations with nearly 200 (15%) of our members that being able to connect with the community is important to many of us. Chapters therefore appear increasingly valuable not only as channels for reaching more people, but for supporting current members and sustaining the Giving What We Can community.

Pledge Wording

In November 2014 we changed the wording of our Pledge. Before this, the pledge specified that donations should be made to the most effective charities helping those in the developing world. We opened up the wording to make it more in line with the spirit which underlies Giving What We Can - that we should simply be helping others as much as we can. The change in wording allowed people who believe they can most effectively help others in ways other than fighting extreme poverty (or believe that that will be the case in future) to join.

We chose to do this after several months consulting members and individuals within the effective altruism community. The community feeling within Giving What We Can seems to be unchanged. The benefits of the change are somewhat difficult to gauge so far. They will likely depend on the extent to which the effective altruism movement takes off and whether those affiliated with it do in fact end up joining and donating 10% to the most effective charities.

New Staff

In early 2015 we hired three new full-time staff; Alison Woodman joined as Director of Community and Hauke Hillebrandt became Director of Research in March. In April Sam Deere was appointed Director of Communications.

Alison’s role will allow us to learn more about our current membership and therefore support our community, as well as track the impact we are having. Hauke is helping to develop a long-term research strategy and has written in-depth reports on each of our currently recommended charities. Sam is has been represented us in media appearances, talks and news articles, whilst also working on creating a new version of our website.

Important Lessons Learned

  • The full potential of chapters, particularly when they work on something they are really excited about – we estimate that the Cambridge pledge event led to 83 new members.
  • In research, our comparative advantage continues to be identifying crucial considerations, particularly those emerging from the academic literature – such as the link between soil-transmitted helminth infections and malaria. Continuing to keep up with these kinds of developments will therefore be a significant focus for us.
  • The usefulness of automating processes such as bookkeeping and some parts of outreach, and therefore the importance of having someone on staff with significant tech skills.
  • We have continued to be very fortunate in the volunteers we attract, which has been useful for research and for blog writing – not just our own, but also now for the Huffington Post. That is likely in part because of our excellent blog manager and in part because of being based in Oxford. Given the value this has brought, we should continue to try to be appealing for volunteers to work with.
  • We fundraised for our 2015 budget over a 2 month period in April - May. That was the wrong time of year from a tax perspective, and the long time frame meant we were uncertain about our financial position for a long time. We will therefore be fundraising for our 2016 budget over the first two weeks of December 2015.

Plans for July 2015 - June 2016

We recently released our 12 month plan for July 2015 to June 2016 which you can read in full here. Here’s a short summary of our goals and plans. Our primary metric for impact is number of members. We aim to have 2000 members by the end of June 2016.

Membership Pathway

Over this year a large part of our focus is going to be on improving our understanding of the journeys people take towards becoming members, and how we can improve them. We have developed a Pathway Model which makes explicit our underlying assumptions about how people move from being unaware of Giving What We Can to taking the Giving What We Can pledge, and offers suggestions of factors that influence whether they will advance through any of the intermediate steps.

Below are the main steps we have mapped out which influence the paths people to go through on the way to becoming members:

  • A) Making people aware of Giving What We Can and effective giving
  • B) Generating interest in hearing more
  • C) Inspiring people to want to get involved
  • D) Encouraging people to become a part of Giving What We Can
  • E) Supporting people to remain long-term active members

It is likely that it will be higher value to put in work at some points of the pathway than others. One reason for this is the relative crowdedness of the different parts.

At the moment we are not planning to spend as much time on increasing awareness abouteffective giving and Giving What We Can as we are on later parts of the pathway. There are currently a number of people focusing on media attention for effective altruism and the relevant organisations, through books, mass media and conferences.

Two of the biggest ways in which we think we can contribute here are encouraging in-person meet-up groups and supporting people at later stages of the pathway. Supporting people at later stages of involvement seems more likely to be our comparative advantage, as it often requires long-term follow-up and time-consuming outreach to individual people, which volunteers are less likely to be in a good position to do.


We are currently in the process of carrying out a recruitment round, looking for both a research analyst and at least one person in an outreach role. The number of applicants we take will likely depend both on the quality of applications we receive, and how our fundraising goes.


We will be opening another round of fundraising at the beginning of December in order to raise our budget for 2016. In the next month we will be updating our impact evaluation estimates with recently-gathered data about donations made during 2014.

Get Involved

As always we’d love for more people to get involved in whatever ways they can. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Join a local group, or get in touch with Jon ( about setting one up if there isn’t one nearby
  • Write for our blog. We’re always looking for people who are enthusiastic about writing for our blog. Whether or not you have a clear idea of what you’d like to write about, get in touch with Carolina (, our blog manager, if you’d be interested.
  • Give us feedback. If you have comments about our website, community support, research, local groups or any other aspect of our work, we’d always welcome them. You can send feedback to