Fund

GiveWell: Unrestricted Fund

GiveWell: Unrestricted Fund

Cause area: Improving human wellbeing

GiveWell's Unrestricted Fund is the maximally flexible way to support GiveWell and its recommendations, as the Fund may support any GiveWell priority — including its grantmaking and its own operating expenses.

What problem is GiveWell working on?

GiveWell was founded in 2007 by a group of donors who wanted to accomplish as much good as possible with their donations. They found that there wasn't a strong source of information available on how to do this — so they decided to create one. Since then, GiveWell has spent hundreds of thousands of hours researching outstanding giving opportunities. GiveWell is based in Oakland, California.

What projects does the Unrestricted Fund support?

GiveWell generally uses unrestricted funding for operating expenses (which includes staff salaries, travel expenses, website maintenance, and other routine operational costs). However, GiveWell has an “excess assets” policy, specifying that once it surpasses a certain level of unrestricted assets available for its operations, it earmarks the excess for grantmaking, rather than continue to hold it for itself. This policy ensures that donors to GiveWell’s Unrestricted Fund do not need to worry about its room for more funding: when we have more funding than we can productively use ourselves, we use it to make more grants to the best giving opportunities we've found.

GiveWell also caps at 20% the proportion of its operating budget that any one individual or organisation can contribute (called the “single donor cap”). This helps GiveWell avoid overreliance on a single source of support. In practice, the single donor cap and excess assets policy are often activated at the same time. When its excess assets policy is triggered, GiveWell typically designates a portion of its largest unrestricted donation or donations as the “excess,” which ensures it’s also fulfilling the single donor cap. This means that for most donors, gifts to the Unrestricted Fund are spent on GiveWell’s operating expenses.

In 2021, GiveWell allocated about $11 million USD to its operating expenses and directed over $518 million to high-impact opportunities, including its top charities and other programmes.

Unsure how a fund is different from a charity? See our page about why we recommend donors give to funds.

Why is the Unrestricted Fund listed on our donation platform?

GiveWell’s Unrestricted Fund meets our criteria to be a listed fund because it supports the operations of one of our trusted evaluators. Our trusted evaluators are charitable giving experts who focus on impact — their research into the best charities means your donations can do even more good. Learn more about charity evaluators we trust and why.

Why donate through the Giving What We Can donation platform?

Your donations through our portal are tax deductible in the UK, US, and the Netherlands. Giving What We Can does not take any fees from donors using our platform or from charities listed on our platform. We are independently funded to promote our mission of making giving effectively and significantly a cultural norm. Read more on our transparency page.

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