Blog post

High schoolers were given over $8,000 to donate to charity. Here's what they chose.

Results of 2021 Charity Elections

Giving What We Can is happy to announce that we sponsored six schools who applied to run a Charity Election in 2021! This post contains basic information about the program, including data from 2021 events and the perspectives of participating students and teachers.

"It has given me an opportunity to think of my impact on the world and what I can do every day to make the world a better place." — a student who participated in the 2021 NHS Charity Election.

A Charity Election is a school-wide event in which high schoolers vote among three charities to decide which will receive up to $2,000 in sponsored funds. The mission of the program is to inspire young people to make a positive impact in the world, and in doing so cultivate a culture of giving and giving effectively. As a student-led program, Charity Elections are organised by student leaders, and each vote results in an additional $2 donation from Giving What We Can.

The program was implemented at six schools in 2021, with nearly 2,000 students participating and $8,762 donated to highly effective charities, including Project Healthy Children, The Humane League, and the GiveWell Maximum Impact Fund. The $3,348 gift to Project Healthy Children, for instance, can provide ~6,500 people with food-based micronutrient fortification for one year.

Charity Election Data: 2021 Events

At both schools implementing a comprehensive event with ~700 students and pre/post surveys, students showed an increase in all four measured outcomes:

  • Being compassionate is important to me
  • Thinking critically is important to me
  • Thinking creatively is important to me
  • Making the world a better place is important to me

At three of the six schools, 100% of participating students indicated they voted for a cause they believe in. At the remaining three schools, 98%, 97%, and 95% of students indicated they voted for a cause they believe in. 28 student leaders earned Service Leadership Certificates, and students consistently indicated they “thought critically about what makes a charity effective” and “felt a sense of purpose or meaning.” Selected quotes from students participating in the 2021 Northfield High School Charity Election are listed below.

Anonymous Testimonials: Northfield High School

"It’s made me realize I can make a difference, and that the wishes I have in my head can actually lead to something that will help make the world a better place."

"The knowledge that an organization like GiveWell exists gives me optimism about the system of charity and giving in the world."

"It really makes you think about what we can do as a community. If everyone in a group had the spare money to donate even just two dollars that’s a significant amount that can go towards so many different charities that support amazing causes. When we group together we become very powerful and can do great things."

"It opened my eyes more to the struggles outside of our world and how many people struggle and we don’t see it. So being compassionate and caring goes a long way."

"It shows these worldwide issues more in depth and it makes me think more deeply about how affected people are around the globe by these issues. I am so lucky to have a great family and house and food so why wouldn’t I give to people in need."

"I get excited for the Charity Election every year at our school. It’s something that I’m always happy with in the end. A goal of mine is to give back as much as I possibly can, because I know that I had and have a good life. I have running water, proper food nutrition, and family and friends who love me. I know that not everyone has all or even any of those things. So I always told myself to make people’s lives better, and try to help out as much as I possibly can, because I know I can help out, and I know that I’m making a big impact on someone's life; that’s my goal."

"It makes me want to donate more and be more conscious of the issues around me."

"How it doesn’t have to be made into a big deal, you can easily help people from around the world."

"It has given me an opportunity to think of my impact on the world and what I can do every day to make the world a better place."

"Makes me think about the life I live and then think about the life I could be living. And that makes me wanna help."

Student Leader Perspective: Northfield High School

As students of Northfield High School, we are very grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in the organisation of a Charity Election. Our AP Government & Politics class helped to organise and promote the 2021 Charity Election in grades 9-12. We found the experience very rewarding, and are proud to have made a positive impact on the lives of those who our contributions went towards, as well as to have broadened the interest in well-researched donations to deserving organizations here at NHS.

Our work mostly surrounded promoting the election to our fellow students, via such means as social media, PA announcements, and word of mouth. After the election, we conducted interviews and collected feedback to reflect on the effectiveness of our campaign. Overall it was a great experience (conveniently coinciding with our unit on elections and campaigns), which provided us a unique insight into the Charity Election process. We would love to work on future projects with Giving What We Can.

The Charity Election process gave us advanced insight into how campaigns and funding work, while simultaneously providing us with experience helping promote highly effective charities to the general public. It taught us leadership skills, problem solving, and was a very fun class activity, especially for a government and politics class, where there was so much to take away. Overall, the experience gave us fulfillment and knowledge while providing us with reason to promote donations to outstanding causes.

Lucia Willkomm

Maggie Muth

AP Government & Politics

Teacher Perspective: Northfield High School

As a Civics teacher for the last 38 years, I take pride in educating my students about the importance of voting. Even though many of my students are too young to vote, I hope they consider the importance of this right and responsibility as a civic duty. Voter participation is essential to any democratic republic. Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “Nobody will ever deprive the American people the right to vote except the American people themselves – and the only way they can do that is by not voting themselves.” No truer words have been spoken.

My AP Government & Politics class and Civics classes participated in the most recent Charity Election, sponsored by Giving What We Can. While the Charity Election is not a vote for an elected official, a ballot question, or a referendum, it is an exercise in voting. It also emphasizes the importance of being an educated voter. Walking into the voting booth for the first time, I hope my students have done their homework on the candidates or issues on the ballot. During the week leading up to the Charity Election, I had my students conduct research on the three charities on the ballot using two main questions: “Is the mission of the charity impactful? Is the mission of the charity evidence-backed?” It was an exercise that any voter should consider when deciding how to maximize their choice. The small group discussions surrounding each of the charities were lively and informative.

Nearly 700 students participated in the Charity Election at our high school. We, too, faced some of the same problems that are encountered any election day, such as voter apathy, efficacy, and turnout. Lessons learned can be used in our next Charity Election: How can we better inform voters? How do we make access to the ballot easier? How can we instill the importance of casting a vote and an educated vote? These same questions should be at the forefront of any election, whether for a charity that supports a great cause or for the next President of the United States. We should all fight for our democracy on Election Day and every day.

Kevin Dahle

AP Government & Politics


Further Information

For an overview of the program and a link to the sponsorship application, please see the Charity Elections page.

Feel free to contact us at if you’d like more information or are interested in running an event at your school.