If you donate to the best charities, you could do astonishing amounts of good. But finding the best charities is extremely difficult. That’s why Giving What We Can recommends thoughtfully relying on charitable giving experts, who’ve done a lot of that hard work already.
This page outlines what charitable giving experts are, how to decide which ones to trust, and more information about Giving What We Can’s trusted evaluators.
On this page, we’ll focus on two kinds of charitable giving experts:
Often, organisations are involved in both of these activities. For example, GiveWell researches which organisations save or improve lives the most for every dollar they’re given. It shares this research publicly and uses it to inform its Top Charities. In this respect, GiveWell is acting as a charity evaluator that donors can use to be more cost-effective. But it also uses this research to inform its grantmaking, where it directly allocates funds to organisations.
Both charity evaluators and grantmaking organisations seek to find the best available funding opportunities. If you’re looking to do the same with your donation, it’s likely you can have a bigger impact by relying on their expertise.
Choosing which experts to trust is an important part of finding which charity is most cost-effective. Here are a few criteria we use when deciding who our trusted evaluators are.
The best charitable giving experts are obsessed with finding the most impactful opportunities. They aren’t just looking for which charities sound good — they want charities that have an impact.
For example, rather than relying on rules of thumb like, “How much does the CEO get paid?” evaluators should instead ask, “How much good will this charity do for every dollar we give them?”
Even for experts, finding the most cost-effective funding opportunities is hard — it’s important to take a rigorous approach and use the best methodology and evidence available.
This doesn’t always imply using the most advanced quantitative modelling techniques (as these aren’t useful in every area). But it does imply careful reasoning about which types of models and evidence to use and collect in which situations, and then doing sufficient research to collect the evidence one needs to make grantmaking and recommendation decisions.
The more transparent a charitable giving expert is, the easier it is to assess whether you should trust them. In particular, you want to know:
It’s difficult to know how much to evaluate transparency, as in some cases, it can be costly:
Still, all else equal, the more transparent a charitable expert is about how they evaluate their grants, the better.
Ultimately, evaluating charities necessarily involves making value judgements. For example, suppose we knew that if we gave $1,000 each to charities A, B, and C:
Which is best? The answer is going to depend on your values. Charitable giving experts can try to investigate how to make these comparisons, and make these kinds of value judgements thoughtfully — but reasonable people are always going to disagree, so it’s important to find an organisation whose values you share.
Giving What We Can does not conduct primary research into charities. Instead, we rely on several other organisations that do. We call these our “trusted evaluators,” and their work helps us ensure that our community members can have the biggest possible impact with their donations.
We, the Giving What We Can research team, have chosen these experts because of our subjective impression that they meet a strong standard, according to the criteria above. In 2023, we intend to do a thorough reevaluation of all our current trusted evaluators, in addition to evaluating new potential trusted evaluators.
As mentioned above, GiveWell is a research organisation that investigates which charities save or improve lives the most per dollar. It shares this research publicly, to help donors find the most cost-effective charities, and it also manages several funds which allow it to directly support the highest-impact opportunities it identifies.
GiveWell has four criteria when making grants:
Conflicts of interest: Both GiveWell and Giving What We Can have received funding from Open Philanthropy.
Founders Pledge is a philanthropic organisation that conducts research to provide donation advice to its members — entrepreneurs who have made a pledge to give a portion of their personal proceeds on liquidity to charity. Founders Pledge also shares its findings with the general public. Like GiveWell, it also manages several grantmaking funds.
Founders Pledge focuses on three principles:
Correspondingly, their methodology is to identify the world’s most pressing problems, prioritise solutions to these problems, and identify effective organisations implementing these solutions.
Conflicts of interest:
Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) thoroughly researches various animal charities to find the organisations that help animals the most per dollar. It does this each year and publishes detailed reviews of its findings. ACE also manages its Recommended Charity Fund and Movement Grants Fund, which disperse grants to its top-rated and promising charities.
ACE evaluates charities based on four criteria:
Longview Philanthropy is a research and grantmaking organisation that advises large donors on how to have the most impact with their philanthropy.
Longview’s grantmaking is guided by three values:
Longview designs and executes bespoke giving strategies for large donors, using evidence and reason to fund outstanding opportunities to protect future generations.
Longview does not provide a list of charitable recommendations for you to follow. The primary way you can use Longview’s expertise is by donating to the Longtermism Fund. You might choose not to do this because:
Conflicts of interest:
EA Funds is a grantmaking organisation that allows ordinary donors to pool their money to be allocated by experts within a particular cause area.
EA Funds is expert-led. The EA Funds team prioritises finding the best experts, who can in turn find the best funding opportunities for donors.
EA Funds’ approach to grantmaking considers:
Conflicts of interest:
In 2023, in addition to reevaluating our current trusted evaluators, we aim to investigate several organisations in the effective giving space that we think are promising. The following is a tentative list of additional charitable giving experts we are considering investigating in 2023:
Funds / Organisations you select will show up here