Charity Elections

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 program was designed to inspire meaningful discussions and empower students to find their voice and develop a perspective on complex world issues

Host a charity election at your school! Apply now to request sponsorship. Students, teachers and schools are all welcome to apply.

The students decide

For each ballot submitted, Giving What We Can (GWWC) will donate $2.00 to the charities. This means that each individual ballot cast increases the total amount donated. GWWC will donate up to $2,000 on behalf of your school.

To aid the student decision making process, the program provides teachers with an easily implemented framework for research and discussion around giving effectively. Students are empowered to use reason and evidence as tools for informed decision making, ultimately casting a vote grounded in critical thinking, empathy, and reflection on multiple points of view.

How the funding is allocated

Student leaders can choose among the following options:

  • Winning charity receives 70% of the funds, second-place charity receives 20%, and third-place receives 10%
  • Winning charity receives 100% of the funds
  • Charities receive funds in proportion to the number of votes cast for each

Choose between two program models

The flagship, in-person program is conducted with material resources like voting booths and 'I Voted' stickers. The virtual program is typically implemented with an event slideshow, which is presented by teachers of a particular department (e.g., social studies) during voting week.

Both programs are coordinated by a small team of student leaders and staff members. The virtual program is highly recommended, and schools that implement virtual charity elections in 2022 will be eligible for the in-person program in 2023.

What are the benefits of a charity election?

  • A voting experience that promotes youth voice and civic engagement
  • Critical thinking about personal values and world issues
  • Real money donated to highly effective charities
  • Tangible impact that shows each vote makes a difference
  • School-wide event sparks meaningful conversation and builds school community

Both the in-person and virtual programs are designed to promote empathy, altruism, and positive school climate.

Northfield High School:
MN, United States

  • $1,748 of sponsored funds donated to charity
  • 874 students (~70%) submitted voting ballots
  • 95% of students said they made a difference for people in need
  • 97% of students said they voted for a cause they believe in

Balcatta Senior High School
WA, Australia

  • 303 students (~65%) submitted voting ballots
  • Donation to winning charity can restore eyesight for ~9 people with curable blindness
  • 7 student leaders received service leadership certificates for their work and impact in the world
  • Article published by students on impact of event

When is the program organised, and when is the sponsorship application due?

The default voting week is in early December, but schools can elect to run the event any time of the year if the Sponsorship Application is submitted at least two months prior to their school’s event. Schools are selected on a rolling basis in accordance with (a) strength of responses on the application and (b) date of application submission with a preference for early submissions.

What are the charities on the ballot? Why were these charities selected?

The three charities on the ballot are the SCI Foundation, the Clean Air Task Force, and GiveDirectly. A $50 donation to the SCI Foundation, for instance, can deliver treatments to protect 116 children from schistosomiasis. Read about our selection methodology here, and calculate the estimated impact of donations to highly effective charities using the The Life You Can Save’s Impact Calculator or GiveWell's Impact Calculator.

What information are students provided for each of the three charities?

Students are provided a video and research overview for each charity, selected to promote critical thinking, empathy, and meaningful conversations among high schoolers. Sponsorship applicants are encouraged to familiarise themselves with these resources prior to implementing the event.

What organisation sponsors charity elections? Can I sponsor a charity election?

Giving What We Can will sponsor the event if that would be helpful, but charity elections can also be sponsored by school staff, parents, or other community groups who share our mission of inspiring a culture of effective giving.

If you would like to sponsor a charity election for a local school or a school in another community, we would of course love to hear from you. The steps for sponsoring an event are:

  1. Submit donation to Giving What We Can
  2. Forward the email receipt to charityelections@givingwhatwecan.org (let us know if you are designating funds for any particular schools)

Additional Thoughts or Questions

Thank you for your interest in bringing a charity election to your community. Please send any additional questions about the event or application process to our team at charityelections@givingwhatwecan.org.

Testimonials and Recognitions

“I was impressed with the Northfield High School charity election conducted in our Social Studies classes this past December. Students and teachers were given a great opportunity to discuss personal responsibility about worldwide issues. Researching a charity and casting a vote that includes actual funds to the winning charity gave students a chance to truly practice what it means to be ‘global citizens.’” - Kevin Dahle, Civics teacher, former Minnesota state senator, Minnesota Alliance With Youth board member

Anonymous student testimonials:

"I wasn’t aware of these creative solutions to worldwide problems and am interested in investigating more charities."
"It makes me realize how interconnected we are and any positive impacts in one part of the world can echo globally."
"It opened my eyes on voting and giving for others. I believe these types of activities should be encouraged in a school setting and that everyone should be aware of global issues."
"It has helped me to put myself in other people’s shoes and change my perspective to see what others need."
“I feel inspired to help others in need after seeing the work these organizations are doing.”
“I love this. I normally don’t get to do things like these and I find this very fun and educational.”
"I never really looked further than giving money for a 'good cause.' It never crossed my mind really to look deeper into the charities. More research is better, know what you are supporting and where your money is really going to."
"It makes me proud that my school values charity and giving enough to support an organization like this."
"It made me motivated to do more good in the world."
“Shows me that doing a small thing can be super impactful (just one vote counts).”