Charity elections

A charity election is a school-wide event in which high school students vote among three charities to decide which will receive up to $2,000 in sponsored funds.

The programme was designed to inspire meaningful discussions and empower young people to reflect on complex world issues and realise their potential to make a difference.

2022 sponsorships now open

Apply now FAQ

Students, teachers, and schools are all welcome to apply.

The students decide

For each ballot submitted, Giving What We Can (GWWC) will donate $2 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, teachers are provided 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 charity receives 10%.
  • Winning charity receives 100% of the funds.
  • Charities receive funds in proportion to the number of votes cast for each.
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Choose between two programme models: In-person or virtual

The flagship, in-person programme is conducted with material resources like voting booths and 'I voted' stickers.

The virtual programme is typically implemented with an event slideshow, which is presented by teachers of a particular department (e.g., social studies) during voting week.

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

Benefits for students, schools, and charities

  • 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 that sparks meaningful conversation and builds school community

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

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School success stories

Northfield High School
MN, United States

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

Balcatta Senior High School
WA, Australia

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

Learn more about student leaders Learn more about school successes

Charities on the ballot

The three charities on the ballot this year 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.

The charities are selected for their effectiveness and to promote critical thinking, empathy, and meaningful conversations among high school students. ​​All of the charities have been designated as highly effective by independent charity evaluators such as GiveWell and ACE. Students use the research and discussion process to determine which charity will receive their vote.

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.

Links to further research on the charities are listed below. If you are a student researching the charities to decide where to vote, click here to download the research and discussion worksheet.

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When to run a charity election

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 one month prior to their school’s event.

Schools are selected on a rolling basis based on:

  1. The strength of responses on the application.
  2. The date of application submission (with a preference for early submissions).

Apply now FAQ

Additional thoughts or questions

Check out our FAQ for more information, and send any additional questions about the event or application process to our team at charityelections@givingwhatwecan.org.

You can also follow us on Instagram for inspiration and updates posted by the Student Mentor Team.

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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 organisations 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 organisation 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).”
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