Our Giving Season Plans

This giving season we’re excited to offer $5 million in matching funds for donations to GiveDirectly from December 3, 2013 through January 31, 2014. All donations to GiveDirectly, up to $100,000 per donor, will be counted toward the match. The funds are intended to help GiveDirectly attract new donors and reach its goal of transferring tens of millions of dollars to extremely poor households in developing countries over the next few years.

(UPDATE: GiveDirectly successfully raised more than $5 million between December 3 and January 31, meaning Good Ventures will award the full matching grant.)

We hope you’ll join us in supporting the growth of this outstanding organization and promising tool for development. Information on how to donate to GiveDirectly can be found here. Read on for more details about the match and why we think GiveDirectly represents an excellent giving opportunity.

We’re also happy to announce the following grants to GiveDirectly, the Deworm the World Initiative and the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, in recognition of GiveWell’s charity recommendations for 2013:

These grants are intended to cover around 75% of the minimum level of funding that GiveWell would like to see its recommended charities raise during the 2013 giving season. GiveWell’s reviews of GiveDirectly, the Deworm the World Initiative and the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative are available here. Read on for more details about the rationale behind these grants.

Matching funds for GiveDirectly

Donating to GiveDirectly is an excellent opportunity, both to empower poor people to improve their lives and to help a young and impressive organization scale up a promising tool for development: unrestricted cash transfers.

GiveDirectly transfers cash to extremely low-income households in Kenya and Uganda, no strings attached. Its program appears to have substantial near-term benefits for the individuals and families who receive the transfers. Says GiveWell: “Strong evidence indicates that cash transfers lead recipients to spend more on their basic needs (such as food) and may allow recipients to make investments with high returns, with no evidence of large increases in spending on items like alcohol or tobacco.” For more, see GiveWell’s review of GiveDirectly and report on cash transfers.

In addition to these direct, near-term benefits, supporting GiveDirectly offers significant potential for leverage. We’re excited about the notion of cash transfers becoming a standard of comparison for other development interventions. In other words, we’d like to see more donors and charities asking, “Does this program do more good for the intended beneficiaries than giving them the cost of the program in cash?” Helping GiveDirectly to hone and scale its model contributes to that goal. What’s more, supporting charities such as GiveDirectly that are highly transparent and self-reflective increases the incentive for other charities to act in similar ways.

The matching funds are intended to help GiveDirectly attract new donors and reach its goal of transferring tens of millions of dollars to extremely poor households in developing countries over the next few years. Good Ventures will match donations of up to $100,000 per donor made to GiveDirectly from December 3, 2013 through January 31, 2014 (regardless of whether they are attributable to GiveWell’s recommendation), up to $5 million total.

We think it’s important for GiveDirectly to build a broad base of supporters rather than relying heavily on a few large donors in order to ensure its long-term sustainability. Our explicit aim in offering the matching funds is to help GiveDirectly attract new individual donors, and the funds will be committed only if matching donations are made. (In other words, these are “true” matching funds. For more on the topic of “illusory matching,” see this post by GiveWell. Our match falls in the category of “influence matching” described therein.) We’re offering this match in addition to a $2 million grant to GiveDirectly; more on that below.

Grants to GiveWell’s top charities

In recognition of GiveWell’s charity recommendations for 2013, we’ve awarded the following grants:

GiveWell’s reviews of GiveDirectly, the Deworm the World Initiative and the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative are available here.

Below I describe the thought process that led to these grants in detail. I hope explaining our thought process helps other GiveWell followers decide how to allocate their charitable dollars this year. We’re grateful to be a part of a community of donors who are dedicated to learning how to maximize the impact of their giving.

GiveWell’s top charities represent some of the best giving opportunities we’ve found to date. We believe that supporting them is likely to (a) do substantial good for poor people in developing countries, (b) encourage other donors to support these charities by signaling our confidence in GiveWell’s recommendations, and (c) reinforce the importance of qualities such as transparency and self-reflection among charitable organizations. We also have a bias for “giving early” because we believe that the good we do by giving today will compound over time. At the same time, we believe we (and GiveWell) are likely to find substantially better giving opportunities in the future, and we want to leave room for other donors to support GiveWell’s recommended charities. We believe it’s important for the charities to build a broad base of supporters, and that encouraging others to give annually will lead to more total giving in the long run.

Weighing these considerations against each other, we’ve sought to cover around 75% of the minimum level of funding that GiveWell would like to see its recommended charities raise during the 2013 giving season, and we expect other donations to fill the rest of the gap.

How much of the funding gaps to fill was a tough call. In a world where the other donors interested in supporting GiveWell’s recommended charities comprised a small number of major funders, we’d aim to have a conversation with them about how to divide the funding gaps. But negotiating with the large number of individual donors who are likely to follow GiveWell’s recommendations isn’t feasible.

We briefly considered “topping up” donations received by GiveWell’s recommended charities after the giving season. In other words, we could wait until January to see how much the charities raise from individuals, and then we could make grants to ensure that the “minimum targets” set by GiveWell are reached. For example, if the Deworm the World Initiative were to raise $1.2 million out of GiveWell’s $2 million target, we could provide the other $800,000.

We decided against this approach because it could be perceived as “canceling out” the decisions of other donors. If we took the “top up” approach, an individual donor’s $1,000 gift to a recommended charity would cause us to give that much less to the same charity (up to the point where the minimum target was reached). That could be perceived as a transfer of value from the individual donor to Good Ventures, rather than the charity. Such a dynamic would make us uncomfortable, so we decided to avoid it.

Instead of waiting to see how much individual donors give and adjusting our grantmaking accordingly, we’ve made a conservative prediction about how individuals will act and, taking that into account, awarded grants aimed at ensuring GiveWell and its recommended charities meet their minimum goals. We’re announcing our grants upfront and committing not to “top up” donations if the charities don’t raise enough to reach GiveWell’s targets. We hope doing so helps other GiveWell followers decide how to allocate their charitable dollars this giving season.

Footnotes
  1. [1] The Deworm the World Initiative is led by Evidence Action. This grant was made in the form of unrestricted support to Evidence Action, with an informal understanding that we intend these funds to support the Deworm the World Initiative, in line with GiveWell’s recommendation and our own preference for providing unrestricted support to organizations.
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