When you care about making a difference in the world, it’s natural to ask: “Where can my donations do the most good?”
The great news is that your donations can have an astonishing impact.
However, the impact of charities varies wildly: the best charities can be at least 10 times better than a typical charity within the same area and hundreds of times better than poorly performing charities, while the worst charities can do harm.
How to donate effectively
- Identify a promising cause to support.
We find that the most important causes are generally:
- Large in scale (they significantly impact many lives)
- Neglected (they still need more funding and support)
- Tractable (there are clear and practical ways of making progress)
- Choose an excellent organization working to support the cause.
Indicators of worthwhile organizations include reliance on evidence, cost-effectiveness, transparency, room for funding, and a strong track record.
- Pick an efficient way to donate.
Try getting your donation matched by your employer, salary sacrifice your donations, set up a recurring donation, use a local grantmaking organization, or donate using a fund.
Choosing a cause and evaluating charities can take a lot of time and effort, and many donors aren’t able to work it into their busy schedules. To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of trustworthy, effective charities working on some of the most pressing causes.
Our effective giving recommendations
The following recommendations are listed roughly in order of convenience and suitability for most donors. The right giving opportunity for you will depend on your particular values and circumstances.
Give together, as a community
For most people, we recommend donating through a reputable fund that’s focused on effectiveness.
Funds are both easy for donors and highly effective. They help donors pool their money together so that they can fund outstanding giving opportunities that are evaluated by expert grantmakers and trusted charity evaluators.
Using a fund is similar to using an investment fund instead of trying to pick which individual stocks will be the best investments. The fund distributes your donation among multiple grantees with the goal of maximizing your overall impact.
Donors from the US, UK, and the Netherlands can make tax-deductible donations to the following funds using Giving What We Can. For other countries, you can read our tax deductibility guide by country, though we still think these funds are likely to be your best option even if they are not tax deductible.
Follow the advice of trusted charity evaluators
Another easy way to identify highly effective charities is to follow the advice of charity evaluators who prioritize effectiveness in their charity reviews. We recommend checking out the following evaluators:
- GiveWell (Global health and development)
- Animal Charity Evaluators (Animal welfare)
- Founders Pledge (Various cause areas)
You can donate to many of the charities they recommend in one place using Giving What We Can.
Donate to reputable cost-effective charities
It can be valuable to do your own research to find the most worthwhile giving opportunities. If you’re going to do your own research, consider how much time to invest considering both how much you’re giving now and how much you might give in the future. If you’re giving a lot — now or in the future — it can be worth investing significant time.
If you’re donating to individual charities, we also recommend:
- Discuss your options with other people interested in effective giving (such as the Giving What We Can community).
- Looking at the research conducted by charity evaluators.
- Reading our guide on how to evaluate charities.
Our current recommended charities and nonprofit organizations
Our recommended charities work on a range of causes. Some use established evidence-based strategies and some useful strategies that are more innovative or speculative (but potentially higher impact).
For giving season 2021, we recommend the following high-impact charities based on their support from our trusted partners at GiveWell, Animal Charity Evaluators, Founders Pledge, and Effective Altruism Funds (see our inclusion criteria).
Donate to meta-charities
Donating to meta-charities can help you increase the impact of your donations.
Instead of directly helping others with specific interventions (e.g., distributing bed nets or vaccines), meta-charities take a more indirect approach. This could include promoting effective giving (as we do here at Giving What We Can), conducting research into charity effectiveness (as GiveWell does), or conducting research into global priorities (which is the specialty of the Forethought Foundation).
Meta-charities are often able to raise more money than they need for their own operations, and the surplus typically supports their recommended charities. For example, GiveWell, whose main activity is cost-effectiveness research, tracks their “money moved.” For every $1 they spend on research, they influence roughly $30 in donations to their top charities. Learn more about meta-charities.
Join our effective giving community
If you’ve made it this far, we hope you’re inspired to give more and to give more effectively.
Join the Giving What We Can community by pledging to donate a meaningful portion of your income to help improve the lives of others. It can help you to live up to your values, meet like-minded people, and inspire others to follow in your footsteps.