Giving What We Can

Giving What We Can
Founded 14 November 2009
Founder Toby Ord
Focus Effective altruism, charity evaluation, pledges, poverty relief
  • Centre for Effective Altruism, Littlegate House, St. Ebbe's Street, Oxford, OX1 1PT, UK
Origins Oxford, England
Area served
Method Members donate 10% of income to effective charities[1]
Key people
Toby Ord (founder and president)
William MacAskill (co-founder)
Michelle Hutchinson (executive director)
Sam Deere (president)

Giving What We Can (GWWC) is a charity evaluator that advocates for people to make significant donations (typically 10% of income) to the most cost-effective causes and charities.[3] It is a project of the Centre for Effective Altruism.

Founded by moral philosopher Toby Ord in November 2009, Giving What We Can aims to encourage people to commit to long-term donation to the organisations that will do the most good.[4] Giving What We Can conducts extensive research into the effectiveness of various charities, and provides a list of those it most highly recommends. Currently this includes charities that work to treat neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), Micronutrient deficiency, and malaria, although the Giving What We Can Pledge is cause-neutral, and members can donate to other charities provided they have good reason to think they are more effective.[5]



Giving What We Can was founded as a giving society in 2009 by Toby Ord (an ethics researcher at Oxford University) and his wife Bernadette Young (a physician) with the goal of encouraging people to give a larger fraction of their income on a regular basis to alleviate world poverty.[4] Ord cited Peter Singer's essay Famine, Affluence, and Morality about one's moral duty to give to the poor as inspiration for starting Giving What We Can. In the beginning, Giving What We Can members pledged to give at least 10% of their lifetime income to poverty alleviation. Ord himself plans to donate 10% of his earnings for life and everything above about $28,000 a year, the median after-tax salary in the U.K.[4][6]


Focus on effectiveness

Giving What We Can claims that there is a huge variance between the effectiveness of charities in helping the poor, and they recommend donating only to the very best charities that they recommend, in order to maximise the benefit of their donations. Giving What We Can focuses on effectiveness in terms of quality-adjusted life years (QALYs).[7]

Top-down approach: start with causes, then sub-causes, then specific charities

According to the Giving What We Can website, the variance in cost-effectiveness of charities arises largely due to the variance in the nature of the causes that the charities operate in. For this reason, Giving What We Can focuses mostly on charities that work in the areas that Giving What We Can considers the most likely to have high impact. According to their website:[7]

Therefore we believe that charity evaluation should start with the big picture, comparing different areas such as health, education and emergency aid to determine which of these are the most promising. After that, you can compare more promising sub-areas (such as malaria or HIV/AIDS treatment, within health) and then the programmes available in those sub-areas (such as bednets and antimalarials, for malaria).Finally, we compare particular charities which carry out the best programmes (such as Against Malaria Foundation).

Ways they differ from other charity evaluators

According to the Giving What We Can website,[8] they differ from other charity evaluators in terms of the importance they give to metrics such as administrative overhead. While charity evaluators such as Charity Navigator use the fraction of donations spent on program expenses versus administrative overhead as an important indicator, Giving What We Can focuses on the measure of quality-adjusted life years per unit money. Giving What We Can's position on this matter is similar to that of some other charity evaluators such as GiveWell.[9]


Giving What We Can focuses on disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). These are similar to quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) with some small differences in accounting methods.[10][11]

Focus on expected value

Giving What We Can uses an expected value (or expected utility) framework when evaluating and comparing charities.[12]

Focus on room for more funding

Giving What We Can focuses on the question of room for more funding: what will additional donations to a charity accomplish?[13] In this respect, they are similar to charity evaluator GiveWell.[14]


Identifying candidate causes and candidate charities

As mentioned in the philosophy section, Giving What We Can uses a top-down approach to charity evaluation: it begins by identifying the most promising causes, then identifies the most promising sub-causes within those causes, then identifies the top charities within those sub-causes.[7]

Giving What We Can uses the following sources to help it identify top causes and charities:[15] the research of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, the Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries (DCP2) report published by the Disease Control Priorities Project, the WHO-CHOICE guide published by the World Health Organization, and the work of charity evaluator GiveWell. In addition, Giving What We Can actively conducts its own research.

Charity evaluations

Giving What We Can publishes detailed evaluations and case studies of its top-rated recommended charities and also publishes analyses and evaluations of various causes.[16] Examples include their evaluations of Against Malaria Foundation,[17] and their case study of the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative.[18]

Other activities

Giving What We Can maintains an active blog[19] where they discuss their ongoing research as well as recent news and developments.

Top charities

Until May 2013, GWWC had three top charities, all of them operating in the domain of global health: Against Malaria Foundation (malaria bednets), Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, and Deworm the World Initiative. On May 16, 2013, GWWC announced the addition of a fourth charity, Project Healthy Children (focused on food fortification) and also restructured its list of top charities: it labeled AMF and SCI as established organizations and labeled DtWI and PHC as promising organizations.[20] The list was re-affirmed in December 2014, in preparation for the 2014 giving season.[21] As of November 2015, it continues to be GWWC's official list of top charities.[22]


Pledge to Give (original version)

In November 2009, Giving What We Can founder Dr Toby Ord received significant media attention when he made a personal pledge to donate at least 10% of his income for the rest of his working life to combat poverty.[23][24] Ord founded Giving What We Can as a society of like-minded donors who share his commitment to fighting poverty through lifelong giving. All members of Giving What We Can thus make a public pledge to give at least 10% of their income each year until retirement. The Pledge to Give can be made at the standard 10% rate, or a higher rate.

The purposes of the pledge are to:

The Further Pledge

Citing that he could live perfectly comfortably and happily within the means of a £20,000 yearly income, Ord additionally chose to pledge any money he earns in a year above this figure. This is what Giving What We Can calls a 'Further Pledge': the member defines a baseline yearly income they intend to live within, and above which they will donate all earnings.

Changes to wording of Giving What We Can Pledge

In October 2014, Michelle Hutchinson, executive director of Giving What We Can, sought comment on a proposed change to the Giving What We Can pledge. While the original pledge focused on donating now and with the goal of combating global poverty among humans, the reworded pledge was more open-ended both about the timing of donations and the set of causes it could be directed to. This change was proposed in recognition of the growing level of interest among potential GWWC pledgers in the effective altruism community in areas such as animal welfare and existential risk, which were not directly related to global poverty but could plausibly have greater importance. GWWC's own research and advocacy would continue to stay focused on global poverty.[25] After receiving generally positive feedback about the wording change, GWWC changed the wording in November 2014.[26]

Notable members


On December 2, 2010, the first US chapter was officially started at Rutgers University.[27] Peter Singer spoke at the launch event to a crowd of about 600 attendees (video link).[28] On March 2, 2011, Toby Ord spoke at Rutgers University (video link).[29]

On April 11, 2011, the second US chapter was officially started at Princeton University.[30] Jeffrey Sachs recorded a public message applauding Giving What We Can activities (video link).[31]

The University of Oxford has a chapter.[32]

The University of Pennsylvania also has a chapter.[33]


The charity comparison organisation GiveWell has critiqued the use of DALYs to compare charities[34] and, more specifically, the high regard these estimates give to neglected tropical diseases;[35] following each article is a discussion between Givewell's Holden and Giving What We Can's Will MacAskill.

A debate article in Ceasefire Magazine, between a GWWC representative and a critic, contained a range of criticisms of the charity. Criticisms were centered on what was described as "[t]he hollowness of paying others to push for structural change" which "is resounding and fundamentally misapprehends collective struggle", and an alternative method was posited: "sustained collective mobilizations against the structures and social relations of capitalism that underpin global poverty."[36]

See also

Other charity evaluators

Resources that evaluate charities on other grounds.

Media coverage

Giving What We Can has been covered in a number of media outlets around the world.

United States: Wall Street Journal,[4][37] the New York Times,[38] National Public Radio,[39] and NBC News.[40]

United Kingdom: The Guardian,[6] BBC News,[41] The Sunday Times,[42][43] Sky News,[44] and New Statesman.[45]

Other countries: Canberra Times[46] and Euromoney.[47]

External links


  1. "Pledge". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
  2. "Our Members Have Done Some Amazing Things". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2016-05-12.
  3. "About Us". Retrieved 2016-05-12.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Espinoza, Javier (November 28, 2011). "Small Sacrifice, Big Return". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  5. Hutchinson, Michelle (April 22, 2016). "Giving What We Can is Cause Neutral". EA Forum. Retrieved May 12, 2016.
  6. 1 2 "Unthinkable? Giving 10%: Despite these straitened times an Oxford-based campaign wants volunteers to donate 10% of their earnings (Editorial)". The Guardian. January 6, 2012. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  7. 1 2 3 "Methodology". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2012-12-09.
  8. "How We Assess Charities". Giving What We Can. Retrieved November 28, 2015.
  9. Karnofsky, Holden (2009-12-01). "The worst way to pick a charity".
  10. "QALYs and DALYs". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2012-12-09.
  11. "Complication with DALYs". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2012-12-09.
  12. "Expected value". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2012-12-09.
  13. "Fungibility and room for funding". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2012-12-09.
  14. "Guide to "room for more funding" analysis". GiveWell. Retrieved 2012-12-09.
  15. "Our sources". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2012-12-09.
  16. "Charity Evaluations". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2012-12-09.
  17. "Further information about AMF". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2012-12-09.
  18. "SCI Case Study". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2012-12-09.
  19. "Blog". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2012-12-09.
  20. "Project Healthy Children: a promising opportunity for leverage". Giving What We Can. May 16, 2013. Retrieved November 28, 2015.
  21. Hutchinson, Michelle (December 5, 2014). "Our recommended charities for the year". Retrieved November 28, 2015.
  22. "Top Charities". Retrieved November 28, 2015.
  23. Richard Woods (2009-11-15). "Take My Money, I Don't Want It". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 2010-10-29.
  24. "Academic pledges to give away £1m". BBC. 2009-11-14.
  25. Hutchinson, Michelle (October 22, 2014). "Should Giving What We Can change its Pledge?". Giving What We Can. Retrieved November 28, 2015.
  26. Hutchinson, Michelle (November 26, 2015). "Highlights from 2014-2015". Giving What We Can. Retrieved November 28, 2015.
  27. "Giving What We Can: Rutgers". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
  28. "Peter Singer - GWWC". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
  29. "Global Poverty: Why should we care? What can we do about it?". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
  30. "Giving What We Can: Princeton". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
  31. "Jeffrey Sachs - GWWC". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
  32. "Giving What We Can: Oxford". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
  33. "Giving What We Can: Penn". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2014-10-03.
  34. "Cost-effectiveness estimates: inside the sausage factory". GiveWell. Retrieved 2010-11-12.
  35. "Neglected Tropical Disease charities: Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, Deworm The World". GiveWell. Retrieved 2010-11-12.
  36. "Helping the poor…by getting rich: ingenious or delusional?". Ceasefire Magazine. Retrieved 2012-03-24.
  37. Banjo, Shelly (December 11, 2010). "Pledging to Give What They Can". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  38. Rosenberg, Tina (December 5, 2012). "Putting Charities to the Test". New York Times Opinionator blog. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  39. Memmott, Mark (December 18, 2012). "How Much Good Can You Do? There's A Calculator For That". National Public Radio. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  40. "The Dylan Ratigan Show (segment on Giving What We Can)". NBC News.
  41. "Oxford academic Toby Ord gives salary to charity". BBC News. December 8, 2010. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  42. Woods, Richard (November 28, 2010). "C'mon, take more of my money, says Oxford don. A charitable society set up by philosopher Toby Ord has amassed £13m in pledges, and he will increase the money he gives away". The Sunday Times. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  43. Hellen, Nicholas (December 9, 2012). "Oxford don sparks flood of charity cash". The Sunday Times. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  44. "Charities Fear For Survival As Donations Drop: One in six UK charities say they will struggle to survive unless the economy improves, with many dipping into reserve funds.". Sky News. December 15, 2012. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  45. Gill, Martha (January 8, 2013). "The man who gives away a third of his income. Would you give up a luxury to save a life?". New Statesman. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  46. Burke, Kate (September 8, 2012). "Feeling good about giving 'til it hurts". Canberra Times. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  47. Saigal, Kanika (June 12, 2012). "Impact investing: the big business of small donors". Euromoney. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/27/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.