Unlike charity evaluators that focus solely on financials, assessing administrative or fundraising costs, GiveWell conducts in-depth research aiming to determine how much good a given program accomplishes (i.e., in terms of deaths averted, lives improved, etc.) per dollar spent. Rather than trying to rate as many charities as possible, GiveWell focuses on the few charities that stand out most, in order to find and confidently recommend high-impact giving opportunities.
The top charities GiveWell recommends to donors are characterized by their strong evidence of effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, room for more funding, and transparency. GiveWell aims to direct as much funding as possible to these highly impactful giving opportunities and to create a global, public, open conversation about how best to help people.
Donations to GiveWell will likely support their operating expenses. GiveWell’s primary operating expenses are salaries for staff and administrative costs. In the long term, GiveWell seeks to have a funding model where donors who find its charity research useful in making their giving decisions contribute to the costs of creating it by supporting GiveWell’s operations, while also holding GiveWell accountable to providing high-quality, easy-to-use recommendations. Having a strong base of consistent support also allows GiveWell to make valuable hires when opportunities arise and to minimize staff time spent on fundraising for operating expenses.
GiveWell retains an “excess assets policy” to ensure that if it fundraisers for its own operations beyond a certain level, GiveWell will grant the excess to its recommended charities.