Note: This article was last updated in June 2021 and reflects GiveWell’s most recent (2020) recommendations.
Imagine two Boeing 747’s full of children under the age of 5. Now imagine them crashing in midair at the end of the runway, and imagine this repeating every day. This is the tragedy of malaria, a preventable and curable disease that nonetheless kills hundreds of thousands of people every year, most of them children under the age of 5.
Moreover, malaria is just one of several diseases that cause significant suffering and death, even though they are easily preventable, treatable, or both:
- In 2017, over 354,000 children under 5 were killed by malaria (Our World In Data).
- Some 829,000 people are estimated to die each year from diarrhoea (WHO).
- Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children (WHO).
- Around 45% of all deaths among children under the age of 5 are linked to undernutrition (WHO).
There are different reasons why a disease will cause us to suffer or even die. Sometimes the reasons are complex, but other times they are simpler. Says GiveWell, “people living in the poorest parts of the world often lack basic, cheap things that could help them a great deal. For example, they may suffer from infectious diseases that could be treated or prevented relatively straightforwardly, if the funding were available.”
Donating to effective charities is part of the solution
Individuals, communities, governments, companies, and charities all have a role to play in tackling our world’s global health challenges. Donating to an effective charity is one great way that individuals can contribute to addressing these challenges. It’s not the only way to help, but it is something that many of us can do without making big changes to our lives and work.
This article highlights charities that connect people, generally people living in poor countries, with tools to substantially improve their health or the health of their families. These tools are sometimes called interventions or programs.
Here are some examples of interventions that have strong evidence that they actually help, and strong evidence that they do a large amount of good for a given amount of funding:
- Medicine for preventing malaria
- Nets for preventing malaria
- Supplements for preventing vitamin A deficiency
- Medicine for treating parasitic worm infections
- Cash transfers for childhood immunizations
Some people find it surprising just how much good they can do by donating. You may find it interesting to try calculating your impact with the calculator that charity evaluator GiveWell has developed. These calculations are estimates, but what holds true is that you can accomplish a remarkable amount of good for others by making a high-impact donation.
Of all the actions that it’s possible to take, donating to top global charities is, for many Canadians, the most impactful thing they can do to help save or improve the lives of people living today.
Which global health charities are the best?
The RC Forward team does not evaluate charities ourselves, because we do not have the expertise. We rely on the research and recommendations of charity evaluators such as GiveWell, as well as on reports, grants, or recommendations from organizations such as Open Philanthropy, Founders Pledge, and The Life You Can Save. Their work helps us determine which organizations to feature as partner charities on the RC Forward donation platform.
To help you accomplish the most good with your donations, this article introduces the 12 global health charities that you can support through RC Forward. First, we’re excited to highlight the current GiveWell 2020 top charities in global health.
2020 GiveWell Top Charities
“We picture a world in which donors reward charities for effectiveness in saving and improving lives, and in which donors giving any amount can easily access information to help maximize the impact of their gifts.”GiveWell
Against Malaria Foundation provides funding for long-lasting insecticide-treated net (LLIN) distributions (for protection against malaria) in developing countries.
Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) program distributes preventive antimalarial drugs to children, to prevent illness and death from malaria.
SCI Foundation works with governments in sub-Saharan Africa to create or scale up programs that treat schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis (“deworming”).
The END Fund’s deworming programs treat schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis (“deworming”).
Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative advocates for, supports, and evaluates government-run school-based deworming programs.
Helen Keller International’s vitamin A supplementation (VAS) program is one of its programs focused on reducing malnutrition and averting blindness and poor vision.
New Incentives runs a conditional cash transfer (CCT) program in North West Nigeria which seeks to increase uptake of routine immunizations
Sightsavers’ deworming program advocates for, funds, and monitors deworming initiatives.
Other high-impact global health charities
This article also introduces the 4 other global health charities that you can support via RC Forward:
The Iodine Global Network aims to reduce iodine deficiency globally by advocating for national salt iodization programs, tracking progress on iodization, and providing global and country-specific guidance on related programmatic and scientific issues.
Fistula Foundation funds more surgeries than any other organization. Their work supports one goal: to provide as many life-changing fistula surgeries as possible.
Sanku (Project Healthy Children) aims to reduce micronutrient deficiencies by providing assistance to small countries as they design and implement food fortification programs.
Living Goods runs a network of Community Health Promoters (CHPs) who sell health and household goods door-to-door in their communities in Uganda and Kenya and provide basic health counseling.
What about GiveDirectly, another GiveWell top charity?
GiveDirectly is also one of our featured charities (learn more here), which means you’ll receive an official Canadian donation receipt when you donate to GiveDirectly through RC Forward. We consider GiveDirectly to be more of a human empowerment charity than a global health charity, which is why we don’t include it in this article.
What about GiveWell’s Maximum Impact Fund?
For Canadians wishing to donate to GiveWell’s Maximum Impact Fund, we recommend giving to the RC Forward Global Health Fund, advised quarterly by GiveWell.
The RC Forward Global Health Fund
A high-impact fund offered by RC Forward, and advised by GiveWell!
What about donating to GiveWell itself?
We’ve got you covered! You can donate to GiveWell’s operations through RC Forward (learn more here). We classify GiveWell as one of our “cause research” partner charities, because it researches charities and charity interventions in search of outstanding donation opportunities.
What makes the global health charities listed on RC Forward exceptional?
The global health charities we highlight in this article are assessed by charity evaluation experts or other sources that we trust. These evaluators and experts vary somewhat in how they evaluate charities, but there’s a lot of common ground. Their recommended charity lists have overlap but are not identical.
GiveWell’s charity evaluation criteria
- Evidence of effectiveness
- Room for more funding
- Cost effectiveness
Learn more about these GiveWell criteria: Our Criteria for Top Charities
The Life You Can Save’s charity evaluation criteria
Learn more about these The Life You Can Save criteria: Charity inclusion criteria
Giving What We Can (a community of thousands of people around the world committed to giving more and to giving more effectively) also has an in-depth guide for how to choose an effective charity: Charity Evaluation: How to find an exceptional charity
We highlight 12 charities in this article. There’s likely many more charities out there doing good or even great work. Nonetheless, given the scale, urgency, and importance of our world’s global health challenges, we believe it’s essential to support charities with rigorous evidence or reasoning pointing to the effectiveness of their work.
Why should I donate to an effective global health charity?
“We live in unprecedented times in which we have an astonishing opportunity to improve the world through charitable donations.”Giving What We Can
Here are 4 reasons to prioritize impact and cost effectiveness in your giving decisions:
- Have an extraordinary impact without extraordinary effort. Many people care deeply about others, but aren’t able to devote their career or free time to directly working on global health. Other people might feel that a big impact is only possible through huge donations. Effective giving helps many people have more impact than they’d hoped or thought possible.
- Do far more good with your dollar. The value your dollar generates for animals can vary greatly. For example, GiveWell estimates that $3,000 to $5,000 can save a life if given to one of its current top charities, Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program.
- Avoid missed opportunities. There’s a lot of money in the world, but only so much that is available to improve health and save lives through improving global health. If donations are directed to efforts that are merely neutral or good instead of outstanding, that can represent a missed opportunity.
- Help more people, and help them more. We can donate based on how many people benefit from a global health charity’s work, and how much each person benefits, rather than where the people benefit live or how similar their lives are to our own.
What’s the best way to donate to these top charities?
If you file income tax in Canada, we recommend donating through our online platform, RC Forward. If you donate through RC Forward, you will receive a valid tax receipt that you can use to apply for Canadian charitable tax credits (estimate your credits with our calculator). Unfortunately, for most of the top charities in this article, official Canadian donation receipts aren’t available to you if you donate directly through the charity’s website, unless you’re a US citizen.
RC Forward was built and is operated by a small nonprofit, Rethink Charity. Our team is passionate about removing the barriers between the Canadians wanting to maximize their positive impact and the high-impact charities they seek to support. Your donation will go through an international regranting process so that it reaches the recipient charity in a cost-effective manner (learn more about the regranting process).
To help cover the costs of facilitating the international regranting process, we deduct an operations allocation (4%) from donations made through our platform (with exceptions). This allocation is small compared to the tax credits you can apply for with the receipt you’ll receive when you donate through RC Forward. You can estimate the value of your tax credits with our calculator.
If you’re planning on donating less than $1,000 or less than $200 per month, just hit “Donate” to give by credit card through a fast, secure online process to any of our featured global health charities or to give through the RC Forward Global Health Fund.
And, good news! If you plan to make a one-time donation of more than $1,000 or to donate more than $200 per month, we can connect you with alternative donation methods that decrease credit card fees, thereby largely offsetting this 4% operations allocation. Just reach out to our friendly team to get started.
What if I’m having a hard time deciding?
Deciding where to donate can be difficult. If you want to donate to a global health charity but are unsure about which one, the RC Forward Global Fund could be a great option for you. Your donation will support the charity or charities that currently offer the best opportunities to maximize your positive impact on global health. Each quarter, we work with GiveWell to direct your donations.
The RC Forward Global Health Fund
A high-impact fund offered by RC Forward, and advised by GiveWell!
Learn more about 12 high-impact global health charities
Each of these charities have a dedicated page on the RC Forward donation platform, which you can visit by clicking “Donate online or learn more.” On each of these pages you can read more from the charity, visit its website, or make a secure, online credit card donation.
2020 GiveWell Top Charities
The following summaries are condensed versions of information available on GiveWell’s website as well as on each of the charities websites.
Against Malaria Foundation
“We protect people from malaria. We fund nets and ensure they are distributed and used. We show you where the nets go. We monitor and report their use and impact.”
AMF, a current GiveWell top charity, provides funding for long-lasting insecticide-treated net (LLIN) distributions (for protection against malaria) in developing countries.
According to GiveWell, there is strong evidence that distributing LLINs reduces child mortality and malaria cases. AMF conducts post-distribution surveys of completed distributions to determine whether LLINs have reached their intended destinations and how long they remain in good condition.
Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) program
“Across the Sahel, most malaria illness and deaths occur during the rainy season, typically between July and October. Seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) is a highly effective intervention to prevent malaria infection during this peak transmission period among those most at risk: children under five.” show you where the nets go. We monitor and report their use and impact.”
Malaria Consortium works on preventing, controlling, treating, and eliminating malaria and other communicable diseases in Africa and Asia. Its seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) program is a current GiveWell top charity. This program distributes preventive antimalarial drugs to children, to prevent illness and death from malaria. There is strong evidence that SMC substantially reduces cases of malaria.
“Since our foundation in 2002, we’ve contributed to the delivery of over 200 million treatments”
SCI is a current GiveWell top charity that works with governments in sub-Saharan Africa to create or scale up programs that treat schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH) (“deworming”). SCI’s role has primarily been to identify country recipients, provide funding to governments for government-implemented programs, provide advisory support, and conduct monitoring and evaluation on the process and outcomes of the programs. GiveWell considers deworming “a priority program given the possibility of strong benefits at low cost.”
The END Fund’s deworming program
“The END Fund focuses on delivering neglected tropical disease (NTD) treatments to those in need by growing and engaging a community of activist-philanthropists, managing high-impact strategic investments, and working in collaboration with government, NGO, pharmaceutical, and academic partners.”
The END Fund manages grants, provides technical assistance, designs programs, and raises and directs philanthropic funding for controlling and eliminating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Its deworming programs are a current GiveWell top charity. GiveWell considers deworming “a priority program given the possibility of strong benefits at low cost.”
Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative
“We measurably reduce the burden of poverty for hundreds of millions of people and we have the data to prove it.”
What do they do? Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative advocates for, supports, and evaluates government-run school-based deworming programs. GiveWell considers deworming “a priority program given the possibility of strong benefits at low cost.”
Helen Keller International’s vitamin A supplementation program
“Helen Keller is privileged to deliver lifesaving, immune-building vitamin A to babies and children in some of the most vulnerable areas in our world.”
Helen Keller International supports programs focused on reducing malnutrition and averting blindness and poor vision. Its vitamin A supplementation (VAS) program in sub-Saharan African is a current GiveWell top charity. Helen Keller International provides technical assistance, engages in advocacy, and contributes funding to government-run vitamin A supplementation programs.
“New Incentives is a pioneer in a growing movement of giving small incentives to caregivers whose infants get immunized, while increasing awareness of the health benefits of childhood vaccinations.”
New Incentives is a current GiveWell top charity. It runs a conditional cash transfer (CCT) program in North West Nigeria which seeks to increase uptake of routine immunizations through cash transfers, raising public awareness of the benefits of vaccination and reducing the frequency of vaccine stockouts. A randomized controlled trial (RCT) of New Incentives’ program found strong evidence that the program increases vaccination rates.
Sightsavers’ deworming program
“Nearly half of visual impairment can be treated or prevented.”
Sightsavers is a large organization with multiple program areas that focuses on preventing avoidable blindness and supporting people with impaired vision. GiveWell has only reviewed Sightsavers’ work to prevent and treat neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), and, more specifically, advocating for, funding, and monitoring deworming programs. Sightsavers’ deworming programs are a current GiveWell top charity. GiveWell considers deworming “a priority program given the possibility of strong benefits at low cost.”
Other top global health charities available on RC Forward
Iodine Global Network (IGN)
“Leading the global fight to eliminate brain damage due to iodine deficiency.”
Iodine Global Network (IGN) aims to reduce iodine deficiency globally by advocating for national salt iodization programs, tracking progress on iodization, and providing global and country-specific guidance on related programmatic and scientific issues. IGN is a GiveWell standout charity.
“We do one thing, and we do it well — treat obstetric fistula.”
Fistula Foundation is the global leader in fistula treatment, funding more surgeries than any other organization, including the US government. Their work supports one goal: to provide as many life-changing fistula surgeries as possible. Fistula Foundation is a TLYCS best charity.
Sanku (Project Healthy Children)
“We scale technology and business solutions that put critical nutrients into the food that hundreds of millions of malnourished people eat the most. By doing so, we are guaranteeing that every meal, for every mother and child, contains lifesaving nutrients, forever.”
Sanku (Project Healthy Children) aims to reduce micronutrient deficiencies by providing assistance to small countries as they design and implement food fortification programs. Project Healthy Children is a GiveWell standout charity.
“Working side-by-side with committed governments, implementers, and funders, we aim to ensure there is a digitally empowered community health worker (CHW) in every community.”
Living Goods runs a network of Community Health Promoters (CHPs) who sell health and household goods door-to-door in their communities in Uganda and Kenya and provide basic health counseling. Living Goods is a GiveWell standout charity and a TLYCS best charity.
I’m not quite ready to donate, but how do I learn more?
No problem! We hope you’ll stay in the loop, though. Sign up to our newsletter to get occasional updates about RC Forward, including answers to the common questions we receive and curated highlights from our partner charities.