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What’s the best global health charity to donate to in Canada?

This article was last updated in November 2022. It reflects GiveWell’s 2022 recommendations (read more here).

The problem

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).

Says GiveWell, “Helping people in high-income countries is expensive, and the gains can be more marginal. People living in low-income countries face many problems that have ready solutions, such as children dying from malaria or suffering from parasitic worms. Donating internationally is the most cost-effective way to provide lifesaving help.”

Donating to effective charities is part of the solution

We can all play a role in tackling today’s most pressing 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

Of all the actions that it’s possible to take, donating to top global charities is, for many Canadians, perhaps the most impactful thing they can do to save or improve the lives of people living today.

Which global health charities are the most effective?

The RC Forward team does not evaluate charities ourselves, because we do not have the expertise. We primarily rely on the research and recommendations of GiveWell. Their work helps us determine which organizations to feature as partner charities on the RC Forward donation platform, based on GiveWell’s research.

2022 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: Disease Control, Better Health

Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) program distributes preventive antimalarial drugs to children, to prevent illness and death from malaria.

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

Why 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: 

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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.

GiveWell’s charity evaluation criteria

  • Evidence of effectiveness
  • Room for more funding 
  • Cost effectiveness 
  • Transparency

Learn more about these GiveWell criteria: Our Criteria for Top Charities 

What’s the best way to donate to these top charities?

If you file income tax in Canada, we generally recommend donating through our online platform, RC Forward. You will receive a receipt that you can use to apply for charitable tax credits.

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. This allocation is modest 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

What if I’m having a hard time deciding?

Supporting the RC Forward Global Fund might be a great option for you. Your donation will support the charity or charities that currently offer highly cost-effective opportunities to improve global health. Each quarter, we work with GiveWell to direct your donations. 

The RC Forward Global Health Fund

Direct your donation according to GiveWell’s Top Charities Fund

Learn more about GiveWell’s 2022 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. 


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

“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.


Support charities that do an outstanding amount of good

Make a meaningful difference for some of the poorest people in the world through your charitable giving. Direct your donation in Canada according to GiveWell’s Recommendations by visiting this page on RC Forward.

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Megan Jamer

Megan Jamer

Megan lives in British Columbia and communicates for Rethink Charity's projects, including RC Forward. She likes trail running more than she dislikes it, and is interested in travel, copyediting, and effective altruism.

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