Frequently Asked Questions

Not all charities are made the same. One of the best ways to help people give effectively is to provide suggestions of charities that have been rigorously demonstrated to be impactful, cost-effective, and transparent. When you donate to one of our recommended charities, you can be sure that your donation will go to the people who need it most. We also provide succinct overviews of these charities and links to additional resources donors can use to make informed giving decisions.

How does The Life You Can Save make its charity selections?

Our charity selection process rests on two pillars. The first is a "Panel of Experts" we've formed, comprised of members who are value-aligned with our mission and offer a variety of informed perspectives on the charity selection problem. The second is the excellent charity evaluation work already being done by other organizations, most notably GiveWell and ImpactMatters. By aggregating research from multiple evaluators, and having our Panel provide an extra layer of scrutiny, we aim to offer donors outstanding opportunities across a variety of causes. You can learn more about our charity selection methodology here.

Is The Life You Can Save a credible resource?

Leading philanthropists and thinkers have endorsed The Life You Can Save as a valuable resource for highly conscious donors. The Life You Can Save’s founder Peter Singer was named to Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world, and was recently named the world’s third most influential contemporary thinker by the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute. He is also widely recognized as a key figure in the quickly growing effective altruism movement, which encourages individuals to give a portion of their income to effective charity.

Why should I take the pledge?

Taking a public pledge to give a portion of our earnings to charity ultimately reminds us of our own commitments to give. Moreover, by taking our pledge, you can help influence others to give by changing our societal norms around giving.

For additional answers to questions about pledging, go here.

Are donations to your recommended charities tax deductible?

U.S.-based donors can make tax-deductible donations to all our recommended charities with the exception of the Fred Hollows Foundation. Eligible UK donors can claim Gift Aid by donating to D-Rev, Fistula Foundation, Innovations for Poverty Action, Seva and Village Enterprise through The Life You Can Save UK.

Many of our recommended charities are tax-deductible in other countries as well. For more information, check out our comprehensive tax-deductible list. You can also filter our list to see organizations that are tax-deductible where you live by clicking the "Help Me Choose" button on our charity recommendations page.

Do all the charities on your list actually save lives?

Many of our recommended charities have programs that avert fatalities that would otherwise happen. For instance, numerous studies show that malaria interventions, such as those run by Against Malaria Foundation and Population Services International, reduce child mortality.

However, we don't believe that averting fatalities is the only important measure of our charities’ success, and we are confident that all of our recommended charities have a profound positive impact in the lives of their beneficiaries. Restoring vision to a blind person through a cataract surgery or eradicating parasitic worms from a village are just two examples of the type of life-transforming work our charities do.

Why doesn't your list include charities that help Americans in need?

Since donors can't give to every charity, we encourage people to give their money where it will accomplish the most good. GiveWell's excellent write-up "Giving 101: Your dollar goes further overseas" offers some striking examples of the difference in cost-effectiveness between giving domestically and giving to the poorest countries.

We know that many people in the U. S. and other developed countries live in terrible poverty, and we do not seek to diminish their plight. Our aim is to point out that we have a greater capacity to help those living in degrees of poverty in the developed world.

Should overhead (a charity’s administrative costs) affect where I donate?

We believe that "overhead ratio" is a highly problematic measure of a charity’s effectiveness. In his 2013 TedTalk, activist and fundraiser Dan Pallotta argues that equating frugality with morality is a limiting way of measuring non-profit effectiveness. The biggest problem with this metric is that it completely ignores how much good a charity's programs accomplish, and even whether they accomplish any good at all.

We encourage donors to think about the cost-effectiveness of their gifts: how many people can be helped and how much those lives will be improved from a donation of a particular size. To read more about the overhead myth, read GuideStar’s open letter to donors here and Rickard Vickstrom's blog for us on this topic here.

Doesn't the government already give plenty of foreign aid?

When asked whether the United States allocates more, less, or about the same amount to foreign aid as other developed nations, only 1 out of 20 Americans guessed correctly. Most are surprised to learn that the U.S. ranks near the bottom of developed countries in the percentage of national income allocated to foreign aid. In 2016, the U.S. gave only 18 cents of every $100 of earnings — a total of 0.18% to foreign aid. 

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals encourage all developed nations to allocate 0.7% of their gross national income to overseas development assistance — that's 70 cents in every $100. For comparison, this is less than the credit card fee many consumers barely notice when paying for overseas purchases. Few countries have reached that target.

For more, see Peter Singer's column Trump's Unethical Aid Cuts.

How can I afford to donate to charities when my family and I have so many needs to pay for?

Even very small amounts of money can make a big difference in the lives of people living in extreme poverty. It costs less than a dollar per year to protect a child from parasitic worms or to give a young mother access to clean drinking water for her family. Our Impact Calculator will let you see for yourself how even small gifts can make a significant difference in people's lives.

Many people who live in affluent countries don't realize how their incomes compare to the rest of the world. In 2013, the average U.S. household income was $51,939. A family of four with that annual income would be still be in the richest 9.8 percent of the world’s population with an income more than 12 times the global average.

Still not convinced? See our responses to common objections to giving and our blog series "How I Give on Less than $30,000 a Year."

You can also find ideas for free ways to take part in the fight against poverty on our Get Involved page.

I’ve donated. How else can I help?

Our outreach packet contains materials and strategies you can use to open up conversations about charity, including sharing materials on our Learn More page.

A particularly easy way to let your friends and family know about the causes you care about is to ask for donations to your favorite charity in lieu of birthday or holiday gifts. We've got all the resources you need to turn your next birthday or holiday season into a fundraiser.

Another great way to have these conversations is to organize a Giving Game for your friends. This approach will help you raise questions about effective giving for your friends without coming across like you know all the answers.

Can I donate directly to The Life You Can Save?

We typically encourage people to donate directly to our recommended charities (and we are unable to accept donations on their behalf). However, those who would like to support The Life You Can Save's ongoing operations can do so here. Historically, every dollar spent by The Life You Can Save moves $9 additional dollars to our highly effective charities (we expect this number to be much higher when we complete our 2016 Impact Report).

You can also support The Life You Can Save when you shop at Amazon.com by entering through our Amazon Associates portal—don't forget to bookmark it! Everything about Amazon will look and be the same as usual, but we will earn a small percentage (about 4 percent) of your purchase amount from Amazon, at no additional cost to you.

What will your impact be?

Find out using our Impact Calculator.

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