GiveWell is discontinuing their “standout charity” designation. What does that mean for The Life You Can Save?

The Life You Can Save’s mission is to inspire people to give generously and effectively in the fight against extreme poverty. We curate a list of nonprofit organizations whose interventions have been proven to be both highly impactful and cost effective. We base our charity recommendations on leading charity evaluators that are equipped to conduct rigorous reviews of numerous nonprofit organizations and constantly assess work being done in the world of global poverty relief. Learn more about our selection methodology and view our Recommended Charities.

Recently, GiveWell announced that they are discontinuing their “standout charity” designation. Read below to learn about how this decision impacts The Life You Can Save’s recommendations. 

What are GiveWell’s “standout charities,” and why is GiveWell discontinuing them? 

GiveWell’s mission is to find outstanding giving opportunities and publish the full details of their analysis to help donors decide where to give. Historically, GiveWell has published a list of “standout charities” alongside their list of “top charities.” GiveWell has defined “standout charities” as charities that “support programs that may be extremely cost-effective and are evidence-backed” and explained the distinction between “standout charities” and “top charities” as follows:

We do not feel as confident in the impact of [standout charities] as we do in our top charities. However, we have reviewed their work and believe these groups stand out from the vast majority of organizations we have considered in terms of the evidence base for the program they support, their transparency, and their potential cost-effectiveness.”

In short, GiveWell created the standout charity designation to recognize organizations that didn’t quite meet their criteria to be top charities, but were excellent relative to most other nonprofit organizations.  They also hoped the designation would incentivize organizations to engage in their more intensive review process. 

However, GiveWell has determined  that having two different lists of recommendations (i.e. “top charities” and “standout charities”) may cause unnecessary confusion. Moving forward, they will only recommend “top charities” and discontinue recommending “standout charities.” 

Which of The Life You Can Save recommended charities are former GiveWell standout charities?

The below nonprofits recommended by The Life You Can Save were recognized as GiveWell standout charities before GiveWell retired that designation: 

  • Development Media International 
  • Evidence Action’s Dispensers for Safe Water 
  • Zusha! 
  • The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition – Universal Salt Iodization Program 
  • Iodine Global Network 
  • Living Goods 
  • Sanku– Project Healthy Children 

How does GiveWell’s announcement impact The Life You Can Save’s recommendations? 

The Life You Can Save continues to recommend both GiveWell’s top charities and the organizations recognized as standout charities before GiveWell retired that designation, listed above. 

GiveWell’s decision to discontinue the standout charities designation doesn’t in any way reflect changes in their evaluation of these charities’ programs. GiveWell has clarified that they still regard their former standout charities as “very strong organizations.” By continuing to recommend GiveWell’s former standout charities, The Life You Can Save aims to provide donors with a broad range of excellent giving options. This is in line with feedback that we have received from our donors, who have requested that The Life You Can Save offer a broader set of recommendations than those offered by GiveWell.

The Life You Can Save is currently in the early stages of developing an “in–house” charity evaluation process. We are thrilled to have recently welcomed Bilal Siddiqi,  Director of Research at UC Berkeley’s Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA), to our team as our Strategic Advisor for Research & Growth. We expect to share a public announcement about our in-house evaluation process when we have more information.

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About the author:

Charles Bresler

Co-founder, Board Member

After earning a PhD in Social and Clinical Psychology, Charlie Bresler became director of behavioral medicine for The California School of Professional Psychology, Fresno (CSPP-F), where he was a full-time professor and founder of a teaching clinic for anxiety & stress disorders. In 1993, he was recruited by The Men’s Wearhouse, where he went on to be head of human resources, stores, marketing, and, ultimately, president. He stepped down in 2008 to fulfill his long-standing desire to work directly on social and economic issues, not too long after he read Peter Singer’s book, The Life You Can Save. Catalyzed by the concept, Charlie reached out to Peter and proposed combining Peter’s theory with the formation of a nonprofit to advance Peter’s ideas and to raise money for high-impact, cost-effective organizations. Together, they founded The Life You Can Save, where Charlie took on all organizational operations as executive director until 2024. He was supported in this work and in his financial support for the organization by his wife Diana, a family physician, and executed the role pro bono.

The views expressed in blog posts are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Peter Singer or The Life You Can Save.