Frequently asked questions

The Life You Can Save was founded to promote high-impact philanthropy, meaning giving that is research-backed and cost-effective. Our mission is to improve the lives of people living in poverty by changing the way people think about and donate to charity. We do research to develop a list of recommended nonprofits delivering high-impact interventions across all of the dimensions of poverty. We then work to raise awareness of and connect donors with our recommended giving opportunities to increase the impact of giving. Through our research and funds, we offer a simplified donating process for individuals who want to maximize their impact in uplifting people experiencing extreme poverty.

Our organization was co-founded by Peter Singer, a philosopher widely recognized for his work on animal rights, bioethics, his influence on the effective altruism movement. In 2009, Singer wrote the book The Life You Can Save about ways that we can all support interventions that alleviate poverty and the suffering that stems from it. Endorsed by Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates, the book argues that if we can provide immense benefit to someone at minimal inconvenience to ourselves, we should do so. Peter was approached by psychologist and executive Charlie Bresler to collaborate in 2013, and together they co-found The Life You Can Save, a registered 501c3 charity. The organization was designed to support readers who were inspired to begin their own giving journey.

The Life You Can Save believes that donating to highly impactful nonprofits offers an effective means for individuals and organizations living with extra means to contribute to poverty alleviation, in addition to other opportunities to reduce suffering in the world. The Life You Can Save serves to help individuals respond to the call for action to contribute to the fight against global poverty. 

While governmental support continues to be critical to addressing poverty, the best nonprofits are able to assess and address needs quickly and effectively, often serving as a crucial partner for governments, companies, and other stakeholders, and supporting innovation and research in different ways than other organizations.We urge people everywhere to engage in advocacy with their governments to support effective foreign aid programs. 

We recommend and promote charities that do some of the best work in this sector. These nonprofits have proven track records for making dramatic impact in improving lives. We therefore recommend supporting their work with your donations.

Information about our financials can be found in our Annual Reports as well as on Guidestar.

Although we generally encourage donors to support our recommended charities, The Life You Can Save itself relies on donations to keep our organization running. This is a great way to leverage your dollars, as every $1 we spend on our operations has historically generated an average of $15 for our recommended charities. You can support The Life You Can Save here.

We are happy to discuss interview possibilities for spreading the word about The Life You Can Save and our recommended charities. Please submit your inquiry via our Contact Us page.

Giving Games are now managed by Giving What We Can (GWWC). To view their resources or apply for funding, please visit their Giving Game page. GWWC also runs and sponsors Charity Elections, school-wide events where high school students choose which charities receive real money donations.

The Life You Can Save using the multidimensional poverty index to define and measure extreme poverty – which means experiencing significant deprivations across the dimensions of health, education and living standards. This may include not having enough income to meet the basic human needs for adequate food, water, shelter, clothing, sanitation, health care, and education. Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion, as well as the lack of participation in decision-making. We measure extreme, or multidimensional poverty, as experiencing deprivation in more than a third of the indicators outlined in the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index. According to the University of Oxford, 1.1 billion people meet this definition, with half living in Sub-Saharan Africa, half being children, and over 80% living in rural areas. Most individuals experiencing this level of poverty do not have adequate sanitation, housing or cooking fuel. The definition of “regular” poverty varies by country. As noted by GapMinder, poverty “may refer to the threshold for eligibility for social welfare or the official statistical measure of poverty in that country. In Scandinavia, the official poverty lines are 20 times higher than the poverty lines in the poorest countries, like Malawi, even after adjusting for the large differences in purchasing power. The latest US census estimates that 13 percent of the population lives below its poverty line, putting it at approximately $20/day.”

In wealthy societies, most poverty is relative. In the United States, 97% of those classified by the Census Bureau as poor own a color TV. Three quarters of them own a car and three quarters have air conditioning. These figures do not in any way deny that the poor in wealthy societies face genuine hardship, but rather that poverty measurements in wealthy countries are simply not designed to capture levels of extreme deprivation. 

Extreme poverty is characterized by difficulties of a different order. The 1.1 billion  people living in multidimensional poverty are poor by an absolute standard tied to the most basic human needs. This kind of poverty kills. While a child born in Spain today can expect to live beyond 83 years, children born in countries such as Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Chad have a life expectancy of less than 55 years. Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the region with the highest under-five mortality rate in the world: one child in 13 dies before his or her fifth birthday, a ratio 20 times higher than the 1 in 263 mortality rate in Australia and New Zealand. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 7,500 children under the age of 5 die each day from preventable causes associated with extreme poverty. This is over 300 children an hour or 5 per minute. These causes of death include insufficient nutrition, lack of access to clean water, inadequate health care services, malaria, dysentery, and neonatal infection. These are diseases and health problems that are essentially non-existent in the developed world thanks to countless advances. And yet despite these improvements, several billion people continue to live and die in poverty, struggling daily with its dire effects.

The world is making rapid progress toward ending extreme poverty. However, across all countries, 1.1 billion people are experiencing multidimensional poverty (UNDP, 2023). This means that 1.1 billion people globally face daily barriers to their wellbeing such as lack of access to healthcare, education, or opportunities to improve their livelihoods. Many don’t have enough to eat enough, can’t afford to send their children to school, and lack access to safe drinking water. These people are vulnerable to diseases that have been eradicated in high-income countries. Malaria, which was eradicated in the United States almost 70 years ago, killed an estimated 1,700 people—mostly young children—every day in the developing world in 2020 (WHO, 2022).

Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to help and help effectively. By giving even modest donations to high-impact nonprofits that work to reduce barriers to human development, you can make a significant, lasting difference to hundreds of lives. 

Read more here about why it makes sense to focus your giving internationally.

You do not need to stop giving to local charities. However, we encourage you to start giving—or giving more—to highly impactful international nonprofits that can accomplish more good per dollar donated and help those living in the most serious deprivation.

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 (official development assistance or ODA). In 2022, the U.S. gave only 24 cents of every $100 of earnings — or  0.235% to foreign aid (OECD, 2022). 

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.

When giving to an effective charity, the size of your donation directly correlates with how and how many people you are able to help. You don’t have to be a millionaire to make a significant difference; donations of all sizes can meaningfully improve an individual’s quality of life. Check out our impact calculator to learn the types of outcomes you can support with your contributions.

  • Our annual reports, blog and newsletter (subscribe below) all provide regular information about recent progress of The Life You Can Save and our recommended charities. 
  • Our founder Peter Singer’s TED Talk is on our website and on YouTube.
  • Another wonderful resource is the 10th Anniversary Edition of The Life You Can Save, Peter’s landmark book about addressing world poverty through effective giving. You can download the eBook and audiobook versions for free.

You can join us in changing the culture of giving:

Speak with one of our advisors about how to approach your own giving journey.

Spread the word! Share a free download of The Life You Can Save book with your friends, family, coworkers, and on social media.