How We Select Our Recommended Charities

The Life You Can Save’s charity recommendations are based on robust research on effectiveness. We use three criteria, which we call "the three E's:"

  • Evidence: Why do we believe the charity produces good outcomes? We consider the size, quality, and relevance of the evidence base for the charity.
  • Efficiency: How cost-effective are the charity's programs? We want to find charities offering the most "bang for the buck."
  • Execution: Do we believe the charity can translate marginal donations into good outcomes? We consider whether the charity has good programs in need of funding and the capability to execute those programs.

We formed a "Panel of Experts" to curate our charity recommendations. They aggregate the best research from outside sources and add additional scrutiny. The Panel includes experts in economics, ethics, nonprofit management, and business. Our Panel consists of:

Peter Singer

Caroline Fiennes

Eric Friedman

Dean Karlan

To identify recommended charities, the Panel starts by leveraging great work done by several charity research groups:

  • The Panel designates "Approved Charity Evaluators" that consistently produce top quality research to identify highly effective charities. The Panel has currently approved two organizations: GiveWell and ImpactMatters. Additional approved evaluators can be designated by a two-thirds majority of the Panel.
  • The Panel calibrates the output of each evaluator relative to The Life You Can Save's high standards. For each evaluator, the Panel defines what threshold of recommendation is necessary to meet The Life You Can Save's standards. If an evaluator rates a charity above this threshold, it will be added to The Life You Can Save's recommended list.
  • Before a charity with a passing grade is officially added to our list of recommendations, Panel members have the opportunity to raise any concerns they might have. We do not expect this to happen often because of the strength of the research groups we rely on. If this occurs, the Panel will collectively investigate the concern and vote on whether to recommend it. At least two thirds of the Panel must vote in favor of a charity in order to recommend it.
  • Similarly, the Panel can at any time raise concerns about any charities on our list, including those that we started recommending before the Panel was formed. These charities were identified through compelling research, suggestions from trusted "smart money" foundations, and conversations with experts. We do not intend to delist these "legacy" charities simply because our process is changing, but will subject them to the Panel's ongoing scrutiny.
  • If this process produces multiple recommendations doing very similar work, the Panel may choose to recommend a subset to reduce duplication. We believe duplication could harm our user experience without making donors more effective. So we’d rather offer outstanding options across a broad variety of causes than numerous recommendations within a narrow set of causes. Our hope is to provide a wide range of donors with effective giving options1.

In short, our Panel starts with the recommendations from the best charity evaluators we've found, and adds its own extra layer of diligence. The result is a list of charities that is more comprehensive than any of the lists produced by any individual charity evaluator. Donors can be confident that a donation to any of the charities recommended will make a real difference in the lives of the world's poorest people2.

You can read more about the rationale behind our selection methodology here.

  1. In late 2016, the Panel made several decisions of this type. While GiveWell named The END Fund and Sightsavers as top charities, the Panel declined to add them to our list because we already recommend SCI, an organization that performs a similar intervention (deworming) and which GiveWell ranks higher. Similarly, GiveWell named Food Fortification Initiative as a "Standout Charity", but The Life You Can Save did not add it to our list as we already recommended three organizations working in food fortification that have the same ranking from GiveWell (Project Healthy Children, GAIN and Iodine Global Network).

    The Panel also chose to add Village Enterprise to our list, but neither of the two other charities ImpactMatters recommends that share a similar "graduation" method. The Panel felt that Village Enterprise stood out relative to the other organizations due to the unusually high quality of the randomized control trial (RCT) they were conducting, and Village Enterprise's strong track record of iterating their process based on evidence-based learning.

  2. The Life You Can Save has a focus on eradicating poverty, but we are also aware of significant interest in Peter Singer's opinions on charities working in other areas. If your priority is fighting climate change, we suggest you take a look at Founders Pledge's report, which recommends the Clean Air Task Force and Coalition for Rainforest Nations. For donors seeking to improve animal welfare, we suggest reviewing research from Animal Charity Evaluators


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