We have a few exciting announcements to make for the giving season!
First off, GiveWell has released a new report and there are some exciting updates about which charities are among the best in the world! The Malaria Consortium’s seasonal chemoprevention program has been added to the elite list of top charities, along with two new deworming programs. No charities have been removed from the list. Further, GiveWell now recommends that 75% of donations be distributed to AMF and 25% to SCI. See their full report for more details.
Based on this update, Charity Science has made the following changes to our donation page and procedure:
Lastly, we are excited to announce that our annual holiday peer-to-peer fundraiser is now being run by .impact. This has historically been one of our most successful fundraisers, and it’s the easiest way to get money to effective charities without spending a dime. Learn more and start your own fundraiser for effective charities here!
Happy Giving Season, and as always, feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org for anything at all!
Effective Legacies, our totally revamped (and free) will preparation service is now up and running for those interested in bequeathing to GiveWell!
In October 2015, we rolled out the beta version of our Legacy campaign and your response spoke for itself. In the short time it was active, almost 50 people created free documents bequeathing to GiveWell’s top charities, and many others have expressed interest to do so since we paused the service in December. To get an idea of just how much impact that is, let’s put this in perspective: if a single will among those is executed as written, the project ROI will likely exceed a 1-to-1 ratio. If two of those wills are executed, this campaign approaches the category of “rampant success."
Of course, by the very nature of this campaign, we likely won’t know for quite some time just how effective it could be. And ironically, given the high quality of human that would choose to donate a portion of their estate to effective charities, we’re kind of hoping that it will be a very long time. Regardless, these bequests will make a massive impact in the developing world some day.
In any case, the people have spoken and we’re listening, which is why we’ve spent the last few months piecing together an improved legacy campaign that shows just how committed we are to making this free service accessible to everyone!
Yes, Effective Legacies have arrived! Fill out a 15-minute form and finish with a professional, legally binding document that will honour your commitments if the unexpected happens. We are very thrilled to announce that our new partnership with LawDepot has made this service even higher quality and unbelievably easy to use. And it’s still free! Feel free to try it out even if you’ve made a will with us before. And of course, tell your friends and family.
Questions? Thoughts? Send them to email@example.com.
(Currently this service is only available in Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia at the moment, but we’re constantly working on expanding.)
Charity Science have long been supporters of GiveDirectly and their use of unconditional cash transfers (UCTs) as a highly effective charitable cause. It’s not surprising that charity evaluator GiveWell lists them as one of the best charities in the world and hugely impactful at alleviating extreme poverty.
But what they’re up to now is truly exciting. GiveDirectly plans to conduct critical research into universal basic income. In other words, they’re looking to give everyone access to a sustainable life, regardless of nationality or socio-economic status.
In their own words:
A basic income guarantee is a public policy that would provide all people a basic floor—an income that is enough to live on and that is provided irrespective of work simply because the recipient is a member of that community. It is provided to everyone, regardless of need, forever.
Through their evidence-backed UCTs, GiveDirectly has already proven wrong cynics who claim that “you can’t just give poor people money.” With their new experiment, GiveDirectly will likely be strengthening this body of evidence.
As it turns out, that assumption [that the poor aren’t good at making decisions for themselves] was wrong. Across many contexts and continents, experimental tests show that the poor don’t stop trying when they are given money, and they don’t get drunk. Instead, they make productive use of the funds, feeding their families, sending their children to school, and investing in businesses and their own futures. Even a short-term infusion of capital has been shown to significantly improve long-term living standards, improve psychological well-being, and even add one year of life.
GiveDirectly is putting up $10 million (USD) of their own money to match external funding they can receive for this experiment.
We think the rigorous evaluation will cost roughly $30 million, of which around 90 percent of the funds will go directly to extremely poor households with the rest spent delivering that money to them (e.g., staff, office, payment fees).
We hope you’ll join us in supporting this amazing project. With any luck, the findings of this research could be a game-changer in our fight against global poverty.
Read more about the project in this Slate article or read an overview of the project. You can also directly support this initiative.
For the New Year, a group of people are getting together to take the Giving What We Can Pledge. The Giving What We Can Pledge is to donate 10% of one’s future income to charities that you believe will have the biggest impact in improving the lives of others. It is based on the belief that we can make a real difference by thoroughly assessing evidence and contributing some of our resources to address the most pressing global concerns.
Check out this facebook event to find out more about the pledge, why people are taking it, and how to get involved.
Help Charity Science match donations for the Christmas 2015 fundraiser.
The holiday season is near, which means we at Charity Science are once again gearing up for our annual Christmas fundraiser. This campaign has become one of our most prolific methods of raising money for effective charities with an over 1000% return on investment, and that’s thanks in part to our inclusion of a counterfactual match guarantee, meaning for every dollar that is raised, another dollar is committed to the cause.
This may at first seem to be a trivial gesture, but a closer look reveals it’s much more than that. We’ve found that donors find motivation in partnership. Take, for example, one of our fundraisers from last year who has noted he would not have run a fundraiser that earned over $25,000 if not for the match guarantee. It’s symbiosis in action.
Our goal at Charity Science is to harness the momentum that can be achieved through a partnership between donors and matchers. Logistically, this means we must have matchers in place to be the motivators. This is the first line in a dialogue that might go something like this:
Matcher: “If you go to the gym, I’ll go with you.”
Donor: “Alright, fine. I’ll go.”
Matcher: “OK, then I’ll go too.”
Everybody else: “What a great idea! Let’s all go.”
As the matcher instigates the process, this is where we must begin. And this is where we call on you.
In order to see the kind of success we’ve seen in the past, we need EAs to pledge a counterfactual match to GiveWell charities for the Charity Science Christmas campaign. If you’d like to do so, simply sign up here. By focusing on global poverty, you’re funneling in money from donors that may otherwise been given to non-EA charities (or no charities at all). Considering the multiplier effect, a strong case can be made that participating in our fundraiser through matching will give you the biggest bang for your buck.
It’s important to note that this is not merely speculation. Our metric for measuring the success of fundraisers is not simply the amount that’s donated, but the amount that wouldn’t have been donated otherwise. And that success has been substantial. So to ensure this continues, we will be asking donors and matchers where their money would have gone.
Consider participating in Charity Science’s Christmas fundraiser. Whether you’re pledging $50 or $50,000, remember that by doing so, your impact is even greater than your contribution.
Pledge to match here.
If you’re familiar with our work, you’re probably aware that we are part of a community whose goal is to improve the world in the most effective way possible. But what if you could extend that commitment beyond your life? We’re talking about your legacy, the “you” that you leave behind.
With this idea in mind, we just introduced a new way to give! The incentive? We’ll write your will for free if you are willing to leave money to the most effective charities as determined by the charity evaluator GiveWell.
Our goal is to make the will-writing process as easy as possible, because let’s face it, writing one is easy to put off. It’s easy to leave it until tomorrow (or next week or next year) because no one ever expects the unthinkable to happen. But if we can make the process so easy that it takes between five and ten minutes, are there any good reasons not to do it? Even if you’re not exactly sure what you want in your will, it’s still better to have one than not. And it’s always possible to go back and change it later.
Even better, we’ll do our best to personalize your will. In addition to your donation to the most effective charities (to any degree you see fit), we can include:
Also note: while we are happy to help you out with the details of your will, we also understand that having details ready to run with is a tall order, so we can alternatively provide you with a simple will that you can build over time.
Further, if you already have a will, we can help you write something called a codicil, which acts as an amendment or an addition to your will.
There’s really no downside here. Consider these final points:
So without spending a dime, you can simultaneously make sure that you’re covered in the event of an unlikely tragedy and secure a legacy that will create a better world for many others. And it starts with only 5 to 10 minutes of your time.
While you’re at it, why not talk to your friends and family about it? Remember, lots of people donate to charities in their will, but not enough donate to effective charities. Imagine the impact we could make if people knew the best way to give.
Give it a shot here.
And remember, if this doesn’t appeal to you then there are other ways to take action. You can always run a fundraiser for Christmas, your birthday or any event you’d like.
Could your country’s success soon be measured by Gross National Happiness? You can’t deny the emotion’s celebrity status, with reports like the Happy Planet Index and the World Happiness Report blazing headlines.
But, can we really pin down such an elusive, deeply personal experience?
Don’t worry, science has defined happiness for us.
The literature romantically describes it as your reported “life satisfaction in combination with the frequency of negative to positive affect experienced.” In other words, happiness is how fulfilled you feel with your life alongside how many good moods and emotions you have versus bad ones. So, the next time someone asks how you’re doing, just say:
“My positive affect is high and I feel satisfied within my life’s domains.”
And, that’s not all. Never one to follow the crowd, science has renamed the emotion subjective well-being (SWB). SWB considers people’s perceived quality of life, both emotionally and cognitively. Being subjective, this definition doesn’t account for more objective criteria, like health or living conditions.
So, how can you measure SWB?
SWB = A person’s life satisfaction + affect balance
Life satisfaction measurements usually involve self-reported questionnaires. The questions explore a person’s bigger picture, long term judgments of their fulfillment within certain areas of their life (for instance, career or family).
Affect balance looks at the ratio of perceived positive to negative moods and emotions a person experiences, usually in the short term. This can also be measured with self-reported questionnaires or with self-reported tests like the Positive Affect Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS). In PANAS, respondents rate how strongly they feel on each of 10 positive and 10 negative emotional states (ex. very slightly to extremely).
However, self reports face one major problem: People lie. Even when we mean well, human beings can’t even help it. People may feel inappropriate or embarrassed by their true responses, or want to please the researchers by giving them whatever they believe is a “good” answer. Even subconsciously, learned social pressures can make respondents select the answers they think are more desirable.
So, did the poets have it right -- is happiness really unmeasurable?
Science says “Well, not really.” There are several techniques that can be used alongside self reports to add validity to a person’s answers.
The self report questions themselves can offer traps for contradictory answers. Many offer up the same question multiple times, in different phrasings. For example, if a person says once that they “feel very outgoing in groups,” but later says “they feel very introverted around others,” their answer can be discredited.
Informant reporting has close friends/relations provide insights on a respondent’s lifestyle, mood, and emotions. That way, if both a subject and their sister say that they are irritable lately, it’s more likely that they are truly cranky.
Another method is called Experience Sampling, in which a beeper triggers subjects to report their mood and activities at specific times throughout the day. This on-the-spot tactic provides a more natural “in situ” method, removing some of the pressure on respondents to please researchers as well as their tendency to act differently in a controlled laboratory environment.
Your happiness has been validated.
Despite questionable pop culture headlines, happiness keeps getting more accurately defined in the scientific community. On the bright side, it’s only going to get more positive with the rise of big data and continually improving methods for validating reports.
So, can we harness happiness measures to drive positive change in the world? What do you think?
Activists tend to have a complicated relationship with money. Most of us likely grew up trying to avoid seeming ostentatious or materialistic. Perhaps you did your best to hide your privileges to seem more relatable, or you had mixed feelings towards those who flaunted their wealth. It seems to be a common philosophy for activists that money is responsible for more problems than solutions. After all, “money is the root of all evil”, right?
Following this logic, many may refute the claim that money can be a solution to the world’s problems. Firstly, we tend to believe that “throwing” money at a complex problem is a lazy strategy that is just too simple to be effective. We believe results come from sacrifice, and writing a check is hardly sacrificial to someone for whom money isn’t of great importance. Secondly, giving money often fails to yield tangible results. If I donate $50 to cancer research, chances are (unless the charity is unusually transparent) I’ll never know where that $50 went, or if it actually made a difference. By giving to charities, we must put our trust in those charities to use our money effectively. For many, this is a difficult pill to swallow (and a concern that we at Charity Science and other organisations like GiveWell work to address).
For this and other reasons, when most activists think about how they can make the biggest difference in the world, they think about what they can do, like volunteering at a soup kitchen, going to protests, or teaching disadvantaged youth. We do these things because the experience is visceral and real. It gives us perspective of lives less privileged than our own and it nourishes our empathy. The sacrifice we make by leaving our comfort zone makes us truly feel like we’ve given something back. And most importantly, action gives us tangible results. “I’ve built these walls and now someone will live within them.”
All of these are good, non-trivial reasons to take action, and these experiences likely expand our desire to want to change the world for the better. I would even make a strong argument for the educational benefits of action-based philanthropy.
Let us note, however, that the benefits of such charity are largely our own. For example, while computer programmer Jimmy may personally grow from the experience of building a home for a poor family, it is unlikely he will build that home as efficiently as experienced local workers within the community (funded perhaps by a charity through donations given by Jimmy and others). In other words, since Jimmy is not an expert in the field, he can probably do more good with the money he makes in an hour as a programmer than an hour volunteering as a home-builder. This may not always be the case, but it is more often than not, and we should think rationally about actions we take before taking them.
Further, we need to remember that money is a tool, nothing more. Money can be used for good or evil, but is neutral in its own right. And when used for good, money is the most versatile tool we have. By giving money, we can empower a person or team to more efficiently do what they’re good at. We can empower an organisation to help prevent one of the major causes of disease and death in developing countries. We can empower activists to combat animal suffering. We can even directly empower those less privileged than we are to make their own decisions. Most importantly, in all of these situations, a lack of money (not labor) is the most significant bottleneck preventing further intervention.
In conclusion, action is important, action is educational, and action is humbling, but in many cases, action is inefficient and serves us more than those we’re trying to help. Before deciding whether to spend our time or money to make a difference, we should consider the effects of each decision. More often than not, giving our money can do more good because as activists living in developed countries, having money is our privilege. It is our possession of wealth that puts us in a position to help others. Use that.
Charity Science is excited to announce that we’ve added peer to peer fundraiser pages for special events of any kind, in addition to our birthday and Christmas fundraisers. You can now run peer to peer fundraisers for any special event you’d like with unique pages for the US, UK, and Canada (anyone else can fundraise too you’ll just be using the currency of one of those countries and donors won’t get tax deductibility). Peer-to-peer fundraisers are one of the most effective ways to raise money and we’ve had great success with birthday and Christmas fundraisers. Most people who put in even 1-2 hours to these fundraisers raise $300 or more which is a terrific per hour return!
While you can use the general fundraiser pages for any type of event, here are some suggestions:
Once you’ve decided what you want to do, you can find instructions on how to create and promote your fundraiser here.
If you’re thinking of running a fundraiser, we strongly suggest you check out Peter Hurford’s guide to running a fundraiser as he ran a highly successful fundraiser and others have copied his method with great results.
Finally, you know your situation best but as a general rule we’ve found people are most generous during the holiday season. So if you want to raise the most money, I’d suggest donating your Christmas which we also have unique pages for in in the US, UK, and Canada. However, if you think there’s a good case that your upcoming event is better, or you’d rather get presents at Christmas, this is a great alternative which you can get started creating now in the US, UK, and Canada.
The Global Innovation Fund (GIF) is a funding organization that has the radical approach of funding organizations to get evidence of impact, and helping those who have the evidence to scale their programs to reach millions. This type of approach may seem obvious, but sadly it’s desperately need in the charity sector. Without the type of testing of projects GIF supports we wouldn’t know which interventions are actually effective and hence we’d just be guessing when trying to decide between the countless programs designed to improve life for millions around the world. The reason we shouldn’t just guess which programs work is because we’re really poor at it. If you don’t believe me, you can try this quiz.
Further, scaling up those programs that have proven effective during testing is perhaps the best tool we have to combat global poverty and, more generally, to encourage future and current projects to become more evidence based. GIF also sets itself apart by being open enough to work with organizations of all types, including for-profits and social enterprises. This way GIF is able to bolster great deals for those they want to whether it is a government or nonprofit venture.
Seeing this type of organization is encouraging and I hope it grows because that would mean a more evidence based world and more lives improved.
So what more specifically, does GIF do? GIF selects, tests and expands upon promising programs through grants, loans, technical assistance and risk capital to organizations that they believe have the potential to have a big social impact on a large scale.
At the early stages of a program they provide seed money looking for promising projects with potential that need a real world test of their business model.
If a program has already proven effectiveness on a small scale, GIF provides funds to implement refinements and, perhaps, try different business models. If this involves a significant amount of public funds, this may involve running a randomized controlled trial to test for cost-effectiveness and impact. When a program is successful and what they really need is the ability to implement that project on a larger scale, GIF provides resources for the program to grow to have an extensive effect across one or more countries and outgrow the need for support from GIF.
If you’re interested, you should definitely visit them at globalinnovation.fund to learn more about their exciting work. I would encourage anyone working on such an innovative project to apply.
You also might be interested in our operations blog that details: our month to month organizational progress, the more technical ideas we have, and our board meeting minutes