Giving What We Can: Effective Altruism


SOUTHINGTON, Connecticut — Giving What We Can (GWWC) is an effective altruism-based organization. Launched in November 2009, GWWC features an initiative where members “donate at least 10% of their income” to verified charities. GWWC has worked under the Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA) umbrella since 2011. It utilizes evidence to encourage donations to the most effective charities in order to make the most effective impact. GWWC is committed to improving lives and addressing issues of global poverty with evidence-based decisions, openness and optimism as a strategy to support effective charities and contribute to a world without poverty.

The Purpose of Giving What We Can

Giving What We Can is a community of more than 7,000 members from around the globe. Its members have gathered more than $231 million worth of donations to support effective charities. The purpose of GWWC is to create a community for members to support effective charities. Effective organizations “work on unusually promising interventions, use scientific evidence to plan their activities and seek out ways to increase their own impact.”

Research by J-PAL, GiveWell, Effective Altruism Funds and other charity evaluators influence GWWC charity recommendations. Based on the research and recommendations of charity evaluators, GWWC recommends charities with the most effective reach and impact. The charitable areas of focus include animal welfare, climate change and global health and development. The most effective recommended charities range from Hellen Keller International to the Against Malaria Foundation.

An Interview With Luke Freeman

GWWC Executive Director Luke Freeman told The Borgen Project that “the Effective Altruism Global Health and Development Fund helped fund a mask-wearing trial in Bangladesh.” This trial was based on a July 2020 GiveWell grant recommendation to Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA). IPA is a nonprofit that uses research and policy to assist in finding new and effective poverty interventions.

GWWC created the How Rich Am I Calculator to help estimate how an individual’s income compares to the wealth of other global populations. It created this as a strategy to help people determine how much of an impact they can make with the money they earn. Freeman estimates that the average U.S. citizen is 15 to 20 times wealthier than the average person. With just a 10% income pledge, an individual can help “save roughly one life per year.” By joining the GWWC pledge, donors can make the most effective impact.


GiveDirectly is one nonprofit charity and research organization that GiveWell recommends. This nonprofit values evidence-based initiatives that are direct, efficient and transparent. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Communications Director Tyler Hall explained that GiveDirectly received more than “$300 million in commitments from donors and institutions” since early 2020. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, GiveDirectly managed to assist more beneficiaries than all the previous years combined, reaching roughly 650,000 recipients.

The organization strongly believes in the effectiveness of direct cash transfer programs. In Togo, GiveDirectly partnered with the government to develop the Novissi program in 2020 in order to address pandemic-induced poverty. The emergency cash transfer program targeted 57,000 people in the most impoverished cantons of Togo. The program provided five monthly payments set at $13 for men and $15 for women. The program used satellite imagery, mobile data and artificial intelligence to locate the most financially burdened citizens. The organization has implemented similar cash transfer programs in other African countries.

Evidence Action

Evidence Action (EA) is another charity that GWWC recommends. Using a six-step project accelerator process, interventions are evaluated to ensure only those with the most potential to have the greatest impact are transformed into large-scale projects. Evidence Action’s senior manager of external relations, Carlita Bevege, told The Borgen Project that GWWC recommended Evidence Action due to EA’s “values as an organization around evidence and cost-effectiveness when it comes to solutions to global poverty challenges.”

Bevege added how Evidence Action’s Dispensers for Safe Water project plans to increase the number of chlorine dispenser beneficiaries from four to six million people. It will do so by targeting new countries and more communities in Uganda, Malawi and Kenya. Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative reached more than 280 million children with parasitic worm medication across India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia in 2019.

During COVID-19 school closures, Bevege said that, in India, the deworming project “moved to a community-based deworming approach instead of a school-based deworming model.” The initiative is supported by WHO data that proves “deworming works to improve children’s health, well-being, education and long-term economic future.”

A Look Ahead

Giving What We Can received 1,787 new pledges by the end of 2020. To encourage further GWWC pledges, the organization hosted a 2020-2021 pledge drive. It created the drive as a strategy to increase support to effective charities, especially because of the impacts of COVID-19. Freeman explains that COVID-19 has really brought out the generosity of people, illustrating the human ability to step up to support one another during trying times. Through the difficulties of COVID-19, Giving What We Can commits to ensuring that charitable efforts have the most significant impact, guaranteeing the most effective assistance to the most vulnerable people of the world.

Evan Winslow
Photo: Flickr


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