Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

Giving What We Can

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14 November 2009

Area served

Oxford, United Kingdom

Number of employees

Giving What We Can httpslh4googleusercontentcomUfKmsbKS3lwAAA

effective altruism, charity evaluation, pledges, poverty relief

Centre for Effective Altruism, Littlegate House, St. Ebbe's Street, Oxford, OX1 1PT, UK

Members donate 10% of income to effective charities

GiveWell, Against Malaria Foundation, GiveDirectly, Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, Future of Life Institute


Giving What We Can (GWWC) is a community and charity evaluator that advocates for people to make significant donations (typically 10% of income) to the most cost-effective causes and charities.


Founded by moral philosopher Toby Ord in November 2009, Giving What We Can aims to encourage people to commit to long-term donation to the organisations that will do the most good. Giving What We Can conducts extensive research into the effectiveness of various charities, and provides a list of those it most highly recommends. Currently this includes charities that work to treat neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), Micronutrient deficiency, and malaria, although the Giving What We Can Pledge is cause-neutral, and members can donate to other charities provided they have good reason to think they are more effective.


Giving What We Can was founded as a giving society in 2009 by Toby Ord (an ethics researcher at Oxford University) and his wife Bernadette Young (a physician) with the goal of encouraging people to give a larger fraction of their income on a regular basis to alleviate world poverty. Ord cited writings from Peter Singer and Thomas Pogge about one's moral duty to give to the poor as inspiration for starting Giving What We Can. In the beginning, Giving What We Can members pledged to give at least 10% of their lifetime income to poverty alleviation. Ord himself plans to donate 10% of his earnings for life and everything above about $28,000 a year, the median after-tax salary in the U.K.


Giving What We Can differs from other charity evaluators in terms of the importance they give to metrics such as administrative overhead. While charity evaluators such as Charity Navigator use the fraction of donations spent on program expenses versus administrative overhead as an important indicator, Giving What We Can focuses on the measure of quality-adjusted life years per unit money. Giving What We Can's position on this matter is similar to that of some other charity evaluators such as GiveWell.

According to GWWC, the variance in cost-effectiveness of charities arises largely due to the variance in the nature of the causes that the charities operate in. For this reason, GWWC focuses mostly on charities that work in the areas that that they consider the most likely to have high impact. According to their website:

Therefore we believe that charity evaluation should start with the big picture, comparing different areas such as health, education and emergency aid to determine which of these are the most promising. After that, you can compare more promising sub-areas (such as malaria or HIV/AIDS treatment, within health) and then the programmes available in those sub-areas (such as bednets and antimalarials, for malaria). Finally, we compare particular charities which carry out the best programmes (such as Against Malaria Foundation).

Giving What We Can uses an expected value (or expected utility) framework when evaluating and comparing charities. It focuses on disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) as a measure of the good done by charities. It is similar to the quality-adjusted life year (QALY) with some small differences in accounting methods.

To conduct this research, Giving What We Can surveys publications from general academic literature as well as primary data from the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, the Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries (DCP2) report published by the Disease Control Priorities Project, the WHO-CHOICE guide published by the World Health Organization, and the work of charity evaluator GiveWell. In addition, Giving What We Can actively conducts its own research.

Giving What We Can also focuses on the question of room for more funding, which describes what additional donations to a charity will accomplish. In this respect, they are similar to charity evaluator GiveWell.

Charity recommendations

This information is combined into detailed evaluations and case studies of top-rated recommended charities and analyses and evaluations of various causes. Examples include evaluations of Against Malaria Foundation, and their case study of the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative.

Until May 2013, GWWC had three top charities, all of them operating in the domain of global health: Against Malaria Foundation (malaria bednets), Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, and Deworm the World Initiative. On May 16, 2013, GWWC announced the addition of a fourth charity, Project Healthy Children (focused on food fortification) and also restructured its list of top charities: it labeled AMF and SCI as established organizations and labeled DtWI and PHC as promising organizations. The list was re-affirmed in December 2014. As of November 2015, it continues to be GWWC's official list of top charities.

Pledge to Give

In November 2009, Giving What We Can founder Toby Ord received significant media attention when he made a personal pledge to donate at least 10% of his income for the rest of his working life to combat poverty. Ord founded Giving What We Can as a society of like-minded donors who chose to take similar pledges, gaining sixty members within a year. The group has since expanded with a larger international presence and surpassed 1,000 members in 2015.

The purposes of the pledge are to:

  • Establish a lifestyle that accommodates a high level of charitable giving, ensuring that the individual's donations are manageable and sustainable, whilst being enough to make a significant difference
  • Make a personal and public commitment to maintain this level of donation
  • Publicly demonstrate support for combating poverty by using the most effective means
  • Changes to wording of pledge

    In November 2014, the Giving What We Can pledge was reworded to be more open-ended both about the timing of donations and the set of causes they could be directed to. This change was proposed in recognition of the growing level of interest among potential GWWC pledgers in the effective altruism community in areas such as animal welfare and existential risk, which were not directly related to global poverty but could plausibly have greater importance. GWWC's own research and advocacy has continued to stay focused on global poverty.

    Notable members

  • Toby Ord
  • Peter Singer
  • Thomas Pogge
  • Adam Swift
  • Michael Kremer
  • Rachel Glennerster
  • Jonathan Blow
  • Janet Radcliffe Richards
  • Derek Parfit
  • Amelia Gray
  • Steven Pinker stated in an interview that if he had £1 million to spend on other people then he would donate it to Giving What We Can.


    The Giving What We Can community has extended into chapters in universities such as Rutgers, where both Peter Singer and Toby Ord spoke to students.

    Chapters have also been formed at Princeton University, where Jeffrey Sachs recorded a public message applauding Giving What We Can activities, the University of Oxford, and the University of Pennsylvania.


    The charity comparison organisation GiveWell has critiqued the use of DALYs to compare charities and the high regard these estimates give to neglected tropical diseases.

    A debate article in Ceasefire Magazine, between a GWWC representative and a critic, contained a range of criticisms of the charity. Criticisms were centered on what was described as "[t]he hollowness of paying others to push for structural change" which "is resounding and fundamentally misapprehends collective struggle", and an alternative method was posited: "sustained collective mobilizations against the structures and social relations of capitalism that underpin global poverty."


    Giving What We Can Wikipedia

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