Supporting Charities

February 25, 2015

Working in developing countries one has an opportunity to see the effects—or lack thereof—of charities working in the development sector. For years I have been a strong supporter of Kiva which is a micro-finance site where we can identify people in different countries and provide support to them through a micro-loan. Of the 31 loans I’ve given, only one has not been repaid which is much better than I had anticipated. I use Kiva to find people in the countries I’m working in and support them, and my wife and I also don’t give gifts for birthdays etc. but Kiva vouchers.

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Another initiative I support is ‘Give Well’. I came across them through a program where professional poker players give 2% of their salary to the top charities identified by GiveWell.

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The philosophy behind GiveWell is that there are three qualities which really make a charity effective:

  • Serving the Global Poor: Supporting developing countries
  • Focused on Evidence Based Interventions: Programs which are evidenced based for making an impact.
  • Thoroughly Vetted and Highly Transparent: There needs to be open public discussion of their track record, both good and bad.

The evidenced based criterion is controversial. I remember listening to an interview of a large NGO providing cows to farmers in Africa, with expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, and they had not done a single proper analysis on the poverty impact of their efforts.

The GiveWell site has a database where they give an assessment of a range of charities. What is telling are the ones which declined to participate in the review—one of which was Helen Keller International which I raised funds for as a child. It’s also interesting how many don’t meet the above three criteria—including several that I have (and continue) to support.

They do recommend four top charities for support:

  • Against Malaria Foundation
  • GiveDirectly
  • Schistosemaiasis Control Initiative
  • Deworm the World Initiative

When you read about their efforts and they way they operate it is clear that they are making a real impact. So I’ve used GiveWell to support them. After all, if poker players can do this so can I!