Giving effectively

How to give effectively

When you care about making a difference in the world, it’s natural to ask: “Where can my donations do the most good?”

The great news is that your donations can have an astonishing impact.

But to maximise your impact you need to donate effectively. Not all charities are created equal, and some can be significantly more effective than others. By adopting the principles of effective altruism, you can ensure that your donations have the maximum possible impact on the lives of those in need. In this page, we’ll explore the core ideas behind effective altruism and provide recommendations on how to give more effectively.

Helping those most in need

Effective altruism encourages us to broaden our perspective when it comes to charitable giving. Many of us feel that all people matter equally, and by extending our generosity to people who might live in other countries, we can direct our resources to where they are needed the most and have the greatest impact on improving lives.

In the poorest parts of the world, some of the problems preventing people from overcoming poverty can be improved with simple and cheap solutions. More than 650 million people live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than A$2 per day, and this already takes into account that money goes further overseas.  A child may die of malaria for lack of a $3 bed net, or of diarrhoea for lack of a 5 cent packet of nutrients. That means your donation can have a much larger impact if targeted at cost-effective interventions operating in low and middle income countries.

We can make a difference

The scale of poverty can often feel overwhelming, yet the majority of Australians are in an incredibly fortunate position. Did you know that if you’re living on A$42,000 per year, you’re in the richest 5% of people on the planet? At A$84,000 per year, you’re in the top 1%. With the rise of evidence-driven interventions, we each have an unprecedented opportunity to transform lives. We have already made significant progress, with extreme poverty rates cut in half between 1990 and 2015.

There are many exceptional charities helping those living in extreme poverty. In general, we think it is important to look at an organisation’s reliance on evidence, cost-effectiveness, transparency, room for more funding, and a strong track record. 

However, in practice this requires exceptional time, expertise, and access to detailed information. For that reason we partner with independent charity evaluators such as GiveWell, Giving What We Can, and The Life You Can Save to recommend our partner charities in global health and poverty alleviation. 

Our partners at Effective Altruism Australia Environment have similarly launched a fund to help Australians to donate to the highest impact organisations working to combat climate change, worldwide.

How big is the difference between charities

The best charities can be at least 10 times better than top charities, and up to 100 times more effective than poorly performing charities. This stark difference in impact is due to various factors such as the cause they address, their interventions, and their operational efficiency. Effective altruism emphasises the importance of carefully reasoned, thoughtful, and where possible, evidence-based giving.This involves researching and analysing charities to identify those that can make the most significant positive impact with your donation.

While measuring the impact of an intervention can be challenging, the table below illustrates the remarkable difference in cost-effectiveness among various charities.

More effective

Less effective


Cataract surgery ~$1,000 per severe visual impairment reversed

Seeing eye dogs ~$40,000 per blind person served

~40x for somewhat similar outcome

Antimalarial bed nets ~$10,000 per 2 deaths averted

Make-A-Wish ~$11,000 per wish granted

Similar cost for vastly different outcome

Chlorine dispensers ~$2 per diarrhoeal incident avoided

Handwashing promotion + free soap ~$14 per diarrhoeal incident avoided

~7x for same outcome

The Humane League corporate campaigns + activities ~$1,000 per 100,000 farm animal lives improved

Animal shelters rescue ~$1,000 per 2.45 dogs/cats rescued

~40,000x for similar outcome with different animals

Learn more about effective giving

If you’re interested in learning more about how to give effectively using effective altruism principles, we recommend reading from Giving What We Can. Giving What We Can is a non-profit organisation that conducts research on charities to find the most effective ones, providing evidence-based recommendations for donors. You can also see the charities we recommend, as well as how we evaluate charities.

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