Giving Effectively

How can you do the most good?

Your money goes further overseas

Food, services, medical supplies and other basic resources are far cheaper in most countries outside Australia, and are often all that’s needed to help the majority of the world’s poorest. Distance can make it harder to empathise, but we believe location should not be morally relevant to who deserves our help.

Helping people in Australia usually involves tackling extremely complex, poorly understood problems. Many popular approaches simply don’t work, and those that do work can be very expensive. In the poorest parts of the world though, people suffer from very different problems. A child may die of malaria for lack of a $3 bed net, or of diarrhea 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 developing countries. By focusing on suffering caused by preventable and treatable diseases, we can help the greatest number of people possible.

Not all charities are equal

Consider two charities, Charity A and Charity B, both of which aim to save lives. Say you donate $100 to Charity A, but later find out that Charity B is 100x more effective. That means you could have had the same impact by donating just $1 to Charity B. Given that both charities are saving lives, the best decision is obvious.

Now consider the following five interventions, all aimed at preventing or treating HIV and AIDS:

  1. Surgical treatment for Kaposi’s sarcoma (an AIDS defining illness)
  2. Antiretroviral therapy for infected people
  3. Prevention of HIV transmission from mother to child during pregnancy
  4. Condom distribution to prevent sexual transmission
  5. Education for high risk groups such as sex workers
One might assume that all are equally important, however the chart below reveals the huge range in intervention effectiveness. It turns out that education for high risk groups is 1,400 times as cost-effective as treating Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Cost effectiveness of HIV treatments.

Cost-effectiveness is a crucial factor to consider when figuring out how to make our resources go as far as possible. Read more about cost-effectiveness here.

Finding effective charities can be the difference between transforming lives and accomplishing nothing

Even charities working within developing countries can have dramatically varying degrees of cost-effectiveness, depending on their intervention. A charity can be well-funded and successfully implement their program, yet still fail to achieve a positive impact. Good intentions and flashy marketing don’t prove a charity is effective, and can lead to a significant amount of wasted charitable giving. Luckily, independent charity evaluators such as GiveWell are devoted to seeking out interventions that are backed by evidence. Choosing to donate to one of our partner charities assures your donation will fund programs that are actually proven to effectively improve lives.