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GiveWell is a respected authority in evaluating the most cost-effective giving opportunities. Used by foundations and donors, GiveWell looks for programs that have been studied rigorously and repeatedly, are transparent about their operations and are underfunded. Then it does extensive analysis to recommend the opportunities that it believes will have the biggest impact. Its recommendations are focused on serving the global poor because its staff believes that’s how the most lives can be changed for the money spent.

Here are two organizations that GiveWell recommends:

  • Helen Keller International’s (HKI) Vitamin A Supplementation program
    This program reduces child mortality, saves and improves vision, and combats malnutrition by providing needed vitamin A supplements. HKI’s programs reach millions of children in twenty African and Asian countries as well as the United States. GiveWell estimates that $1.35 is the cost for HKI to deliver a vitamin A supplement and that $3,100 donated to HKI will save a child’s life.
  • Malaria Consortium
    This international nonprofit provides preventive malaria drugs to children in Sub-Saharan Africa. GiveWell estimates that $2,300 will save a life.

GiveWell points out that measuring the cost per life saved is difficult and that its numbers are estimates. They also don’t reflect the other benefits the charities provide with our donations. For example, besides reducing mortality, HKI’s vitamin A supplements help prevent blindness, anemia, and impaired growth and development of children in addition to minimizing the severity of infections. The analysis also doesn’t take into account the benefits of polio vaccinations, deworming and “mop-up” immunizations for kids who missed scheduled vaccinations that accompany supplement distribution.

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