AMA: Rob Mather, founder and CEO of the Against Malaria Foundation

by RobM2 min read22nd Jan 202048 comments

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The Against Malaria Foundation was started somewhat by accident in 2005 after a three-person fundraising swim for a two-year-old girl, who suffered 90% burns in a house fire, grew over seven weeks into 150 swims in 73 countries involving 10,000 people. The swim helped to secure the child's financial future, and many participants asked: "What are we doing next year?" My answer was a very big swim for malaria, which led to our first malaria-focused activity, World Swim Against Malaria (in which 250,000 people participated).

AMF's process has remained largely the same over the years: we receive donations from the public that we use to buy long-lasting insecticide-treated anti-malaria nets, ‘LLINs’, and we work with distribution partners, including national Ministries of Health, to distribute them. Independent partners help us monitor all aspects of our programmes, including post-distribution monitoring to help ensure nets are distributed as intended, are hung and used properly, and continue to be used properly in subsequent years. Here's more information on how we choose which distributions we fund.

As we seek to be as efficient and focused in our work as we can, AMF is set up and operates a little differently from many charities. Some of those differences:

  • AMF is still run from the back room of my house in London
  • We are a registered charity in 12 countries but have no offices
  • Our overheads over the last 5 years have averaged 0.85% of revenues
  • We are a lean organisation: i.e. for 10 years, two of us ran AMF and grew the organisation to ~$50m of revenue per year, although we are now a team of seven
  • I have a ’20 minute rule’ when working out how we go about things at AMF and to help us move quickly.

We focus strongly on data to maximise the impact of our work and to deliver accountability. For example, we gather data from each one of the millions of households to which we then deliver nets so that the right number of nets go to each household. We show transparently to donors where the nets they fund are distributed, linking each individual donation to a specific net distribution. So far we have received 492,500 donations totaling US$235,443,337. Our smallest donation has been $1 and our largest $22.8m, and every $2 matters because every net matters.

We have grown over the last five years and now fund multiple millions of nets at a time. We have recently agreed to fund, for distribution in 2020, 3.5 million nets for Togo, 11.6 million nets for Uganda, and 16.2 million nets for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), one of the two countries in the world worst affected by malaria. This is a US$70 million commitment, and these nets will protect about 56 million people.

We recently completed a significant randomised controlled trail of a new type of LLIN to help in the fight against malaria, and the results so far are positive.

 

AMF has benefited *hugely* over the last eight years from the support of the EA community for which we are exceptionally grateful. AMF has been a GiveWell top-rated charity since 2012 and has long been similarly ranked by The Life You Can Save.

A recent update on AMF activities can be found here.

 

I'd be happy to answer any questions you have about AMF: how we started, how we work, the challenges we face, my biggest mistake, the opportunities we have ahead of us, what AMF most needs, etc.

I'll be responding to questions on Monday 27th January, and I'll check the post later in the week in case new questions come up. If you're reading this after early February and have questions, please feel free to email me at rmather@againstmalaria.com.

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