Annualized, this is similar to what Open Philanthropy gave in 2020 and roughly in line with what we projected earlier this year. It's less than Open Philanthropy gave in 2021 and 2022, and we'll need strong growth in donations in order to make up the difference. We expect to identify more great funding opportunities than we’ll be able to fund, and your support can fill those cost-effective gaps, helping to save and improve people’s lives.
Below, we share:
- How this update affects GiveWell's work (more)
- More background on Open Philanthropy and GiveWell's relationship (more)
- Why Open Philanthropy's spending is changing (more)
- The impact donors can have by supporting GiveWell's recommendations (more)
How Open Philanthropy's giving affects GiveWell's work
Open Philanthropy's funding of $300 million over three years is roughly in line with what we were expecting in April 2023 and is a decrease from what we expected a couple years ago. In 2021, we scaled up our efforts to find more funding opportunities in expectation of potentially reaching $1 billion in funds raised by 2025. While we no longer project raising $1 billion in 2025, our research team has risen to the challenge and has found more cost-effective funding opportunities than we expect we'll be able to fund.
Open Philanthropy isn't yet sure what level of funding it might provide for GiveWell's recommendations after 2025, if it renews its support. Our outreach team is ramping up its fundraising efforts so that we can help as many people as possible, and we expect to support hundreds of millions of dollars worth of outstanding programs regardless of Open Philanthropy's funding trajectory.
Our goal is still to reach $500 million in funds raised from donors other than Open Philanthropy by 2025; the update on Open Philanthropy's giving doesn't represent a change in what we expect from other donors. Reaching $500 million annually would represent a substantial increase from the roughly $250 million we raised, excluding Open Philanthropy, in 2022.
As of today, our cost-effectiveness bar is still 10x cash (i.e., we fund opportunities we believe are at least 10 times as cost-effective as giving unconditional cash transfers to people living in extreme poverty). Over the next few months, we intend to revise our projections of funds raised and available funding opportunities, which may lead us to update our bar. If it changes, we'll share that publicly.
More background on GiveWell and Open Philanthropy
Open Philanthropy and GiveWell are longtime partners. Open Philanthropy originated as a project within GiveWell, working in partnership with Cari Tuna and Dustin Moskovitz, and then became an independent organization. We still work together closely, discussing research questions of mutual interest. We've been in conversation with Open Philanthropy about its giving plans as they've developed.
Our goals are very similar; we're both aiming to identify the opportunities that can do the most good per dollar donated. Within this similar space, our approaches are somewhat different. GiveWell recommends giving opportunities to the public, publishing its research and analysis to provide donors with confidence that their giving is having a large impact. Open Philanthropy primarily gives away Cari and Dustin’s money, and it often focuses on more speculative opportunities with a hits-based giving approach. For example, Open Philanthropy is more likely to fund the development of potential vaccines, whereas GiveWell is more likely to fund the rollout of existing vaccines.
We work on some of the same causes, such as global health, but Open Philanthropy funds work in a wider variety of areas both within its Global Health and Wellbeing programs (e.g., Farm Animal Welfare) and through its Global Catastrophic Risks programs.
Why Open Philanthropy's spending is changing
Open Philanthropy's view of GiveWell's recommendations hasn't changed. It's reducing its grantmaking to GiveWell because:
- Less overall funding is available for its Global Health and Wellbeing programs (an area of work that includes its funding to GiveWell as well as programs like Farm Animal Welfare and Global Health R&D) due to a combination of decreased assets and a shift in strategy toward opportunities in other areas.
- Roughly 75% of the funding Open Philanthropy expects to spend internally in Global Health and Wellbeing in 2024 is already pre-committed to specific programs within Open Philanthropy's portfolio, decreasing the pool of funding Open Philanthropy could choose to direct through GiveWell.
- Open Philanthropy is setting a cost-effectiveness threshold for its uncommitted Global Health and Wellbeing funding that it believes may be slightly higher than GiveWell's cost-effectiveness bar in the future, although Open Philanthropy is uncertain how our opportunities will ultimately compare to one another and it's difficult to compare across cause areas and different methodologies. We don't yet have a well-developed opinion on how our recommendations compare to Open Philanthropy's non-GiveWell Global Health and Wellbeing grantmaking. We look forward to collaborating with Open Philanthropy to better understand how its grants and our funding opportunities compare in terms of impact per dollar. We value the opportunity to learn from each other's work, and we'll both be considering whether we could increase our impact by incorporating aspects of each other's approaches.
We also appreciate that Open Philanthropy's leadership continues to see our recommendations as a gold standard for donors even as Open Philanthropy's grantmaking evolves. As they write,
"When it comes to evidence-backed, scalable global health interventions, we don’t know of another resource for donors that is remotely comparable; GiveWell continues to set the gold standard in our eyes. Regardless of what happens with our respective bars over the next few years, we’re confident that GiveWell’s recommendations will remain a stellar resource for donors looking for outstanding giving opportunities, and we’re proud to be able to support their work."
The impact of a gift to GiveWell's recommended programs
We're grateful for Open Philanthropy's support, which has funded opportunities we think are outstanding. With $300 million from Open Philanthropy over the next three years, we believe we'll be able to fund programs that will save tens of thousands of lives.
However, like last year, we're funding-constrained; that is, we expect to identify more high-impact giving opportunities than we can fully fund, likely including some that we believe can save a life for roughly $7,500. Without increased giving from our donors, some of those programs will go unfunded, which may mean the difference between life and death for the people those programs would serve. Your support will help fill those gaps.
This refers to funds raised for the programs we recommend. As an organization, we're in a very stable position financially. ↩︎
This is a preliminary number; we're still in the process of finalizing our 2022 metrics report. ↩︎
Note that we express cost-effectiveness in different units than Open Philanthropy does. ↩︎
From Open Philanthropy's post: "As discussed above, we’re not sure how real the gaps in expected cost-effectiveness will actually turn out to be. We’re excited to continue collaborating closely with GiveWell over the next few years to get their critical engagement on assumptions we’re making, to see whether the current projected differences in fact manifest, and then, if they do materialize, to look for ways on both sides to reduce them and make sure that the best opportunities get funded regardless of organizational boundaries." We also use our bars somewhat differently. GiveWell has more of a unified decision-making process, and creates more comparable cost-effectiveness analyses across its grants (which can be done more straightforwardly for the type of grantmaking we focus on, although it's still very much subject to uncertain assumptions). Open Philanthropy generally staffs its work with subject-matter experts leading its programs in specific areas, who have more discretion over spending within their programs. ↩︎
We believe that our four top charities each avert a death for very roughly $5,000 on average. $300 million divided by $5,000 per life saved would yield 60,000 lives saved, if our estimates are accurate and if all funding went to life-saving programs like our top charities. Some of our funding is directed to programs that primarily aim to increase consumption (e.g., deworming) or to other opportunities, like research. Some of our funding to top charities may go to opportunities where the cost to avert a death is closer to $7,500. And a small portion of Open Philanthropy's giving will go to GiveWell's operating costs. So, we estimate the true figure is likely lower than 60,000 but still in the tens of thousands. ↩︎