Sanjay's Comments

Prioritizing COVID-19 interventions & individual donations

Thank you very much for writing this. I was very interested in your comments on Johns Hopkins CHS, and found your critiques very interesting. Those who found this interesting may wish to take a look at recent call notes from SoGive's recent call with them, which can be found here:

I also copy and paste below the excerpt which specifically tackles the critiques raised here.

CHS explicitly recommended against wearing DIY masks in early March (a position reversed by the end of the month). When asked about this, CHS observed that there’s still not great data and evidence on masks. And that there’s a risk that using it without proper training could lead people to touch their face more. However on balance CHS has updated their opinions on this, and further acknowledges that masks are helpful for source control.

CHS were not discouraging people from pressing ahead with travel plans as late as 6th March. When asked about this, they observed that it was a change in emphasis between a commonly-held earlier view, which was that travel bans don’t achieve much because they ultimately don’t change the number of people infected, they only delay the inevitable. The change in view was because they had previously underestimated the value of delaying infections.

When discussing the items referred to in the previous two paragraphs, CHS referred to the already established received opinion or “dogma”, and how recent experience has been upturning that dogma.

The Case for Impact Purchase | Part 1

I perhaps need to clarify what I meant by Impact Finance. Given that this risks being confused with Impact Investment, I'll rename it to Conditional Impact Finance.

Conditional Impact Finance occurs when a Project receives funding involving a Conditional Donor and an Impact Investor as follows:

(1) The Conditional Donor (who may be a pool of donors) agrees to fund the Project *on the condition* that they achieve a certain outcome

(2) The funds needed + a bonus go into escrow. If the outcome is achieved the funds are paid out, if not they are returned to the donor.

(3) In order that the Project receives the funds it needs to proceed with the work, it receives funding from an Impact Investor (or a pool of investors).

Further notes:

(1) Examples of conditions (fictional):

"The ABC innovative education Project will receive funding if a longitudinal RCT shows that employment rates among beneficiaries are at least 15% higher than control in 15 years' time"

"The DEF malaria Project will receive funding if the malaria-linked mortality rate in Busia, Kenya is better than a control under a RCT conducted by LSHTM"

(2) A bonus is needed primarily to pay the interest on the debt (although perhaps a bonus for the staff might be a good idea too)

(3) If the project fails, the impact investor loses out. This means that all the incentives that currently apply to financial markets now apply to impact.

I consider this better for any reasonably sized project. If we are thinking of just one person doing some work on their own, I could imagine Impact Purchase maybe having some value.

I believe this is what is being done by

The Case for Impact Purchase | Part 1

I'm confused why there are several people apparently excited about this idea. It strikes me that impact finance so obviously outperforms impact purchases. So much so that I'm worried that I must be misunderstanding impact purchases.

Impact finance solves both of the stark problems of impact purchases:

(a) if the people doing the work only receive money after the event, how do they live?

(b) what incentive do purchasers of impact certificates have to purchase?

What's the best platform/app/approach for fundraising for things that aren't registered nonprofits?

alexrjl is correct, SoGive can do this.

SoGive includes:

  • a "progress bar" of how much has been raised and what the target is
  • a section showing other people who have donated (and options to anonymise name or amount or both)
  • customisable sections for the person running the fundraiser, including ability to customise images and text

Here's an example:

If you want minimal clicks from seeing the fundraiser to having donated, you could simply include one of these links and once you're on that page you have a donate button right there.

If this is of interest to you let me know on Also, might be worth checking where you are based. This was originally designed for the UK, and then adapted for overseas (e.g. USA)

What posts do you want someone to write?

This commented was pointed out to me by someone who thought I may be extremely well qualified to answer this.

I have been on the trustee boards of about half a dozen charities and performed short term consulting stints (about a month at a time) for another 10(ish) charities globally, and have seen how each of those engages with its donors.

I'm also know people people/organisations surveying charities about questions like how much more valuable is unrestricted than restricted funding.

I would be happy to put something together on this topic, however I'm snowed under with other things for the time being, but could add it to the list and tackle it later?

synthetic indices used to rate all charities: What kind of star ratings exist?
Answer by SanjayMar 21, 202013

Roughly speaking, organisations that rate/assess charities fall into two categories:

Those that include thoughtful, impact-oriented, cost-effectiveness-aware analysis tend not to use a formulaic or index-based or scalable approach. Examples of this sort of organisation include GiveWell. I created this chart some time back, since then Founders Pledge could probably added to this category.

In the opposite corner is those organisations whose methodology is more formulaic/scalable.

At the time I created this chart, there was a gap for analysis that was scalable, but also impact-oriented and cost-effectiveness-aware.


Since then I've set up SoGive to resolve this gap. You can have a look on and search for charities or cause areas there. Some charities are assessed as Gold, Silver, or Bronze. We are still working through the charities, so not all of them have a rating. If you click through to a charity's page, you'll see a tab called analysis. Lots (but not all) major UK charities are covered her. In the US the closest organisation to SoGive (in terms of approach) is Impact Matters.

The best places to donate for COVID-19

Thanks Sean_o_h. In case it's not coming across clearly in the write-up, some donation opportunities considered are directly relevant to COVID-19, and some are less directly relevant (e.g. they cover pandemics generally, which may be an appealing donation idea for those inspired to donate because of COVID-19).

An indication of whether the project is directly or indirectly relevant is given in the table in section '0. Exec Summary' (see the table with the purple header)

The best places to donate for COVID-19

"I must admit I am confused. I don't know why you are making recommendations for COVID-19 donations if you'd also prioritize the neglected needs of the developing world? "

This is to answer the question of where to donate if the donors *specifically* wants to donate to something COVID-19-relevant.

"I am skeptical that anything in Categories 1 and 2 are cost-competitive with existing EA work - and at the minimum this cost-effectiveness is still far from being established. "

Lots of the organisations in categories 1 and 2 would be considered to actually *be* existing EA work. The first-mentioned organisation (Johns Hopkins CHS) is recommended by Founders Pledge.

" What kind of criteria were you using to generate these recommendations? "

The criteria are: where the organisation falls into a category which is more positively viewed *and* which already has some analysis to support it.

"1.) If the response is likely not enough, wouldn't it be worthwhile to help? "

Yes, it would be worthwhile to help. The question isn't whether it would achieve something and not nothing. The contention is that the higher rated donation opportunities would outperform.

"2.) I also very much doubt there won't be an affect on Trump's re-election chances, but I don't think it is relevant. "

The reason why I consider it relevant is that it gives the Trump administration a stronger incentive to help those affected by the COVID-19 crisis. This means that the cause of helping those in the US is unlikely to be neglected, and substantially less neglected than supporting those in sub-Saharan Africa

The best places to donate for COVID-19

This appears to belong to Category 4: crowding out the work of government.

GiveDirectly counters that the government response will likely not be enough. That may well be correct, but it will probably be enough to ensure that it doesn't damage Trump's re-election chances.

If ever there's a time when focusing on the neglected needs of the developing world applied, it's now. I don't know to what extent African governments will be advocating social distancing, but it will be very hard to implement for people who don't have savings, and the risk that the current instability could spark inter-state conflict is much higher in the developing world than in the US.

Giving cash to people in the US would not be recommended.

The best places to donate for COVID-19

I actually never looked at them until the COVID-19 situation, when I started to refer to them. So that does seem to support your suggestion

Load More