What is High-Impact Charity?
Most of us, given the chance, would like to contribute to making the world a better place.
However, the magnitude of problems facing the world such as poverty and climate change can sometimes seem completely overwhelming.
Every day, we are bombarded by articles and images of all manner of tragedies: environmental disasters, poverty, animal cruelty, and more… If you want to make the world a better place, where do you even start? You are just one person — can you really even make a difference?
Fortunately, there are ways to make an enormous difference at a low cost!
The truth is that through careful, evidence-based reasoning, most individuals can actually have a tremendous impact on the world, improving and even saving lives!
SHIC is based on the principle of “effective altruism”, a philosophy and a community dedicated to doing the most good we can. SHIC aims to educate students on the key concepts of effective altruism.
One way of helping: Donate to High-Impact Charities
Reliable scientific evidence has shown that the most effective charities are estimated to be between ten and a hundred times more effective at improving lives than the average charity. By focusing on the right charity, you can achieve a greater impact in a few years than you might’ve otherwise been able to do in a lifetime!
It only costs around four US dollars ($5 CAD) for the Against Malaria Foundation* to purchase and deliver an insecticide-treated bednet to a family in a malaria-infested area. Rigorous scientific studies has shown that by sleeping under this net, the family greatly reduces their chances of contracting malaria, a mosquito borne infectious disease which kills around half a million children each year. By donating to a highly effective charity such as Against Malaria Foundation, you can prevent many cases of malaria and prevent children from dying.
In fact, it is estimated that over the last 15 years, bednets have prevented around 450 million cases of malaria, and 6.2 million fewer people have died because of bednets and other anti-malaria interventions.
Similar ideas can be applied to animal welfare (and other cause areas) as well. When most people hear about an ‘animal charity,’ they think about ones focusing on protecting and finding homes for household pets. This is a fine and important cause, but well-supported in the developed world. Far more neglected, however, animals in factory farms usually spend their whole lives in cramped conditions in sheds with no windows and often suffer from serious untreated health problems. One example of a high-impact charity working for farmed animals is The Humane League*, which conducts investigations, and works with companies to adopt animal welfare reforms, so fewer animals suffer in factory farms. It is estimated that for every 1 US dollar ($1.30 CAD) donated to The Humane League, roughly 10 animals are spared from the abuses and poor living conditions of industrial animal agriculture. While this figure is uncertain, it shows that a small amount of money can have an astounding impact.
Doing good through your career
Donating to and fundraising for vetted, effective charities is a large part of high-impact charity, but the story doesn’t end there. You can make a large impact throughout your whole life by pursuing high-impact careers and making ethical choices. SHIC uses advice from 80,000 Hours, an organization providing career advice for people who want to have a social impact.
Finding outstanding donation opportunities
It is not an easy task to find the charities with the highest impact. If we just look for the biggest or most well-known charities, these don’t necessarily translate to the most effective organizations. A charity might be excellent at collecting donations, but poor in meeting objectives and making a real difference.
Hard data, rigorous analysis, and critical thinking are required to decide which charities are the most effective.. Fortunately, there are a number of independent charity evaluators, including GiveWell, The Life You Can Save, Animal Charity Evaluators, and the Open Philanthropy Project. These groups perform rigorous research into which charities are doing the most good and which cause areas are the most promising. Please note that these charity evaluators look at charities around the world, so many of the charities they recommend are not registered in Canada.**
This research is particularly important because many charities (often despite their claims) have shown limited or even no effect on the communities they work in. In fact, some charities actually do more harm than good.
Examples of High-Impact Charities
These charities are considered to be high-impact charities because independent charity evaluators such as GiveWell and Animal Charity Evaluators have marked these charities as outstanding giving opportunities.
Every charity in this list is highly-cost effective and has a pressing need for more funding, so donations to any one of them will have a large impact. These charities are divided into four cause areas: Disease Prevention, Human Empowerment, Animal Welfare, and Environment and Catastrophic Risks.
This list of high-impact charities is by no means exhaustive. The SHIC program encourages students and teachers to research charities on their own, and equips students and teachers with the necessary tools to select charities that will have the greatest social impact.
Please note that not all of these charities are qualified donees in Canada, and Canadian donors will not receive tax benefits for giving to non-qualified donees.
Disease prevention is a high-impact cause area, as preventing is often more cost-effective than curing. The diseases easiest to battle are usually long gone in the developed world. This is because they’re extremely easy and cheap to treat and prevent. These are the ‘low-hanging fruit’ for reducing human suffering and saving lives.
The Against Malaria Foundation distributes long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed nets in sub-Saharan Africa to combat malaria, one of the most common and preventable diseases in the world. Rigorous studies suggest these nets are the most cost-effective way of preventing malaria.
The Schistosomiasis Control Initiative works with Health and Education Ministries in sub-Saharan Africa and Yemen to treat their citizens for parasitic worm infections, including schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis. These infections affect the poorest communities in the world.
The Malaria Consortium distributes preventative drugs against Malaria and other neglected tropical diseases in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia to children under the age of five during malaria season. These drugs significantly reduce cases of disease in the communities.*
Micronutrient deficiencies are the leading cause of intellectual disability in children, preventable blindness among adults, and maternal death during childbirth. PHC supports governments to ensure the successful delivery of food fortification programmes for tens of millions of people.*
People often know what’s best for them. Human Empowerment is about providing people with the knowledge and opportunities to make their lives better. Charities like these standout as excellent ways to empower who currently struggle to meet basic needs.
GiveDirectly lets its donors to give money directly to extremely poor households with no strings attached. It aims to drive efficiency in international giving by making direct transfers the benchmark on which others are evaluated.*
Development Media International runs television, radio, and mobile campaigns in developing countries to change health-related behaviours and save lives. It is the first organization to demonstrate that mass media campaigns done well can change health-related behaviours and save lives.*
Living Goods employs local workers in developing countries to go door-to-door and sell affordable health and household goods in addition to giving basic health advice to low-income families.*
Some of the best Animal Welfare charities focus on reducing the impact of factory farming. That’s because the atrocious conditions that these animals endure, and the large numbers of animals affected mean the scale of this problem exceeds that of any other human-caused animal suffering.
The Humane League works to reduce as much animal suffering as possible, as effectively as possible. Donations support hard-hitting corporate campaigns, which reform the way farm animals are treated, in addition to education programs that inspire consumers to make more compassionate food choices.*
Animal Equality is an international organization that works with societies, governments and companies to end cruelty to farmed animals. They educate the public on factory farming, inspire compassionate eating, work with companies to change policies and engage policymakers to take action for animals.*
The Good Food Institute is dedicated to creating a healthy, humane and sustainable food supply. By working with scientists, entrepreneurs and investors, GFI is developing ideas to tackle poverty, climate change and animal welfare through the promotion of plant-based and clean meat, dairy, and eggs.*
Environmental and Catastrophic Risk
One of the most effective ways of doing good is to take action now to reduce the chances of catastrophic harm occurring in the future. Charities like these are some of the best places to donate to ensure a brighter future.
Cool Earth helps prevent deforestation by partnering with indigenous villages to build sustainable livelihoods so they earn more by keeping rainforests standing, rather than clearing them. Their activity reduces climate change and preserves the rich biodiversity of the rainforest.*
The Future of Humanity Institute is a research centre aiming to reduces global catastrophic risk by studying large-scale issues facing the future of humanity, from pandemics to advanced artificial intelligence.*
The Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI) is a nonprofit research organization. MIRI's mission is to develop tools for the design and analysis of general-purpose AI systems, with the aim of making such superintelligent systems more reliably aligned with human interests.*
*Please note that this charity is not a qualified donee in Canada. Canadian donors cannot get tax benefits from donating to this charity.
** Students for High-Impact Charity cannot support or grant money to charities outside of Canada. Students and schools independently fundraising for non-Canadian charities must do so of their own accord.