We have just concluded the annual review of our charity partners and are excited to announce our Top Picks for 2018! The charities in our Top Picks portfolio this year are: Against Malaria Foundation, Living Goods, GiveDirectly, Possible and Project Healthy Children. This is the first year that we have added Project Healthy Children to our Top Picks portfolio, and we're excited to support their excellent work improving nutrition in low income countries. Our wider portfolio of 19 charities selected by The Life You Can Save's panel of experts, remains the same. This blog post will give an overview of this year's selection process, and each of the charities in our Top Picks portfolio.
Note: we will update our giving platform to reflect our Top Picks portfolio for 2018 on April 1st 2018. Donors who give to our Top Picks portfolio will have their donations split between our new Top Picks (i.e. including Project Healthy Children, but not PSI) from April 1st. All other donations will remain unchanged.
Our selection process
The process of selecting our charity partners has two stages.
The Life You Can Save's Panel of Experts selects our full portfolio of charities based on three criteria: evidence, efficiency, and execution. There are currently 19 charities in our full portfolio.*
A team of One for the World members chooses our Top Picks from our full portfolio each spring, based on our main criteria: direct impact, simplicity of programs, track record, cultural fit. We also have a preference for diversity in our portfolio, both in terms of geographic reach and activities of our charity partners, and have a preference for maintaining some consistency in our recommendations year-to-year.
*Note that The Life You Can Save recommends 20 charities. However, one of these (The Fred Hollows Foundation) is not able to receive tax-deductible donations in the USA, so is not part of our portfolio.
Our 2018 partner selection committee
Our selection team this year had ten members: four from our Wharton MBA chapter, three from our Columbia chapter, two from our Penn undergrad chapter and one from Harvard Law School. It was great to get representation from multiple chapters this year, and the team undertook some excellent research into our charities' track records. As in previous years, the team was led by Dr. Rossa O'Keeffe-O'Donovan, a Research Fellow in Economics at the University of Oxford and chair of the One for the World advisory board. Find out more about the team and timeline here.
Our 2018 Top Picks portfolio
Project Healthy Children
Project Healthy Children (PHC) increases access to foods fortified with key micronutrients in an effort to combat micronutrient deficiency and malnutrition. Two billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies which cause a variety of debilitating conditions and mortality, for example:
- Iodine deficiency is a leading cause of intellectual disability in children
- Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness
- Iron deficiency is a leading cause of maternal mortality in childbirth
- Folic acid deficiency is a leading cause of neural tube defects (a fatal birth defect)
PHC has two main programs to tackle micronutrient deficiency:
EnAct Monitoring is a large-scale food fortification program. PHC works with developing country governments to develop national food fortification programs at large-scale facilities that process staple foods such as maize flour, wheat flour and salt.
PHC's Sanku program provides small-scale producers with fortified flour to distribute to their customers, thereby increasing access to quality nutrition in rural areas isolated from large-scale producers.
We have been following PHC's progress for a few years, and are adding them to our Top Picks for the first time in 2018. Their large-scale fortification program has a very strong track record, having reached more than 30m people at less than 0.1 cents per person per year, and we think it is plausible that PHC is largely responsible for increases in food fortification in the countries it has worked in. We are particularly excited by the progress PHC has made with their Sanku program, which helps to reach the large proportion of people in rural areas of developing countries who do not consume mass-produced products. We came very close to recommending them in 2016, but at the time their Sanku program was very new and did not have a clear track record. However, they have now demonstrated that this program is effective in increasing consumption of fortified foods, and they have a new, innovative model to scale it up, by bulk purchasing bags to store flour and selling them to producers alongside fortification pre-mix at a price equal to the market price of normal bags.
We're very excited to add PHC to our Top Picks portfolio for 2018, and look forward to supporting them to fight micronutrient deficiency and malnutrition. You can read more detail about PHC and their impact here.
Possible provides high-quality and cost-effective health care services to Nepal’s rural poor in partnership with government medical programs. We added Possible to our Top Picks portfolio last year, and continue to be impressed with their progress in Nepal. In particular, we are impressed with Possible's rate of expansion in a time of significant need in Nepal in the wake of the 2015 earthquake. In 2017 they served over 150,000 patients, and are planning to expand their catchment area again in 2018. We are delighted to continue to support their excellent work in Nepal. You can read more detail about Possible and their impact here.
GiveDirectly uses mobile-phone technology to provide unconditional cash transfers to some of the poorest households in Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda. We added GiveDirectly to our Top Picks portfolio last year, and continue to think they represent an outstanding giving opportunity for our members. They are among the most transparent organizations we are aware of, and are consistently testing various aspects of their program in collaboration with high quality, independent academic researchers, including a recently started basic income study. A recently released working paper estimates that the positive effects of their main cash transfer program on consumption, asset holdings, food security and psychological wellbeing are persistent three years after the cash transfer. GiveWell notes that GiveDirectly will use additional funding for its standard cash transfer program, for which there is strong evidence of large positive effects, and that they could usefully use more than $200m in additional funding in 2018-2019. Overall, we continue to give a strong recommendation for GiveDirectly to our members. You can read more detail about GiveDirectly here.
Living Goods trains and supports a network of Community Health Promoters (CHPs) in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia to distribute health-promoting products such as diarrhea treatments, safe delivery kits and water filters. We have recommended Living Goods since 2015, and have been consistently impressed with their strong evidence of impact and ability to scale their program to reach new people each year (see figure below). An independently executed randomised trial that was carried out on their program was published in 2017, and estimates that they have caused a 27% reduction in child mortality. They are planning to release a new impact evaluation later in 2018. Living Goods' model of using community health promoters to sell health-promoting products allows them to provide for hard-to-access rural areas, and to scale very quickly. This market-driven model, and their innovation (for example by using smart phone apps to improve diagnosis) make them a good cultural fit for OFTW and popular among our members. You can read more detail about Living Goods here.
Against Malaria Foundation
The Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) distributes long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets in order to prevent malarial infection in 35 countries across Africa, Asia and South America. We have recommended AMF since our founding in 2014, and remain huge fans of their program. There is a huge amount of evidence that bednets reduce malaria infections and therefore child mortality, and their distribution is likely largely responsible for the 47% reduction in mortality rates from malaria since 2000. AMF is an exceptionally well-run organisation: it is incredibly transparent, extremely efficient and has excellent management. Much of our research this year focused on assessing the evidence for increasing insecticide resistance, which may reduce the effectiveness of bednets in preventing malaria. GiveWell notes that there is not high quality evidence on this issue, and concludes that although insecticide resistance may reduce the effectiveness of bednets, they are still a highly effective intervention. We believe that the continued free distribution of bednets plays a crucial role in the reduction (and eventually elimination) of malaria, and AMF is the best charity that we are aware of undertaking this work. You can read more detail about AMF here.
Two charities that just missed out on the Top Picks portfolio
Population Services International
Population Services International (PSI) makes it easy for people in the developing world to lead healthier lives and plan the families they desire by marketing affordable products and Services. They are a huge organisation that works on over 30 interventions in four main areas: child survival, malaria control, reproductive health, and HIV and tuberculosis. We recommended PSI in 2016 but did not include them in our Top Picks this year. Our recommendation of PSI came before we introduced our new two-step charity selection process, as part of our partnership with The Life You Can Save. As part of this, we choose our Top Picks portfolio based on five criteria, and the team felt that PSI was not as strong as some other charities based on these criteria. In particular, PSI did not score as highly as other charities on simplicity of programs, largely because it is difficult to know how additional money would be spent. PSI did score highly on its track record, given that it has a strong focus on programs with good evidence of impact. We continue to think that PSI is a highly effective organisation, with a strong commitment to transparency and evaluating its own impact, and that it represents an outstanding giving opportunity. However, we have replaced it with Project Healthy Children in our Top Picks for 2018.
Helen Keller International's vitamin A program
Helen Keller International's (HKI) vitamin A supplementation program tackles vitamin A deficiency, which is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children. We added HKI to our full portfolio in January, and so this is the first year we considered them for a Top Picks recommendation. Overall, we were very impressed with their program, and came close to adding them as a Top Pick. However, their program is similar to Project Healthy Children's, and our team was more excited by PHC's expansion in recent years, in particular the progress they have made in expanding access to fortified foods in rural areas, through their small-scale fortification program.
Our 2018 partner selection team carried out excellent research and analysis, and selected a great list of charities for our Top Picks portfolio. I'd like to thank each of the members for their hard work over the last 5-6 weeks:
Maya Ho, Columbia University 2018
Kennan McClung, Columbia University 2019
Roey Ringel, Columbia University 2021
Coleman Saunders, Harvard Law School 2020
Tina Gao, UPenn 2018
Kevin Monogue, UPenn 2019
Richard Mancco, Wharton MBA 2018
Brian Morrison , Wharton MBA 2019
Lauren Zanedis, Wharton MBA 2019
Thabo Matse, Wharton MBA 2019