Why we're fully aligning our portfolio with GiveWell's
When we first got started with just five student volunteers at Wharton in 2014, we did all of the research ourselves to choose 3 charities to recommend to our handful of members (see Figure 1). This was very labor-intensive, and we relied heavily on the research of specialist charity evaluators, in particular GiveWell. In 2015 and 2016, we expanded this research effort by using a larger team of student volunteers, mostly from our Wharton MBA chapter, to expand our portfolio to 4 and 5 charities respectively. However, we recognized that charity evaluation is not the core mission of One for the World and is not our comparative advantage - we really specialize in encouraging people to give money to effective charities fighting global poverty. So in 2017, we partnered with The Life You Can Save, and started using their recommended charities as our 'full portfolio', and selected five 'Top Pick' charities that best meet OFTW's criteria and focused our marketing efforts on these charities.
The main focus of The Life You Can Save is also on fundraising, rather than charity evaluation, and they therefore also rely heavily on research from GiveWell and ImpactMatters: they have an expert panel that approves their recommendations based on research from these two organizations. In the selection of our Top Picks, we found that we would place a lot of weight on GiveWell's research, which we think is extremely thorough, transparent and based on principles very similar to our goals at OFTW. For example, in 2018, four out of five of our Top Picks were recommended by GiveWell. Overall, in previous years, we have always relied heavily (but indirectly) on GiveWell's research.
From 2019, we have decided to explicitly follow GiveWell's recommendations, by using their list of 8 Top Charities and 8 Standout Charities as the full portfolio of charities that our members can give to. The most important reason for this switch is that we think that GiveWell are the best in the business of charity evaluation. They have a full time research team of 10 people responsible for evaluating charities, and a track record of 10 years of making charity recommendations and publishing high quality research. As noted, we already relied heavily on GiveWell's research and recommendations, and we also think that their brand recognition is strong among our target audience. We also want to be open about the fact that we also entered a partnership with GiveWell in summer 2018, when they recommended a grant of $205,000 to help us scale, and that they wanted us to switch our portfolio to align with their recommendations as part of this. However, we were enthusiastic about making this switch and think that it strengthens our full portfolio and should increase the confidence of our members in our charity recommendations.
Figure 1: How our portfolio has evolved over time
How this will change our portfolio and Top Picks
As a result of this switch, a number of charities that were part of our full portfolio for 2018 will no longer be part of our portfolio for 2019. These charities are: Possible, Evidence Action - No Lean Season, D-Rev, Fistula Foundation, IPA, One Acre Fund, Oxfam, PSI, Seva and Village Enterprise - you can see a summary of these changes in Figure 2. We still think that these charities represent excellent giving opportunities, in particular PSI and Possible, which have been OFTW Top Picks in previous years, and Fistula Foundation which has been a popular choice among some of our donors. However, we think that these charities perform slightly worse on our criteria than those charities recommended by GiveWell. We have contacted each of these charities to explain our decision and how their incoming donations might be affected.
Figure 2: How our 2018 portfolio is affected
There are also a number of new additions to our full portfolio for 2019, and we have also refreshed our Top Picks portfolio, which you can read about in more detail here. The new charities are: Malaria Consortium's Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention program (which will also become a Top Pick), the END Fund, Sightsavers' deworming program, Food Fortification Initiative and Zusha - an overview is given in Figure 3, and you can find more information about these new recommendations on our charities page.
Figure 3: Our new portfolio for 2019
How this will affect your donations
As noted above, we will start processing donations for our new portfolio from April 1 2019, and Figure 4 gives an overview of how different types of donations will be affected. For donors that currently split their donation between either our full portfolio or our Top Picks portfolio, their donation will automatically switch to the new portfolio. Donors that give to an individual charity recommended by GiveWell will not be affected. We will reach out to donors that give to an individual charity that is not recommended by GiveWell directly in the next few days to explain the reasons for changing our portfolio, and will encourage them to update their donation, but they will have the option to stick with giving to these individual charities, and we will continue to process these donations for them.
Figure 4: Summary of how donations will be affected