Many Americans donate a portion of their hard-earned money to charity. In 2016, the average given per U.S. household was $2,240. In total, U.S.-based individual donors gave $281 billion to charity in 2016, more than the total donated by corporations, foundations, and bequests combined.
As individuals, donors make powerful decisions about which causes and issues are most deserving of funding and support. But the majority of donors do very little research about how charities actually use their money, and whether charitable initiatives achieve what they claim to do. In fact, Americans spend more time watching television in one day than they do researching effective charities in a year. As Charity Science co-founder Joey Savoie puts it, “If the medical sector worked like the charity sector did, we’d still be using leeches instead of antibiotics.” Without rigorous evidence about what works and what doesn’t work in the charity sector, our money will not go to help the men, women, and children who need our help the most.
Many of the nonprofit organizations we recommend specialize in rigorous–and often ground-breaking– examination of what works and what doesn’t in effectively and sustainably improving life for the global poor. This work is just as important as the interventions themselves, since approaches can and often do waste countless dollars because they were not developed in an informed way or in real-life settings.