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  • Writer's pictureCE Team

Top Charity Ideas 2019


These charity summaries are very short summaries, normally based on several reports on the most important sub-elements: the specific animal, ask, approach, and country report. Some of these reports are not published yet, but when they are, they will be linked in this summary. Reports that have been or will be researched but are not yet published are marked with a * to show where future reports will be linked. The summaries are created to give an idea of the recommended charity, but they are not aimed at giving a full justification. Those longer reports will be published later and are thus marked with a *. The order of these charities does not reflect the promisingness of the specific charity. The color coding represents areas of higher or lower certainty. Green represents the areas we are fairly confident will not change, and red represents currently tentative conclusions that could change in the next month. Please note, these charity recommendations are our best guess based on research we have conducted so far (conducted over the span of a single year). That being said, the proposed interventions might change within the next two months as a result of further research we will be conducting. The degree of uncertainty is represented by the color coding. Nonetheless, even the most certain ideas will be revised and could potentially be removed or substantially changed.


  • Institutional ask research*

One of the biggest historical successes in the animal space has been the impact of institutional change. Both corporate and governmental campaigns seem to have the ability to affect huge numbers of animals with significant welfare improvements. One of the important parts of these campaigns is making sure the change being asked of a governmental or corporate body is a change that is significantly beneficial for animals. Some asks can be significantly more impactful than others, and careful consideration and research should be put into comparing all the possible asks. A dedicated organization that is focused on researching possible institutional asks could more than double the impact of a large scale campaign through a relatively small investment of funding and time. Making these decisions can benefit from current research. However, no organization is specifically focused on this research topic full-time. For example, there has been relatively little public, numerical comparison of an intervention like dissolved oxygen for farmed fish and how its welfare benefits would compare to a change in slaughter methods. Our initial models suggest that there could be an extremely large difference in animal welfare depending on which of these interventions is selected for a campaign. Given that campaigns* such as this one would generally take years and millions of dollars, 6 months of full-time research with a small team is a very worthwhile investment for the animal movement to make before launching such a campaign. Similar situations occur often enough, like the recent cage free and broiler chicken asks, to suggest that there could be ongoing high impact research that could be done in this area.​

  • Fish water quality corporate campaigns*

After recent progress with corporate campaigns focused on both egg laying and broiler chickens, the clearest next targets for a corporate campaign by our estimates are farmed fish and wild fish caught for human consumption. Fish are both extremely numerous and have a very low welfare score, and historically, comparatively little attention has been paid to fish by the animal movement. More specifically, water quality at non-optimal dissolved oxygen levels is one of the main causes of suffering that occurs among farmed fish. This issue is particularly important with the growing popularity of farmed fishing relative to wild fish consumption and given the relative ease and low cost of implementing such a change. An organization focused on fish water quality could help coordinate such a campaign in partnership with larger organizations. An organization solely focused on this issue could also work more directly in locations outside of the EU and USA if they are focused on a country with a high fish population but with a relatively small corporate campaign presence, for example, Vietnam. This would be a new model and could provide more expertise for every future presence-oriented corporate campaign working in a particular country, as well as test a possible structure for expanding corporate campaigns into countries outside of the ones they have worked in so far.

  • Feed fortification of egg-laying hens*

The main causes of mortality for egg-laying hens are bone fractures, disease, malnutrition, osteoporosis, and pecking; all appear painful and involve long periods of suffering. These problems occur on farms with battery cages, enriched cages, and even in the cage-free system*. Given how prevalent it is in all systems of hen farming, a direct solution to this problem is needed. Feed fortification is an unusually direct and cost-effective way of addressing this major source of suffering - particularly bone fractures and osteoporosis. The most promising nutrients for chickens, that are also cost-effective to use, are phosphorus, calcium, and vitamin D3. Given that the high cost of feed accounts for 60 to 75% of the total production cost, farmers should be able to easily include a cheap premix in their feed or accept the whole feed (with additional vitamins). Approaching farmers directly on business to business basis is promising, but we also see the potential of facilitating optimal fortification through governmental means. The approach will be chosen based on the country* where the organization is going to operate.

  • Increasing the follow through rate of cage-free pledges*

Over the last few years, enormous effort has been made to influence the behavior of corporations, and as a consequence, significant effort was made to reduce or eliminate routine confinement practices on factory farms. Strategic, coordinated, and well-executed corporate outreach campaigns seem to be highly promising and cost-effective interventions. Chicken Watch lists 1504 commitments to improve animal welfare by eliminating cage-eggs from the supply chain. However, the ultimate success of such a campaign relies on companies following through and changing the market. There are reasons to be concerned that those commitments might not be fulfilled. Securing the pledges will be one of the biggest challenges that animal advocacy will face in the following years. Some strategies, like the tracking of progress, holding companies accountable, and enforcement campaigns are already in place. To secure follow-through, action needs to be taken on every step of the causal chain leading to the impact for animals. Many of the pledges are hedged with the disclaimer regarding available supply. For example, Walmart's policy states that “by 2025, our goal is to transition to a 100% cage-free egg supply chain, subject to regulatory changes and based on available supply (referring to the farm side production), affordability and customer demand.” Work focused on increasing the available supply is not currently deeply addressed by enforcement campaigns*. This would involve working with producers and targeted financial institutions to facilitate the transition to a cage-free system in the United States. One of the biggest benefits of this charity would derive from the lessons learned from such work. A comprehensive strategy and training could be prepared and shared with organizations globally before implementing it in the country where they are working. This could substantially increase the odds of a smooth global transition to cage-free farming.

  • Animal careers - Experiments*

Many in the animal movement report a challenge in regard to finding the right staff to expand their organization. This problem is particularly present when an organization aims to expand to a new country or when hiring relatively senior staff. There has been relatively little time and attention put into a systematic investigation of what works in hiring and training in the animal movement. It is important to understand the current gaps and carefully test for possible solutions (similar to how Charity Science outreach tested fundraising strategies) in order to have organizations across the animal movement running at their top capacity. Having a focused organization explicitly aimed at animal careers would also give a central selling point for both organizations and candidates to contact for help and advice. Experiments could be conducted in 3 different areas: finding, training, and sorting*. Finding would involve finding candidates who might otherwise not apply for key roles via direct methods, like headhunting, or less direct methodologies, such as reaching out to communities that might have strong applicants but who have not yet considered working in the animal movement. Training could involve paying for possible job candidates to get specific training in a skill area that is lacking in the animal space, for example, management training. Sorting could be largely helped by simply having a central person who knows about all about the currently open job opportunities and can speak to interested activists for 30 minutes and direct them towards the role that would be the best fit. Each of these methodologies could be tested with small scale experiments, with the results and costs being carefully measured to see what works best for getting the key positions filled at top animal organizations.

  • Animal research coordination and systematization*

The research space in the animal movement has grown significantly in the last five years* but there is still relatively little cross-organizational planning and systematic consideration of what research priorities the movement as a whole should have. For example, right now there is a disconnect between what major funders and organizations would most benefit from research-wise and what research is and should be conducted*. Additionally, there is an overlap between different organizations working on similar projects without knowledge of each other’s work. An organization focused on research coordination could create an agenda of research priorities and take into account input from multiple funders, researchers, and implementation organizations. The organization could then work on getting this agenda applied through funding and partnering with other organizations, as well as conducting direct research if no other organization is well-placed or has the necessary capacity (such as RCT research on the most pressing remaining topics). Creating a coherent, well-considered organizational research agenda will take significant time and would likely require yearly updating based on successfully completed research and the changing needs of the movement.


There’s strongevidence that increasing tobacco taxation reduces tobacco consumption, and that reduced tobacco consumption results in improved health outcomes. Without increased cessation, tobacco use may account for some 10 million deaths per year by 2030. The WHO estimates that a 10% price increase in tobacco causes a 4% reduction in tobacco consumption. If taxation was changed to the recommended level of 70% of the total sale price in all LMIC, this would result in an estimated 11-27% decrease in smoking mortality and therefore save tens of millions of lives. Numerous pieces of evidence suggest that government implementation of tobacco taxation is highly cost-effective. The Center for Global Developmentestimates the price of tobacco taxation at $3 - $70 per DALY averted. Copenhagen Consensus estimates a 4000% return, with a $500M/yr tobacco control program averting more than one million deaths annually. Many stated that specifically, tobacco taxation is the most important and most cost-effective portion of the tobacco control campaign. A systematic review of 84 studies also found that taxation was among one of the more effective tobacco control initiatives. The experts we spoke to at tobacco lobbying campaigns and evaluative organizations (e.g., the DCP3) also broadly agreed that this was a strong area to work in. GiveWell is also researching this as a possible area to fund high impact charities in. Although this area has some significant risk of low progress due to working against an intelligent and capable agent (big tobacco), the potential upside makes it one of the most promising and cost-effective interventions possible in the global health and poverty area.

Conditional cash transfers (CCTs) entail giving someone a cash incentive for completing a certain activity. CCTs can incentivize behavior that improves well-being while also improving well-being by increasing wealth. GiveDirectly, a GiveWell top charity, has a well-evidenced, high-impact intervention through unconditional cash transfers (UCTs), where money is unconditionally given to some of the world’s poorest people. A CCT seems like it may be able to achieve higher cost-effectiveness than UCTs by successfully incentivizing highly valuable health behaviours while still providing a cash benefit. However, the beneficial effects of the cash transfer may be much lower in a UCT since the ability to target the poorest people is compromised and there are higher infrastructure costs. There are numerous behaviors that could be incentivized and many different incentive sizes and delivery methods. Additionally, it is easy to randomly assign participants to different conditions, including a control condition. This means there is much room to experiment with CCTs, which makes it a flexible, testable and possibly cost-effective intervention class. Specifically, based on our new research* in the area, we think that increasing clinic visit utilization using conditional cash transfers* could be an extremely effective method of increasing the overall health and wealth of a target community. This method could also pair well with other age-compatible high-impact interventions, such as vitamin distribution or deworming.

  • Contraceptives*

Access to contraception is a large issue in many parts of the world, leading to unwanted pregnancies and transmission of diseases, such as HIV. Simple and cost-effective interventions exist to increase access and awareness of different contraceptive methods. Many large funders are interested in this area, and research into new methods and more effective education on the existing methods is on the increase. We believe that working on contraceptive access could be an extremely effective intervention. We are still researching many specific methodologies, including social marketing for condoms, condom distribution and promotion, condom education, video promotion of oral contraceptives, injectables, and long-acting reversible contraceptives and IUD subsidizations. The evidence base for the effectiveness of these interventions is mostly well-understood. Depending on different ethical assumptions, the cost-effectiveness of this intervention could be considerably higher or lower than comparable global poverty interventions.

Did you know that you can now help to start ​an effective charity based on our top ideas? Apply for our incubation program!


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