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Optimising charity

By David Hale - posted Tuesday, 5 May 2020

How do any of us decide which charity to support?

Would it end up being Oxfam, or one of the other ones, like World Vision, the International Rescue Committee, Doctors Without Borders or UNICEF?

The charity evaluators like Charity Navigator and Givewell are not that helpful. The former focuses on the governance, how much is spent on fundraising, how transparent the charity is and things like that. GiveWell focuses on the impact of charities.


If one uses Charity Navigator, Oxfam Australia is not rated but Oxfam America gets 3 and out of 4 stars. If one uses GiveWell, Oxfam is not recommended as a charity. Giving What We Can, which previously evaluated charities, also did not recommend them. The Life You Can Save, based in Australia, a charity evaluator as well, does recommend them.

The Life You Can Save, recommends them, but does not recommend UNICEF. This is the case even though several of the reasons they give for recommending Oxfam, seem to apply to UNICEF.

If all this seems hard to follow, it is.

Take just two charities, World Vision and the International Rescue Committee. They both have programs to end poverty.

Is one better than the other?

On the surface, they both seem the same. They both have programs providing vocational assistance to people. They both work with refugees. They both respond to natural disasters. They both help children receive an education. They both provide health care. They both claim to be effective, in what they do.


World Vision noted on their website at one point, they spent 86% of money received, on programs. The IRC claimed on their website, they spend 87% on program expenses.

The IRC seems to make a stronger commitment to effectiveness. In fact, they have committed to, "be the first NGO to ensure that every program is either based on world-class appropriate evidence or is contributing to the creation of that evidence-base."

If that is true, it is a concern that NGOs have not already based all their programs on, world-class appropriate evidence.

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About the Author

David Hale is an Anglican University Lay Chaplain, staff worker for the Australian Student Christian Movement and a member of the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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