28 June 2011

My new (second) favourite charity

After IPA, obviously, is GiveDirectly, which allows you to, er, give, directly, to poor people in Kenya. The poor are identified as anyone living in a house made of mud or grass, and are then given a sim card so they can receive cash via SMS through M-PESA. 10% goes to admin and 90% into the hands of the poor. And because the CEO is Jeremy Shapiro, they are also doing an impact evaluation of the program with IPA.

Now I just need to decide how much I can afford and am willing to donate (the 1% of Peter Singer's campaign or the whopping 10% of Giving What We Can?). And how I should divide my giving between GiveDirectly, the Proven Impact Fund, and maybe also Pratham, and whether I should wait for the Givewell evaluation of GiveDirectly or the RCT results. I'm inclined to think though that when you are putting cash directly into the hands of poor people, and you are confident that those people are indeed poor, then evaluation is almost an irrelevance.


Stephen Jones said...

I can think of a bit more in the way of evaluation options. I think that the cash transfers discussed in Just Give Money to the Poor were mostly from the state to poor people (rather than directly from individual donors). So it would be interesting to see if money from international donors given to states as budget support for cash transfers had benefits (perhaps increasing state capacity or the social contract with citizens) that outweighed the increased admin costs of going via states (instead of just via GiveDirectly).

Re what and where you donate yourself - good questions, I've been thinking similarly. But I also look it's important to consider donating to things which have potential high impact but are very hard to evaluate (advocacy etc), which are excluded by the GiveWell approach.

@cynan_sez said...

Brilliant. Love it. Gets right past the whole (Kiva, Vittana) idea that everyone in Ahhfrica can be / should be / wants to be a micro entrepreneur, or can and should go into debt for post-secondary education.

Like the description of the targeting, maybe I'm missing it though but I can't see where they say how much they give to each recipient/HH and how they determine that? local prices on basket of needs? something broader and quicker eg a Kenya(rural) and/or Kenya(nbi) index from the gov?

As part of a balanced giving portfolio as you say though. This kind of giving is only indirectly and uncertainly lead to necessary complementary public goods (schools, bogs, governance). Still, double thumbs up on first glance.

Helen Lindley said...

I can see the clear appeal of the charity, and I very much like the approach in theory, but for me there is a big gaping hole in their examination of intra-household dynamics and gender, which would really hold me back from donating. My additional questions would be: who precisely within the household receives the money, and how is this person chosen? Has Give Directly done any research on control over resources and money within the households in the target area selected? And are they happy with, potentially, re-enforcing existing power-dynamics? For me the quote displayed on the website of 'there is no peace in the family when there is no food to eat' does very little to address these issues

@cynan_sez said...

Ah, kind of found it, not very front and centre though. http://givedirectly.org/transparency
"we send each household $500 per year... in 4 quarterly instalments of $125"

@cynan_sez said...

... and that payment schedule says to me they still want this to be about HH investment, not meeting recurrent daily basic needs. Or, that they have made a compromise on prog design to keep the overheads including mpesa txfr fees down to a magic 10%. Will grant that I give them the benefit of the doubt to have thought about this longer than my 3 minutes...

Lee said...

Good points all round.

Stephen - I agree, but I feel perhaps irrationally a bit weird about spending $500 to fund an advocate's salary for a day or two. Maybe one day if I ever get rich I'll invest something substantial in advocacy.

Cynan - given how much of aid is already going on public goods, I think there is plenty of space for private cash transfers within the overall aid portfolio.

Helen - Good point - I would expect that being field researchers and micro empiricists they are pretty familiar with relevant research on intra-household bargaining, but I didn't see anything about it on the website and would be interested in hearing more.

Helen Lindley said...

Out of interest I ended up emailing them with my questions, their responses are posted here:


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