Why and how to found a (GiveWell) non-profit

We’ve argued against non-profit jobs as an early career move, because many have little impact and you often don’t get good career progression.

However, there’s a certain type of non-profit opportunity that we think is very exciting: start a non-profit focused on implementing an evidence-backed intervention in international development i.e. try to make the next Against Malaria Foundation.

Why?

  • There’s lots of evidence-backed interventions that don’t have a well-run, transparent organisation implementing them.
  • Scaling up many of these interventions can be expected to have a big impact.
  • There’s a huge pool of funding for non-profits going after these opportunities, most notably from GiveWell, but also foundations like Gates and CIFF, as well as government aid agencies. These groups would like to fund more non-profits, but can’t find enough that meet their criteria.

We’ve talked about this opportunity for years – see our exploratory career profile on it – and it has become even more pressing recently. The money flowing through GiveWell is growing rapidly, but the pipeline of non-profits isn’t.

GiveWell recently made a post about exactly the sorts of non-profits they’d like to fund:

  1. Charities that implement GiveWell’s priority programs: vitamin A supplementation, immunizations, conditional cash transfers, micronutrient fortification, or even bednets and deworming (since our top charities that focus on the latter two have limited room for more funding). More
  2. Charities implementing potential priority programs that are particularly challenging, particularly those revolving around (a) treatment of treatable conditions in a hospital or clinic setting; (b) behavior change for improving health. We see several hurdles to successfully focusing on such programs, but would be excited to see charities that overcome such hurdles. More
  3. Charities that collect or generate information and data relevant to our recommendations. Currently, we recommend charities based partly on the data they themselves collect and share. But we could potentially recommend an organization that does not, itself, collect and share strong monitoring data, if we had independent data showing its activities’ effectiveness.

If you’re interested in taking this opportunity, here’s the next steps:

  1. Read our profile.
  2. Join the EA Entrepreneurs group and meet the other people who are interested.
  3. Get in touch with GiveWell to see if they might fund you.
  4. Apply to work at Evidence Action – an organisation dedicated to setting up exactly these sorts of organisations.

If you’re not ready yet, but would like to do this in the next couple of years, see:

  1. Our profile for some ideas on how to prepare.
  2. Our interviews with effective non-profit leaders on how to enter the sector.