Deworming and tropical disease prevention in the developing world might not be the obvious choice for where to spend your spare holiday cash.

But it might be where your dollar will do the most good.


A teacher gives a student a deworming tablet in Hyderabad, India. Photo by Noah Seelam/Getty Images.

That's according to a list of the nine "Top Charities for Giving Season" released Monday by GiveWell, a nonprofit organization that applies a data-centered approach to determining which aid organizations do the most good for the most people. The result is a surprising list of charities with a range of causes that might be unfamiliar to many who want to give, but whose impact is often more immediate.

"We want people to be able to leverage all the time we’ve spent putting together this list so they can make a donation with confidence," explains Catherine Hollander, a research analyst with GiveWell.

For the annual chart, the group evaluates charities in four categories: 1) transparency, 2) cost-effectiveness, 3) need, and 4) overall effectiveness, before awarding or denying it a spot. To measure cost-effectiveness the group calculates impact on a scale of "lives saved or improved per dollar spent."

Some of the causes may be obscure (at least, in the developed world), but they're wonderful options for those on a tight holiday budget looking to help the most people possible.

This year's top choices are:

1. Against Malaria Foundation

An organization that purchases and distributes mosquito nets to families in malaria-afflicted countries.

2. Schistosomiasis Control Initiative

A U.K.-based charity that provides Ministries of Health in East, Central, and West Africa with drugs to treat parasitic infections.

3. Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program

A nonprofit that specializes in the prevention and control of malaria, distributing life-saving drugs to young children affected by the disease in Africa and Asia.

4. Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative

An organization that supports school-based deworming programs in Africa and South Asia.

5. Helen Keller International’s vitamin A supplementation program

An initiative that funds and provides training to government-run supplement drives in sub-Saharan Africa with the goal of reducing malnutrition and averting blindness and poor vision.

6. Sightsavers’ deworming program

An anti-blindness and disability rights organization that operates a deworming initiative in Africa.

7. END Fund’s deworming program

An anti-neglected tropical disease nonprofit that operates a deworming initiative with a special emphasis on Africa.

8. Evidence Action’s No Lean Season program

A program that provides no-interest loans to Bangladeshi farmers during annual periods when income is low.

9. GiveDirectly

A nonprofit that allows donors to send money directly to people living in extreme poverty via a mobile app.

A key component of the list is making sure the programs GiveWell recommends are more effective than just sending cash to people in need (or as effective, as is the case with GiveDirectly).

That means not only making sure they're cost-effective, but ensuring the intended beneficiaries of the food, medicine, money, and preventative netting actually receive and use them. For the deworming charities, that involves, "going door to door and interviewing children to see if they received de-worming treatment," explains Isabel Arjmand, also an analyst with the organization. Occasionally, GiveWell representatives conduct the on-the-ground reviews themselves. Other times, researchers with the organization analyze data provided by the charities, which is reviewed for reliability.

Children in Cambodia sleep under a mosquito net. Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images.

The list isn't fully comprehensive, as GiveWell focuses on programs where the data on impact is plentiful and readily available. Initiatives where results are harder to quantify — those that promote women's rights, LGBTQ equality, racial justice, etc. — aren't an area of focus. Nor are causes like cancer prevention that disproportionately affects people in the developed world, where the cost-per-life-improved ratio is far higher. But for anyone who wants to ensure their dollars go to help the world's neediest people quickly and efficiently, the list is an invaluable tool.

"One thing that for me personally really connects when I think about giving to causes that I haven’t myself experienced is... 'What am I really trying to accomplish,'" Hollander says. "For me, it might be to alleviate suffering in general. And then I’m really excited to give to the place that allows me to do that to the fullest extent that I can with my donation."

Contributions can also be made directly to GiveWell, which distributes the funds among the recommended organizations according to need.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

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To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

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AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

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