A group researched the top 9 charities to give to on the holidays. It's a surprising list.

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.

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