Donate to make the greatest impact
on people’s lives

Our approach

We conduct academic-level research to advise donors how to maximise the impact of their donations. Our distinctive approach is to compare charities by how good they are at improving people’s happiness. Over the last 3 years, we’ve spent 10,000 hours evaluating some of the world’s top charities.

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We take happiness seriously

It’s common to think about impact in terms of improving health and wealth, but those are just means—they are not ends in themselves. What ultimately matters is that people enjoy their lives and are free from suffering. So, our evaluations focus on how much charities improve happiness (how people feel during and about their lives).

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We maximise your impact

In order to do the most good around the world, we focus on neglected problems in low-income countries. This ensures the impact of your donation goes as far as possible. 

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We conduct clear, rigorous analyses

We apply academic rigour to our in-depth charity evaluations. We look at impact comprehensively by taking into account how interventions impact people over time and how the effects might spill over onto others. But we don’t want you to just trust us—our reports are written so you can understand and check our work (see below).

 

We compare charities on a common metric

By focusing on happiness, we can compare charities on a universal metric called wellbeing-adjusted life years (WELLBYs). One WELLBY is equivalent to a 1-point increase on a 0-10 life satisfaction scale for one year. Unlike measures of health or wealth, WELLBYs capture the overall benefit people receive from an intervention.

The WELLBY approach is based on decades of research in social science, but we are the first to use this scientifically reliable tool to work out the best ways to help others.

To learn more, read about our key ideas, our research overview, and our explanation of the WELLBY approach.

Our top recommendation

StrongMinds

is a non-profit that provides effective treatment for women struggling with depression in Uganda and Zambia.

Summary

Depression has substantial negative effects on subjective wellbeing, but mental health services are significantly underfunded in low-income countries. StrongMinds provides free group interpersonal therapy to help women with depression. Over 8-10 sessions, the women work with a facilitator to identify the underlying triggers of their depression and strategize solutions to their problems. 

Funding need

StrongMinds is planning for rapid growth. In order to do this, they need to raise a further $20 million over the next two years.

Our evaluations so far

So far, we’ve evaluated four well-evidenced interventions. Antimalarial bednets, deworming tablets for intestinal worms, and cash transfers are considered to be some of the most cost-effective interventions based on their health and income benefits. However, our research shows that group psychotherapy is the most cost-effective intervention for improving happiness.

The Intervention Our approach Key results WELLBYs per $1k
Psychotherapy We systematically reviewed and meta-analysed 39 studies to determine the impact of group psychotherapy.  Psychotherapy has a large effect on wellbeing that diminishes over time but lasts up to 5 years.  77
Cash transfers We systematically reviewed and meta-analysed 45 studies to determine the impact of cash transfers.  Cash transfers have a small, long-lasting, and statistically significant positive effect on subjective wellbeing.  8
Deworming tablets (report forthcoming) There is one experiment tracking the long-term impacts of deworming. We conducted the first analysis of this data to determine the impact of deworming on wellbeing. Based on this limited evidence, deworming tablets have a small, non-significant effect on happiness. The evidence is very uncertain, so we consider the effect 0 and we are not recommending deworming for now. 0
Antimalarial bednets By preventing malaria, insecticide-treated bednets can improve quality of life and also save lives. The relative value of extending or improving life depends on your philosophical views on certain issues. We used existing estimates of the impact of bednets to see how their cost-effectiveness might change under various views. The cost-effectiveness of bednets depends heavily on the philosophical view. Ultimately, bednets are less cost-effective than psychotherapy under most assumptions, making psychotherapy our top choice. 

However, if you have strong views on these issues, please read our in-depth report before deciding how to donate.

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After a rigorous search, we identified StrongMinds as the best charity delivering group psychotherapy in low-income countries, making it our top recommendation for donors at this time. We show the cost-effectiveness of the best charities we have evaluated so far in the graph below. The graph shows our estimate of how many WELLBYs would be generated from a $1,000 donation to each charity. 


 

Notes for reading the graph...

  • The diamonds represent the central estimate of cost-effectiveness.
  • The solid whiskers represent the 95% confidence intervals for StrongMinds, Deworm the World, and GiveDirectly.
  • The vertical dashed line represents 0 WELLBYs.
  • The vertical dotted line is the point estimate of StrongMinds’ cost-effectiveness.
  • The lines for AMF (the Against Malaria Foundation) are different from the others. They represent the upper and lower bound of cost-effectiveness for different philosophical views (not 95% confidence intervals). Think of them as representing moral uncertainty, rather than empirical uncertainty. The upper bound represents the assumptions most generous to extending lives and the lower bound represents those most generous to improving lives.
  • The slogan version of the philosophical views are: 
    • Deprivationism: prioritise the youngest
    • Time-relative interest account (TRIA): prioritise older children over infants. 
    • Epicureanism: prioritise living well, not living long

Support further research

We have a pipeline of promising interventions to analyse, but our progress depends on the financial support of our donors. We still need to raise $500,000 to cover our 2023 budget. If you have any questions, or would like to discuss making a donation, please contact hello@happierlivesinstitute.org.

Make a tax-deductible donation in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands using the link above.

Donations from other countries can be made using the link above, but will not be tax-deductible.

To discuss other options, please contact us at:
hello@happierlivesinstitute.org

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