A charity, fundraiser or site could present information on how effective/impactful it is, in terms of the amount of “final outcome” it achieves per dollar donated, or equivalently, the cost per unit of this outcome achieved. E.g., the Against Malaria Foundation could report GiveWell's asessment that for every $3280 donated, one life is saved, on average. Loosely speaking, according to the Effective Altruism movement, this should be the donor's critical concern in choosing a charity.

Alternative tool name:

Tool variation: Quantitative “impact” information

Category: Info/communications


Relevant theories:

Type of evidence: Field-exp-charity

Evidence strength (ad hoc assessment):

Main findings

Karlan and Wood (2017): adding scientific impact info (including some quantitative information; and removing emotional stimulus in part) had a small/insignificant net effect: increased gifts from large prior donors, reduced gifts from small prior donors.


The evidence (from the Economics/Behavioral Economics literature) is largely mixed and indeterminate. There has been only a single strong field trial (Karlan) in a particular context, which itself reported mixed (null overall, positive for some subgroups, negative for others), and some underpowered results. Laboratory experiments (with real donations) by Small et al finds that giving to an identifiable victim is *reduced* when statistics are also presented and “Priming analytic thinking reduced donations to an identifiable victim relative to a feeling-based thinking prime.” Further evidence from lab experiments is mixed and limited, with some studies (Fong and O) *apparently* finding that exogenous information about recipient increases donations (although they do not report this), and another underpowered study (Metzger and G). There is some evidence from observational studies that 'charity ratings' boost giving, at least for smaller charities (Yoruk), but these ratings do not measure impact. Further review should explore the psychology (see., e.g., Verkaik), marketing, and nonprofit management literatures. There is some speculation, but again, mixed evidence, that individuals already in a “system 2” (deliberative) frame are more likely to be positively affected by impact information. There is also a distinction to be further explored between “output information” (how the donation is used) and “impact information”; the former is seen to increase generosity in several studies.

Practical relevance

[distribute this in here] Providing information on (a) tangible impact (e.g., objects, people), (b) communicating effort (e.g., Charity:Water well-building, Norton water working papers), © organizational info on transparency/openness (trust), (d) benefit to giver (can work well + Smalls JPSP 2014), (e) also framing effectiveness well (TBD)

Use cases


Key papers

Secondary papers

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  • tools/impact_per_info.txt
  • Last modified: 2019/02/28 02:32
  • by david