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Founded2008; 16 years ago (2008)
Type501(c)(3) non-profit organization[1]
PurposeAlleviating extreme poverty through cash transfers
Area served
Bahamas, Bangladesh, DRC, Liberia, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Togo, Turkey, Uganda, USA, Yemen
Interim President
Samuel Mwamburi Mwale
Approx 175 [2]

GiveDirectly is a nonprofit organization operating in low income areas that helps families living in extreme poverty by making unconditional cash transfers to them via mobile phone. GiveDirectly transfers funds to people in Bahamas, Bangladesh, DRC, Liberia, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Togo, Turkey, Uganda, USA, and Yemen.


GiveDirectly originated as a giving circle started by Paul Niehaus, Michael Faye, Rohit Wanchoo, and Jeremy Shapiro, students at MIT and Harvard, based on their research into philanthropy.[3] In 2012 they formalized their operation into GiveDirectly.[3]

In December 2012, GiveDirectly received a $2.4M Global Impact Award from Google.[4] In June 2014, the founders of GiveDirectly announced plans to create a for-profit technology company, Segovia, aimed at improving the efficiency of cash transfer distributions in the developing world.[5][6][7] In August 2015, GiveDirectly received a $25M grant from Good Ventures.[8]

In April 2016, GiveDirectly announced a $30M initiative to test universal basic income in order to "try to permanently end extreme poverty across dozens of villages and thousands of people in Kenya by guaranteeing them an ongoing income high enough to meet their basic needs" and, if it works, pave the way for implementation in other regions.[9] The initiative launched in November 2017 and is set to run for 12 years.[10]

In 2017, GiveDirectly applied their model for the first time in the U.S., distributing cash-loaded debit cards to residents of Rose City, Texas, following Hurricane Harvey.[11]

In 2022, GiveDirectly appointed British politician and diplomat Rory Stewart as their president.[12]

In 2023, an investigation revealed that in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where GiveDirectly began operations in 2018, employees had diverted at least $900,000 from several hundred intended recipients in South Kivu to themselves, including the very audit teams tasked with identifying such cases. GiveDirectly paused its operations in the country in January 2023 and began an audit of its funds transfers in another African country.[13]


COVID-19 support[edit]

GiveDirectly set up two emergency response programs to the COVID-19 pandemic: one in the US, for which it has raised US$118 million, and one in African countries, for which it has raised US$76 million. The organization has sent cash relief to 116,000 families in the US and 342,000 families in Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Rwanda and Togo.[14]

In Togo it built on an existing government of Togo cash transfer program called Novissi. Money is paid via mobile money technology, with beneficiaries withdrawing money at local shops. GiveDirectly helped expand the program to certain rural areas where the government found it difficult to identify the poorest beneficiaries.[15] The machine learning algorithm First, it finds the poorest villages by analyzing roof material, sizes of farm plots and the presence of paved or unpaved roads through satellite images. Second, it finds the poorest individuals in a village by analyzing their mobile phone data like lengths and frequency of phone calls, number of inbound versus outbound calls, and amount of mobile data used.[16]

Basic income experiment[edit]

In April 2016 GiveDirectly announced a 12-year experiment to test a universal basic income on a rural region in Western Kenya.[17][18] More than 26,000 people will receive some type of cash transfer, with more than 6,000 receiving a long-term basic income.

  • Long-term basic income: 40 villages with recipients receiving roughly $0.75 per adult per day, delivered monthly for 12 years
  • Short-term basic income: 80 villages with recipients receiving the same monthly amount, but only for 2 years
  • Lump sum payments: 80 villages with recipients receiving a lump sum payment equivalent to the total value of the short-term stream
  • Control group: 100 villages not receiving cash transfers

In November 2019, an economics paper on the GiveDirectly experiment found each dollar from cash transfers increased local economic activity by $2.6.[19]


GiveDirectly collects donations from private donors as well as foundations.[20] In 2015, the organization received $25 million from Good Ventures, a private foundation started by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife Cari Tuna.[21] In 2019, the organization won a grant of $2.1m from the Global Innovation Fund.[22]


GiveWell reviews[edit]

GiveDirectly has been named one of GiveWell 'top rated' charities for 2012,[23][24] through 2020.[25]

Reception by development economists[edit]

After the release of GiveDirectly's impact self-evaluation in October 2013,[26] World Bank economist David McKenzie praised the robustness of the study's design and the clear disclosure of the study lead's conflict of interest, but raised two concerns:[27]

  • The use of self-reporting made the results hard to interpret and rely on (this is a feature of any study that attempted to measure consumption).
  • The division of the sample into so many groups meant that there was less statistical power to clearly decide which group had better outcomes.

Chris Blattman, an academic in development economics, with a particular focus on randomized controlled trials, also blogged about the study. He expressed two main reservations:[28]

  • The observer-expectancy effect, where the people being asked questions may be subtly influenced in their answers by the experimenter's expectations.
  • The lack of clear positive effect on long-term outcomes, as well as the lack of increased spending on health and education.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "GiveDirectly". GiveDirectly. Retrieved November 30, 2012.
  2. ^ "GiveDirectly team page".
  3. ^ a b Goldstein, Dana (December 21, 2012). "Can 4 Economists Build the Most Economically Efficient Charity Ever?". The Atlantic.
  4. ^ "Google Dot Org". www.google.org. Archived from the original on January 6, 2017. Retrieved January 25, 2017.
  5. ^ Hassenfeld, Elie (June 20, 2014). "Update on GiveDirectly". GiveWell. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  6. ^ Coleman, Isobel (June 20, 2014). "Segovia: A New Player in Cash Transfers". Development Channel blog, Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved June 21, 2014.
  7. ^ "GiveDirectly - August 2014 Update". August 2014. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  8. ^ "Blog | GiveDirectly". www.givedirectly.org. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  9. ^ "What If We Just Gave Poor People a Basic Income for Life? That's What We're About to Test". Slate. April 14, 2016. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  10. ^ "The largest basic income experiment in history just launched in Kenya". Business Insider. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  11. ^ "After Harvey, One Group Is Hoping Giving Away Cash Will Help Houstonians Rebuild". NPR News. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  12. ^ Brown, Will (September 18, 2022). "This man wants to give $1,000 to every poor person on Earth – but could his plan really work?". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved June 10, 2023.
  13. ^ Harriet Barber (June 9, 2023). "Rory Stewart's 'GiveDirectly' charity defrauded of almost $1m in Congo". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved June 10, 2023.
  14. ^ Samuel, Sigal (December 1, 2020). "Is the pandemic making people more generous — or more selfish?". Vox. Retrieved December 29, 2020.
  15. ^ Gharib, Malaka (February 15, 2021). "The Pandemic Pushed This Farmer Into Deep Poverty. Then Something Amazing Happened". NPR News. Retrieved February 15, 2021.
  16. ^ Visram, Talib (December 11, 2020). "How GiveDirectly is finding the poorest people in the world—and sending them cash". Fast Company. Retrieved December 29, 2020.
  17. ^ "What Would Happen If We Just Gave People Money?". FiveThirtyEight. April 25, 2016. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  18. ^ "Charity To Amp Up Direct Aid Mission In Impoverished East Africa". NPR News. Retrieved January 25, 2017.
  19. ^ Miguel, Edward; Egger, Dennis; Haushofer, Johannes; Niehaus, Paul; Walker, Michael (November 21, 2019). "General equilibrium effects of cash transfers: experimental evidence from Kenya" (PDF). Berkley.edu. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  20. ^ "Group gives cash aid to rural Kenyans, then studies its effects". PBS NewsHour. April 8, 2017. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  21. ^ Dolan, Kerry A. "Facebook Billionaire's Good Ventures Donates $25 Million To GiveDirectly, Which Gives Cash To The Very Poor". Forbes. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  22. ^ "GiveDirectly". Global Innovation Fund. Retrieved October 20, 2023.
  23. ^ Karnofsky, Holden (November 26, 2012). "Our Top Charities for the 2012 Giving Season". GiveWell. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  24. ^ "Top charities - November 2012 archived version". GiveWell. November 2012. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  25. ^ "Our Top Charities - September 2020 Version". November 2019. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  26. ^ Haushofer, Jonathan; Shapiro, Jeremy (October 24, 2013). "Policy Brief: Impacts of Unconditional Cash Transfers" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 29, 2013. Retrieved October 26, 2013.
  27. ^ McKenzie, David (October 27, 2013). "Some thoughts on the Give Directly Impact Evaluation". World Bank. Retrieved November 28, 2015.
  28. ^ Blattman, Chris (October 25, 2013). "And the cashonistas rejoice". Retrieved November 28, 2015.

External links[edit]