GiveDirectly offers a radically simple new way to give: we transfer donations directly to poor households in Kenya. We offer a “90-cent service,” sending 90 cents of every dollar to a poor household. The other 10 cents cover our costs of identifying the household and transferring the funds electronically. We cover all of our other costs ourselves.
At GiveDirectly we believe in three core principles: efficiency, transparency, and respect. Efficiency means that there is no cheaper way of delivering the same service. Transparency means that you know exactly how your dollar will be used. And respect means that the person getting help decides what he or she needs for themselves, rather than having someone else decide for them. We offer our 90-cent service because it is the most efficient, transparent, and respectful form of giving available. It is efficient because no form of giving costs less than sending cash. It is transparent because it represents an explicit commitment to the way each donated dollar will be used. And it is respectful because it gives the recipient maximum flexibility to set their own priorities. Cash transfers may seem unorthodox, but the scientific evidence overwhelming shows that they improve welfare. Households use the funds to provide education for their children, to invest in small businesses, to provide healthcare for the sick, and to pay for other basic needs. The most important insight from this research is that while all poor individuals are in need, their needs differ. For example, one person may need food to survive while another needs anti-malaria drugs. Providing food or medicine saves one life; providing money saves both.