What is Effective Altruism?

Making the most of donations

When donating, we want value for money. Low overhead costs and low directors’ salaries please. But wait. Imagine you can donate to charity A or B, both fighting an infectious disease in a certain area; and where A has no overhead thanks to sponsorships and volunteering, B has an overhead of 40%. A looks better, right? But what if we told you that A hands out medicine that only suppresses the symptoms while B distributes an actual cure?

It turns out that real value for money might not only be reflected by overhead costs and director’s salaries. That’s where Kinder comes in. We dive deeper and investigate actual effectiveness of charitable organisations to make sure donations have the best value for money. For this purpose, we have developed the Kinder Vetting Framework, inspired by the effective altruism (EA) movement.


Broadly speaking, EA attempts to "do the most good." Maximizing benefit is the aim of this social movement and philosophy. Kinder is EA-aligned in that we believe that our good intentions need better actions in order to have a greater positive impact. In other words: kind is not enough.

Examples of Effective Altruism

  • If you want to increase school attendance in developing countries, you might consider buying school uniforms or sponsoring scholarships. However, research has shown that school attendance increases much more by investing in deworming pills (that allow children to go to school healthy). The impact per invested euro is likely to be at least 10 times higher!

  • If you want to decrease animal suffering, you have much more impact if you donate to an organisation that supports a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle (and thereby reduces the amount of animal suffering in the bio-industry) as compared to donating to an asylum.

  • If you have the option to either save a child or a Picasso painting from a burning house, the effective altruist would argue that you should save the painting, sell it and save hundreds of children with the gains. This sounds pretty extreme, right? Well, it is just a metaphor that serves as inspiration for professionals working in the development sector that have to make these kind of choices every day.

Limitations of Effective Altruism

So should we turn into effective altruists right away, and save the world once and for all? Before we do that, it is wise to consider some of the limitations of EA.

  • The message of EA sounds great, but also leads to inconvenience. Imagine you walk out of that burning building with the child in your arms and then some bystander taps you on the shoulder indicating that you have been heartless because you should have taken out the painting. This could very well lead to rejection of the EA principles rather then acceptance. So you have to be careful on how to pitch EA.
  • In its search for effectiveness, EA advocates might get stuck arguing whether it is more effective to eliminate malaria, reduce climate change or avoid a nuclear war. Since the value judgements used in this discussion are highly controversial and the outcomes are very uncertain and likely to be biased, at Kinder we choose not to judge effectiveness between different cause areas, but only within cause areas. So if you decide you want to reduce climate change, we give you the most effective ways to do so.