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GiveDirectly for Harvey recovery

Like many of you, we’ve seen the flooding and devastation created by Hurricane Harvey, and we’ve wished for a way to help those families directly. Unfortunately, there’s still no way for the public to send money directly to those families in need.

So when some folks from our team said they wanted to head to Texas to try a short-term direct giving project, we said, “Good idea.” And now, for a limited time, you can give directly to people affected by Harvey.

The focus of GiveDirectly has been and continues to be ending extreme poverty in some of the world’s poorest places. That won’t change. But we’ve also had a lot of people tell us about their frustration with the current slate of giving options for Harvey.

The good news is that generous people around the world have donated tens of millions of dollars. The bad news is most everything else: The money must be converted to goods, which have to be organized, transported, handed out… and then what people get may not be what they really needed. It may not even be clear to donors (or anyone else) how all that money got spent.

Our crazy idea is this: Rather than guess what people need most, why not find those who have been hit hardest, give them the money and let them decide for themselves?

You’ve no doubt heard that giving no-strings-attached money to people is a bad idea―that they’ll just blow it on booze or cupcakes. In fact, that’s not true. That theory has been tested (a lot) and it’s been proven false. In fact, giving people money actually reduces the use of alcohol and tobacco. Rigorous research shows that giving money directly is one of the most impactful ways to help people in need.

Fewer studies have been on cash transfers in the US as in the least-developed countries. But the studies that have been done have been very positive. In comparison, there is very little evidence that other forms of aid, like giving in-kind gifts of food and clothing, are cost-effective. Well-meant, yes. But there are more than a few examples of this kind of aid going horribly wrong (see: thousands of pounds of food rotting at ports in Haiti, deluges of donated clothing swamping relief workers during Sandy).

If you haven’t heard of GiveDirectly, we’ve raised $150 million to send directly as cash to people living in poverty in East Africa, one of the poorest regions in the world (and more challenging operationally than Texas, we think). We’ve reached 400,000 people to date, have been a top recommended charity by GiveWell five years running, and were named the #2 most innovative nonprofit by Fast Company this year. We’re backed by Good Ventures, Google.org, the Omidyar Network, and thousands of other results-driven donors.

If you’ve wanted to give to folks in Texas directly but haven’t found a way, this one’s for you. And if you’re in Texas, look for our staff there soon.

– The GiveDirectly team