Why we’re excited to fund charities’ work a few years in the future

We recently spoke with someone who wanted to donate to a GiveWell top charity. They were interested in getting the funding “out the door” and to program participants as quickly as possible.
But our top choice for funding today is Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program—for work it expects to complete in 2022.[1] The potential donor was puzzled. Shouldn’t we prioritize an organization that needs the money sooner?
We often recommend donations today that support programs a few years from now. This probably diverges from many people’s intuitions about getting funding out the door as soon as possible.
Three key reasons why funding today leads to more impact in the future
1. Upfront coordination and planning increases charities’ impact.
Highly effective charities tend to spend a lot of time preparing before they implement their programs.
The Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) is a GiveWell top charity that supports the distribution of insecticide-treated nets, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. These nets are hung over sleeping spaces and prevent mosquitoes from biting and transmitting potentially deadly malaria. AMF says the ideal lead time for its work is 23 months.[2] During that time, it takes the following steps:

Choosing a location: AMF decides where it should direct funding to have the greatest impact. It considers malaria prevalence, the number of people in need of nets, and whether partner organizations can conduct distributions according to AMF requirements.[3]
Negotiating an agreement: AMF and the country’s national malaria program negotiate a net distribution agreement and seek government approval.[4]
Ordering nets: AMF negotiates with net manufacturers to place an order for nets suited to local needs, which may vary in size, color, and insecticide.[5]
Producing, shipping, and transporting nets: Nets are manufactured and shipped to regional warehouses.[6]
Visiting households: AMF’s partners visit households to determine how many nets are needed.[7]

Some of these steps are practical requirements for conducting a distribution, such as ordering and shipping nets to the relevant location. Other steps increase the impact of the distribution. Though 23 months may seem like a long lead time, it enables AMF to coordinate with in-country groups, identify the highest-need areas, order the quantities and types of nets that are most suitable for those areas, and select partners that can conduct high-quality distributions and monitoring. We believe that the overall impact of donations is much greater than they would be if

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