The Life You Can Save
2021 Annual Report
Note from the Executive Director
2021 was a year of growth for The Life You Can Save. We invested more resources into our operations than ever before, welcomed several talented new members to our team and established, among other things, a new in-house research team that will allow us to expand our list of recommended charities. We formed promising new partnerships with major businesses like Booktopia and mission-aligned organizations like Double Up Drive. We grew our public relations team and spread our founder’s message with the help of recommendations from actor Hugh Jackman and others through their social channels. Most importantly, we were pleased to help you, our supporters, donate $22.7 million to save and improve more lives.
In our 2021 annual report, we are proud to outline a simple but effective strategic vision that has emerged after nearly a decade of building our team, refining our message, attracting supporters and inspiring donors. At The Life You Can Save, we aim to help change the culture of giving for the better, so that people not only give more but also more effectively. Changing the culture of giving starts with introducing more people to the idea of effective giving, whether that means empowering our supporters to become agents of change, or leveraging the power of media and partnerships to reach new audiences. Changing the culture of giving also means providing our supporters with more opportunities for effective giving, including conducting research that helps you discover new effective charities. Above all, changing the culture of giving means inspiring even more people to support our recommended effective charities so they can continue to save and improve more lives.
Of course, none of this would be possible without our incredible team and network of supporters, donors and volunteers. Thank you so much for your generosity and continued support.
Executive Director of The Life You Can Save
*All dollar ($) amounts specified in this report are United States dollar amounts unless expressly indicated otherwise.
Note: This report has been amended to correct a mistake in our 2020 Money Moved figures.
2021 – The Year In Numbers
|Metric||2021||2020||1 yr % Change||Compound annual growth
|Money Moved ex large outlier donations||$18,471,578||$12,296,484||50%||56%|
Net impact: We measure our “net impact” by subtracting our total annual expenses from the total “money moved” to our recommended nonprofits. In 2021, we spent ~$1.3 million on our operations globally and raised ~$22.7 million for our recommended nonprofits, which resulted in a net impact of ~$21.4 million.
Money Moved: In 2021, our supporters donated a total of ~$22.7 million to our recommended charities.
Money Moved excluding large outlier donations: The giving levels of one or a few large donors in any given year can have a significant impact on our overall results, and these donations can also be quite volatile year-to-year. We, therefore, report on both the total Money Moved and “Money Moved excluding large outlier donations” to help indicate our growth rate.
Expenses: As we continued to grow our team to enable us to generate more funds for effective charities, expenses were up 91% compared to 2021, however, only up 30% compared to 2019. In 2021 we added much-needed capacity in the areas of Research & Evaluation, Media & PR, Marketing & Fundraising and Finance. Adding vital staff allows us to slowly move toward greater penetration, while still maintaining growth in our Net Impact.
3-year leverage ratio: If you take all the money we raise annually for our nonprofits and divide that number by the money we spend operating our organization, you get what we call our “leverage ratio” for that year. To gauge our impact over time, we rely on a “3-year leverage ratio“ which is simply our average annual leverage ratio over the past three years.
From 2019-2021, our 3-year leverage ratio was 17:1. In other words, for every $1 we invested in spreading our message and helping others discover and donate to effective charities over the last three years, we raised $17 for our recommended nonprofits. We believe our 3-year leverage ratio is one of the best representations of our effectiveness and impact. But we also believe this estimate is fairly conservative since we’re unable to track all the donations that would ideally be included in our “total money moved” metric. (See the Appendix of this report for more details on the donations we struggle to track.)
CHANGING THE CULTURE OF GIVING
We Must Change the Culture of Giving
By Peter Singer: The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has taken a grievous toll over the last two years, but one silver lining is that it has also inspired an increase in charitable giving, especially in some of the world’s most affluent nations. In 2020, for instance, Americans gave a record $471 billion to charity, and some initial estimates for 2021 also look promising.
To be sure, this positive trend in pandemic giving has been offset by other negative ones, including the ever-widening income gap between the ultra-rich and the poorest among us, as well as a general increase in income inequality. Still, it is one of the more significant year-to-year increases in charitable giving that I have witnessed in over five decades of work. And it’s a positive trend we must sustain if we want to create a new culture of giving like the one I argue for in The Life You Can Save.
Increasing total charitable giving is only one part of changing the culture of giving for the better. If we hope to eliminate extreme global poverty, we also must ensure that more people choose to support the most impactful, cost-effective organizations. That’s why I founded The Life You Can Save: to popularize the concept of effective giving, inspire more people to give effectively, and make it easier to find and support the world’s most effective charities.
I’ve always believed it’s important to lead by example, especially when it comes to charitable giving. When I was honored with the 2021 Berggruen Prize last fall for my contributions to philosophy, I elected to donate the entire $1 million prize to charity, with half going to The Life You Can Save and a combined $100,000 to three of its recommended charities determined by public vote: Fistula Foundation, Seva Foundation and GiveDirectly. I’m very grateful to the 7,500 supporters who participated in our public vote, and I’m delighted to be able to help these outstanding organizations transform more lives.
I realize that I’m very fortunate, and not everyone can donate $1 million. But you don’t need to give away $1 million to do your part to end extreme poverty. You just have to give a little more than you do currently, to effective charities in low-income countries.
In this section, we highlight some of the ways The Life You Can Save is working to create a new culture of effective giving with easy-to-use tools, engaging content, fundraising campaigns, media opportunities and corporate partnerships.
CHANGING THE CULTURE OF GIVING
Empowering Our Supporters to Become Agents of Change
At The Life You Can Save, we are fortunate to have thousands of dedicated supporters who generously volunteer their time and talents to help us spread the word about effective giving. And we believe that providing our supporters with the resources and the opportunities they need to become agents of change in their personal network is one of the most important things we can do.
Last year, our network of supporters helped us promote and distribute roughly 46,000 free digital and paperback copies of Peter Singer’s The Life You Can Save worldwide as a part of our 2021 book giveaway campaigns. And we look forward to providing our supporters with these and other exciting opportunities to promote effective giving in 2022.
In 2021 you helped us distribute
(full and abridged versions)
CHANGING THE CULTURE OF GIVING
Leveraging the Power of Media
Media appearances such as journalistic profiles and podcast interviews remain some of the most effective ways to reach new audiences, spread the word about effective giving, and inspire action. In 2021, we established our first dedicated PR and Media Relations team to help refine our media strategy and maximize our publicity opportunities. In 2021, our talented team of media experts and partners helped secure 24 features across a variety of media platforms, including high-profile publications like The New York Times, The Guardian, The Atlantic and Financial Review.
IN 2021 WE ADVOCATED FOR MORE AND BETTER GIVING IN
CHANGING THE CULTURE OF GIVING
Creating Impactful Partnerships
Corporate partnerships and other collaborations with mission-aligned organizations are a critical component of our long-term strategy to build more robust giving networks and enrich the culture of giving. Our partnership with Booktopia, Australia’s largest book retailer, in June 2021 secured us a featured spot in their email newsletter and generated 1,200 downloads of the audiobook version of The Life You Can Save at absolutely no cost to our organization. Our 2021 partnership with JCDecaux Australia, which represents the world’s largest out-of-home advertising company, allowed us to publicize The Life You Can Save at public transit locations across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in media space valued at over $530,000 — all pro bono. We are so grateful to Booktopia, JCDecaux Australia and all of our partners.
Get in Touch
Get in touch with our Partnerships representatives if you have ideas on how we can change the culture of giving together.
HELPING YOU FIND EFFECTIVE CHARITIES
A New Research Team to Help You Give Even Better
By Bilal Siddiqi: As someone who has spent two decades researching the impact of promising interventions on poverty, I have a deep appreciation for the vital role effective charities play in the world’s poorest communities. My time with the World Bank’s research department and as Director of Research at UC Berkeley’s Center for Effective Global Action has also made me appreciate how experimental research and data science can help effective charities better maximize their impact.
When The Life You Can Save reached out to me last year to ask if I would help develop and direct a new in-house research team, I jumped at the opportunity to put my research experience into practice. Our research team is here to help you give better, and our aim is to create a robust framework for charity evaluation that will not just allow us to continue to assess our recommended charities with confidence but also to discover and support effective organizations through exploratory grants and research partnerships.
Director of Research and Growth
SUPPORTING EFFECTIVE CHARITIES
Generating more funds for effective charities
By Charlie Bresler: I co-founded The Life You Can Save with Peter Singer in 2013 to make smart giving simpler for donors everywhere. Back then, we were a very small team with little more than a website. But we knew we were bridging a major gap in the world of philanthropy — between donors, who are often overwhelmed by choice and unsure about which organizations they can trust, and the world’s most impactful organizations, which often work in remote regions with the world’s poorest communities.
It’s truly been a blessing to watch our organization not only start to fulfil this urgent need by connecting donors with effective charities but also expand to respond to new needs and challenges in the world of effective giving. Still, making it easier for our supporters to support great organizations and achieve their personal giving goals — to do good and feel good — remains at the heart of what we do.
In 2021, we saw our most important metric — “Net Impact,” or the total amount of money we helped raise for effective charities minus our own operational expenses — increase to ~$21.4 million, up from $13.7 million in 2020. I’m especially excited about our growing presence in Australia, and very thankful for our fruitful partnerships with major Australian corporations like Australian Ethical and, of course, the tireless efforts of our amazing team members working in Australia. More generally, I’ve been excited to see an increase in both large donations and monthly recurring donations, which not only promote short term growth but also enable us to make future plans with confidence.
In this section, we take a closer look at the donations we’ve inspired for our recommended charities, along with the highlights from our 2021 fundraising campaigns.
Co-Founder and Board Member
SUPPORTING EFFECTIVE CHARITIES
Creating Connections and Inspiring More Giving
In 2021, as the global pandemic continued to limit in-person opportunities, we turned our focus to connecting donors with charities and inspiring more giving through virtual fundraising campaigns. In June 2021, we hosted our third virtual crowdfunding event together with The Funding Network and raised over $90,000 for three wonderful charities, Evidence Action, Living Goods and New Incentives. During the 2021 giving season, we partnered with the fundraising organization Double Up Drive for a matching campaign that raised over $6 million for effective charities, including almost $3.2 million for four of our recommended charities and The Life You Can Save itself. In December 2021, to mark the launch of our new crypto donation capabilities, we partnered with our recommended charity GiveDirectly to co-host a virtual panel and fundraiser that featured leading figures in crypto philanthropy and raised over $1 million in support for GiveDirectly. All the while, we reached over 35,000 subscribers to our monthly newsletter, which keeps our supporters informed about the world of effective giving and provides helpful tips about how to start conversations about effective giving with friends and family.
SUPPORTING EFFECTIVE CHARITIES
Stories of Impact
Meet Grace and Nicholas
“If we see, there will be great improvement for our lives”
Grace hopes one day Nicholas can be a teacher. Until recently, that was just a distant dream. Grace’s son was blind. She knew his life was going to be hard – because she was blind too. 4 out of 5 people who are blind don’t need to be. The Fred Hollows Foundation is working to reach more people like Grace and Nicholas, and you can be a part of it.
Meet Metrine Kuto
Metrine Kuto is from Safina village in Kenya. Just seven months after starting her business, Metrine, a mother of six and grandmother to two, evolved from a retailer into a highly profitable and popular wholesale clothing vendor. With her savings, she moved her children from public to private schools in order to improve their education. She also directed funds to start a dairy business for her husband, enabling him to quit his faraway city job and be closer to their family. Read the full story.
Charity: Village Enterprise
Get in Touch
Get in touch with Lydia for general questions or with Charlie, Louise or Rickard for advice on large donations.
CONTINUING OUR MISSION AND INCREASING OUR IMPACT
This is All Made Possible Thanks To You
By Neela Saldanha: As a long-time Board Member I want to personally thank you for making 2021 such a fruitful year for our organization and therefore for our work enabling an end to global poverty. I was honored when asked to be a Board Member because I believe the work of organized behind-the-scenes advocacy that The Life You Can Save does is critical to ensure that recommended non-profits have the funding they need to do their work effectively. And I love the transparency – we never take a cut of donations to effective charities, relying instead on voluntary donations to The Life You Can Save to sustain our mission. None of this would be possible without your generosity to help us help effective non-profits help the world!
I’m so delighted to share that, in 2021, more people donated to support our work than ever before. In 2022, we hope to build on this amazing trend and raise $2.5 million for The Life You Can Save’s operational expenses.
As you, our wonderful supporters know, when you donate to The Life You Can Save, you help us continue to scale our impact: over the last three years, for every $1 spent on our own operations, we’ve been able to generate an average of $17 for our recommended non-profits.
Board Member, The Life You Can Save
Executive Director, Yale Research Initiative on Innovation & Scale (Y-RISE)
In 2021 more people than ever before contributed to The Life You Can Save’s Ops work:
A 229% increase over 2020
CONTINUING OUR MISSION AND INCREASING OUR IMPACT
Our Supporters and Partners
Get in Touch
Contact us or leave a comment or question
Explaining Our Key Metrics: Net Impact and Leverage Ratio
The main metrics we use to assess our performance are our “Net Impact” and our “Leverage Ratio.”
Our “Net Impact” takes the money we raise (aka our “money moved”) and subtracts our expenses from that figure. Our “Leverage Ratio,” by comparison, takes our “money moved” and divides that number by our expenses. We typically talk about our Leverage Ratio in terms of a 3-year period (money moved over three years divided by expenses over three years) as it can be rather volatile over a one year period.
Both of these metrics compare the amount of money we raise for our nonprofits to the money we spend operating our organization. We believe both of these metrics are important, and are ideally looked at together rather than in isolation. However, we believe our Net Impact is a more important single measure because it captures our absolute impact, which translates into real-world impact on the lives of people living in extreme poverty. As such, our primary goal is to maximize our Net Impact while maintaining a resonable three-year Leverage Ratio.
To use an extreme example, given the choice, we would much rather be an organization that moved $100 million to our recommended charities and spent $10 million to do so (in which case we’d have a Net Impact of $90 million and a Leverage Ratio of 10:1) than an organization that moved $100 and spent $1 to do so (which would give us a Net Impact of $99 and a Leverage Ratio of 100:1). In the latter scenario, our work would be highly efficient but wouldn’t necessarily lead to much real world impact.That said, we believe our Leverage Ratio (which we also refer to as our “Multiplier”) is an important metric as it captures the efficiency of our operations. And we recognize that our Leverage Ratio is an intuitive and important metric for many supporters who donate to fund our operations, as this metric helps them understand the “multiplier” they get on their gift. For instance, by applying our 3-year Leverage Ratio of 17:1 to a gift of $1,000, a donor could expect that donation to help us raise ~$17,000 in donations to our recommended nonprofits.
We believe that both Net Impact and Leverage Ratio are conservative measures of our impact. This is because we know the money moved figure that factors into both metrics is incomplete. While we can measure donations that flow through The Life You Can Save, our ability to track donations that we influence that are made directly to our recommended nonprofits is much more limited. We rely on our nonprofits to track those donations, and many of our nonprofits have limited ability to do so, or none at all. A donor survey we send out captures some of this missing data, but we’re confident that we’re still missing out on some donations made directly to our nonprofits. We’re also confident that we’re undercounting donations that we influence where foreign donors give through intermediaries that allow them to claim tax relief.
Even if we could perfectly measure donations made to our recommended nonprofits, our key metrics would still understate our impact. They assign no value to donations that we influence to effective nonprofits that aren’t on our list of recommendations, and they don’t capture non-monetary influence like motivating people to use their careers for social good.
Money Moved 2021 – What’s Included?
In this section of the Annual Report, we provide a detailed account of our total “money moved” (i.e. the total donations to our recommended nonprofits that we either processed directly or inspired) and our operating expenses.We view these figures as a helpful supplement to the standard regulatory reporting measures commonly used to conduct financial analyses of nonprofits (ex. the Form 990 in the US and statements filed with the ACNC in Australia).
Please note that the figures provided in this Annual Report may at times differ from those provided in official financial records for a few reasons:
- Global results vs National Results: In our Annual Report, we aggregate the money moved and operating expenses of The Life You Can Save (a US-based nonprofit) and The Life You Can Save Australia (which is a registered charity in Australia) in order to assess our overall global impact. Technically speaking, however, “The Life You Can Save (US)” and “The Life You Can Save Australia” are separate legal entities subject to different reporting requirements imposed by their respective jurisdictions. As such, their official records will be separate.
- Revenue for our recommended charities vs for The Life You Can Save itself: Our official income statements include two different types of donations we receive: 1) donations given to The Life You Can Save itself for our own operational expenses and 2) donations made through The Life You Can Save and granted by us to one or more of our recommended nonprofits. Our grants are officially recorded as “expenses” and “program costs” in our financial statements in the US and Australia respectively, but to best understand our financial status, it’s important to distinguish between this granting activity and our operational spending.
- Donations processed vs influenced: When calculating our total “money moved” to our recommended charities, we include both donations that we process directly as grants and donations to our charities (either directly or through a third party such as Network for Good or other intermediaries) that our outreach inspired or influenced in some way. Since our official financial statements only record funds directly processed by our own organization, they only reflect some but not all of our total “money moved.”
- Calendar year vs metric year: Our official financial reports operate on a calendar year basis. However, we measure our money moved on a “metric year” basis, which runs from February through January. For example, the 2021 money moved numbers in this annual report include donations made between Feb 1, 2021 and Jan 31, 2022. We use this metric year convention because January donations are largely related to the year-end “giving season,” and as such metric years often provide a more meaningful picture of our annual performance.
For stakeholders interested in reconciling the figures in this Annual Report from our official financial records, this document offers additional details, as well as this table.
Money Moved 2021 – By Charity
This table provides a representative snapshot of the “Money Moved” — or amounts raised — for each of our recommended charities in the 2021 metric year. The table excludes donations made by foundations and individuals who have requested that the designation of their contributions remain confidential.