Maximizing the impact of your donations

The Bottom Line

  • "Effective altruism" is a social movement that aims to take an analytical approach to identifying the best ways to make a positive impact on the world (including focusing on interventions that are evidence-based and can therefore maximize the impact of donations).
  • One of the founders of the movement is Australian philosopher Peter Singer, who says that if we have enough money to buy unnecessary or luxury goods, we should instead share some of it to help people living in poverty.

Year after year, Canadians are generous and donate a portion of their income to charitable organizations. While the number of donors has decreased since the COVID-19 pandemic, the total amount of donations is on the rise. In 2020, Statistics Canada reported that over $11 billion was donated to various official charities. It also shows that one in three donors is 65 years of age or older.(1)

Some of us give spontaneously to organizations that are important to us. Others take a more analytical approach to identify organizations that are using effective interventions (based on the best available evidence) to maximize the impact of their donations. This analytical approach is called "effective altruism".

What is effective altruism?

Effective altruism is a growing global movement. To do good in the world and save lives, effective altruists rely on independent organizations that rigorously evaluate the interventions implemented by charities.(2)

The Evidence Commission report notes that such rigorous evaluations can create a virtuous circle: charities will stop using ineffective interventions and will be encouraged to adopt effective ones.(3) is a pioneer in making it easy for people to give money to initiatives that use effective interventions. estimates that two of its top-rated charities - Against Malaria Foundation and Malaria Consortium - each save one life for every additional US$4,500 they spend on their programs. Such favourable results are powerful incentives for donors who wish to support charities that can maximize the impact of their donations.(3)

By giving to charities that advocate for effective interventions, you can be assured that your money will directly improve the lives of people who need it most, whether it's helping to save lives in natural disasters or treating people with malaria, for example. While fighting poverty is the primary concern of many 'effective altruists', others care deeply about the welfare of animals. In addition, a new societal challenge has gained popularity in recent years: improving humanity's long-term survival prospects by addressing climate change, nuclear threats and biosecurity. 

Considering a donation to an effective charity?

In Canada, one of the leading organizations connecting donors with effective charities is the RC Forward platform. Founded in 2017, it is based in Vancouver and has up to 5,000 donors each year. RC Forward offers you the opportunity to donate to charity partners that have been evaluated rigorously. Detailed impact reports on each charity are available to help you choose. In addition, an official receipt will be sent to you so that you can claim your tax credits.

To learn more about RC Forward, visit their website:

- RC Forward: 

International organizations have also proven themselves, including the platform which is a pioneer in the effective altruism movement: 

- GiveWell:

Whether you are planning to give during your lifetime or in your will, or whether you want to invest your time and energy in community service: every small action helps. Get involved!

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Author Details


  1. Statistics Canada. Charitable donors, 2020, Statistics Canada, Ottawa: Canada, 2022.
  2. Hessey K. The virtuous few: How effective altruists are doing good better. Global News, 5 March 2022.
  3. Global Commission on Evidence to Address Societal Challenges. The Evidence Commission report: A wake-up call and path forward for decision-makers, evidence intermediaries, and impact-oriented evidence producers. Hamilton: McMaster Health Forum, 2022.

DISCLAIMER: These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (

Many of our Blog Posts were written before the COVID-19 pandemic and thus do not necessarily reflect the latest public health recommendations. While the content of new and old blogs identify activities that support optimal aging, it is important to defer to the most current public health recommendations. Some of the activities suggested within these blogs may need to be modified or avoided altogether to comply with changing public health recommendations. To view the latest updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada, please visit their website.