Charity Entrepreneurship: How Did It All Start?

Updated: Dec 2, 2021

The founders of CE have been involved with effective altruism, global poverty and animal issues since 2013, and have helped launch numerous projects. In this post, you’ll learn a bit more about our past and how Charity Entrepreneurship was born.

In the early days of the effective altruism movement, Joey Savoie and Kat Woods founded an organization called Charity Science (CS). The team’s fundamental goal was to use science and reason to identify and put into action the most effective ways of doing good. At this point, we knew that there were several highly effective charities. The most impactful path was to support these great charities. So CS started with fundraising, launching a project called Charity Science Outreach (CSO). Through our work, we were able to learn a ton of great things about how to fundraise, how to run a falsifiable organization, and we got to talk to the leaders of the best charities in the world and top charity evaluators like GiveWell and ACE. Along the way, we realized that there was another opportunity before us with the potential to be hugely impactful: founding a charity. Another THL or AMF could not only have tremendous direct impact but also could draw more funding into the broader space of effective charities. Even though CSO had successfully raised almost $400,000 for top charities, we felt that the potential impact of founding new charities could be even greater. So we decided to experiment. For the next six months, the CSO team dived deep into research, calling the project Charity Entrepreneurship. This team included the senior staff of CSO at the time – Joey, Kat, Kieran Greig, Marcus Davis, and Peter Hurford. We visited countries, drew up cost-effectiveness analyses, and combed through the evidence. Through this process Charity Science Health (CSH) was born, a nonprofit that sends text message reminders about vaccinations to parents in India. Kieran moved to working on animal issues full time but the other staff continued to work on CSH. The organization has since received multiple GiveWell incubation grants and helped over 10,000 people; in 2020, it merged with Suvita, a nonprofit launched through our 2019 Incubation Program that works in a similar space. Today they work with over 200,000 caregivers, and are scaling up sustainably through a partnership with the Family Welfare Bureau of the Ministry of Health, Maharashtra. Vaccination reminders was our top idea. But our research identified a couple of other exciting opportunities with the potential to save millions. When we published our research, an aspiring entrepreneur named Brendan reached out to Joey, keen to get one of these other promising projects off the ground. Initially, Brendan hoped to work as a department within Charity Science, but Joey encouraged him to found his own organization. With support from the CSH team, Brendan would feel confident taking the leap. ​So we decided to take a chance. CSH was the primary project, but we provided Brendan with a $30,000 seed grant to launch a new nonprofit. We gave Brendan an hour a week of mentorship, put him in touch with our connections, and helped steer him around the mistakes we’d made in our early days. Soon he found a brilliant co-founder, Nikita. Together they set up Fortify Health, battling anemia through fortifying flour with iron. Three years down the line, their organization is thriving and has a 25% chance of becoming one of GiveWell’s top charities. Inspired by Fortify Health’s success with a relatively small amount of support, Joey Savoie found a co-founder in Karolina Sarek and launched Charity Entrepreneurship as a full organization. Prior to that she gained skills and experience as a researcher in the for-profit and non-profit sector and academia. Drawing on her expertise in research into the cost-effectiveness of various charitable interventions she co-founded an organization to increase the effectiveness of existing NGOs and foundations through impact consulting. Her previous experience brought a crucial new perspective and skill set to the team. Kat continued to lead CSH, while Marcus and Peter went on to found the organization Rethink Priorities. Charity Entrepreneurship ran its first formal Incubation Program in 2019, with New Incentives co-founder Patrick joining us – initially as a mentor for new charities, and then formally as Director of Communications. So far, we have incubated thirteen new nonprofits; this year, we hope to found more from our 2021 top ideas list. ​ Head to our Charity Ideas page to learn more about the new organizations we plan to incubate in 2021, and if you’re keen to get involved as a founder, read up on our Incubation Program or browse our resources for charity entrepreneurs.