Insights from the Research Team

Our Value Discovery Approach

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Written by
Sjir Hoeijmakers
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When it comes to philanthropy, there is no ‘one size fits all.’

At Founders Pledge, we believe your giving should be a reflection of the world you want to see, and, with a thoughtful and strategic approach, it should help to create that world.

This means that truly bespoke philanthropy is more complex than catering to your pre-existing interests in certain cause areas or geographies. Rather, it’s deeply rooted in your intrinsic values: those underlying drivers that compel you to give in the first place.

This is why we’ve spent a lot of time developing and refining our very own Value Discovery Approach. Its defining feature is that it gets to the bottom of the donor’s individual values, and matches those with the latest research on high-impact causes and charities.

The Value Discovery Approach is built on three crucial ideas:

1. The charities that have the most impact are difficult to find.

Just like startups, charities differ a lot in impactfulness. Most startups don’t make it past a series A, but a small number grow into unicorns. Similarly, many charities have very low impact per dollar donated, whereas some are enormously impactful. There is one important difference though: businesses that aren’t profitable will eventually face bankrupcy, whereas charities that don’t create impact can stick around indefinitely, as long as they remain excellent at fundraising.

2. The same holds true for the most impactful cause areas.

Zooming out, it’s not just individual organisations that vary in impact. The same principle holds true for cause areas. The most media-covered and marketed causes are not necessarily the ones where you can make the biggest difference. In fact, all else equal you’ll likely be able to have more impact on problems that fewer donors pay attention to, as in these cases the most effective solutions - or low-hanging fruit - are less likely to be funded already.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have outsized impact in a well-known area. It just means that how well-known a cause is - or how appealing at first sight - isn’t a great predictor of how much impact you can have by focusing on it.

Put simply, the charities and causes where donations will be most useful aren’t necessarily those you’re already familiar with, and you’re unlikely to stumble upon them by chance.

Our research team aim to help you support high-impact charities, rather than those that are only great at marketing or fundraising. They specialise in sourcing high-leverage causes and impactful charities, which are then added to our ever-expanding shortlist.

3. The meaning of success depends on your values.

The causes and charities we recommend to you should reflect your vision of what a better world looks like. A charity might be outstanding at saving lives, but if you don’t think that’s as important as making sure those lives are lived happily, that charity might not be the one for you. Another charity might be super efficient at improving animal welfare, but if your value system doesn’t place animal welfare high on the priorities list, it’s unlikely to be the best choice for you.

Value Discovery means impact with intentionality and focus

We’ve developed the Value Discovery Approach to help you maximize your impact based on your values. Instead of asking you for the causes and charities you’re already interested in, we ask about the values underlying your worldview. We then make cause and charity recommendations from our high-impact list on the basis of your personal value profile. In this way, we combine your views on what a better world would mean, with our expertise on where to give best to help build that world.

Sjir Hoeijmakers


Sjir is Director of Research at Giving What We Can, having led research and efforts to create the Patient Philanthropy Fund in his previous role as Senior Researcher at Founders Pledge. He also co-founded Effective Altruism Netherlands, where he serves as a trustee.