by Robby Walker11/27/2017
No Lean Season gives a travel subsidy of $19 to very poor rural farm laborers. This enables a family member to travel to a nearby city to earn extra income during the period between planting and harvesting.
No Lean Season is program of Evidence Action, a nonprofit organization that scales up evidence-based interventions to help millions.
No Lean Season’s method of reducing seasonal poverty has been rigorously evaluated by randomized controlled trials designed at Yale University. During their time at Y Combinator, No Lean Season incorporated software at key points in their process to dramatically reduce their costs—making an already cost effective program even better. As a result, the team is on track to provide over 450,000 travel subsidies over the next three years, benefitting over 1.8 million people in rural Bangladesh.
We have long admired GiveWell. On an ongoing basis, GiveWell identifies a small number of nonprofits as top charities. In their words:
“Unlike charity evaluators that focus solely on financials, assessing administrative or fundraising costs, we (GiveWell) conduct in-depth research aiming to determine how much good a given program accomplishes (in terms of lives saved, lives improved, etc.) per dollar spent. Rather than try to rate as many charities as possible, we focus on the few charities that stand out most (by our criteria) in order to find and confidently recommend high-impact giving opportunities (our list of top charities).” – https://www.givewell.org/about
Here’s why this is so important: Compared to their for profit batch-mates, nonprofits face some unique challenges.
One challenge is determining if the nonprofit actually works. For companies, the market is very good at evaluating and rewarding great products. For nonprofits, many great programs struggle to get funding while many ineffective programs raise substantial sums of money.
Another challenge is fundraising. Nonprofit founders tend to spend roughly one third of their time raising money—valuable time that could instead be spent on helping people.
GiveWell helps solve both of these problems. Being named a top charity helps nonprofits raise a significant amount of money—and this means GiveWell is creating a financial incentive for highly effective programs. For example, as part of being selected as a top charity, No Lean Season has been awarded an $11.5m grant from Good Ventures.
Congrats to No Lean Season! If you think your nonprofit is a fit for YC or maybe the next GiveWell top charity, we’d love to talk to you. You can submit a late application for the Winter 2018 batch here.
Robby Walker is a YC expert and leads YC’s non-profit program. Robby previously founded two companies funded by Y Combinator: Zenter (W2007) and Cue (W2010). He now works on Siri at Apple.