The inciting Altruism blog
At Inciting Altruism, we believe firmly in using the limited time we have on earth to do the most good we possibly can. It’s why we believe in the power of altruism to improve the lives of givers and receivers of kindness. It is why we believe in the power of community to generate that crucial feeling of purpose and belonging.
Our first ever iA recommended partner goes above and beyond in their embodiment of these values. After extensive research, we can say with confidence that StrongMinds is one of the world's most effective charities.
StrongMinds helps women in Africa to fight depression through group therapy. Depression is one of the biggest blights on human happiness and it disproportionately affects those in Africa. Over 100 million people in Africa deal with the scourge of depression day in and day out. Despite this, very little money is going towards confronting this immense issue.
StrongMinds is the only organization working at scale to confront mental illness in Africa. By training women to conduct group therapy sessions, StrongMinds has been able to provide depression treatment for over 70,000 women, a number which grows every day. Their efforts have been incredibly successful, with over 86% of their patients depression-free 6 months after StrongMinds programming.
Best of all, StrongMinds has been independently vetted for transparency and cost-efficiency, so you can be sure that your donations are going towards actually confronting the issue.
If you are reading this, we encourage you to get your toes wet with philanthropy and give any amount. Yes, any amount. Even just a dollar. (Click here to donate – starting at $1). Currently, all donations to StrongMinds are being matched by independent donors, so donate today and double your impact. iA will be donating too, to get the ball rolling.
Click any image to read a story from the field.
Why Do We Support StrongMinds?
To do the most good possible, you need to spread your impact past what you can do with your own two hands. You need to find out what charities are doing the most good in this world. When evaluating charities for impact, iA takes 7 factors into account:
Severity of the Issue – Any mission that helps someone is a worthy cause, but not all causes are created equally. Giving someone free cataracts surgery to cure blindness does a hell of a lot more for a person’s well-being than giving someone cream to cure a sunburn.
Number of People Affected – the more people that are affected by an issue, the more people that can benefit from a charity’s work. If we have the opportunity to, we should try and maximize the number of people we can help.
Preventability/Solvability – Asking people to give money to prevent/solve global issues that aren’t yet solvable is a hard sell. Meanwhile, there are many diseases that people suffer from worldwide that are highly preventable. For example, people still suffer from malnutrition every year, despite there being more than enough food worldwide to feed every human being.
Cost-Effectiveness of Programs – Some interventions cost a lot of money and do a lot of good, some cost very little and do better. We want you to be confident that you are getting the biggest bang for your buck so that you can be sure that even if you don’t have a lot to give, you are still doing a lot of good.
Current Funding – If there is currently not a lot of funding going to an effective charity, donating to them could help them exponentially increase their impact and serve more people. The more room there is for increased funding the more positive the effect of each incremental dollar.
Evidence of Effectiveness (Reliability of Data) – Transparency is important. When you give to a charity, you deserve to know where your money is going and know that that information is being reported to you honestly. If your donations aren’t going to where they are supposed to, then you might not be having the impact you intend to.
Failure Risk – there is always some level of risk associated with giving to charity. Even the best-intentioned charities could try out a program and have that program fail, resulting in wasted resources. We want to do what we can to minimize risk.
If a charity ranks well across all of these metrics, a donor can be confident that they are doing the right thing by giving. (In fact, we recommend that you try using similar methods to evaluate any charities that you might be interested in supporting). When evaluated against the above criteria, StrongMinds passes with flying colors.
Cause - Ending the Depression Epidemic in Africa
According to the WHO, 350 million people worldwide are living with depression, and by 2025 it will be the world's most burdensome disease. In Africa, the burden of depression is even more acute. Over 100 million people across the continent are afflicted with the disease, meaning it affects more individuals than AIDs, cancer, or heart disease.
Often we think of depression as simple sadness, but the effects of depression are far more severe. Depression is an illness that can last for weeks, months, or even years, and those affected not only suffer from symptoms including sadness, anxiety, and extreme fatigue, those symptoms, in turn, lead to lower productivity, lower-income, and also affect family members.
As a result, depression has stolen over $5 billion worth of productivity from the African continent, unnecessarily prolonging the presence of poverty. Despite this, mental health is rarely discussed in international development circles and is seriously underfunded. In 2013, the U.S. National Institute of Health spent $415 million on depression research, compared to $5.3 billion on cancer research. That is in the United States where mental illness has been largely destigmatized (although there is still a ton of work to be done).
Africa is behind the curve when it comes to discussions of mental health and thus so many go untreated. Over 85% of people suffering from depression in low-income countries receive no help, even basic therapy. The tragedy therein is that although depression is oppressive, it is incredibly treatable. No one understands that better than StrongMinds whose programs have helped over 60,000 women become depression-free over the past 4 years.
Programs - Therapy in Women-Led Groups
The majority of StrongMinds' constituents live under a form of extreme poverty (with a familial income of under $4 a day) and therefore, StrongMinds has had the difficult task of trying to scale a solution to depression in Africa, but to do so as cheaply and effectively as possible. As such, StrongMinds' model is similar to the Inciting Altruism model, StrongMinds builds impact through the power of community.
African women are afflicted with depression at more than twice the rate of their male counterparts. At the same time, studies show that empowering women has positive socio-economic repercussions for the whole family. As such, StrongMinds funds group therapy sessions by African women, for African women. StrongMinds trains Mental Health Facilitators (MHFs) to conduct 12-week-long sessions of therapy for groups of roughly 10-12 women. Leading 10-12 groups per week, MHFs earn income for their households while helping roughly 300-400 women overcome depression each year. -- Note: due to COVID-19 social-distancing measures, StrongMinds has shifted to a phone-based therapy model.
How successful is the StrongMinds model? Extremely. Thus far, StrongMinds has been able to offer treatment to over 70,000 women across Africa, and of those women, 86% remain depression-free 6 months post-therapy. Moreover, as a result of their depression treatment, 16% of women reported increased work productivity, 13% reported an increase in food security for themselves and their children (as measured by the consistent eating of 3 or more meals per day), and 30% reported an increase in their children's school attendance.
Remarkably, these positive impacts come at a really low cost when compared to other development interventions, and especially when compared to the cost of providing therapy in the Global North. To provide a woman with a full-length period of depression treatment (of course at no financial cost to them), it costs StrongMinds only around $110. To put that into perspective, the average cost of a single therapy session in the U.S. runs around $120 dollars. (Currently, all donations are being matched, and thus a donor can expect to double their impact. In other words $60 dollars buys a full range of treatment!)
Most importantly, StrongMinds programs are growing and would benefit from increased funding. According to their 2018 tax filings, StrongMinds posses just over $1.2 million in assets, which is a very low endowment for a non-profit working on an international scale. Additionally, last year, StrongMinds opened up shop in Zambia, and have developed a three-year plan to expand operations. Donors can expect to help fuel that expansion and have a significant impact on mental health programming within Zambia's borders.
Risk - Transparency as a Central Value
While Inciting Altruism cannot guarantee that a donation to any charity will 100% reach the people it has been pledged to reach, we can say with confidence that a donation to StrongMinds is a very low-risk investment. Despite obstacles such as the current global pandemic, StrongMinds has been able to pivot programming and continue its track record of success.
The organization has been independently vetted by institutions charged with the vetting of non-profits, and in 2019 StrongMinds received a GuideStar Platinum Seal of Transparency. And, their methodology has been by peer-revied journals such as the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
All of their financial statements have been made publically available on their website and as such, we know that in 2018, 78% of their spending went directly towards program costs (which is really good for an organization so young) and that that percentage continues to grow. Of the money not going to program costs, the majority is going towards paying staff, and the rest goes towards fundraising so that they might further expand their programs to reach more women. All of their executive staff is being compensated at below industry standards.
Given everything we have explored above, we hope that you can feel confident that giving to StrongMinds is as important, impactful, and beneficial as we at iA believe. If you still aren't convinced, don't be silenced. Let us know why by reaching out here. We will do our best to update this page with any questions or concerns you have, so be sure to check back.
Our goal is to have every one of our followers donate, whether it is $1 to get your toes wet with charity, $110 to provide a family in need with the treatment they deserve, or $1000 dollars because StrongMinds mission truly resonates with you, would you join us in our mission and use the power of altruism to help StrongMinds make untreated depression a feature of the past?
As much as we want to take the leg work out of giving to charity, you shouldn't just take our word for it that StrongMinds is a charity worthy of your donations. Below are some resources to get you started with finding out more about depression and the work StrongMinds does to confront it.
For more information on depression you can read:
StrongMinds' explanation of the scope of the problem
WHO's overview of depression worldwide
Nature Magazine's article on the burden of depression
The Economists' article on the socio-economic impact of depression
PLOS Medicine's report on depressive disorders by country
For independent analyses of StrongMind's programs, check out:
For impact reports see:
StrongMinds Q4 2019 report
For financial reports see:
StrongMinds 2018 IRS filed Form 990
For iA's research spreadsheet