AMA: Rob Mather, founder and CEO of the Against Malaria Foundation

The Against Malaria Foun­da­tion was started some­what by ac­ci­dent in 2005 af­ter a three-per­son fundrais­ing swim for a two-year-old girl, who suffered 90% burns in a house fire, grew over seven weeks into 150 swims in 73 coun­tries in­volv­ing 10,000 peo­ple. The swim helped to se­cure the child’s fi­nan­cial fu­ture, and many par­ti­ci­pants asked: “What are we do­ing next year?” My an­swer was a very big swim for malaria, which led to our first malaria-fo­cused ac­tivity, World Swim Against Malaria (in which 250,000 peo­ple par­ti­ci­pated).

AMF’s pro­cess has re­mained largely the same over the years: we re­ceive dona­tions from the pub­lic that we use to buy long-last­ing in­sec­ti­cide-treated anti-malaria nets, ‘LLINs’, and we work with dis­tri­bu­tion part­ners, in­clud­ing na­tional Ministries of Health, to dis­tribute them. In­de­pen­dent part­ners help us mon­i­tor all as­pects of our pro­grammes, in­clud­ing post-dis­tri­bu­tion mon­i­tor­ing to help en­sure nets are dis­tributed as in­tended, are hung and used prop­erly, and con­tinue to be used prop­erly in sub­se­quent years. Here’s more in­for­ma­tion on how we choose which dis­tri­bu­tions we fund.

As we seek to be as effi­cient and fo­cused in our work as we can, AMF is set up and op­er­ates a lit­tle differ­ently from many char­i­ties. Some of those differ­ences:

  • AMF is still run from the back room of my house in London

  • We are a reg­istered char­ity in 12 coun­tries but have no offices

  • Our over­heads over the last 5 years have av­er­aged 0.85% of revenues

  • We are a lean or­gani­sa­tion: i.e. for 10 years, two of us ran AMF and grew the or­gani­sa­tion to ~$50m of rev­enue per year, al­though we are now a team of seven

  • I have a ’20 minute rule’ when work­ing out how we go about things at AMF and to help us move quickly.

We fo­cus strongly on data to max­imise the im­pact of our work and to de­liver ac­countabil­ity. For ex­am­ple, we gather data from each one of the mil­lions of house­holds to which we then de­liver nets so that the right num­ber of nets go to each house­hold. We show trans­par­ently to donors where the nets they fund are dis­tributed, link­ing each in­di­vi­d­ual dona­tion to a spe­cific net dis­tri­bu­tion. So far we have re­ceived 492,500 dona­tions to­tal­ing US$235,443,337. Our small­est dona­tion has been $1 and our largest $22.8m, and ev­ery $2 mat­ters be­cause ev­ery net mat­ters.

We have grown over the last five years and now fund mul­ti­ple mil­lions of nets at a time. We have re­cently agreed to fund, for dis­tri­bu­tion in 2020, 3.5 mil­lion nets for Togo, 11.6 mil­lion nets for Uganda, and 16.2 mil­lion nets for the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo (DRC), one of the two coun­tries in the world worst af­fected by malaria. This is a US$70 mil­lion com­mit­ment, and these nets will pro­tect about 56 mil­lion peo­ple.

We re­cently com­pleted a sig­nifi­cant ran­domised con­trol­led trail of a new type of LLIN to help in the fight against malaria, and the re­sults so far are pos­i­tive.

AMF has benefited *hugely* over the last eight years from the sup­port of the EA com­mu­nity for which we are ex­cep­tion­ally grate­ful. AMF has been a GiveWell top-rated char­ity since 2012 and has long been similarly ranked by The Life You Can Save.

A re­cent up­date on AMF ac­tivi­ties can be found here.

I’d be happy to an­swer any ques­tions you have about AMF: how we started, how we work, the challenges we face, my biggest mis­take, the op­por­tu­ni­ties we have ahead of us, what AMF most needs, etc.

I’ll be re­spond­ing to ques­tions on Mon­day 27th Jan­uary, and I’ll check the post later in the week in case new ques­tions come up. If you’re read­ing this af­ter early Fe­bru­ary and have ques­tions, please feel free to email me at rmather@again­st­malaria.com.