GIVEWELL: CHECKING UP ON CHARITIES

Our charity evaluation process

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Since I posted about fake charities, I thought I would post about ways to figure out effective charities.  The above is straight from the GiveWell.org website.

What is GiveWell?

Givewell is an American non-profit charity evaluator started in 2007 by two former Bridgewater Associates* investment analysts, Holden Karnofsky and Elie Hassenfeld. The goal of Givewell is to promote giving to charities that are effective and transparent.

Where does GiveWell get its funding?

GiveWell is supported by foundations, such as the Hewlett Foundation, and individual supporters.  They do not solicit donations from the general public. Look here.

Interesting GiveWell Articles:

Some juicy bits from their blog (at least for me): Celebrated Charities That We Don’t Recommend, which names Kiva, Smile Train and UNICEF.

  • Kiva: Well, damn. I’ve given money to Kiva – I honestly thought I was giving money directly to women to help finance their businesses, when it seems the money was given to micro-finance institutions, and that the creation of this direct relationship between you as a donor and a businesswoman on the other end is illusory. Kiva promises to give you updates so you see how your contribution is having an effect.  I gave some time ago and have since received one really generic update.  
    • In regards to micro-finance institutions, GiveWell has put together an article suggesting that microfinancing (making small loans to people to help them start their business!), while a good idea in theory, may suck in practice.
  • Smile Train: You’ve seen those pictures of children with cleft lips – what kind of bastard are you that you could resist that? Well, you are not alone.  No one could resist that, and Smile Train has been so successful that they are out of room for more funding. 
  • UNICEF: UNICEF it would have never occurred to me to question, because…it’s UNICEF.  Speaking ill of UNICEF is like peeing on a church.  You just don’t do that. Well, UNICEF isn’t exactly forthcoming about what they do with their funds, so I’m putting my reverence on hold. 
Also interesting is their article on Mega-Charities: those large institutional charities (think $250+ Million budgets) that are well known.  This includes UNICEF (again), Oxfam, Mercy Corps, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children, World Vision, and CARE.  This article points out that these organizations don’t provide a lot of data on where your money goes, and you can probably have a stronger impact donating to smaller organizations, possibly the one recommended on GiveWell (seems self-promoting, I know). Exception: Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders.  Interesting…
Useful Links:

  • Here is the their list of top charities and the international charities they considered. 
  • Here is their Giving 101 guide showing you how you can make sure your donation has a positive impact.
  • Here is a link to their charity evaluation process
So the question now is – do you trust GiveWell?  Willing to give them a chance? 
* Bridewater Associates: an American investment management firm, or hedge fund. 
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