How transparent is CARE?
On one hand, it maintains a site at www.careevaluations.org that currently lists 448 project evaluation documents (352 of which are in English). We haven’t found anything comparable for any other of what we call the “household name” charities – enormous, well-known, aggressively fundraising international aid charities (usually members of the InterAction network) that conduct a huge array of different programs in different places.
Looking through the evaluations provides an interesting example of what one of these “household name charities’” operations and impact evaluation look like. The variety of the projects and of the evaluations is huge. Some evaluations examine measures quite relevant to “impact,” such as reported behavior change and children vaccinated (example); others are looser, mentioning regional trends in disease burden but focusing on qualitative generalizations (example); others do not examine life outcomes at all, but simply make qualitative observations about strengths and weaknesses of the program evaluated (example). The quality and tone of the studies varies considerably as well. The use of “control groups” to assess impact is rare but occasional; none that we examined have what we consider to be a high level of rigor, but many appear encouragingly honest about program weaknesses as well as strengths.
Note that this set of evaluations appears to be far from comprehensive: CARE currently lists 845 active projects, whereas the database (which in some cases includes more than one evaluation per project, and goes back to 1991) contains only 448 evaluations as of this writing.
This isn’t the level of impact evidence that we see from our recommended charities, but some evaluation is better than no evaluation and non-publicized disclosure is better than no disclosure.
As a side note, CARE appears to be the only “household name charity” that turned down government funds during the debate over US-provided food aid. We aren’t sure whether they have the right side of this debate, but the turning away substantial money is unusual among charities, and suggests that CARE’s staff aren’t always putting fundraising first.
Bottom line: we’d recommend these charities over CARE, but we’d recommend CARE over other “household name” charities.