This is the fourth post (of five) we’re planning to make focused on our self-evaluation and future plans.
In previous posts, we discussed the progress we’ve made, where we stand, and how we can improve in core areas. This post focuses on the latter, and lays out our top-level strategic choices for the next year.
Broadly, we see the key aspects of GiveWell – the areas in which we can improve – as
- Research vetting: subjecting our existing research to strong, critical scrutiny from people with substantial relevant experience and credentials.
- Research maintenance and systemization: keeping our research up-to-date and high-quality, while training junior staff to maintain it.
- Research expansion: actively seeking more charities to recommend.
- Marketing: increasing our “customers” reached and money moved.
- Fundraising/operating: maintaining the organization.
(These are broadly similar to last year’s areas for improvement.)
Our top priorities for this year are:
- Research expansion. As discussed previously, we have an urgent need to find more top charities so that we can productively move more money. It would be a major problem for GiveWell if we essentially had more demand for our research (i.e., donors interested in following our recommendations) than supply (i.e., charities able to absorb this funding effectively).
We aim to find at least $3 million in room for more money moved, i.e., gold-medal charities that can collectively absorb at least $3 million very effectively. Finding more top charities could be very challenging and require large allocations of time from both junior and senior staff.
- Fundraising – as discussed in the overview of our financial situation, we have expanded our staff while seeing a couple of large sources of revenue fall off. Raising more money in 2011 will be necessary in order to maintain our operations at optimal size.
We aim to raise our annual revenue from around $200,000 to around $400,000 (if we do not make it all the way to $400,000 we will cut some staff going into 2012, as outlined in our overview of our financial situation). I (Holden Karnofsky) will be taking primary responsibility for this task, and expect it to take a fair amount of time.
Other key priorities are:
- Research maintenance and systemization – all our research will need to be updated this year (as it is every year). We expect this work to be done primarily by junior staff.
- Research vetting – we believe there is substantial room for improvement in our testimonials and external reviews of our research. We expect to make improvements with relatively little investment of our time, since our process for getting testimonials and reviews is already in place.
- Marketing – we expect to pursue most of the ideas we listed previously for expanding our reach, with moderate time cost.
- High-level research of new causes – we’re experimenting with a method for getting a high-level picture of a charitable cause, without getting to the most time-consuming step of evaluating specific charities. The idea is to take a given cause – for example, global warming mitigation – and get a basic sense of what information is available, what cost-effectiveness estimates say about what can be accomplished for how much, what the key questions are for organizations, and how likely it seems that we could find top charities in this area. We hope to do high-level research on a few particularly promising causes, laying the groundwork to find more top charities in the future.