Guest post from Cari Tuna

Cari Tuna is a member of GiveWell’s board of directors and president of Good Ventures, a foundation in the San Francisco Bay Area which she created with her partner Dustin Moskovitz earlier this year. Previously, Cari was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.

Today, I’m writing to share that Good Ventures is donating $500,000 to the Against Malaria Foundation and $250,000 to the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative–GiveWell’s #1 and #2 charity recommendations this giving season, respectively. Over the coming months, Good Ventures also plans to donate to the six nonprofits that GiveWell recently named “standout organizations”: GiveDirectly, Innovations for Poverty Action, KIPP Houston, Nyaya Health, Pratham and the Small Enterprise Foundation.

I first learned about GiveWell about a year ago while preparing to transition from reporting to working in philanthropy full time. I read about the organization in Peter Singer’s The Life You Can Save and, around the same time, met co-founder Holden Karnofsky through a mutual friend. Right away, I was struck by the rigor of GiveWell’s research, its commitment to transparency and the volume of thoughtful commentary about the nonprofit sector it already had produced in just three years.

In April 2011, I joined GiveWell’s board. Since then, I’ve been increasingly impressed by the co-founders’ dedication to their work, humility about what they know and what they don’t, and ability to adapt the GiveWell model as they learn.

As a new foundation, Good Ventures’ top priorities are 1) to learn how to do as much good as possible with the resources at our disposal and 2) to become a great resource for other people who care about improving our world. We plan to make a number of carefully selected grants over the coming years in order to learn about promising solutions to the world’s most formidable problems. Over time, we hope our work contributes to significant, sustained reductions in poverty and improvements in quality of life for disadvantaged people around the world.

To that end, we see huge potential in encouraging greater effectiveness and transparency across the social sector, in particular by helping to foster a culture in which individual donors demand evidence of impact from the nonprofits they support.

One simple idea–that all donors should be at least as thoughtful about our philanthropic investments as we are about our financial investments–has transformed the way I think about giving. If you’re reading GiveWell’s blog, this probably isn’t news to you. But it might be news to your friends, parents, siblings, children or coworkers. So this giving season, please spread the word, and let’s transform the culture around giving, one heart and mind at a time.

Note: While Good Ventures does not accept unsolicited requests for funding, we do consider all of GiveWell’s recommended charities–and not just its #1 recommendation–for substantial grants.


Guest post from Cari Tuna — 2 Comments

  1. Cari,

    Thanks for sharing this. It’s great to hear that GiveWell’s recommendations are moving an increasing amount of money. I have a couple of follow-up questions for you.

    First, your post was very complimentary of GiveWell’s research. Other than GiveWell, what do you think are the best sources of information and methods for research for donors who want to do as much good as possible? How to you think GiveWell’s research compares with them?

    Also, do you make substantial donations to organizations that are not among GiveWell’s top rated charities? If so, it would be great to hear how you select them.



  2. Eric — First off, thanks for your great guest post last year and the thoughtfulness with which you’re approaching giving.

    From an individual donor’s perspective, my favorite resource is GiveWell, but I also like the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy and the Stanford Social Innovation Review for context about the social sector. The research coming out of Innovations for Poverty Action at Yale and the Jameel Poverty Action Lab at MIT — nicely summarized in Poor Economics by J-PAL’s Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo — also has shaped my thinking. Lastly, there are some good books on how to give strategically, although they offer less advice on where to direct your giving than some of the above-mentioned resources. They include Giving 2.0 by Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen and Money Well Spent by Paul Brest and Hal Harvey.

    The key difference between GiveWell and most other resources for individual donors is that it makes a few, specific giving recommendations. In other words, GiveWell goes the extra mile to synthesize its research and make a judgement call, rather than leaving donors to find their own way across the vast sea of information and perspectives on giving. The detail in which GiveWell explains its reasoning and the thoroughness of its research into its top charities also are unmatched, as far as I’ve seen.

    Additionally, as an institutional donor, I’ve found other foundations to be a great resource for information on everything from specific nonprofits and issues to what’s worked and what hasn’t in terms of giving strategies. Unfortunately, much of this information is unavailable to individual donors. We’d love to see foundations publish more of their research so that other donors can benefit from it. Meantime, you might consider browsing the Foundation Center for information on where the institutional donors you admire are giving.

    And yes, Good Ventures will give to organizations other than GiveWell’s top charities. We’re aiming to select grants that, taken together, will give us wide exposure to 1) promising areas of philanthropy (e.g. global health) and 2) promising ways of tackling problems (e.g. research, technology development, direct services, etc.) over the next few years. Since we’re just getting started, we don’t have many insights to share yet. But eventually we hope to be a valuable source of information for impact-oriented donors.

    Hope that helps & thanks for asking.