The GiveWell Blog

Nice to meet you

I’m Holden, and I’m the guy who will be making sure this blog gets updated twice a week (Tuesday and Saturday) at a minimum. So if you’ve been wishing there were more blogs to read, you’ll be getting to know me well. Right now I’m talking to no one, because we haven’t told anyone about the blog launch, but we’ll start tomorrow with friends and relatives and it shouldn’t take long before we’re outdrawing Deadspin.

We’re starting the blog for a few reasons. One is transparency. One of our biggest frustrations in researching the nonprofit sector, and figuring out where to give our money, is that we generally have no sense of what the heck is going on at these places. For a great example, I’ll pick on Oxfam: look at their website and you’ll see a mind-numbing array of regions, programs, examples, and vague descriptions, but it’s almost impossible to picture what people are literally spending money your money on over in, say, Bolivia, and totally impossible to picture what’s happening at the Oxfam office–how are they deciding what to do? What’s going through their heads? You won’t have this problem with GiveWell: this blog is going to be way more information on how we think than a reasonable person would want.

Hopefully you’ll read it anyway, because you like reading random stuff, which brings me to the second purpose for the blog: to keep people interested in our project, despite slow progress on our main website (which represents researched and edited content, and just can’t change as fast as your favorite websites tend to). Personally, I know that no matter how pressed for time I am, I still read random crap online. Now I want to be your crap.

“But why would I read this? I like reading about sports and sex and high-fiving. This is about charity.” Well. That statement of yours comes from a mentality I hope to change, which is the third purpose of this blog. A lot of people–not everyone–seem to hold various impressions of charitable giving that don’t make any sense to me. This include things like “giving to charity is an act of self-sacrifice,” “no one helps others without ulterior motives,” “you can’t devote your life to charity until you’re disgustingly wealthy and have nothing else to do,” “I don’t have enough money to make a difference,” “There’s no point in giving if I don’t make a difference,” and “charity is all about the goodness of your heart.” I’ll go into my gripes with all of these thoughts, in depth, in later entries. For now I just want to put it to you that I think deciding where to give is a huge, challenging, fascinating problem. I like to think about it, yap about it, and argue about it. I think it’s a topic that can be funny, weird, and fun. I hope you’ll read this blog and end up agreeing.

So bookmark this page, or add it to your RSS feed (if you have no idea what this is, check this out). And bookmark the actual website of GiveWell, too. So far this project is just a bunch of friends doing research in their spare time, so progress will be especially slow in the near future; but in a few months, I’m going to be leaving my job to work on it full-time, and then, well … let’s just say malaria shouldn’t be getting too comfortable. Meanwhile, we want your opinions on everything, so please share, even if the only person you are at this point is my mom.