The GiveWell Blog

Announcing the Clear Fund

The goal of GiveWell is to make thorough analysis of charities (the kind currently exclusive to large grantmakers) available, useful, usable, and criticizable for any donor, large or small, who cares.

This has been our goal since last August, but we have come a long way in terms of strategy. Originally, our strategy was to do research on a part-time/”hobby” basis, and slap it all on a public website. As we discovered just how much there is to find, we investigated the idea of operating like Wikipedia: putting a lot of work into a basic structure that would allow thousands or millions of people to build the project up with their small contributions. But as we realized just how complex these problems are, and just how hard it is to find any useful information (and how useful it is to have large donations to use as leverage), we concluded that there’s really only one strategy that will achieve our goal well. That strategy is to create The Clear Fund: the world’s first charitable grantmaker whose reason for existence is to make its decisions accessible, useful, usable, and criticizable for all.

I believe that this is the biggest opportunity that exists to help make the world a better place. So on April 27, I will be leaving a great job to devote myself to it. Elie will be taking a leave of absence to help me when we most need it. At that point we will also “shed the cloak of anonymity,” i.e., publish our last names. The only reason we haven’t done so yet is to prevent mind-shatteringly stupid people from affiliating us with my employer.

We intend that detail about us to be available by the time it matters. In the meantime, we are being transparent in every other way, and that includes sharing all the details of our business plan: why we think we need to do this, what we’re planning to do, how much it’s going to cost, and what the benefits will be. If anyone wants to steal our idea, we encourage you to do so, although it would be nice to let us know. We’re doing this because we want the Clear Fund to exist, and for no other reason.

Since our definition of transparency involves making our materials not just available but useful, we’ve made our plan available at a few different levels of detail. Whether you have a little time or a lot, I encourage you to check it out and share your thoughts.

Clear Fund Business Plan


  • Mark Petersen on April 8, 2007 at 6:28 pm said:

    Holden … I will print out your business plan and read it through this week, then respond. Thanks for your commitment to clarity and sharing information. Mark

  • Mark Petersen on May 31, 2007 at 8:14 am said:


    Your Clear Fund plan has been weighing on my conscious for over a month now! And I’m sorry for not responding as I said I would on April 8.

    I did print out the plan, and it literally sat on my desk staring at me (“Read me, read me! Interact! Engage!” it cried.) I took it with me on a cross-Canada trip, and I did read most of it.

    But I regret to tell you that I just didn’t have the energy to engage with it at the level you were seeking with other things which are also demanding my attention.

    One of the things I am doing to counter this lack of time is hiring a new person as of July 1st. Brent will join me and be Snr Program Officer, and this will allow me to engage more with ideas rather than the nuts-and-bolts of granting.

    So maybe then you’ll get more out of me … until then, I just don’t have the capacity.

    Best to you,

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