The GiveWell Blog

Afraid of the light?

I’ve begged and begged foundations for their outcome reports on the charities they fund, and the most common response I’ve gotten is that they must keep this information confidential.

Our application materials clearly state that everything sent is public record unless specified otherwise, and each Round One app concludes with a request that the charity tell us what needs to be kept under wraps.

Turnout has been pretty strong – 1/3 of the charities we initially invited to apply have submitted – and almost no one has made use of their right to confidentiality, except regarding budget info (generally, only salary info). Of the charities who didn’t participate, nearly all of them cited some version of “a lot of work for not a lot of money” – only one even mentioned the public nature of the process as a concern.

It’s possible, of course, that charities are just leaving their top-secret reports on how to help people out of their apps (though it’s not clear why they’d do so, instead of just marking them confidential). But it makes me wonder … who’s really afraid of a little sunlight? Charities – or foundations?