The GiveWell Blog

The 2007 Holden Award for Excellence in Imperfection

I am proud to announce the winner of the 2007 Holden Award for Excellence in Imperfection. This award has a rich history dating back to 3 minutes ago. The rules are as follows:

The first charity to make a negative correction to its GiveWell review wins the award.

Since we’ve published our review drafts, we’ve gotten many corrections – “you’ve underestimated ___ advantage of our organization,” “you’ve left out how great it is that we ___,” etc. Most of these corrections have been correct or at least worth considering, and I’m glad we’ve gotten them. But, not until today did someone write in, “You’re overstating our lives saved per $.” For that, this charity wins the 2007 Holden Award for Excellence in Imperfection, in recognition of its honesty, humility, and recognition that getting the truth out there is more important than looking good.

The award comes with a $500 donation from Holden (not from The Clear Fund). This means a lot now that I no longer make a hedge fund salary.

Your winner: Population Services International, for sending us downward revisions of its own estimates of HIV/AIDS infections averted. Well there’s a shocker for you. The very same organization that has demonstrated the strongest commitment to monitoring and evaluating itself is also the first one to ask us to remove information that exaggerates its impact! Maybe monitoring and evaluation really do go hand in hand with humility. Would you guess that combination also goes hand in hand with effectiveness?


  • John Curran on December 22, 2007 at 11:47 am said:

    What did you think of SmileTrain?We stopped giving when I saw they had $65 million in cash!

  • That doesn’t sound like a very good reason to stop giving. It makes sense for a charity to hold some money for a rainy day, so it doesn’t have to fold the second it has a hiccup in fundraising.

    I don’t know a lot about Smile Train. I actually do suspect (for different reasons) that they are overfunded for their core activities, although I like the way they handle it (giving grants to other organizations in their area). I am also not a big fan of cleft palate surgery, as I think that other strategies can create more comprehensive community health benefits while creating just as many “significant life changes” (see our report on saving lives in Africa for more).

  • Joanne on January 2, 2009 at 2:04 pm said:

    I agree, just because a charity is doing well doesnt mean you should no longer give to it. The fact that they have cash means they are smart with their money and dont waste it. Thats a charity I would be more interested in giving to.

Comments are closed.