The GiveWell Blog

Statement from the GiveWell Board of Directors

The following is a statement from the GiveWell Board of Directors. Audio and materials from the meeting are located here. Additional materials related to this statement will be posted soon.


The board has amended its original statement as of January 11, 2008 at 830pm est. Please note the addition of paragraph 5.


The Board of Directors wishes to emphasize that GiveWell was, is, and will remain committed to the goal of helping those in need by performing and publishing high quality research on charities within selected spheres for free and discretionary use by all interested parties. We are committed to the goals of improving philanthropy and increasing transparency in the sector by publicly sharing our process, our criteria, our methodologies, our deliberations, and our findings. Furthermore, we remain committed to engaging in public dialogue about how best to achieve these goals and encourage continued comment about our organization’s work.

The Board believes that the acts of misrepresentation that were committed are indefensible and are in direct conflict with the goals of the organization, and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms.

The board apologizes for any violations of public trust resulting from Mr. Karnofsky’s actions.

Effective January 3, 2008, Holden Karnofsky has been removed from his position as Executive Director of GiveWell and from his position as Board Secretary. The Executive Director position is now vacant; Tim Ogden will serve as interim Board Secretary. In addition to being removed from his positions, a financial penalty has been imposed on Mr. Karnofsky. While we are removing him from the Executive Director position, we believe that his previous contributions outside of the acts noted above have demonstrated a commitment to the goals of the organization and have been important to accomplishing GiveWell’s work. As a result, Holden will be moved to a Program Officer position, where we believe he will be valuable in helping GiveWell meet its outstanding commitments to applicants and donors. He will also participate in a program of professional development and mentoring.

In response to the actions by Elie Hassenfeld which were inconsistent with GiveWell’s core values of transparency and honesty, the board has decided to impose a financial penalty. We believe that Mr. Hassenfeld’s previous commitment to the goals of GiveWell demonstrates that he can continue to make a positive contribution to the work of the organization in the future in his current role as a program officer.

The GiveWell Board of Directors will begin meeting bi-weekly to develop and approve operating plans for GiveWell and to discuss the organization’s strategy and future. We will institute an organization-wide communications policy that will mandate that all staff and members of the Board of Directors explicitly disclose their affiliation with the organization when communicating with others. The policy will be made public once it has been completed.

We would also like to make clear to all donors to GiveWell since December 1 that we will contact them directly about these recent changes and will provide them the opportunity to have their gift returned if they so choose.


Bob Elliott, Chairman
Greg Jensen, Treasurer
Tim Ogden, Interim Secretary
Lucy Bernholz
Virginia Ford


In addition to the above statement from the Board of Directors as a whole, we would like to separately add the following about Holden’s actions, given our greater personal experience with him than other board members’.

We would like to make clear that the actions that Holden took to conceal his identity were improper and indefensible, as were his attempts to ameliorate the situation by offering a financial contribution.

While in this situation Holden acted improperly, we would like to emphasize that we believe Holden’s commitment to the GiveWell cause is genuine. Those who have commented that his involvement in GiveWell is an attempt to run a scam on the public or to gain financially are simply wrong. His substantial sacrifices financially and personally to take GiveWell from an idea to a reality demonstrate his passion for the values of the organization.

In addition, we would like to emphasize that we believe and have seen in action his stated commitment to the values of openness and honesty. While there are many incidents where Holden did not clearly identify his affiliation with the organization, we view these actions to be the result of his core mistake of thinking improperly about how to represent himself when communicating online.

In our previous professional and personal experiences with Holden, he has shown directness and honesty with those around him, and demanded the same from others. He has acknowledged weaknesses and worked with sincerity to improve those limitations. And, in the past when he has realized that his behavior or thinking was wrong, he not only been willing to change his mind and accept explicit personal responsibility, but take steps to ensure that similar action does not happen again.

It is clear to us that he has realized that his actions were improper, taken responsibility for his actions, and is committed to making sure that he communicates in a way that holds true to the values of honesty and transparency moving forward. We know Holden is committed to these values and expect that he will demonstrate to the community that this behavior was not consistent with his character through his continued work at GiveWell.

We recognize that people can make mistakes and that they can learn powerful lessons from those failures. When we think about the whole picture of Holden, and view his mistakes in the context of his contribution to GiveWell so far as well as his character prior to this project, we believe that he will continue to make a positive impact for the organization in the future.

Bob Elliott, Chairman
Greg Jensen, Treasurer


  • I understand that there is much information the public may not know about the circumstances of this decision, but to the extent that it was driven by Holden’s single act of misrepresentation, this seems to be an excessive penalty. His actions clearly showed a temporary lapse of judgment, but they also seem inconsistent with his otherwise exemplary service, and dramatically outweighed by the effectiveness he’s had at starting the very types of conversations foundations and donors need to start having about the distribution of philanthropic investments. I’ve never met Holden, but this blog alone has gotten me much more interested in exploring new ways for more effective giving and has had a similar effect on many people I know. The strength of his voice and passion for his work is not going to be easy to replace, and I think losing that poses a greater long-term risk to GiveWell than his actions have posed to its integrity.

  • rumple on January 7, 2008 at 12:40 am said:

    Ben — it was not just one incident, it was a clear pattern of behaviour by both Holden, and to a lesser extent, Elie. See the metafilter wiki:

  • Since your organization prides itself on trust and transparency, what was the financial penalty imposed on Mr. Karnofsky?

  • on January 7, 2008 at 1:41 am said:

    Since your organization prides itself on trust and transparency, what was the financial penalty imposed on Mr. Karnofsky?

    Yes, it seems like you do have a lot to learn about actual transparency. Unless you discuss it in the audio, which I guess is possible.

  • Ben Dover on January 7, 2008 at 2:19 am said:

    Since your organization prides itself on trust and transparency, please inform readers who is responsible for moderating comments to this blog.

  • rumple on January 7, 2008 at 3:05 am said:

    Discussion of this is continuing on a new thread at metafilter:

  • Trust Fundy on January 7, 2008 at 3:23 am said:

    can any of you explain to me this disclaimer from lucy bernholz on an unrelated blog posting:

    *FULLEST POSSIBLE (511) DISCLOSURE: I have worked with, in some fashion, almost every individual and organization mentioned in Caruso’s article. I have championed Caruso’s book as as a “must read” and a critical resource for philanthropy. I have read all of the studies she mentions in her piece and may have even contributed to some of them in some small way, shape, or form. Oh, let me not forget that I’ve spent time in New Haven and met with some of the folks mentioned in that story also. If I have somehow omitted or mischaracterized an affiliation or attribution, I have done so only in error, not as an attempt to mislead.

    …is at all consistent with the notion that she truly understands what the fuss was about? it’s clear that that disclaimer is totally sarcastic, which would indicate that at the very least, ms. bernholz still thinks this was a trifling affair. why is that? why doesn’t she get it?

  • Ben Ediction on January 7, 2008 at 9:47 am said:

    Since your organization prides itself on trust and transparency, what are you going to do about Ellie?

  • FourCheeseMac on January 7, 2008 at 9:58 am said:

    What about Elie Hassenfeld? He has demonstrably participated in these identity games, unless Holden was also stealing EH’s identity as well.

    Some punishment for Elie is certainly in order as well.

    Otherwise, I applaud the board’s actions as commensurate with the offense, and I wish Holden the best for his future in philanthropy once he has learned the basics.

    It is also important that anyone who *gave* to Givewell in the last few weeks be informed of this and offered a chance to rescind their gift. I suspect many will not do so, but the offer is important.

  • Robot Spammer on January 7, 2008 at 10:12 am said:

    Mr Ediction: It should be clear that GiveWell and its Board of Directors gives lip service to trust and transparency, perhaps even values such traits in other organizations, but holds itself to a completely different standard.

    Read Tim Ogden’s response (

    I was aware of some of Holden and Elie’s promotional efforts well before this (see for instance here where I am the first commenter sending people to a site where I was the editor and wrote the profile in question and Elie follows later. I had also seen some comments left on other sites where Holden did not specifically identify himself as being associated with GiveWell and it did not immediately strike me as a problem.

    Read Lucy Bernholz’s response (

    The complaint appears to be rampant self-promotion, violating the rules of the MetaFilter community. Holden has been “rampantly self-promoting” from the day I met him, has pissed off old-line philanthropy for this reason as well, and I find it simply odd that it makes folks mad. Maybe they just envy his consistent promotion of GiveWell?

    If and when GiveWell actually does some “high quality research” by trustworthy researchers, they may be worth another look. Until then, this post is the same as everything else GiveWell has produced – marketing hype and amateurish antics.

  • Albert on January 7, 2008 at 10:33 am said:

    Trust Fundy wrote: “can any of you explain to me this disclaimer from lucy bernholz on an unrelated blog posting …”

    Having watched this whole thing unfold, from several perspectives, I think I can explain it, although obviously Lucy can speak for herself.

    Although Holden’s actions were the original cause of the uproar over the past few days, an anonymous commenter and a person named Michelle Moon took it upon themselves to ask Lucy to clarify what date she assumed her board responsibilities at GiveWell. (This happened in the coments section of her personal blog.) They did is because they suspected that Lucy might have shilled GiveWell in a Huffington Post article that she wrote.

    Some of these comments struck me as arrogrant and snarky. I also believe you shouldn’t publish an allegation or insinuation like this until you’ve assembled all the appropriate facts. Lucy’s e-mail address is publicly available. It would have been a simple matter to contact Lucy offline and ask her to clarify these things. It was wrong to make the allegtion public in the comments section of somebody’s blog and then fish around for the evidence to back it.

    I don’t blame Lucy either for her caution or her anger, if she is angry.

  • Josh Millard on January 7, 2008 at 10:45 am said:

    Hell, I wouldn’t blame Lucy for having a bit of a sense of humor, which is what I’m pretty sure that disclaimer was about.

  • I’m surprised and disappointed that the GiveWell board didn’t include apologies to the charitable organizations Holden attempted to undermine with his deceptive comments., Heifer International, and Charity Navigator, were all disparaged in Holden’s anonymous campaign for GiveWell, and I think GiveWell should publicly apologize and disavow any of Holden’s statements about those and any other organizations that were casualties of his astroturfing blitz.

  • Michelle Moon on January 7, 2008 at 11:04 am said:

    Albert commented: I also believe you shouldn’t publish an allegation or insinuation like this until you’ve assembled all the appropriate facts.

    There was no such allegation made. There was a legitimate question, however. Before the date of Ms. Bernholz’ appointment to the board, the impression that her promotion of GiveWell might have been part of an organization-wide strategy was still a distinct possibility. The question was an attempt to “assemble all the appropriate facts” that you and I deem necessary to an understanding of the situation. In addition, I did also contact Ms. Bernholz via email to ask the question, and she responded via e-mail. It was her choice to post the comment on her blog, where she is moderator and entitled to remove any comments she does not wish to appear publicly.

    The board of trustees has acted in their fiduciary responsibility and appropriate actions taken. I hope this has resulted in useful learning and an increased commitment to ethics and responsible stewardship. Good luck.

  • Albert on January 7, 2008 at 11:50 am said:

    Thanks, Michelle, I appreciate your clarifications. While it’s true that Lucy could have deleted your questions, it’s also true that you didn’t have to ask them in that public forum in the first place. I also suspect–and I agree that this is pure speculation–that her deleting these questions would have been viewed with suspicion by some members of the MetaFilter community and others. As you know, everything up to and including Holden’s tags have been scrutinized for nefarious intent on the thread that initially outed him as an astroturfer. I’m guessing that Lucy’s deleting your comments/questions would have added more fuel to an already raging fire. That said, neither you nor MetaFilter are the ones on trial here–nobody is. The trial has happened and the verdict has been rendered. I was simply answering Trust Fundy’s question.

  • Alex Reynolds on January 7, 2008 at 12:39 pm said:

    There was no such allegation made. There was a legitimate question, however.

    I, too, requested clarification from Lucy regarding the timing of her board membership, in relation to her Huffington Post article. While her candor was refreshing, her recent sarcastic “disclaimer” seems to indicate that she hasn’t learned much from what has happened this past week.

  • Well, I’m really interested in listening to the mp3 of the board meeting.

    Removing the founder of a StartUp at such an early stage sounds like a pretty risky (if not dumb) strategy. I hope it won’t lessen Holdens enthusiams.

  • Erich Riesenberg on January 7, 2008 at 2:59 pm said:

    The main problem all along has been allowing Holden’s rude, ignorant, condescending, trash talk directed at folks like Charity Navigator with nary a peep from Givewell. Holden talks in circles and publishes a few, superficial, spreadsheet analyses, and suddenly is hailed as a nonprofit superhero.

    People should be working together to improve the nonprofit sector, not acting like jerks to attract media attention.

  • Apparently GiveWell is refusing to disclose the amount and nature of Holden Karnofsky’s “financial penalty” and the reasons why Elie is allowed to remain in his position with his salary.

    So much for trust and transparency.

  • Cara N Brindisi on January 7, 2008 at 4:36 pm said:

    So it appears that within the GiveWell organization it is alright for program officers to exhibit poor judgment, just not the executive director. By simply demoting Mr. Karnofsky, the board has lost my confidence and respect categorically. If he’s a good guy in the eyes of the board and they feel sorry for him, they should have given him a nice severance package or whatever. NOT another position. On the other hand, they can stop pretending that they have the insight and judgment necessary to provide the donor services they say they can so expertly offer.

  • Jeff Trexler on January 7, 2008 at 5:09 pm said:

    While it’s true that Lucy could have deleted your questions, it’s also true that you didn’t have to ask them in that public forum in the first place.

    Rather than object, I think a more potentially constructive way to respond would be to ask why people raise questions such as this in public in the first place.

    One thing to consider is the nature of online interaction. A suspicious element appears within the group’s communications, it’s only natural for the group to investigate that element itself. That’s the norm in an online reputation economy; if a person does not want such investigation to occur, he probably should not join a discussion group.

    One might argue, of course, that this is inappropriate, but in actuality it’s highly efficient. There’s a reason that the Simpsons portrays Homer’s dad as a bit of a loon for writing letters to the editor–a complaint directed to a newspaper, a Congressman or, yes, a director of an organization is likely to disappear into the ether. In corporate law, for example, we talk about how the control mechanisms of the modern firm attenuate the impact of stakeholder voice, a phenomenon as evident in a nonprofit imbued with a sense of its own higher mission as in a public corporation with a diffuse shareholder base.

    And that’s one reason for observing that the reputation effect of the board’s action will not be entirely benign. The community raised what is in the online environment a serious ethical breach, yet GiveWell responded in essence by affirming the offender’s value–and that’s not even taking account of any questions raised his co-founder. An individual who encounters an ethical breach in the future, whether by the leadership of GiveWell or a different group, may factor into his or her decision-making matrix the probability that a quiet complaint to leadership will have a significant effect. For some, the apparent likelihood of making a meaningful difference will trend toward zero.

    Again, an organization can choose to treat such data as either signal or noise. I’d argue that charity’s negative reputational swings in recent decades are partially a function of the latter choice, but others’ mileage may vary.

  • Erich Riesenberg on January 7, 2008 at 5:47 pm said:

    Note this interesting disclosure by Lucy on another blog: ** (Full disclosure: I am an advisor to NPO Reporter, a board member (at this moment) for GiveWell and have partnered with TPI.

    She states she is a Givewell board member “at this moment”…

    This was taken from here:

    Interesting to me, Lucy’s comment was about current sources for information on nonprofits. She lists Givewell, but not Charity Navigator. Charity Navigator has many multiples of web traffic as Givewell. Why does she fail to mention it?

    I do wish Givewell would issue an apology for its dismissive, disrespectful, unfounded criticisms of a variety of groups. The main reason I began responding negatively to Holden at the end of last year is because of his harsh criticisms of Charity Navigator and Direct Relief International. He has been long on hype and short on facts.

    I don’t care if Givewell survives, but if it does they should take themselves more seriously. The analyses I have read through on Givewell are not that impressive, they are basically massive spreadsheet data dumps.

  • Laurel on January 7, 2008 at 10:34 pm said:

    I still have confidence in GiveWell as a project (filling a much-needed void) and from what I’ve seen so far I think the Board’s handling of the situation has been fine.

    Unlike Cara, I am not bothered that Holden still has a role in the organization. He has done a lot of good work so far and still has much to contribute. Firing him altogether, IMHO, would be asking GiveWell to cut off its nose to spite its face. Yes, he should be punished and perhaps receive some remedial ethics training, but at some point the bottom line of whether this organization is advancing the field and making a difference in the world (in concrete, transparent terms of course) is more important than getting riled up about purging GiveWell of any trace of past mistakes. I suspect dissatisfaction with the Board’s leniency has more to do with dislike of Holden’s personality and abrasive attitude than a thoughtful balancing of his actions. I too have found Holden’s tone too rude for my taste, but I have great respect for the project, and I’m sure the next Executive Director will give GiveWell a more professional tone. It is possible to be both rigorous and diplomatic.

    When so few organizations offer real apologies for misdeeds, I find the transparency of this process refreshing; even if, ironically and regrettably, came from a transgression of those principles.

  • Erich Riesenberg on January 7, 2008 at 11:03 pm said:

    Laurel, why don’t you, or anyone, give examples of the voids you feel Givewell as filled?

    As a donor, and someone who has actually slogged through Givewell’s rambling web site, I can’t understand the plaudits it receives from people like you. Givewell makes generic criticisms of the nonprofit sector, none of which are original, trashes other nonprofit evaluators, asks a very few charities for huge amounts of spreadsheet data dumps, and posts them. Period. The analysis it provides is superficial. What Givewell really has done is weed out nonprofits that won’t provide its data dump and often trash them.

    In 10 or 15 years, when a few dozen charities have been evaluated, Givewell may be able to make actual comparisons of its spreadsheet data points. It will still be superficial, but at least it will actually be a comparison, albeit on stale data.

    The single conclusion Givewell reached in 2007 is that it is cheaper to save a life in Africa than to provide employment assistance in New York city. That is not a void Givewell filled, that is common sense.


  • I reference to question about the moderation of the blog from Ben Dover: there is no active moderation or blocking of posts because we want this to be a forum for discussion for all those who would like to comment. Those posts that contain 2 links or more may be held for approval in order to prevent spamming of the blog (a standard feature with the software we use). Our intention is to allow all non-spam posts to go through. If you are having issues posting, I want to know about it. Email me directly at and I will get back to you as quickly as I can.

  • Laurel, why don’t you, or anyone, give examples of the voids you feel Givewell as filled?

    Whether Laurel can do so — or, not, others have already addressed the “voids.”

    These folk have the experience, knowledge and foundation of the past decade. GiveWell, in my opinion, is nothing but a “pretender,” new to the scene. What do 26 y.o. hedge-fund employees bring to the table at this juncture?

    This past weekend The New York Times covers the issue of “measurability” vis-a-vis non-profits: Can Foundations Take the Long View Again?

    There has been significant focus on such over the past decade. There is nothing “new/revolutionary” that GiveWell can offer as per their December P.R. push. Take for example the work of groups like The Bridgespan Group (affiliated with Bain & Company, Inc.) and New Profit, Inc. (affiliated with the Monitor Group). There is also the work done by Monitor Institute in collaboration with New Profit and Fast Company Magazine which has “created one of the most comprehensive and rigorous assessment processes for evaluating the performance of nonprofit organizations in the U.S.”* They have used this evaluation process each year since 2004 in selecting The Fast Company/Monitor Group Social Capitalist Awards.

    Why would one rely on the untested and amateur approach that GiveWell has exhibited in evaluating the performance of any non-profit? I’d go with the pros who’ve spent time in the sector and established their reputation over the past decade.

  • Interesting. One thing I’ve noticed about Holden’s defenders is that not one person has ever answered the underlying question about all this, evn though it’s been ased dozens of times.

    What specific experience and knowledge did Holden bring to this arena that qualified him to pass judgment on non-profits, while pocketing more than half the funds raised for “charity” in executive salaries?

    It’s a simple question, but all we ever hear is about how well-meaning he is.

    Well, you know who else had good intentions?

    That’s right. Mary Poppins.

  • [Disclosure: I am an investor in NPI and have served as an advisor to the organization and to a number of its portfolio groups.]

  • jfundraiser on January 8, 2008 at 10:47 am said:

    Any organization has to be bigger and better than its founder or its ED. If an organization feels it can not continue without the person who’s vision created it, up comes the red flag. Sustainability in nonprofits is about the mission, not the person(s). If ths mission is real than it can continue.

    If the Givewell board thinks it needs its unscrupulous founder(s) to continue, then it’s probably time to pack up their toys and call it a day. They can’t possibly guide other nonprofits and donors if they can’t guide themselves.

  • juv3nal on January 8, 2008 at 4:40 pm said:

    “The Board believes that the acts of misrepresentation that were committed are indefensible and are in direct conflict with the goals of the organization, and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms.”

    That’s transparent…
    …a transparent lie.

    If givewell’s board really condemned in the strongest possible terms, would Holden or Elie still be working for them? The mere fact that someone can say “These acts are so reprehensible that I will never willingly give money or allow by inaction money to be given to anyone who participates in such acts” indicates whatever the strength of their condemnation, it’s far from the “strongest possible terms.”

  • Billy Pilgrim on January 8, 2008 at 8:48 pm said:

    That sounds about fair. Someone who is so negligent as to compromise the trust and reputation of an entity in the nonprofit world is clearly a muppet and not fit to lead that venture.

    But the act itself was silly and of little impact, and it would be harsh to lose employment and association with a project that he clearly cares very deeply about.

    Sticking him in the corner with a dunce hat was exactly the right response, in my opinion. Meanwhile everyone gets to learn a good lesson about trust and fraudulent marketing (fraudulent marketing? a tautology, in my mind!) in an age of low opportunity-cost communications.

  • So … it’s been 48 hours since this post. Where’s the audio?

  • Joseph Doeh on January 8, 2008 at 11:52 pm said:

    I think I saw a Scooby Doo episode that seemed to run along these lines. Everything would have been fine except for those darn internet kids!

    Hopefully lessons and morals have been learned.

  • Andrew on January 9, 2008 at 4:13 am said:

    The board should be commended for bringing swift closure to this unfortunate series of events that involved disingenuous self-promotion of givewell on the internet. What is most unfortunate, however, is entire absence of debate surrounding the methods with which Holden sought to analyze the performance of charities. Isn’t it telling how little Holden’s myriad critics have contributed to the debate over the optimal methodologies that ought to be employed for conducting comparative evaluations work? Holden’s critics are committed to a set of diversion tactics that hinder the advancement of a very important dialog. At this time, I plead with others to challenge Holden on the methods he has used for evaluation and this alone. If unwilling or incapable of contributing to this discussion, please reconsider posting nonconstructive criticisms to this message board.

  • Joseph Doeh on January 9, 2008 at 10:44 am said:

    “I plead with others to challenge Holden on the methods he has used for evaluation and this alone.”

    Well, I’m not sure what methods involve poorly speaking of Heifer International, and polysyllabilic word usage isn’t going to help the end goal of charity either.

    “If unwilling or incapable of contributing to this discussion, please reconsider posting nonconstructive criticisms to this message board.”

    This sounds dismissive of opinions that ‘Givewell’ doesn’t want to hear. It might be time to fold things up and start over with a new name. Few syllables; but good advice, and it isn’t critical per se either.

  • Josh Millard on January 9, 2008 at 2:10 pm said:

    Isn’t it telling how little Holden’s myriad critics have contributed to the debate over the optimal methodologies that ought to be employed for conducting comparative evaluations work? Holden’s critics are committed to a set of diversion tactics that hinder the advancement of a very important dialog.

    Unless you believe that this blog and only this blog is the appropriate place for such discussions, I’m afraid you’re badly mistaken. The conversation has spanned a number of blogs, and people (both those who have critical of and those who have defended Holden) have been having this very discussion.

    If you want to dig in, you might start with this reference of blog/media coverage that I’ve been maintaining over on the Metafilter wiki; in particular, look at some of the conversations in which Michelle Moon has been taking part.

  • FourCheeseMac on January 9, 2008 at 6:09 pm said:

    You know, this whole response is too little too late. I am pleased to note that the episode has now been covered in the New York Times.

    The board really owes the public an explanation for why Elie Hassenfeld is exempt from punishment here. He was clearly a participant in all of this.

    As for Holden’s “methods,” give me a break. We’ve learned from the Metafilter thread already that nothing Holden and Elie were doing was that original or smart, and that many other NPOs and charity evaluators have LONG been doing the same kind of things.

    Finally, what does the Board have to say about usurping the name of a long-established Australian NPO charity evaluator that has *the same name?*

    This response by the board is far less than meets the eye.

  • This is a classic too little, too late move from a board that does not seem to understand what is happening. Holden and Elie both need to be let go completely from the organization. Givewell needs to apologize to Charity Navigator and perhaps other organizations as well.

  • Erich Riesenberg on January 10, 2008 at 10:17 am said:

    It is unfortunate Givewell did not receive adequate scrutiny from the press for its hackish evaluation methods.

    Andrew and others are too lazy to even read prior posts, much less examine the analyses themselves.

    Exhibit 1: Holden trashes two well known profits, and doesn’t recall the reason (read the comments)

    Exhibit 2: Givewell’s analysis comes up with very different figures than the charity itself provides, and instead of inquiring further, Givewell uses imaginary plug figures. (read the comments)

    Anyone who wastes the time slogging through Givewell will see their method consisted of asking nonprofits for a slew of information, and Givewell in turn posting huge data dumps.
    It would be helpful if supporters would give examples of the good work Givewell has done, so it can be either confirmed or refuted, but its supporters don’t work that way.

  • I think the simplest answer is that Givewell needs the kids on board to be the young public face of the company. It’s their whole identity, so I would not only look for a minimum of impermanent punishment (like Holden’s demotion), but I’d also keep an eye out for quick promotions once the hoopla here dies down.

    Who wants to put down odds that either or both of Elie and Holden are back in their original positions (and levels of compensation) within the year?

  • From the Deep Net on January 10, 2008 at 3:14 pm said:

    The New York Times piece seems to indicate that Holden has paid something like a fine, not received a change in his level of compensation.

  • And I ask you again – where’s the audio from the board meeting?

    It doesn’t take 4 days to slap an mp3 up on a website.

  • alant – The audio recording of the meeting should be available by this weekend. There has been a delay as we consult legal counsel in reference to publicly posting an audio recording of an employee’s performance review.

  • I appologize to “” whos post at January 7th, 2008 at 1:41 am was only cleared as of 1159pm on january 10th. As part of the clearing process, I have allowed through all other non-spam posts (on both this specific post, and others). Again, if anyone is having trouble posting, please email me directly at

  • An edited audio recording of the meeting is now available here.

    Audio from the executive session of the meeting, where the Board discussed staff performance, has been removed from the recording on the advice of counsel. The omitted part begins at the 52nd minute. The board believes that the “Statement from the GiveWell Board of Directors” accurately reflects the views discussed and the decisions made during executive session.

    All board meeting recordings are edited to remove dead air at the beginning and end. The recordings are also monitored for comments that are both easily misinterpreted and insignificant, which are then removed. This meeting contains no such removals.

  • Andrew on January 12, 2008 at 7:41 pm said:

    I am a fellow at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle, Washington and have no connection to givewell, other than a shared interest in evaluation techniques. I just want to throw it out there that I respect givewell and Holden for their tremendous efforts. The audio strengthens this respect and demonstrates that the group can transcend its critics who are on the whole unreasonable. I believe that givewell can fully recover from this incident and soon return to more substantive concerns regarding strategies for carrying out comparative evaluation.

  • Josh Millard on January 12, 2008 at 9:39 pm said:

    The audio strengthens this respect and demonstrates that the group can transcend its critics who are on the whole unreasonable.

    On the whole unreasonable? I hope Givewell is able to do good and effective work, and have had some interesting conversations with parties both critical and defensive of Givewell’s model. I don’t wish them ill in the least, at the end of the day.

    But I have a hard time seeing how objecting to willfully deceptive promotion (and, likewise, slagging of other charitable orgs) can be described as “unreasonable”. Believing in Givewell’s purported mission should not excuse blatant ethical violations by the principals.

  • Andrew wrote:

    “Isn’t it telling how little Holden’s myriad critics have contributed to the debate over the optimal methodologies that ought to be employed for conducting comparative evaluations work? Holden’s critics are committed to a set of diversion tactics that hinder the advancement of a very important dialog.”

    “…critics who are on the whole unreasonable.”

    It seems as though you are saying that Holden/GiveWell’s actions toward good ends makes criticisms of their means unreasonable.

    Would you cast aspersions on critics of ethics of Dr. Milgram for his authority experiments or Dr. Zimbardo for his Stanford prison study, because both of those researchers were working toward good ends? That’s what the majority of what you describe as “unreasonable” criticism has been about. Ethics.

    In this on-going look at ethics in the philanthropy world, it’s the constant appeals to good motives, good works, good aspirations, etc., that are the “smokescreens”.

  • where is the audio clip for the board meeting i have want to hear it… my friend wants to hear it.i wish GiveWell Board of Directors has done a great job.still the secondary discussion is going on the following link.

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  • I believe that givewell can fully recover from this incident and soon return to carrying out comparative evaluation.from here i have learn some moral in life. where can i get the audio clip.?
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  • Givewell is an organisation which aims to help donors find the best charities in their area of interest. It claims a new model for doing so. The board of GiveWell, a new nonprofit research organization that seeks to assess the effectiveness of charities, has disciplined the second of its two founders for promoting the organization by posing on the Internet as someone else. The punishment comes only a week after the board acted against the other founder for engaging in a like deception.

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