The GiveWell Blog

CARE evaluations

How transparent is CARE?

On one hand, it maintains a site at that currently lists 448 project evaluation documents (352 of which are in English). We haven’t found anything comparable for any other of what we call the “household name” charities – enormous, well-known, aggressively fundraising international aid charities (usually members of the InterAction network) that conduct a huge array of different programs in different places.

On the other hand, it does not appear to link to this website anywhere from its main website – in fact, there appear to be only four external links to the site anywhere on the Web.

Looking through the evaluations provides an interesting example of what one of these “household name charities'” operations and impact evaluation look like. The variety of the projects and of the evaluations is huge. Some evaluations examine measures quite relevant to “impact,” such as reported behavior change and children vaccinated (example); others are looser, mentioning regional trends in disease burden but focusing on qualitative generalizations (example); others do not examine life outcomes at all, but simply make qualitative observations about strengths and weaknesses of the program evaluated (example). The quality and tone of the studies varies considerably as well. The use of “control groups” to assess impact is rare but occasional; none that we examined have what we consider to be a high level of rigor, but many appear encouragingly honest about program weaknesses as well as strengths.

Note that this set of evaluations appears to be far from comprehensive: CARE currently lists 845 active projects, whereas the database (which in some cases includes more than one evaluation per project, and goes back to 1991) contains only 448 evaluations as of this writing.

This isn’t the level of impact evidence that we see from our recommended charities, but some evaluation is better than no evaluation and non-publicized disclosure is better than no disclosure.

As a side note, CARE appears to be the only “household name charity” that turned down government funds during the debate over US-provided food aid. We aren’t sure whether they have the right side of this debate, but the turning away substantial money is unusual among charities, and suggests that CARE’s staff aren’t always putting fundraising first.

Bottom line: we’d recommend these charities over CARE, but we’d recommend CARE over other “household name” charities.


  • Saundra on August 12, 2009 at 4:58 pm said:

    Thanks for doing this article. It is important to look at not only what information aid agencies are providing to the donating public, but also the quality of those evaluations. It is critical that aid agencies rigorously evaluate their work and change their practices based on those findings. It is also important that aid agencies share these with donors. Only then will aid really improve.

  • CARE is the only “household name charity” to get covered in TIME magazine for turning down US government food aid, but they’re not the only US/PVO to turn down USG food aid in general. And it’s ironic that you appear to pat them on the back for this because:

    a) one could see such a decision made in such a public way as simply a publicity stunt… three column inches in TIME is worth far more than a couple of million USD in the big picture to an org like CARE;

    b) a decade ago CARE staff were at the forefront of doing what was then “cutting edge” research on food aid and almost writing the P.L.480 manual for USAID.

  • Holden on August 20, 2009 at 9:17 am said:

    J: thanks for the comment. Do you know where we can get more information on the other charities that were on CARE’s side of the debate?

  • Saundra on September 4, 2009 at 4:41 pm said:

    Well, having just spent the last hour on CARE’s website I can verify that there is no link to their evaluations. It was also difficult to find their financial information. The obvious place gave a phone number or address to request the information. After being on hold for 5 minutes I began to look for other information and stumbled upon their financial report and audit report in a very unexpected location.

    Low score for making information readily available.

  • I don’t know if this is something that has changed since the writing of this article, or if the article refers only to the CARE USA site (which I didn’t check) but there IS a link to the evaluations library on the CARE International website, on this page:

  • I just started donating to the Care Foundation and wanted to know how my donation was being allocated. It’s difficult to find on their website or on the internet but I found the link below. It appears 90% is being donated to program services to help in various communities.

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