The GiveWell Blog


Jenny Aker and Michael Clemens: “Privately and publicly, donors, MFIs and practitioners are expressing concern about the impact of [recent] studies on the future of microfinance.”

David Roodman: “I’ve been surprised by the predominant negativity of the new wave of comments from the NYT article.”

Ultimately, the idea of “true” person-to-person lending is somewhat silly, as are the stories people tell themselves about microfinance. But charities have a tendency to promise donors the sun, the moon and the stars, and donors have a tendency to buy into it.

One problem with this phenomenon is that there’s no mechanism for holding charities accountable. Another problem is that when the truth comes out, there can be whiplash from people realizing things like “My gift might just be helping people get a little more control over their lives, rather than miraculously lifting a person from poverty for every $25 loan.”

Fundraisers: one argument for educating, rather than coddling, donors is that someone is eventually going to educate them anyway. Wouldn’t you prefer that it be your organization, rather than the New York Times (or GiveWell)?