The GiveWell Blog

GiveWell’s self-evaluation and plan

Our current top priority is assessing the state of GiveWell: what we’ve accomplished, where we stand, and where we should focus our limited resources next. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be trying to examine ourselves as dispassionately and critically as possible, and sharing our self-review in something close to real time via this blog.

GiveWell’s mission is to find outstanding charities and publish the full details of our analysis to help donors decide where to give. The ultimate goal is to have significant impact on the flow of donations, moving toward a world in which donors reward charities for success in improving lives. The major questions about GiveWell, as I see them, are as follows.

Questions for “customers,” i.e., people considering using GiveWell’s research to decide which charities to support

  • Does GiveWell provide quality research that highlights truly outstanding charities in the areas it has covered?
  • Is it practical for donors to evaluate and use GiveWell’s research in the areas it has covered?
  • Has GiveWell covered enough areas to be useful?

Additional questions for stakeholders, i.e., people considering giving their time, money and other support directly to GiveWell (these include the GiveWell Board and staff)

  • Is GiveWell’s research process “robust,” i.e., can it be continued & maintained without relying on the co-Founders?
  • Does GiveWell present its research in a way that is likely to be persuasive and impactful (i.e., is GiveWell succeeding at “packaging” its research)?
  • Does GiveWell reach a lot of potential customers (i.e., is GiveWell succeeding at “marketing” its research)?
  • Is GiveWell a healthy organization with an active Board, staff in appropriate roles, appropriate policies and procedures, etc.?
  • What is GiveWell’s overall impact, particularly in terms of donations influenced? Does it justify the expense of running GiveWell?

For all of these questions, we intend to discuss

  • The progress we’ve made since November 2008 (when we last laid out a business plan)
  • Where we stand today, relative to where we need/hope to be to consider GiveWell a success
  • What we can do to improve

Our self-review won’t be entirely comparable to the reviews we perform of other organizations. The latter tend to be focused on the “end product,” as we stay agnostic on progress other organizations have made and how they can improve. When evaluating ourselves, it is essential that we examine “intermediate indicators” as well as our ultimate impact, and think critically about the different paths we can take to improve.


  • Jareb P on January 20, 2010 at 2:38 pm said:

    A minor point, but one worth considering is whether there is any intent to provide information about the sector itself in addition to the reviews of organizations. My thought begins as a result of my failed efforts to find any robustly independent and disinterested voices for the sector as a whole. What I have found, i.e. Chronicle, etc. have very clear conservative leanings, as would be expected of those who have long backgrounds in the field. I, however, am a liberal voice in this field and I find very little sources of information that present a balanced or even liberal slanted viewpoint. I hold a MA in philanthropy and focused my studies on the history of the field. As a result I see the Western versions of philanthropy as only one of many applications of the field, but very rarely see any discussion of alternate applications. But hey thats just my humble opinion.
    You have a strong base in finance, and a clear mission to do the analysis of organization operations, but what about providing a well-balanced and fair discussion of alternative organization operations.

  • Holden on January 27, 2010 at 1:55 pm said:

    Jareb, this doesn’t sound like something that fits well with our mission and core competencies. We don’t consider ourselves a “voice of the sector”; we consider ourselves to be donors trying to help other donors decide where to give.

Comments are closed.