The GiveWell Blog

The simplest way to improve your GiveWell rating: Disclose a failure

Organizations we review often ask us: what can we do to improve our rating on your site?

The most obvious answer is provide the type of evidence that the rest of our top-rated charities have to demonstrate your impact. But for many organizations, providing such evidence is not possible. Many may not have the resources to conduct the evaluation needed to demonstrate success. (This strikes some as “unfair,” but our goal isn’t to be fair – it’s to find charities that “casual donors” can be truly confident in.)

There is another way to improve your rating, however: demonstrating failure. (GiveWell tries to meet this standard for ourselves on our shortcomings page.)

We give Doctors Without Borders a 1-star rating because of its publication of a report demonstrating that a program they ran failed. We write:

In our experience, charities are very rarely willing to share evidence of disappointing impact. We believe that any charity that does so is being unusually honest about the challenges of international aid, and unusually accountable to donors. We expect that charities capable of spotting, documenting and sharing disappointing results are better positioned to improve our time.

If your organization is listed on the GiveWell site and you want to improve your ranking, publish a case study of a program you ran that failed. As usual, we’re not looking for marketing materials, and we won’t accept “weaknesses that are really strengths” (or reports that blame failure entirely on insufficient funding/support from others). But if you share open, honest, unadulterated evidence of failure, you’ll join a select group of organizations that have a GiveWell star.