We’ve been working on a lot of changes and additions to the main GiveWell website and at this point have gone live with all of the following:
New research and recommendations on U.S. education and early childhood care. We did some work on these causes in our first year, but we’ve now gone back with our improved and more thorough research methodology.
- We’ve systematically reviewed literature on effective social programs from ChildTrends, Campbell Collaboration, Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy and MDRC.
- We’ve conducted a systematic search for charities focused on programs with strong evidence behind them.
- Our top recommendations in this cause are still Nurse-Family Partnership and KIPP, the only organizations we’ve found with both strong evidence of impact and ongoing reporting on performance. We also now recommend Invest in Kids, a small group in Colorado, and have a few more potential recommended charities under investigation.
Do-It-Yourself Charity Evaluation. If you’re looking to do your own due diligence, examining a charity or cause we haven’t covered, check out our DIY guide for suggested critical questions you can ask. We’ve covered every charitable cause we can find or think of.
This is the first donor guide we’re aware of that asks different questions for charities in different causes, rather than taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach. While it means some extra overhead in classifying your charity, it also means we’ve been able to make the questions much more concrete, specific and meaningful.
This is very much “beta” content, with room for improvement in the questions themselves and in the guide’s usability, and we are very interested in your feedback. (Note that Tactical Philanthropy and Chronicle of Philanthropy Online have already discussed this new feature.)
New ratings system. We wrote back in October that we were preparing to scrap out quantitative ratings system for charities. We have now done so. We still give marks of distinction to our top-rated charities, and we still discuss the charities that don’t get these marks of distinction, but we no longer have a “zero-to-three-star rating” for each charity. See the new details of our ratings system.
Charity downgrades. We’ve completed our annual review of our recommended charities, in which we request updated performance information, sometimes request more detailed information than we did in the first place, and rethink our evaluation in general. Three of these charities have received downgrades:
- Stop Tuberculosis Partnership remains a recommended charity, but no longer has our highest (“Gold Medal”) distinction due to some concerns about the ongoing vigilance of its monitoring and evaluation. We are still in conversations with Stop TB and may update the review again soon if and when we receive more information.
- Partners in Health has not provided us with updated and expanded information on its activities. We no longer consider it a recommended (Silver or Gold medal) organization, though we still give it the distinction of being Notable for its promising approach (and stand behind our recommendation in the context of the Haiti earthquake specifically).
- We have done some additional analysis on The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria and no longer consider it a recommended (Silver or Gold medal) organization. It was previously the lowest-rated of our recommended organizations (on the bubble of being recommended), and our more in-depth look at its monitoring and evaluation reports has left us with too many questions about its evidence of effectiveness. We still give this organization the distinction of being Notable for its transparency, and in fact we still feel that it is a model of exceptional transparency for an organization of its size.
Part of what’s going on here is a gradual raising of our bar, as we have capacity for more analysis and a substantially higher opinion of our top-rated charity VillageReach than we had last year. (In addition to a site visit that involved a lot of time spent discussing and improving our understanding of the organization, we also have updated, concrete, encouraging information on the group’s expansion plans / room for more funding.)
New external evaluations of GiveWell’s work. We have begun accumulating formal reviews of our research from non-staff members; some are scholars in relevant fields while others are simply willing volunteers. We have published the reviews we have so far and intend to add more at a faster pace from here, now that we’ve nailed down the basic ground rules of how to do external reviews of different parts of our work. Note that we have also begun collecting endorsements as a quick sign of our credibility for website visitors.
What’s next: within the next few months we will be publishing
- Extensive notes from our several months in India, including site visits to over 15 organizations.
- Research and recommendations on the general cause of disaster relief/reconstruction.
- Our annual self-evaluation.
I thought I would mention here that there’s a little competition for who can write the best essay on why you should pick a well paying job and donate to charity rather than donate your time in the Less Wrong discussion section. There’s even a cash prize! http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/35o/100_for_the_best_article_on_efficient_charity/
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