The GiveWell Blog

September 2015 open thread

Following up on our open thread in April, we wanted to have another one.

Our goal is to give blog readers an opportunity to publicly raise comments or questions about GiveWell or related topics (in the comments section below). As always, you’re also welcome to email us at if there’s feedback or questions you’d prefer to discuss privately. We’ll try to respond promptly to questions or comments.


  • Where have you advertise the Factory Farming Program Officer position? Did you send it to “major funders and some other well-connected people/organizations in the field” like you did with the Criminal Justice Reform Program Officer? Anywhere else?

  • Brian Slesinsky on September 11, 2015 at 12:25 am said:

    Does GiveWell have any recommendations to make about the refugee crisis in Europe?

  • Marc Gunther on September 11, 2015 at 7:56 am said:

    I very much appreciate GiveWell’s deep dives into your best charities. I wonder if you think it’s possible for an organization–GiveWell or someone else–to do not-so-deep dives into a larger number of charities, with the goal of ranking or at least providing a thoughtful analysis of, say, the 100 or 500 biggest charities in the US. The goal would be to steer more money to those that are most effective, and to prod more of them to measure their impact in a transparent way.

  • In prior blog posts the Givewell team has shared some very preliminary thinking on giving to recommended charities vs. giving to Givewell – in a nutshell at the time the thinking was that it was more probable than not that each marginal dollar donated to Givewell could divert a sufficient quantity of giving to more effective organizations to justify an unrestricted gift.

    It seems that as Givewell’s work researching top charities has matured, a giver’s ability to increase money-moved to those organizations has decreased, perhaps to zero (through the mechanism of donating to Givewell). Instead, it seems that gifts to Givewell are more likely to further research in areas where capacity to do good is less well understood (animal welfare, criminal justice reform, others).

    Do you feel that that assessment is accurate?

    More generally, it seems like the leadership team has shifted focus away from the core mission of identifying (and moving money to) top charities to a broader mission of assessing higher risk / higher reward opportunities.

    How do you balance those efforts against alternative areas of focus – e.g. efforts to dramatically increase money moved to recommended charities? Does that shift reflect the interests of the leadership team, a belief that the Top Charities business is mature (from a total money moved perspective), or some other factor?

    Thanks for all the hard work, excellent thinking, and transparent communication. I learn a ton following your work and it has driven both the direction and magnitude of my giving.

  • Alexander on September 19, 2015 at 5:37 pm said:

    Thanks for all the comments and questions, and sorry for the slow reply!

    Jason: we circulated the factory farming job description in much the same way that we did the criminal justice one, including to other funders and organizations in the field, as well as posting it on our jobs page.

    Brian: since you posted your question, we’ve posted separately about giving to support Syrian refugees. I personally signed this petition and liked Will MacAskill’s Guardian essay on this subject.

    Marc: we’ve considered doing a project like this before, but we think it’s very hard to do well, and not likely to be as valuable as driving contributions towards the highest-performing groups we can find. We discuss some related considerations here and here.

    Andrew: because we fundraise primarily from donors to our top charities, and our operating budget is small relative to our money moved, our basic model is that contributions to us are fungible with contributions to our top charities but reduce the amount of time that we have to spend fundraising for our operations. So I wouldn’t particularly suggest that marginal contributions to us pay to extend our research to other areas, even if that is true in some small sense (since senior staff fundraising time comes out of research to some extent). We do not that think that we’re close to the peak of our money moved to top charities, but we do see the top charity research process as having matured significantly–to the point where senior leadership time is less required–and we see more open-ended opportunities and challenges on the Open Philanthropy Project side. We’re planning for the Open Philanthropy Project to become a separate organization.

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