The GiveWell Blog

Update on Board meeting transparency

One of GiveWell’s organizational values is maintaining a high degree of transparency about our work. As part of our transparency efforts, we’ve published written materials and audio recordings from each meeting of GiveWell’s Board of Directors since we were founded.

We recently increased the quality of and level of detail in the written materials we share with our Board members prior to each meeting. We made this update to improve our engagement with our Board. As we’re continuing to publish these written materials, this update will also improve our public transparency.

We’ve decided to stop publishing audio recordings going forward, as we don’t think they were very helpful to understanding our work and there were costs to producing them.

Overall, we believe that our updated written Board materials provide a better view of our governance than the previous combination of less-detailed written materials and audio.

As no longer sharing audio is the end of a longstanding practice, we want to explain in a bit more detail what you can expect from our Board meeting materials going forward and why we’re making this change.

Why we share Board meeting materials

We’ve published materials from our Board meetings since GiveWell was founded in 2007. While we don’t share everything publicly—we redact sensitive or confidential information, such as details about staff performance (more here)—the amount we share is uncommon in the nonprofit sector. Our aim is to be open about key topics and questions related to GiveWell’s progress and future plans.

We’ve increased Board engagement through written materials, which we publish on our website

Before each meeting, we share written materials with Board members.1You can see an example of the materials here, under “Attachments.” We’ve recently set the goal of using these materials to tell Board members approximately everything they need to know about the topics on the meeting agenda, which means these materials are more substantive now. In the past, we weren’t committed to writing everything down.

We now ask the Board to closely review the materials before each meeting so that they can send us questions, which we answer in writing. Meetings center on any remaining questions about our written responses.

We publish all of these materials on our website after each meeting, including (starting with the August 2020 meeting) Board member questions and our answers.

We’re no longer publishing audio recordings due to limited benefit

Our transparency goal is to be open about our governance. We don’t think sharing Board audio meaningfully increases our openness, and it involves costs.

Board meetings tend to focus on in-depth discussion of a small number of issues rather than the overall story of our progress and priorities. Given that, we don’t think meeting audio by itself adds much to our audience’s overall understanding of our work. As with written materials, there’s a cost to publishing audio; redacting sensitive information takes time. We also suspect that recording the meetings for publication imposed minor costs on the quality of the discussions.

Taking these costs into consideration along with the limited benefits, we’ve decided to stop publishing meeting audio. The August 2020 meeting, materials from which were published today, is the last one for which we expect to publish audio.

We remain committed to transparency

Although we’re ending the practice of sharing audio, we remain committed to significant transparency about our governance and believe that we’re better achieving our goals through the improvements we’ve made to our written materials.

We would appreciate hearing from you in the comments if you have any feedback on our approach.


1 You can see an example of the materials here, under “Attachments.”