The GiveWell Blog

The hardest part about fundraising for GiveWell

May marked my three-year anniversary as a Philanthropy Advisor at GiveWell. It’s a job I adore (as I’ve written about here and here), and I’ve recently been tasked with the exciting process of interviewing candidates for our growing team.

One of the best questions I’ve been asked in this process is: What’s the hardest part about fundraising for GiveWell? The short answer: GiveWell is funding constrained, but we can’t point at a specific opportunity and say, “If you donate now, here’s the impact your donation will actually cause.”

Instead, our answer is fairly abstract, and pretty far from traditional fundraising language. We tell donors that we would spend additional money on opportunities at or above our cost-effectiveness bar (which translates to saving a life for about $5,000), but we’re unable to explain in advance precisely what we will allocate additional funds to. That answer isn’t as compelling as telling someone a vivid story about how their money alone would allow us to fund a great program we’ll otherwise have to decline, but it has the advantage of being completely accurate and true.

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Making our work more readable

Perhaps you noticed that our most recent blog post included a bit of whimsy and even a joke footnote. Our blog is changing slightly, and you can expect more of that!

When GiveWell first started blogging, the blog was a place to share broad thoughts on philanthropy and generate conversation. While we’re not planning to revert to the tone of our early blog posts (which we consider a mistake), we are trying to publish more on our blog and to make what we publish more readable. Our blog posts will be as accurate as ever, but we’re hoping that a more conversational tone will be easier to engage with.

This blog refresh stems from an organization-wide emphasis on legibility. This focus is related to our deeply held value of transparency. For people outside of GiveWell to truly evaluate the conclusions that drive our recommendations, our work needs to be not only public but also understandable.

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December 2021 open thread

Our goal with hosting quarterly open threads 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 or to request a call with GiveWell staff if you have feedback or questions you’d prefer to discuss privately.

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