The GiveWell Blog

Charity isn’t about helping?

One person who’s more critical of charity than we are or than David Hunter is is the economist Robin Hanson. He has stated that “charity isn’t about helping” and spelled out this view somewhat in a post about the founder of Rite Aid: when folks like Alex spend their later years trying to “do good”… Read More

A conflict of Bayesian priors?

This question might be at the core of our disagreements with many: When you have no information one way or the other about a charity’s effectiveness, what should you assume by default? Our default assumption, or prior, is that a charity – at least in one of the areas we’ve studied most, U.S. equality of… Read More

By default, assume aid projects aren’t reaching the poorest

If you don’t have evidence one way or the other, should you assume an aid’s projects benefits are reaching the poorest? We think it’s fair to assume the people with the most need are the people with the least power. We’d also guess that, in general, the people with the most power are best positioned… Read More

Why are we always criticizing charities?

Recently, we’ve criticized (in one way or another) many well-known, presumably well-intentioned charities (Smile Train, Acumen Fund, UNICEF, Kiva), which might lead some to ask: should GiveWell focus on the bad (which may discourage donors from giving) as opposed to the good (which would encourage them to give more)? Why so much negativity and not… Read More

The worst way to pick a charity

Today, the most common way that donors evaluate charities – when they evaluate them at all – is by asking questions about financials, such as “How much of my donation goes to programs vs. salaries?” This approach makes no sense. We’ve argued this point before at length. Picking charities based on the “overhead ratio” is… Read More

Denying the choice

GiveWell spends a lot of time on the question, “Should I give to charity A or charity B?” One of the things that has surprised us about the world of charity is how many people insist on answering, “Both” or “You can’t/shouldn’t be asking that question.” To them, all that matters is whether a charity… Read More