The GiveWell Blog

Robin Hood, Smile Train and the “0% overhead” donor illusion

For an organization focused on financial metrics, the American Institute of Philanthropy can be very interesting. I can’t do justice to this excellent article on Smile Train with an excerpt, and I urge you to read it all. It thoroughly debunks an alleged claim by Smile Train that “100% of your donation goes toward programs… 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

Perspectives on donor irrationality

Jeanne Panossian left two very interesting comments on our blog discussing donor irrationality, from the point of view of someone running a small charity. On donor illusions: ” … It takes extraordinary ethical fortitude to openly tell people how complicated your organization is, normally a donor has made their basic decision in the first 15… Read More

Pitfalls of the overhead ratio?

Good Intentions are not Enough gives some stunning examples of how charity can go wrong, and specifically points at the widespread emphasis on “low overhead” (which we have repeatedly criticized) as a culprit. It’s worth noting that literal “administrative expenses” metric is often less harmful than the broader definition of “overhead.” For example, many evaluation… Read More