The GiveWell Blog

Celebrated charities that we don’t recommend

Normally, we focus on identifying outstanding charities, and minimize the time spent on opaque or otherwise lackluster ones. But lately, we’ve gone into a bit more detail about our take on several of the best-known and most appealing charities out there. What all of the charities below have in common is that (a) we have… Read More

Smile Train in its own words

We recently argued that Smile Train has “more dollars than doctors” for its core program. In that light, yesterday’s Virginian-Pilot article (which quotes me) is interesting: The main story is that Smile Train has been trying to make substantial and unrestricted grants to another major cleft surgery charity, Operation Smile. This despite the fact that… Read More

An essential question that no one is asking charities

If a charity demonstrates that its core program has changed lives in the past, is likely to change lives in the future, and gets great “bang for your buck,” is this enough reason to donate to it? We say no. The missing piece: Will more funding lead to more of the good program(s)? We generally… Read More

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

Smile Train removes charts from website; still claims $250 per surgery

Two days ago, I critiqued the message sent by charts on Smile Train’s “Financial Information” page, particularly the idea that a surgery was being provided for every $250 in donations. My recollection is that the page had been up in this form since at least the summer of 2006 (when I first started investigating surgery… Read More

Smile Train

These charts from Smile Train imply an appealing story: (a) Smile Train performs surgeries for $250 apiece. (b) Smile Train’s main use of donations is to fund $250 surgeries. (c) A donation to Smile Train funds more surgeries than would the same donation to another cleft palate organization. (d) If Smile Train had much more… Read More