GiveWell Real Change for Your Dollar

GiveWell Real Change for Your Dollar

William Meehan III, Davina Drabkin
2013|Case No.SI122| Length 16 pgs.

In 2007 a group of eight friends wanted to give. With so many charities out there, the friends wanted to know which ones were doing the most good. They had two basic questions: (1) what did the charitable organization do with donors’ money and (2) what evidence existed that charity’s activities were helping people?

After conducting an exhaustive search, the group concluded that useful information to answer their questions was not publically available. Collecting the answers would be a considerable amount of work. Realizing that other individual donors might like to have the same information, the group created GiveWell, a nonprofit dedicated to doing that work and sharing all of its information publically. The organization aimed to bring greater transparency and a focus on demonstrated cost effectiveness to the world of philanthropy. Holden Karnofsky and Elie Hassenfeld, two of the friends, left their jobs to purse GiveWell full time.

This case covers the history of GiveWell and the evolution of its research methodology and philosophy for identifying outstanding charities. It highlights the skepticism with which GiveWell’s recommendation of GiveDirectly was met as well as GiveWell’s close collaboration with the philanthropic foundation Good Ventures. With GiveWell’s research approach well established, Karnofsky and Hassenfeld’s priorities for 2013 were to grow both capacity and new opportunities: adding people to the GiveWell team, a challenge given its quick to evolve culture, and developing GiveWell Labs, a unique and promising arm of its research process.

Learning Objective

To explore an innovative approach to giving and to learn about the evolution of one organization’s attempt to bring transparency and an evidence based approach to philanthropy.

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