We do not believe that charity analysis can be reduced to facts and formulas - any good giving decision involves intuition and judgment calls - so rather than trying to avoid such judgment calls, we try to put all our reasoning out in the open where others can assess it and critique it.
This page discusses what our audience can expect from us in terms of (a) transparency about our research and reasoning; (b) mechanisms for viewing, and submitting, feedback on our research and reasoning; (c) transparency about our organization in general (above and beyond our research).
Transparency about our research and reasoning
We strive to accommodate any reader who wishes to understand why we hold the positions and recommendations we hold.
- We maintain pages explaining the full details of our process for identifying top charities, along with lists of all charities considered. The page on our process for identifying our current top charities is here: 2011 International Aid Process Review
- For each of our top charities, and for many other charities, we publish in-depth reviews going through what we know about the charity's activities, track record, cost-effectiveness, funding needs, and overall strengths and weaknesses and listing all relevant charity-submitted materials (except those that the charities choose to keep confidential). We create these reviews for any charity that we examine in-depth, though some charities choose to withdraw from our process after reviewing drafts (in which case they are included among those on our process page listed as declining to participate).
- For the charities that we direct the most funds to, we intend to publish quarterly reports on the charity's progress against its objectives and on its updated financial situation. See our quarterly updates on VillageReach, the charity we have directed the most funding to as of this writing.
- When we substantially revise a charity review, we keep our old review publicly available. For example, see our summary of all content on VillageReach.
- We maintain a blog and two email lists: one for sharing newly published materials and another for facilitating discussions about our research. All of these are open to the public (including all past content) and allow people to follow our process in something close to real time. Following one or more of these is a good way to get a sense for how we think, and how it may differ from how you think, over time.
The blog generally consists of content that we believe is interesting to a general audience and/or captures GiveWell's core opinions (and changes in core opinions). The newly published materials email list receives notifications for all reports and conversation notes as they are published. The research email list contains information on our progress, and general topics of discussion, that we don't feel are of general enough interest to be posted to the blog.
- We hold conference calls, open to all who register, at which we discuss the reasoning behind our charity recommendations and take questions.
- We post notes from our staff research meetings in which staff discuss GiveWell's ongoing research work.
- We use links and footnotes to support statements of fact on our website. You can expect links and footnotes to provide all the empirical support we have for the statements they pertain to.
When you see a statement without an associated link or footnote, you can assume that there is no additional support for the statement being made, though you are welcome to contact us to verify this.
Feedback on our research and reasoning
We actively solicit and publicize feedback on our research and reasoning.
- Every charity we publish content on is invited to complete a Charity Response; for those charities that opt to do so, the Charity Response appears in a tab at the top of the page (example).
- We invite outsiders to complete structured evaluations of our research.
We are committed to publishing every evaluation that (a) is completed along the lines of the structure we provide; (b) we have permission to publish. This is the case whether or not the evaluation is favorable to us, and whether or not it is solicited (though we reserve the right to modify the latter condition if we are flooded by non-substantive submissions such as spam). If you email us a structured evaluation, we will publish it in an easily accessible place; currently we intend to post submissions along with our other external reviews.
- Outsiders can also submit thoughts on our work through our blog (comments section) and research email list, both discussed above.
- We will soon be publishing and maintaining a collection of substantive criticism of our work, whether via the above venues or others.
Information about our organization in general