Our Approach to Transparency

Last updated: August 2022

We do not believe that charity analysis can be reduced to facts and formulas. Any good giving decision involves intuition and judgment calls. 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).

We describe what our commitment to transparency means for charities going through our review process on our charity application page, and answer questions such as, "Will all information shared with GiveWell be made public?" (the answer is no). We recommend that charities interested in or participating in GiveWell's review process visit that page or reach out to our team with questions related to transparency and confidentiality.

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 which links to our explanation for why these charities do not qualify for our top ratings (subject to charities asking us to keep materials confidential). The page on our process for identifying our current top charities is here: Process for Identifying Top Charities.
  • For each of our top charities, and for many other charities, we publish in-depth reviews that describe what we know about the charity's activities, track record, cost-effectiveness, funding needs, and overall strengths and weaknesses. These reviews list 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 materials charities have given us permission to publish are included in a short page included among those on our Other Charity Reviews page. (See this example.)
  • For the charities that we direct the most funds to, we publish regular reports on the charity's progress against its objectives and on its updated financial situation. See, for example, our updates on the Against Malaria Foundation.
  • 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 an email list for sharing newly published materials. Both 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 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.

  • We host twice-annual research discussions in New York and San Francisco, and publish recordings and transcripts from those events. We also hold conference calls, open to all who register, at which we discuss the reasoning behind our charity recommendations and take questions. Audio and notes from these calls are available here.
  • 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.

  • We maintain a list of older published pages that are likely to no longer be representative of our views and positions on our archive page.

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 have invited 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), discussed above.

Information about Our Organization

General information

We share information about our operations including our financials, policies, and transparency policy for official records (XLS).

Records of all Board meetings

We share records of all Board meetings, including meeting agendas, minutes, and attachments that were discussed at the meetings. We will share as much information as we reasonably can in these documents.

We will make redactions in order to maintain reasonable and expected confidentiality of information pertaining to individual GiveWell job candidates, new hires, staff, donors, Board members and advisors, and others who engage with our work. We may also make redactions based on our judgment about the appropriateness of publishing about: a sensitive issue, a major announcement that hasn't yet been shared with staff or other organizations involved or that we wish to communicate about strategically, content with legal implications, and other topics for which there is significant cost to sharing and limited benefit. Finally, we may choose not to publish a document when the amount of staff time required to prepare it for external publication (i.e., by removing mentions of individuals for confidentiality purposes) is significant and the benefit of sharing that information is limited.

We will indicate if a document has been redacted or if we have chosen not to publish it.

Self-evaluation records

We share our self-evaluation records, including our annual reviews of GiveWell's progress and priorities.

GiveWell's key metrics

We share GiveWell's key metrics: donations we influenced and web traffic.

Major mistakes

We share major mistakes we've made as an organization.