Foundation Friday: They’re Kidding, Right?

GiveWell has disciplined the second of its two co-founders for misrepresenting himself on the Internet, but the New York Times reports that the Hewlett Foundation remains open to the possibility of making a grant to the charity evaluation group.

Mr. Karnofsky said in mid-December that the Hewlett Foundation had
expressed interest in putting money into the organization, and Eric
Brown, a spokesman for Hewlett, said Monday that it continued to be

“We’re going to wait and see,” Mr. Brown said, “but we think the concept has a lot of value.”

"The concept."  Would that be the concept that it might be relevant to funding decisions if a group devoted to judging charities based on transparency and management excellence proves itself deceptive and ill-managed?  Or the concept that someone might be concerned about entrusting charitable reputations to an organization whose self-promotion included anonymous attacks on the reputations of its charitable competitors?



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2 Responses to “Foundation Friday: They’re Kidding, Right?”

  1. Tom Durso Says:

    Okay, GiveWell truly screwed up, but should we throw out the baby with the bathwater? Nonprofits can look askance at watchdogs all they want, and they often do so for good reason, but the trend is toward more transparency, not less, and one of these days one of the watchdogs is going to get it right. A better tactic is to recognize the trend and adapt accordingly. (After snickering behind closed doors at GiveWell’s clumsy missteps, of course.)

  2. Nonprofiteer Says:

    GiveWell’s “clumsy missteps” concern me less than the uncritical acceptance it briefly secured among folks who should know better. How did its assertion that a charity providing cleft-palate reconstruction was “better” than one providing anti-malarial bed-nets contribute to a prospective donor’s understanding of the needs of people in Africa, or the costs and benefits of providing particular services to them? There’s more to promoting “transparency” than demanding that an agency drop what it’s doing and provide you with a set of metrics you’ve invented based on knowing less about the subject matter than they do.

    I’m not opposed to evaluation of charitable activities. I just want the work to be done by people who have some knowledge of the field, so their assessment of effectiveness and efficiency has some value.

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