GiveWell’s Progress in 2013
This is the first post (of six) we’re planning to make focused on our self-evaluation and future plans. As in past years, we’re going to be posting our annual self-evaluation and plan as a series of blog posts. This post summarizes what changed for GiveWell in 2013 and what it means for the future. Future posts will elaborate. This year, we are separately reviewing our “traditional work” (recommending top charities that focus on evidence-backed programs serving the global poor) and GiveWell Labs (our newer project, on which we work closely with Good Ventures). For us, the major developments of 2013 were: We continued to see strong growth in money moved and improved media coverage, though we are still working on assembling the details. There was some extent to which larger donors gave less in 2013 than previously, due to saving for future opportunities (potentially including AMF), so we aren’t yet sure what the final figures for larger donors will be, but the overall picture is one of strong growth. We made major progress on building capacity. We made a total of 6 new hires, and these new hires led work on our new top charity review (more below) and on new reports on priority interventions. We also improved our donation processing system, further improving our forward-looking capacity. As a result, our 2014 plan for our traditional work is substantially more ambitious than our 2013 plan was. We added a new top charity (Deworm the World Initiative) and produced substantial updates on our existing top charities, including suspending one recommendation for room-for-more-funding-related reasons. We spent more senior staff time than anticipated on our traditional work (since there were major new developments concerning each of our top charities) as opposed to GiveWell Labs. We made substantial progress on GiveWell Labs: we refined our basic framework and goals, gained some basic familiarity with two major areas of philanthropy (policy-oriented philanthropy and scientific research funding) that we had had little exposure to previously, and examined multiple potential causes at different levels of depth. We are setting a “stretch goal” for 2014 of making substantial commitments (multiple years, substantial funding) to causes within the broad areas of policy-oriented philanthropy and global catastrophic risks. Our traditional work (“top charities”) seems both more challenging and more important than it was a year ago – the former because of how much senior time it continues to take to respond to new developments, the latter because of the increased media coverage and continuing growth in money moved that we saw. We now see a strong possibility that GiveWell Labs eventually will become a separate organization, though it will remain part of GiveWell in the short term. We plan minor steps to begin moving toward a separation, including potentially renaming GiveWell Labs. Fundraising remains a priority. We are currently fundraising for unrestricted support, supporting a team that is allocated flexibly between GiveWell Labs and our more traditional work. Overall, we consider 2013 to have been a year of substantial progress on research (both GiveWell Labs and our traditional work), staff capacity, and influence. Our 2014 goals will be more concrete and ambitious than our 2013 goals were. Of course, we also made some mistakes in 2013, and we’ve recently updated our shortcomings log to reflect them. In particular, we produced public updates on AMF too infrequently. A series of future posts will go into more detail on the above points.