Giving Well

Nonprofit Chronicles

GiveWell began with a simple question: where should I donate?

Elie Hassenfeld and Holden Karnofsky (bios) were  20-something friends who worked at a Westport, CT, hedge fund called Bridgewater Associates. They made good money.

They wanted to give some away. That was easy.

They wanted their donations to help people–by reducing suffering or increasing opportunity–“as much as possible.” That was much harder.

They scoured the Internet and found enormous amounts of data on nonprofits. Most of it was useless. They approached about 60 charities with two simple questions — what they do with donors’ money, and what evidence exists that their activities help people?  Most did not or could not answer. Foundations were reluctant to share what they knew, even with a couple of Ivy-educated, well-connected hedge fund guys. Charities, they learned

compete for individual contributions in many ways, from marketing campaigns to personal connections, but not through…

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