Critique of rational giving programs. Peter Singer’s effective alturism network and GiveWell.

Yeah – it’s Pete Singer’s thing. It’s a good effort and I’m generally a fan of it over some other charity-sorting tools.

One of the drawbacks of it is that almost no charities can stand up to its strictness, limiting the pool of potential help being provided to those charities which comply in the top 10 or 100.

So while it’s not a bad way to go, I wouldn’t use it exclusively because there’s a lot of excellent charities WITH severe flaws that YET are also doing some great good in areas not being touched by those that pass the rational litmus test.

But still, that being said, it’s a strong effort that will hopefully improve the functioning of existing charities as more and more people use the effective alturism netowrk’s suggestions.


I wouldn’t hesitate if someone needed to know quickly where they could find a decent resource where their investment wouldn’t be wasted.

But that being said: there’s more to charity than “bang for the buck”.

An organization that fight for a cause you believe in, that might also have administrative flaws: a leaky office where someone is skimming off the top, and is yet ALSO doing good things in an area that you believe in, might be worth giving to anyway.

For example, let’s say I believed in hypodermic needles programs for heroin addicts. It’s a good dramatic example.

I look around on the lists of rational efficient giving.

There’s no programs that do it, or if they are, they don’t serve the areas I’m interested in.

So, do I throw my hands up in the air and say, “Well, I’ll give to this “bring water to Uganda” instead because at least my money won’t be wasted”?

Well, I could: *if* ‘bang for my buck” was my #1 criteria for giving.

But many times, it isn’t. The waste isn’t a good thing, but it might not be a deal-killer either.


Oh indeed. I love these watchdog programs: I remember Reader’s Digest, 20/20 and other outlets having yearly critiques of various charities through the 80s and 90s. I see these efforts as extensions of the same thing.

In short, they’re great sorting tools but I wouldn’t use them exclusively. They might be a good “first stop” and maybe last stop if I can find charities on their lists that make the cut.

But charity also goes beyond financial efficiency and even includes charity towards inefficient, ineffective humans who are trying to do the right thing but can get caught up in greed and poor judgement.

I’m not outright excusing their behaviors: we NEED groups like JustGive and EAN to keep an eye out for the rest of us and crunch the numbers.

They will help push other charities to follow suit, as getting on these lists is like a Gold Star for their charities.

Yet, we also need other lists for other reasons as well to highlight imperfect charities that are also doing good things as people’s reasons for giving can differ.

But they’re definitely a good first step in one’s search for “where to give”. I would just hate for them to become “the exclusive lists”. I remember that happening with other collective charity distributors; if you didn’t make it in their lists, you became an invisible charity altogether.



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