Thursday, December 20, 2007

GiveWell...and move fast

Monday night at close to midnight EST the Board of Directors of GiveWell and The Clear Fund wrapped up our second meeting. It was only 9:00 p.m. my time, but we'd been in the meeting since 3 and I was wrecked - it was a long meeting, with some process bumps, good decisions, some missed targets, and several tough calls.

On Tuesday the first grants were made. Today, the founders of the organization are all over the press - in the Times, the WSJ and on CNBC. You can also find the audio of the first Board meeting online, and the record from Monday's meeting will be up soon. We did not get everything done that we had set for ourselves; we've made adjustments in our budgets, our timeline and the criteria we use for the work, and we've set real deadlines for getting done what was left hanging on Monday night.

We're still working on how to measure ourselves - what metrics matter for this new entity - quality of the research? dollars leveraged? users of the research? change in other funders? change in public discussion? And how we will track and report on these indicators?

Giving away money well is not easy. But The Clear Fund and GiveWell show that a lot of what stands for "business as usual" need not be - the work can be done quickly, informed decisions made and acted on, and information shared publicly. We need to hold ourselves to the same standards for cost effectiveness, impact, and transparency that we deign to ask for from those we fund. These are important elements of grant making, and many established funders are making real efforts to move in these directions.

Some of this is much easier to do when you've started fresh and have no institutional weight to carry. Some some of the problems and challenges that this a startup needs to deal with won't burden more established organizations. Listening and informing and debating across the bounds of "old" and "new" may be the best conversation we can all have.

1 comment:


Hello -

Having read the recent comments in your newest blog post, as well as every comment in the discussion thread at MetaFilter, I just thought this would be a better place to drop a comment.

Please consider your own words in this post as they relate to the issues that have arisen the past few days: "We need to hold ourselves to the same standards for cost effectiveness, impact, and transparency that we deign to ask from those we fund." Advocating transparency is just another way of acknowledging the appropriateness of ethical conduct, and it is often when addressing questionable ethical conduct that one is most transparent.

Consider starting fresh, and the institutional weight your many appointments and associations can carry. Listen and debate across the bounds of "old" and "new" public relations, and you will absolutely have the best conversation possible.

Best to you in your endeavor to give money away well.

Carson Blaker