Transparency

4 min read

Giving What We Can is a nonprofit with the mission of making giving effectively and significantly a cultural norm.

Part of that is promoting a culture of transparency. On this page, we outline our history, how we’re funded, and any potential conflicts of interest.

About us

Giving What We Can was founded in 2009 by Toby Ord (a philosopher at the University of Oxford), his wife Bernadette Young (a physician in training at the time), and William MacAskill (another philosopher at the University of Oxford). Today, our team is managed by an Executive Director (Luke Freeman) who is overseen by the Trustees of Effective Ventures Foundation (EV Foundation).

As of November 2022, almost everyone in our team has signed the Giving What We Can Pledge to give 10% of their income to effective charities throughout their lifetime. While this isn’t a requirement to join the team, it reflects our commitment to our mission.

How we’re funded

Giving What We Can is funded through a combination of direct donations from members and other individuals, as well as grants from philanthropic foundations. So far our largest funders have been Open Philanthropy and the Future Fund. We don’t take any fees from donors who use our platform or from organisations we choose to recommend.

Being funded by large philanthropic foundations provides some advantages compared to relying on individual donors:

  • Our work can be evaluated by experts in the area, which helps ensure we are held to a high standard.
  • It allows us to maintain our donation platform without taking any fees from donors.
  • We can dedicate our time to providing the best information to donors, rather than needing to spend time fundraising for ourselves.

Yet, having our funding being limited to a few key funders carries some risk, and we strive to further diversify our funding sources going forward.

There are also tradeoffs we need to make to ensure we are balancing responsibly managing any potential conflicts of interest with furthering our mission to the best of our ability.

Here is an example of a tradeoff and how we manage it:

  • Our funders are experts in effective giving, and we see our role as sharing expert advice with the broad community. This can cause a tension, where we often think that our funders are providing useful advice we want to share, but we also want to be aware that we may not be the most impartial judge of their work (given we receive funding from them).
  • Our current approach is to err on the side of linking to what we view as the best possible resource on a given topic while highlighting potential conflicts of interest.

Our credibility

We have a commitment to being transparent and open to feedback. Here are some examples of this commitment.

We acknowledge our mistakes

We maintain a page outlining our mistakes. While we believe we have made significant progress towards our mission, we have sometimes fallen short of the standards we have set for ourselves and believe it is important to publicly acknowledge these mistakes so that we can do better in future.

We document our research process

When conducting research into which causes we recommend donors give to, we think it’s important to make it clear who did this research and how that research has changed over time. See here for an example of our research notes. (Note — we may move away from the research notes process in the future if we decide there are better ways to document our process.)

We request feedback on our research from the community

Users of our website can provide feedback on the quality of our work through our content feedback form.

We evaluate our impact

Our last impact evaluation was published in 2016, and we are committed to publishing another in 2023. The fact it has taken us this long is acknowledged on our mistakes page.

We acknowledge conflicts of interest

While we generally acknowledge conflicts of interest wherever relevant on our website, the following are our key potential conflicts of interest:

  • We receive funding from Open Philanthropy, which also funds many of our trusted evaluators.
  • We are a project of EV Foundation, and often recommend or partner with other organisations that are also part of EV Foundation, such as the Centre for Effective Altruism, 80,000 Hours, EA Funds, and Longview Philanthropy.
  • Our founders and board members have close relationships to many of the other organisations we recommend and work with. For example, our cofounder Will MacAskill also founded 80,000 Hours and works closely with many of the EV Foundation organisations mentioned above.
  • Our Executive Director, Luke Freeman:
    • Is on the board of Effective Altruism Australia, one of our top-rated charities due to a recommendation from Founders Pledge.
  • Our Director of Research, Sjir Hoeijmakers:
    • Formerly worked at Founders Pledge, one of our trusted evaluators.
    • Is on the Management Committee of the Founders Pledge Patient Philanthropy Fund — one of our top-rated funds, due to Founders Pledge being a trusted evaluator.