Announcing Our New and Improved Charity Selection Methodology

Announcing Our New and Improved Charity Selection Methodology

As Chief Operating Officer of The Life You Can Save, I’m excited to announce our new methodology for selecting our list of recommended charities.  We know our list is a critical piece of what we offer to donors, and feel a strong responsibility to offer people reliable and great giving opportunities.  In the short term, the shift we’re making won’t lead to major changes.  But the improvements we’re introducing today will help ensure that over the long run our process continues to produce a list of charities donors can trust.  
Our new process rests on two pillars.  The first is a “Panel of Experts” we’ve formed, comprised of members who are value-aligned with our mission and offer a variety of informed perspectives on the charity selection problem.  The second is the excellent charity evaluation work already being done by other organizations.  By aggregating research from multiple evaluators, and having our Panel provide an extra layer of scrutiny, we aim to offer donors outstanding opportunities across a variety of causes.
The Panel now has final responsibility for the selection of our recommended charities, and for defining the process we’ll use to select them.  They assess which charity evaluators conduct research that’s rigorous enough for us to use and define what level of endorsement from each evaluator is sufficient to meet our own high standards.  And Panel members can raise concerns about any of our recommendations at any time, triggering a vote amongst the members, which allows us to adapt to new information as it becomes available.
You can read a more detailed description of our new and improved selection process and our Panel of Experts here, and I hope you’ll do so.  But in the remainder of this post, I’d like to share my thoughts on why The Life You Can Save has made these changes, and how this new process could evolve going forward.
We know our audience wants, and deserves, both recommendations for outstanding giving opportunities and transparency into how those recommendations were chosen.  The changes we’ve made address both those issues.  By leveraging existing charity evaluation work that’s being done at a high standard, we’re able to identify high-impact charities donors can trust.  And our move to a systematic and rule-based selection process significantly increases the transparency donors have into our methodology.
The new approach was also motivated by an understanding of The Life You Can Save’s comparative advantages, and how our organization fits into the broader effective giving movement.  To facilitate the work being done by highly effective charities, the movement needs to both identify those charities and mobilize support for them.  With great work already being done by other organizations on the identification front, The Life You Can Save has chosen to focus its efforts on broadening the reach of the effective giving message.  This strategy fits well with both the skillset of our small team and our history- our founder Peter Singer has a long track record of influencing people to give better, without ever doing primary research on charity evaluation.  So by “outsourcing” our charity selection process to credible parties, we’re able to focus on our strengths and complement, rather than duplicate, work being done by other organizations in the effective giving ecosystem.

Going forward, we expect this process will continue to evolve to meet the needs of our audience.  While we’re not sure exactly what these changes will be or when they will happen, we’ve listed some of the ideas we’re considering below.

  • Adding more members, with more diverse backgrounds and perspectives, to the Panel of Experts
  • Creating “sub-Panels” of experts for specific cause areas
  • Highlighting some recommendations as “best of the best” or ranking recommendations by some other means
  • Expanding our list of approved charity evaluators
  • Creating a “research support team” to investigate questions raised by the Panel

I hope you’ll find the improvements we’ve made will make it easier for you to help the global poor.  And we welcome any feedback you might have— feel free to comment on this post below, or shoot us a note to let us know what you think.

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About the author:

Jon Behar

As COO, Jon helps coordinate The Life You Can Save’s various projects and set the organization’s overall strategic direction. He founded and continues to run our Giving Game project, a global philanthropy education initiative that teaches people skills to give more effectively and makes these lessons tangible by providing workshop participants with real money to donate to the charities of their choice.

Prior to joining The Life You Can Save, Jon spent ten years at a prominent hedge fund, working primarily in the areas of risk management, portfolio optimization, and algorithm development. He has also served on the board of directors for GiveWell, a widely-respected charity evaluator.

Jon now lives on Bainbridge Island, WA with his wife Meghann Riepenhoff (an acclaimed artist) and their dog Oso.

The views expressed in blog posts are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Peter Singer or The Life You Can Save.