Evaluating Effective Charities with Elie Hassenfeld of GiveWell
How can you maximize the impact of your charitable giving? What distinguishes the most effective causes and organizations? Elie Hassenfeld, co-founder and co-Executive Director of GiveWell, will describe how his organization is revolutionizing charity evaluation with completely transparent, rigorous analysis. Q&A to follow.
Elie Hassenfeld graduated from Columbia in 2004 and co-founded GiveWell in mid-2007 where he currently serves as co-Executive Director. GiveWell finds outstanding charity and publishes the full details of its analysis to help donors decide where to give. The Boston Globe has called GiveWell “The gold standard for giving” and its research has attracted attention from Peter Singer and other media. GiveWell has tracked over $10 million in donations to its recommendations as a direct result of its research.
Effective altruism is a new movement consisting of many individuals and several independent organizations, all focused on the deceptively simple idea that we should try to do as much good as we can. The existence of this movement raises many interesting questions, both practical and philosophical, which this talk will discuss.
Friday, November 8th; 4 – 5 PM, in Science Center D
Peter Singer is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at the Princeton University Center for Human Values and Laureate Professor at the Center for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne. He is well known for his philosophical work, as well as for his books – most recently including The Life You Can Save. This event is co-sponsored by the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School, with support from the Oswald DeN. Cammann Fund, as well as Harvard’s Departments of Economics and Philosophy.
Prof. Singer will also speak on “Ethics and Animals: Where Are We Now?” at 12 PM in Austin 200 (Ames Courtroom), 1515 Massachusetts Ave.
Art Caplan has a new opinion piece at MSNBC.com discussing the ethical issues raised by heiress Huguette Clark’s sometimes enormous gifts to the medical workers who cared for her while she lived in a New York hospital for over 20 years — despite being in good health.
[...] Clark’s favorite private duty nurse, Hadassah Peri, received more than $31 million in gifts during 20 years of service, including enough money to buy five homes, jewelry and other luxuries. Clark gave lavishly to Peri’s husband and children, too.
Other caregivers also got gifts, although not in those amounts. Still others got nothing. Was it ethical for those who got gifts to accept them?
Clark’s personal staff members were not the only ones with an eye on her fortune. The hospital where she lived pushed hard to get Clark to make a substantial gift, using their development staff to try to pry a promise from her, the book reports.
In 2004, Dedman and Newell write, hospital officials threatened Clark with having to move from her beloved room if she did not make a contribution of $125 million to forestall the sale of the building.
In Why the Rich Don’t Give to Charity, Ken Stern writes that with all the attention given to donations from wealthy people, “you would be forgiven for thinking that the story of charity in this country is a story of epic generosity on the part of the American rich. It is not.” Stern notes:
One of the most surprising, and perhaps confounding, facts of charity in America is that the people who can least afford to give are the ones who donate the greatest percentage of their income. In 2011, the wealthiest Americans—those with earnings in the top 20 percent—contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent—donated 3.2 percent of their income. . . . [S]ome experts have speculated that the wealthy may be less generous—that the personal drive to accumulate wealth may be inconsistent with the idea of communal support.
Of course, Stern’s argument requires us to view generosity in subjective terms. Given that the 80th percentile in income in the U.S. is about 5 times that of the 20th percentile, the top 20% is surely donating far more dollars than the bottom 20%.
So what is the best way to measure generosity? It depends. If you are deciding whether to focus your fundraising efforts on the top quintile or the bottom quintile, you should probably focus objectively on dollars and choose the top quintile. Similarly, if you are choosing a career and want to maximize your charitable giving, you should focus on your ability to give dollars even if doing so reduces the fraction of your total income you will later give.
What most seems to fascinate Stewart, and what Brill emphasizes, is an insight that is old hat to health law types: the market for health care is just plain screwy. Brill explains that health care consumers “have no choice in what you’re buying, you have no idea what you’re buying, you have no idea what the price is, even when you get the bill you have no idea what it says.” The starting point for the article was Brill’s observation that in all the debate over the last few years about health care, “we seem to jump right to the issue of who should pay the bills, blowing right past what should be the first question: Why exactly are the bills so high?” Continue reading →