Want to know about a UK charity? SoGive probably has a rating on it

by Sanjay4 min read13th Mar 2021No comments

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Thank you to all those who have been following SoGive’s progress over the years and supporting us along the way.

We think there are two particularly exciting things about SoGive today:

  1. SoGive has a database of lots of charities. Once published, this could be a useful reference for someone who wants quick and easy access to an easy-to-understand rating on the charity, using a format like “Gold-rated” or “Silver-rated”, as well as providing a fuller write-up of the reasoning. 
  2. SoGive is doing work on moral weights (i.e. how to quantitatively compare different cause areas)

However we still have a lot of work to do. Those ratings are currently not easy to find on our website, and we still need to create more of them and reach out to more donors. Hence SoGive is recruiting for two roles at the moment.

Database of lots of charities

Imagine a friend asks you to donate to charity X. Wouldn’t it be great if you could easily look up how good charity X is?

Our database started in 2016 as a database that simply gathered data about the number of outputs achieved together with the costs incurred to achieve those outputs. We knew we ultimately wanted a comprehensive list of charities with ratings on them, and recognised that the first step was to get data about cost-effectiveness on a charity-by-charity level. 

Starting with this first step had the advantage that even without any analysis this data was useful. It allowed us to have a donation platform which automatically expressed the user’s donation in terms of things achieved rather than just the amount of money moved, which has a warm-glow benefit for donors.

We refer to this iteration of SoGive as SoGive v1.0

SoGive v2.0 also includes a rating and some analysis on each charity.

The rating could be Gold, Silver, Bronze, More Information Needed, or Do Not Donate. For the Gold/Silver/Bronze ratings, there are firm and tentative versions of the rating. A Gold rating means that the charity achieves the Gold Standard, which we indicate to be roughly equivalent to a GiveWell-recommended charity. 

Gold and Silver ratings are very rare; much more common are Bronze ratings.

By Bronze, we mean that we are confident that the rating underperforms the Gold Standard, but we give no guarantee that the charity’s work is effective at all. Because the term “Bronze” could have connotations of having met a certain standard of quality, we are considering whether to rename the Bronze assessment. 

Although unstructured data about charities is moderately widespread because of the way UK charity reporting works, it’s still often the case that we cannot find enough information in the public domain, in which case we assign a More Information Needed rating.

Our focus is currently on charities in the UK. We reviewed other jurisdictions in 2016 and it appeared to be harder to find the information we needed in the public domain. In principle we would be open to broadening to be more international in the future.

Website update

While we think it’s potentially exciting for donors to have the SoGive database as a reference, our analysis is currently not easily accessible on our website. 

Our website was designed for SoGive v1.0, and does not clearly convey the analysis and ratings that are so central to SoGive v2.0. Indeed much of the analysis is currently stowed in internal documents, and not findable on the website at all.

A key plank of SoGive’s current work is updating the website so that it’s easy for users to find ratings and analysis, and also so that it has a fresher, more modern look.

Moral weights

Our workstream on moral weights provides us with a formal framework for comparing different outcomes.

A separate post will be published soon discussing this in more detail.

Our philosophy on donors’ values and worldview diversification

Under the SoGive approach, there is a distinction between moral values and empirical considerations.

Examples of moral values questions:

  • How much moral value do you assign to people in the far future?
  • How much moral value do you assign to non-human animals?
  • How do you weigh up saving people’s lives versus alleviating human suffering?
  • To what extent is education a means to an end, and to what extent does enabling education constitute an intrinsic good?

Examples of empirical questions:

  • To what extent will greenhouse gas emissions cause damage to the economy or loss of life, as measured per tonne of CO2eq?
  • On average, how many malaria nets lead to a life saved?
  • To what extent does education lead to greater income in later life?

We believe it is our role as SoGive to have research and opinions on empirical questions. When we are working with major donors, we support them to establish their own answers to moral values questions.

We also give careful thought to moral values questions as well (see earlier section on moral weights). This is because we offer our ratings, which are based on an “off-the-shelf” set of moral weights. When we work with major donors, we then tailor our recommendations to reflect their values. Our existing research to establish our “off-the-shelf” moral weights is helpful when supporting donors to form their own opinions.

We’re hiring!

We are currently seeking a Director and a Senior Research Analyst. The job specs for those roles can be found here. The deadline for those applications is 30th March.

Anyone who is thinking of applying and wants to find out more, or those who want to ask informal questions before the formal application process are welcome to contact me directly for an informal conversation.

A further note: when I said that interested people are invited to reach out for an informal conversation, I really meant it! Getting the right people into those roles is really important for me, so I’m happy to have speculative conversations.

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