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Project Idea:

While completing the EA intro course, I was thinking about how private foundations give $60b a year, largely to ineffective charities. I was wondering if that may present an opportunity for a small organization that works to redirect PF grants to effective charities.

I see two potential angles of attack:

  1. Lobby/consult with PF on making effective grants. Givewell does the hard job of evaluating charities, but a more boutique solution could be useful to private foundations.
    1. I have a large dataset of electronically filed 990-PFs, and I thought it may be useful to try to identify PF that are more likely to be persuaded by this sort of lobbying. For example, foundations that are younger, already give to international charities, and give to a large number of charities (there’s a lot of interesting criteria that could be used). A list could be generated for PF that are more likely to redirect funds which could be targeted.
  2. Target grantmakers by offering training, attending conferences, etc. on effective grantmaking. (maybe some other EA aligned org is doing this?)


Givewell says they have directed ~$1b in effective gifts since 2011. Even if only a small number of foundations could be persuaded, the total dollars driven could be pretty large. And for a pretty small investment I think.

Short introduction: My name is Kyle Smith, I am an assistant professor of accounting at Mississippi State University. My research is mostly on how donors use accounting reports in their giving decisions. I have done some archival research examining how private foundations use accounting information, and am starting up a qualitative study where we are going to interview grantmakers to understand how they use accounting information in their grantmaking process. 

Does anyone know of any orgs specifically working on this problem? 

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