There’s an interesting new site called GiveWell. They are using a wiki format to analyze nonprofits and talk about the best way to tackle such problems as how to “Improve opportunities for U.S. inner-city children”. I think that sites like GuideStar and Charity Navigator are great. But, I’m more interested in the increasing production of charity recommendation services, especially ones that do a deep analysis that is not simply quantitative (going beyond such simple metrics as operating expenses).
If you look at stock market investing, you find that anyone can use Yahoo Finance to get basic details of a company. This service is similar to the GuideStar or Charity Navigator products. However, investors also have access to a universe of professionals who recommend stocks not just based on publicly accessible financials, but also based on their deep knowledge of the company and the industry in which it operates. Having access to people who truly understand the issues and can recommend effective nonprofits that can help fix the situation would do a lot to improve philanthropy. The fact is most people decide which nonprofits to fund based on who they know at the nonprofit or their personal interactions. This is a lot like buying stocks based on a “tip” from a neighbor or because you like one of the company’s products. In other words, philanthropy has a long way to go to improve the way that donors select nonprofits to fund.
Great Nonprofits is another service that promises to deliver donors with lists of effective nonprofits. I also find Calvert’s Giving Folios to be very interesting. The product lets Calvert’s donor advised fund clients give to a “portfolio” of nonprofits all working on one issue. A “manager” with expertise in the issue area selects the nonprofits in the portfolio.