Posted by: danielharan | May 24, 2007

Freeing slaves or training midwives?

Some of us are more effective at making money than others. If the same holds true about effective giving, who are the Warren Buffetts of the giving world? I have a few ideas to find out.

Rescuing Young Girls From Bonded Labor in Nepal sounded like a slam-dunk investment. One of my friends just returned from Nepal, so I sent her the link. To my surprise she gave it a thumbs-down. It’s not that the organization isn’t doing good, it just isn’t where she’d put her money. A Tibetan Natural Birth and Health Training Center training midwives sounded more effective to her.

We all have limited funds, and most of us giving want to make sure our dollars have the most impact. Since I haven’t been to Nepal or Tibet, I have to rely on her to discriminate between projects.

The website those two projects are listed on make it easy to decentralize giving. As far as helping people reach informed opinions however, it fails. Perhaps social networking can help: I could let my friends know I trust her to have an informed opinion about projects in that region.

Expertise could also be deduced the other way: find people that fund the projects you’ve already vetted, and chances are you’ll find other discriminating funders. I have loaned money through kiva, which I consider very effective, and given money to Trees for the Future. I’d like to know what else people give money to when they give to those organizations. Do they know about other effective non-profits?

A historical perspective could help too. In 2 to 5 years from now, we’ll have a clearer idea about which projects had a high impact – just like we know today the impressive impact the Grameen Bank has had. Like startups, many will fail and some will have average results. A few projects will hit home-runs. When we know that, I’ll want to go back and see who funded those home-runs, and what they’re funding today. They are the Warren Buffetts, and I want to mimick them.

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