So writes Holden Karnofsky of the GiveWell Blog, attracting these comments in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

His point is that in the present humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, prospective donors are confronted by dozens of organizations raising funds for relief. How is one to know which group might most effectively use the funds?

Part of me doesn’t want a donor to even blink an eye before opening their wallet. Or even better, clicking their mouse. I want them to react to a humanitarian crisis quickly and generously … from the bottom of their heart. Leave the brain out of it.

My only advice in a crisis situation might be … stick with a name brand. Maybe there is indeed an obscure Myanmar-focused NGO with some special ability to move more quickly and effectively on the ground. But even so, the $25 impulse donor is not likely to do the homework to identify them, and they can be confident that an established aid group will "deliver the goods" when all is said and done.

But another part of me knows that each and every dollar counts, and wants to believe that no humanitarian dollar will be wasted or ineffectively spent. And that concern increases geometrically with the size of the gift that might be at stake.

So, at $25, I’d have one set of performance concerns and expectations; at $25,000, quite a different set.

I’d love to see someone host online a developing country-by-country assessment of which NGOs are doing what. Not just relief work, but ongoing human and environmental betterment. Something that goes far beyond "percentage spent on overhead" scorecards. With "reviews" of that work by knowledgeable observers, both locals and outside experts … and even donors. Like Amazon book reviews.

Then, whether a disaster strikes, or donors are looking for some longer term philanthropic engagement, they have a ready resource to consult.

Does this exist? Am I behind the curve here? Is Holden?

Tom

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