The Value of a Dollar with Elie Hassenfeld

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How do you determine what charities to donate to, how much you should give, and if the money you do give is even going to the cause those charities support? Elie Hassenfeld (LinkedIn), co-founder and executive director of GiveWell, is here to shed some light on how to donate effectively.

GiveWell is a non-profit that conducts research and investigations into charitable organizations to determine which have the highest-impact. In this episode, Chad and Elie discuss the future of philanthropy and some things to keep in mind when you donate your time and money.

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Show Notes

[3:20] How GiveWell Helps You Give

“GiveWell’s mission is to find outstanding charities and then publish the full details of our analysis to help donors decide where to give.” – Elie

  • GiveWell’s research team tries to estimate the amount of good each charity does with each dollar donated. This is different from other charity rating sites that just calculate administrative costs and overhead.
  • They look at things like how many deaths does an organization avert or how much does it increase someone’s income.

[5:30] GiveWell’s Origin Story

  • After college, Elie worked for a hedge fund. He started to realize he was making more money than he needed to pay the bills and wanted to give it back, but wasn’t sure how. He got together with a group of coworkers who were interested in doing the same. They did some research and realized they couldn’t find the type of information they wanted to know about charities.
  • They started calling up charities to track down the info they wanted. Eventually, they realized they could build a company around this and Elie decided to leave the hedge fund and start GiveWell fulltime.

[8:20] Harnessing The Power Of Giving

  • Effective giving is getting a lot more attention today than before.

“There’s a big opportunity for donors of all sizes… to use better information, better evidence to make really great decisions about where to give.” – Elie

  • If you give to the right organizations, it can cost less than $3,000 to save a person’s life.

[10:20] The Best Charities To Donate To

  • The organizations that are the most successful are the ones that are very thoughtful, competent, and scientifically-minded. They are willing to identify and admit failure and adjust accordingly.
  • Unlike in other businesses, in charities, there’s a disconnect between beneficiary and donor that it makes it more difficult to determine effectiveness.
  • These are the top charities that GiveWell has chosen.

[19:20] GiveWell’s Plans For Expanding

  • Today, GiveWell is focused on the most measurable, quantifiable charitable activities. Moving forward, they want to expand to areas where there’s more leverage for your dollar in less direct ways.
  • They want to get involved in public health regulation where the right kind of government intervention could have a significant impact.
  • Over the long run, they want to more systematically cover the whole space of international giving.

[21:25] Final Thoughts

  • Elie shares three final CTAs:
    • “By giving, you can have a massive impact.”

    • It’s not easy to find good charities because most charities tell great stories. It takes a lot of effort to see which ones are the right ones to give to.
    • There are a lot of normal people out there who are giving. The more people that we can convince to give, the larger the impact.

If you enjoyed this interview, connect with Elie on LinkedIn or learn more about GiveWell here.


Episode 237