Givewell on Giving to Japan

by on March 16, 2011 at 9:10 am in Current Affairs, Data Source | Permalink

I agree with this advice from Givewell the most analytically tough of the charity ratings agencies.

* Those affected have requested very little, limited aid. Aid being offered far exceeds aid being requested.
* Charities are aggressively soliciting donations, often in ways we feel are misleading.
* Any donation you make will probably be used (a) by the charity you give it to, for activities in a different country; (b) for non-disaster-relief-and-recovery efforts in Japan.
* If you’re looking to pursue (a) and help people in need all over the world, we recommend giving to the best charity you can, rather than basing your giving on who is appealing to you most aggressively with images and language regarding Japan.
* If you prefer (b), a gift to the Japanese Red Cross seems reasonable.

Overall, though, a gift to Doctors Without Borders seems to us like the best way to effectively “respond to this disaster”. We feel they are a leader in transparency, honesty and integrity in relief organizations, and the fact that they’re not soliciting funds for Japan is a testament to this. Rewarding Doctors Without Borders is a move toward improving incentives and improving disaster relief in general.

Donate to Doctors Without Borders.

1 zbicyclist March 16, 2011 at 9:31 am

Good idea. I feel like doing SOMETHING. Why not Doctors Without Borders?

2 EorrFU March 16, 2011 at 10:27 am

I still doesn’t seem to be that much different of an analysis than Felix Salmon gave with the same exact conclusion…

3 Lindy March 18, 2011 at 8:23 am

Yes; but this has been the stance of GiveWell on disasters for a long time. (disclosure: I am a director of the organization)

4 Ben Chorin March 16, 2011 at 10:28 am

This might not matter to many people, but Doctors Without Borders is not an apolitical organization. See for example:

5 Rahul March 16, 2011 at 11:10 am

That’s a Jerusalem Post editorial. Hardly unbiased. Most of the claims seem anecdotes. Is it reliable to make us question MSF’s credentials? Is there a pattern of accusations and are the accusers credible?

6 Right Wing-nut March 17, 2011 at 9:43 am


In the political environment that we currently face, it is almost impossible for sizable organizations to remain apolitical. Some are just more honest about things than others.

7 mbt footwear March 16, 2011 at 10:53 am

Selling antiques, buy stocks calculating do not calculate the consumer?

Without the protection of consumers’ modern before the law, human society of business conduct, mostly just “buyer carefully”, selling, the seller will no longer responsible. To protect the rights and interests of consumers, legal thought, this kind of means no, sell the home sale after must continue to charge.

8 Matt March 16, 2011 at 11:22 am

The irony of a spammer sticking up for the consumer should not be lost on anyone. By the way, enjoy your melamine poisoning.

9 Rahul March 16, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Anyone else think the spammer problem has spiked after the Wordpress move? The Captchas must have been useful.

10 Careless March 16, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Yes, the difference is pretty noticeable.

11 Josh March 16, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Hey admins, Wordpress can have Captchas too…

12 Rahul March 16, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Sometimes the threading is annoying too. Hard to see new replies.

Is there a way Wordpress can allow users to switch between threaded and non threaded views? Sometimes chronological is good.

13 Rahul March 16, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Another crib: The font used for the comment poster names is too big (and the fact that the names show above the comments now and not at their end). It’s almost as if who’s posting is more important that what he’s writing.

14 JasonL March 16, 2011 at 11:42 am

Thank you for this. It’s a very hard thing to analyze dispassionately, and spreading this link is a public good.

15 Ted Craig March 16, 2011 at 12:01 pm

If you really want to help Japan, isn’t buying a new Toyota the best way to do it?

16 Rahul March 16, 2011 at 12:02 pm

A “Made in USA” Toyota?

17 Ted Craig March 16, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Well, as the UAW will tell you, all the profits go back to Japan.

18 Andrew Wyllie March 16, 2011 at 1:00 pm

I’m a regular donor to Oxfam International and I received this email from them the other day:

“As you probably know, here at Oxfam we focus our emergency resources on poor communities – specifically, places where governments are unable or unwilling to provide for their people – working not only to save lives but also to address poverty itself. The Japanese economy is the 3rd largest in the world and the government has the capacity for a major humanitarian response.
But in every emergency there are vulnerable groups that have trouble accessing aid. With Oxfam staff in Japan, we stand ready to help.”

This is a pretty classy response. They are not using the disaster to raise funds but at the same time, they are doing whatever they can to help out.

19 Guy in the Veal Calf Office March 16, 2011 at 1:34 pm

I’ve mostly stopped giving to charities, too many are mostly fundraising organizations attached to a small activity (that might help or might make things worse). Instead, I make a direct gift to a person working a low wage job who I know is at least trying to make a go of it. In other words, I fill up the ubiquitous tip jars, over tip servers, give bonuses to sub-contractors, etc. I get no deduction and often its anonymous, but so what?

20 Rahul March 16, 2011 at 3:06 pm

I am for this too. There needs to be more unstructured giving.

I wish there was a site that let me “gift X dollars to a random deserving guy in the third world”. Could be the feel-good button for a lot of folks in the west and bring a smile to a lot of have-not’s.

21 wyLex March 16, 2011 at 11:20 pm

There’s a site for that – well sort of. It’s not a giving site, but a lending site where you can lend someone some money – usually for their businesses. I have never tried this myself, but I really like the concept.

22 Randy Addison March 16, 2011 at 8:21 pm

All I can do is donate to red cross. Even though I want to go to Japan to be a volunteer aid I can’t since I have a job here. But Japan really needs a lot of volunteers today.

23 Right Wing-nut March 17, 2011 at 9:41 am

You mean people who can’t speak the language, don’t know the culture, and would require food, shelter & a guide?

Nope, don’t need those.

What would work would be for the SeeBees ( & similar organizations be given a sector to clear. Given the speed of our (US) government’s response to recent urgent matters, I would expect the offer to come in early 2013.

24 mbt March 18, 2011 at 5:35 am

Overall, though, a gift to Doctors Without Borders seems to us like the best way to effectively “respond to this disaster”. We feel they are a leader in transparency, honesty and integrity in relief organizations, and the fact that they’re not soliciting funds for Japan is a testament to this. Rewarding

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