Openness is a core value of the Open Philanthropy Project. We see ourselves as being open in two important ways:
Open to many possibilities
The advice we heard most often when we started giving was “focus on something you’re passionate about.” In our case, we’re passionate about using the resources we have to improve others’ lives as much as we can. Our level of excitement about an issue depends on how much good we believe we’ll accomplish by working on it. So, instead of starting with a predefined set of focus areas, we’re considering a wide variety of causes where our philanthropy could help to improve others’ lives. We’ve investigated many potential focus areas, and we’re prioritizing based on three criteria: importance, neglectedness and tractability.
Open about our work
We believe philanthropy could have a greater impact by becoming more transparent. Very often, key discussions and decisions happen behind closed doors, and it’s difficult for outsiders to learn from and critique philanthropists’ work. We envision a world in which philanthropists increasingly document and share their research, reasoning, results and mistakes to help each other learn more quickly and serve others more effectively.
We work hard to make it easy for new philanthropists and outsiders to learn about our work. We do that by:
- Blogging about major decisions and the reasoning behind them, as well as what we’re learning about how to be an effective funder.
- Creating detailed reports on the causes we’re investigating.
- Sharing notes from our information-gathering conversations.
- Publishing writeups and updates on a number of our grants, including our reasoning and reservations before making a grant, and any setbacks and challenges we encounter.
We balance our commitment to transparency with our commitment to maximizing our impact and building strong and productive partnerships. That means:
- We never share private information from another organization without permission.
- We share early drafts of our blog posts and reports with the people and organizations discussed therein and invite their suggestions for improving the content.
- We work with our partners to make key information public without unnecessarily undermining their work. We no longer write publicly about personal relationships with partner organizations.
- We write more thoroughly about major decisions and grants than minor ones.
- If we encountered an outstanding giving opportunity where the costs of transparency significantly outweighed the benefits, we would take the opportunity and refrain from discussing it. But because we believe the benefits of transparency are substantial, we would set the bar accordingly high.