Why we don’t write in detail about every grant

Update as of September 2016: see this blog post for an update on how we’re thinking about openness and information sharing. Before publishing the blog post, we generally published an in-depth writeup of most grants. In cases where we decided not to write in depth about a grant, we linked to this page to explain that decision. Going forward, as explained in the blog post, we intend to continue to write in detail about some grants, but it will no longer be the default.

The Open Philanthropy Project’s mission is to give as effectively as we can and share our findings openly so that anyone can build on our work. From our page on what “open” means to us:

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.

Writing about each grant we make is one of the ways in which we share information about our work (see our grants database for a list of these pages). The amount of information we share varies by grant. In general, we find it valuable to lay out our thinking, including our hopes for and reservations about a given grant.

However, we recognize that being completely transparent about everything we do is not without its challenges, not least among them the time cost of compiling our thoughts and presenting them in a readable way. On grant pages, as with all our communication, we aim to share what information we can, but not to be exhaustive. Accordingly, in some cases, we choose to write very little about a given grant. We are comfortable making this call occasionally, for both of the following reasons:

  1. Writing clearly about our thinking takes time (and precious staff capacity). In some cases, deciding not to write at length about a particular grant can be a good opportunity for us to save time, without losing much in terms of the larger goals that drive our commitment to transparency.
  2. Sometimes, other factors cause us to prefer not to write in detail about a given grant (for example, if the grantee feels uncomfortable about what we would want to share). We think it is beneficial if we can choose not to write in detail about a grant in cases like this, without it standing out as extremely unusual.