Identifying the Worst Charities

June 13th, 2013
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The Tampa Bay Times has made a list of the worst 50 charities, ranking them by the fraction they spend on fundraising. As the worst offender they identify Kids Wish Network, with $110M in fundraising expenses on $128M of revenue over the last ten years. This feeds a natural desire to shame and punish people who are only pretending to help people, but it hides the real issue, which is that most charities are doing far less to help people than they could.

I see lots of people shocked by the amount of waste at these charities, but waste isn't the issue. What matters is how much the charity will be able to do with your donation. If most charities were good except for a few fraudulent, wasteful, or poorly run ones then it would make sense to put your research into avoiding the worst, but in truth most charities are bad.

popular culture reality

Most charities are not actively bad, like the ones in the linked Times article, but bad in that they do the wrong things. The effectiveness of various ways you could try and make the world better has a very uneven distribution. If you want your donation to go far you need to be picking the best charities, not avoiding the worst.

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