Key Questions for Every New Donor

Consciously or unconsciously, all donors confront a series of key questions that shape their approach to giving. Our answers reflect the core beliefs that guide the work of Good Ventures.

Why give?

People give to charity for a wide variety reasons. Some give to improve the lives of their friends, family or neighbors. Some give to advance a cause or support an organization that’s close to their heart. Some give to express their faith or spirituality. Some give because it feels good.

The primary goal of our giving is to improve the lives of as many people as possible as much as possible. We believe that all lives are valuable, including future lives. These guiding principles have big implications for the foundation’s approach to grantmaking.

Giving now versus later 

We’re beginning to give now because:

  • It’s the best way to learn how to give more effectively in the future.
  • The good we do by giving today will compound over time. If our grants give people more power over their lives today, they’ll be in a better position to help themselves and others in the future.
  • Economic growth, advancements in technology, and increasingly effective giving could mean giving opportunities are worse in the future than they are today. In other words, it could cost much more to save and improve people’s lives in 20 years than it does now. That would be a great development. (Hat tip to GiveWell for introducing me to this idea.)

We intend to scale up our giving dramatically as we gain confidence in our ability to identify outstanding opportunities. We believe we can put our charitable dollars to work most effectively while we’re alive, and particularly over the next few decades — a period of great opportunity and risk for our society.

Choosing causes

As a new foundation, we’ve decided not to commit to focus areas just yet. Instead, we’re taking time to learn about causes across the major categories of philanthropy — direct aid, research and development, and policy advocacy — in search of important areas on which we could have an outsized impact long-term.

When we’ve found clearly effective or especially promising efforts, we’ve given right away. We’re also making “learning grants” to help us gain experience and access to organizations working on causes we find promising. Visit Our Portfolio to learn more about the organizations and causes we’ve supported so far.

Domestic versus international giving

Some donors prefer to give closer to home. Some find it helpful to limit their scope to a particular country or region.

We think being open to giving in any region is a comparative advantage of ours. Much of the foundation's grantmaking to date has been focused on the poorest places in the world, where dollars go further toward saving and improving lives. But we’re also funding organizations in the developed world with the potential to increase human well-being at scale.

Public versus anonymous giving

The decision to give can be intensely personal. Even so, giving anonymously would limit our impact. Giving publicly encourages those around us to think about giving, too. Talking about why we’re giving and what we’re learning — about our successes and shortcomings — helps other donors learn from the work we’re doing and give more effectively in turn. We hope our transparency inspires other donors, foundations and nonprofits to be more transparent, too.