Times: Charity Maven is Phoney Blogger

Less than a month and the angel has fallen.

We noted with glee on Dec. 20 the selflessness of two young Jewish men:

The Times: The Yin and Yang of Jewish Charity

Today we note with dismay the fall of one of these altruistic fellows:

Founder of a Nonprofit Is Punished by Its Board for Engaging in an Internet Ruse

A founder of GiveWell, a new nonprofit research organization that seeks to assess the effectiveness of charities, has been demoted after admitting that he promoted the organization on a Web site by posing as a prospective charitable donor seeking information.

GiveWell’s board acted last week against the founder, Holden Karnofsky, demoting him from executive director to “program officer” and saying it was withholding $5,000 of his salary and using the money to pay for him to take a professional development course.

The board said it would contact all donors who had contributed to GiveWell since Dec. 1 and offer to return their money.

“The board believes that the acts of misrepresentation that were committed are indefensible and are in direct conflict with the goals of the organization,” the board said in a statement posted on givewell.net late Friday night.

GiveWell drew attention last month when, in articles on Dec. 20, its demanding approach to assessing the work charities do was reported in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Karnofsky and his co-founder, Elie Hassenfeld, were also interviewed that day on the CNBC program “Power Lunch.”

Ten days later, Mr. Karnofsky, writing as geremiah, posted a question to Ask MetaFilter, a question-and-answer page that is part of MetaFilter, a community blog.

“All the Web sites I’ve seen just have huge lists of charities with some basic financial data/ratings,” Mr. Karnofsky, as geremiah, wrote. “I’d ideally like to hear from someone who has put some time into examining/comparing charities and can recommend someone who’s good. Any ideas?”

Roughly a half-hour later, after three other people had posted comments, Mr. Karnofsky, writing as himself under the name holden0 but without disclosing his relationship with GiveWell, answered his own question and recommended GiveWell’s Web site.

“This was a horrible lapse in judgment,” Mr. Karnofsky wrote in a Dec. 31 post on GiveWell’s site. Reached by phone on Monday, he said he was not authorized to comment.

Participants in various MetaFilter discussions continue to call for more severe punishment of Mr. Karnofsky.

“I think Holden should have absolutely been fired,” one MetaFilter participant, Daniel Gadsby, a marketing coordinator in Toronto, said in a telephone interview. Mr. Gadsby said that Mr. Karnofsky demanded transparency among charities he assessed and that what he had done was therefore hypocritical.

“If I did that at my job,” he added, “I’d be fired.”

Robert Elliott, GiveWell’s chairman, defended the board’s response, saying, “We decided that Holden’s analysis skills and commitment to helping others continues to be well suited to helping GiveWell accomplish its goals.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think, Friends of Efrat is the best Jewish charity around. It simultaneously achieves major religious and political aims. I found it here samsonblinded.org/blog/the-best-jewish-charity.htm and donated that same day which is sort of unusual for me.