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What does it take to be a skeptical charity?



Organizational self-confidence is seen as a very positive trait and is often embraced by new start-ups and nonprofits. The concept of self-skepticism is arguably as important but is often neglected. Self-skepticism cautions us to clearly measure our impact before declaring ourselves effective or expanding our organization. We believe that a healthy dose of this applied to the charity sector would make the world a much better place much faster. Below is an outline of our organizational self-skepticism checklist.


It breaks down into two main categories: (1) do not assume a priori that the organization is better than the evidence suggests​, and (2) constantly seek and use critical feedback. An organization does not assume that they are better than the evidence suggests by…

  1. Not assuming they are far outside the base rate or norm without strong evidence.

  2. Not assuming that the average and the marginal organizational impact will be the same.

  3. Only seeking major funding/expansion/scaling once there is evidence of impact.

  4. Individuals within the organization being skeptical about personal impact until proven otherwise.

  5. Being very careful not to generalize strength in one area to strength in many/all areas.

  6. Not assuming they are having a large impact in all unquantified areas.

An organization seeks and uses critical feedback by…

  1. Being transparent and seeking feedback on their work.

  2. Being clear with the public about their goals, objectives, and plans; and seeking feedback on them.

  3. Seeking public feedback from critically-minded others about their organization and core strategy, and sharing this information publicly.

  4. Getting external reviews and impact evaluations written by critically-minded people not working with or for the organization. Applying major changes when negative results come back from external or internal reviews.

  5. Encouraging feedback on organization and addressing it instead of ignoring or squashing it.

  6. Keeping open the possibility of shutting down if its impact is not proven

We feel as though one of the largest realizations that has made us far more effective was to start applying a much stronger self-skepticism to our own ideas. ​Often, we can be harsh and critical when it comes to others’ ideas, but have a much harder time seriously evaluating our own impact.


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