So it goes that just as soon as the holidays end, the snowflake-shaped scales fall from our eyes and harsh, cold reality sets in. All that goodwill and cheer just got us fat credit-card bills and a fatter ass, and you know those nice boys from the New York Times? The ones who left their hedge-fund jobs to start Givewell, a charitable organization that rates other charitable organizations, that separates the wheat from the chaff, that keeps them honest, as our dear friend Anderson Cooper would say? Well, they turned out not to be so honest themselves.
Here's a heartwarming holiday story. Today's Times profiles Holden Karnofsky and Elie Hassenfeld, two 26-year-olds who quit their jobs at a Westport hedge fund to start a foundation that puts charities through a rigorous cost-benefit analysis and then rates them on their effectiveness. It's called GiveWell, and it's apparently causing quite a stir in the nonprofit community. Yes, they sort of sound like they might be kind of jerks — one blog calls the way they communicate with charities "breathtaking" in its audacity ("Here's, arguably, a 26-year-old punk, who doesn't know what he doesn't know, telling legions of veteran do-gooders that they are possibly, indeed probably, wasting their time and their donors' money!"). And, yes, the Times is a little effusive about how they gave up their massive hedge-fund salaries for "a lot less pay" (according to the Times, they each receive a salary of $65,000). And, yes, we suspect that a Harvard grad called "Holden" might have a little backup somewhere. But that is not the point. The point is this: Wouldn't it be nice if all finance folks used the qualities inherent to them — arrogance, aggression — to doing something good? Yeah, we're looking at you, Dan Loeb.
Two Young Hedge Fund Veterans Stir Up the World of Philanthropy [NYT]
Who Wants Holden Karnofsky's Money? [The Agitator]