Yoni Levitan

Ottawa Ontario, Canada

About Yoni

Favorite talks

Comments & conversations

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Yoni Levitan
Posted over 2 years ago
Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong
It looks like I misunderstood your comment. When you said that for profit companies are measured by dollars and cents I incorrectly assumed you were implying charities should also be measured using financial metrics (i.e. overhead ratios). I agree that it's important to spend on evaluation. Even if it takes considerable resources. This is because of course, some NGO's focus simply on "are we doing our work as effectively as possible?" when they should at least occasionally be asking a completely different question: "What is our high level goal, and is the work we're carrying out the best way to achieve said goal?" As far as I can tell GiveWell (www.givewell.org) is the leader is evaluating charities that carry out international development work. They are highly transparent and are great about posting their thinking on their blog. I encourage you to check them out. Lastly, I'm a big fan of the talk you linked to. I've shared it with many people. My old mentor was actually a protege of George Rotor (co-CEO of Engineers Without Borders... or at least he was a few years ago).
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Yoni Levitan
Posted over 2 years ago
Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong
This kind of thing is tax fraud and the IRS definitely pursues this (I know several examples of the CRA, Canada's equivalent of the IRS pursuing similar schemes and taking them to court). I think the real issue is the matter of "Are good intentions alone enough?" what about the situations where people mean where but just have no clue and aren't actually helping? Now THAT is a thorny problem. (Personally I think good intentions aren't enough, but that's another topic for another day).
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Yoni Levitan
Posted over 2 years ago
Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong
Hi Garrett, With the funding of startups (i.e. venture capital) and investments in high growth public tech companies like Facebook and LinkedIn the valuations are driven as much by the companies stories and the size of their ambitions as the valuations are driven by any financial metric. Hence Dan's advocating that we support charities with grand ambitions just as society supports companies with grand ambitions that are little more than a few recent college graduates with an idea and loads of passion/energy.
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Yoni Levitan
Posted over 2 years ago
Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong
Hi Kathryn, One point to add is that when looking at overhead you are often comparing apples to oranges. If memory serves me right Pallotta Teamworks categorized advertising as overhead, whereas many other health/medical research charities have historically categorized advertising as "going to the cause" (thus goosing their numbers to make them appear better than they really are). Just one more reason why we should evaluate charities based on their impact and not on overhead. In my opinion, the leaders in this field are the folks at GiveWell (www.givewell.org). Here is a blurb from their website: "What is GiveWell? GiveWell is a nonprofit dedicated to finding outstanding giving opportunities and publishing the full details of our analysis to help donors decide where to give. Unlike charity evaluators that focus solely on financials, assessing administrative or fundraising costs, we conduct in-depth research aiming to determine how much good a given program accomplishes (in terms of lives saved, lives improved, etc.) per dollar spent. Rather than try to rate as many charities as possible, we focus on the few charities that stand out most (by our criteria) in order to find and confidently recommend the best giving opportunities possible."
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Yoni Levitan
Posted over 2 years ago
Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong
HI Wayne, Your analogy with the movie is flawed. When you participated in a Pallotta Teamworks event you were more investing in the event/cause then you were consuming something. So the analogy would not be to compare yourself to those who bought a ticket to John Carter ( an expensive movie that lost money for Disney), but to compare yourself to those who funded John Carter. In the for profit world, we understand we may have to fund numerous investments where we get little return (or even lose our capital) to find that one investment that is so successful it more than makes up for all the duds. People tend to understand that not all financial for-profit investments will pay off, yet for some reason there are people that do not port this concept over to the charitable world. In the domain of money-making people think this concept is beneficial, but in the domain of charity they think it is bad. Let me give you a great example of why this approach is good in the charitable sector just like it's good in the for-profit sector: We have spent billions of dollars on failed efforts to create an HIV/Aids vaccine. Many of the efforts were speculative and failed spectacularly. But if in the future someone spends a modest amount of money (say $10 million) on a research project that leads to an effective HIV/Aids vaccine, would you say all those other billions were wasted? I would say no. Without those billions spent to explore other avenues, the avenue that was finally successful would have never been explored.
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Yoni Levitan
Posted over 2 years ago
Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong
http://www.givewell.org/ Problem solved. GIvewell is run by two former hedge fund analysts that realized there was no rigorous evaluation of charities taking place, so they decided to do it themselves. They are thoughtful, transparent, and wicked smart. I strongly encourage you to look at their blog and read about their recommended charities.
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Yoni Levitan
Posted over 2 years ago
Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong
Since TED doesn't allow you to promote your own products, I will take the chance now to recommend you read some of Dan's excellent writing. My favourite writing of his is housed on the Harvard Business Review website where he has his own blog. Here are links to my favourite posts: Do you have a mission statement, or are you on a mission?: http://blogs.hbr.org/pallotta/2011/01/do-you-have-a-mission-statemen.html An itunes for choosing charities: http://blogs.hbr.org/pallotta/2011/02/an-itunes-for-choosing-chariti.html A logo is not a brand: http://blogs.hbr.org/pallotta/2011/06/a-logo-is-not-a-brand.html Our ineffectiveness at measuring effectiveness: http://blogs.hbr.org/pallotta/2010/11/our-ineffectiveness-at-measuri.html Also, he has two books. Uncharitable and Charity Case. This speech draws principally from Charity Case, which is really more of a manifesto than a typical non-fiction book. I recommend starting with Uncharitable. Once you get past all the historical information about Puritanism at the beginning the books becomes incredibly thought provoking, even if you don't agree with everything Dan says.