My friend Holden Karnofsky has a review of the Greg Mortenson affair over at the The GiveWell Blog:
There has been a lot of coverage of the scandals around the Central Asia Institute. The founder has been accused of fabricating inspiring stories, as well as of spending less than half of the millions of dollars he’s raised on building schools.
The Central Asia Institute receives four stars from Charity Navigator (archived) and had perfect ratings from Great Nonprofits prior to the scandal (archived), but GiveWell has declined to give this organization a recommendation or distinction (note that that page was published in mid-2009).
In a sense this doesn’t indicate impressive foresight on our part: nearly all charities we examine do not receive recommendations or distinctions, so it’s not as though we spotted the fabrications and financial mismanagement ourselves. Yet in the bigger picture, I see this incident as a vindication of our approach to giving: it’s a reminder that you shouldn’t give charities the benefit of the doubt.