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The Right Amount of Skepticism Yields Greater Impact

   Jun 10, 2023

A Message from CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron 


While reading a book by one of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, I learned of a concept known as “default to truth.” Essentially, human beings are statistically very bad at detecting deception. We operate on the presumption that people are basically honest, and we do this for one of two primary reasons: We either don’t consider deception as a possibility in a given communication, or there is insufficient evidence that we are being deceived. We assume we are not. This default setting is a beautiful aspect of the human condition that unfortunately also puts us at risk of being manipulated by people and organizations that may not have our best interests in mind.


Charities and the nonprofit trade associations that promote their interests have every reason to filter information in ways that will convince you to donate. Often this takes the form of charity ratings or seals that are based on what charities report about themselves. These may include self-produced “impact” reports or self-reported accountability metrics that mischaracterize what a particular charity is really accomplishing with your donations.

Read "Charity Navigator stars can boost donations but charities might game the system."