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Holden Karnofsky

Holden Karnofsky is an American non-profit executive based in San Francisco, California. He is co-founder and co-CEO of Open Philanthropy, and co-founder of GiveWell. He is a notable proponent of effective altruism.



Karnofsky graduated from Harvard University with a degree in social studies in 2003.1) At Harvard, he was a member of the Harvard Lampoon.2)


After graduating, he worked at Bridgewater Associates, an investment management fund based in Westport, Connecticut.3) 4)


At Bridgewater, Karnofsky met his future GiveWell co-founder Elie Hassenfeld. In 2006, Karnofsky and Hassenfeld started a charity club where they and other Bridgewater employees pooled in money and investigated the best charities to donate the money to. In mid-2007, with donations from their colleagues, Karnofsky and Hassenfeld formed a fund called “The Clear Fund”, and quit their jobs to work full time on GiveWell, whose goal was to allocate the money in the Clear Fund to the best charities.5) 6)

In December 2007, Karnofsky was discovered posting a question about the organization to MetaFilter using another individual's name, and then posting an answer about GiveWell with his own name but without disclosing his affiliation with GiveWell. The negative publicity led Karnofsky to resign from the role of executive director, though he was later reinstated.7) The incident had negative repercussions on GiveWell's reputation.8)

Holden Karnofsky ’03. Harvard University. Retrieved July 25, 2020, from
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Strom, S. (2007, December 20). 2 Young Hedge-Fund Veterans Stir Up the World of Philanthropy. The New York Times.
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Strom, S. (2008, January 8). Founder of a Nonprofit Is Punished by Its Board for Engaging in an Internet Ruse. The New York Times.
Kamenetz, A. (2008, May 1). When the Giving Gets Tough. Fast Company.
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