To raise money for Effektiv Spenden through the EA community.
To provide some updates as to the successes and 2021 plans of Effektiv Spenden, both to motivate the case for donating but also to update the community on the organization.
About Effektiv Spenden
effektiv-spenden.org (ES) (which roughly translates to effective giving in German) is a dedicated donation regranting platform for Germany that was founded in close coordination with the Effective Altruism Foundation (EAF) in early 2019. The main goal of ES is to expand the appeal of donations to effective charities beyond the EA community to the general public by offering a curated set of effective charities for a selected subset of broadly appealing cause areas, namely, global health and development, climate change, and animal welfare.
Effektiv Spenden is currently fundraising for 2021 and has a funding gap of €130,000. Thanks to generous donors, we are able to match donations up to €50,000 for a total of €100,000, but we are quite far from our goal and could very much use the support of the effective altruism community. We believe our recent successes, outlined below, make a strong case for EAs to have leveraged impact with their donation to Effektiv Spenden over other object-level donation choices.
People who want to donate outside of Germany should contact us so that we can figure out a way to do so in a tax deductible way.
The (Short) Case
With a total budget of €140,000 for 2021, we expect to raise between 2.5 and 4 Million Euros for EA charities. Although the counterfactual calculation would be quite complicated, this would have a maximal multiplier of 17.8x - 28.5x in terms of Donations/OpEx.
Since our founding in April 2019, we have been able to raise more than 1 Million Euros for Top EA organizations and we have seen a steady increase in this amount over time (see chart). In fact, in October 2020 we raised €40,000 from recurring donations alone. This makes our multiplier to date 6.7 (including startup costs).
Monthly recurring donations
Not only do we expect the trend of increasing monthly donations to continue, but we will be taking over the donation processing and website of the former Effective Altruism Foundation, which should generate another €1 Million in annual donations, given historical data. We discuss this acquisition and other plans for 2021 in the following section.
This section outlines the upcoming objectives for Effektiv Spenden for 2021. It is not meant to be comprehensive, but an overview of the most important projects currently planned.
Running of Effektiveraltruismus.de and the corresponding donations
As mentioned above, Effektiv Spenden is in the process of both taking over operations of the website effektiveraltruismus.de and taking on the donation processing previously administered by the Effective Altruism Foundation, which should generate €1 Million in annual donations. In addition to pure donations, the site is also a great marketing tool for Effective Altruism and community building in the German speaking countries more broadly and already has for example > 4,000 subscribers on its mailing list.
Relaunch of effektiv-spenden.org website
We have been graciously offered pro bono support to update our brand identity and asset design from a marketing agency to give our organization a modern look and feel and to set it apart from more old school German charities.
Founding of an Effektiv Spenden Charitable Organization in Switzerland
On the heels of the success we’ve already seen in Germany, we believe there is a strong case for founding a similar charitable organization in Switzerland. This will allow Swiss donors to get tax write offs on their donations just as Germans are currently able to do.
Increased Marketing Efforts
Up until now, we haven’t put a significant focus on marketing Effektiv Spenden, so we expect there to be some significant gains to be had by doing some basics:
Expanding our Newsletter
More utilization of Social-Media channels
Working with media in Germany
We also plan to hold more events to raise awareness of effective giving. An example of this is the upcoming Effective Giving Day on November 30th which we are co-hosting with other EA organizations.
Keeping the Lights On
The day to day operations of running Effektiv Spenden will also take effort, especially as the number of donations increases over time. To make Effektiv Spenden truly scalable we will have to invest in expanding our giving infrastructure.
Hey, I wanted to probe a bit into why you don't write in gender neutral language on your website.
(For those who are not German: in German most nouns that refer to persons are not gender neutral by default, but always refer to either male or female persons, with the male version having been the default version for a long time. In the last decade, there has been a pushback against this and people started to adopt gender neutral language, which often looks a bit clunky though.) -
I saw that you justify this with better readability in your FAQ, but I didn't find the response very satisfying. On reasons not to write gender neutral:
Readability: My guess is that at this point, most people have gotten used to gender neutral language and don't really stumble when they read it anymore. Actually, I think there's probably a fair share of people that stumble when they read non-gender neutral language nowadays. There are also some less clunky solutions (e.g. the female version with a capitalized "I" or explicitly stating that you'll alternate gender between sections/pages). (They aren't as correct because they exclude people who are not female and male, but probably still a better alternative than not using any gender neutral language at all)
Appeal to target audience: You might worry that gender neutral language might not be appealing to some target audiences that would usually donate fairly large amounts of money, but would not if the website was written in gender neutral language. (e.g. conservative leaning, wealthy donors.) You'll know better than I and if you have convincing arguments that this is the case (and outweighs the money you could raise from people who are repelled from non gender neutral language), I'd probably support your decision. I would be somewhat surprised by this though. To me, using gender neutral language seems fairly normal and professional and not "lefty wooi-booi student initiative" anymore (e.g. the German Federal Agency for Civic Education uses gender neutral language, at least partly.)
The time cost of using gender neutral language seems fairly small
On the other hand:
I know at least one person who isn't involved in EA but interested in effective giving that almost didn't donate via effektiv-spenden because you don't use gender neutral language. I would guess that a fair proportion of your target audience might be similarly inclined.
Apart from that, I also care about gender neutral language for feminist reasons, but that's not what I wanted to focus on
Thanks for your comments. We'll most likely start to "gender" once we relaunch the website somewhen in the next couple of quarters. The reason why I'm reluctant to do this is because I'm quite certain that this will decrease the mass appeal of the website. So when we do it we'll do it with the expectation of decreasing the amount of donations. Reasons are:
- Currently our site is kind of gender neutral already since we don't just use the male version but male and female versions alternate (see https://blog.zeit.de/glashaus/2018/02/07/gendern-schreibweise-geschlecht-maenner-frauen-ansprache/ for a longer explanation). There are at least some people who care about a gender neutral language who prefer this approach (it was also the new and progressive way to do it when I was at the university). - The vast majority of Germans don't use a gender neutral language themselves and I would assume that most don't want it to be used in general. I don't have a data source for the latter but the fact that pretty much all newspaper don't use gender neutral language different to ours seems to be a clear indicator for that. This obviously doesn't mean that one shouldn't do it, just that it's not mainstream yet. Obviously it's very different with different demographics. Eg when I think of people I'm close with I know several who are kind of actively annoyed with gender neutral language but they are all 40+. It's not because they are opposed to the concept but because they are used to a different language and it make the language less appealing for them. I tend to agree (I'm also 40+). For me it's the same as with vegan food. It's the right thing to do but it's just not as appealing as the stuff I'm used to. Talking to EAs who attended university during the last ten years I'm sure it will be quite the opposite.
I’m still unsure about this, but personally I found that discussing this topic for a few hours has not convinced me of the importance of using those new gender-neutral forms, except insofar it is really important for some fraction of students who tend to be politically active and open to EA ideas and who feel like women are kind-of actively excluded in the common language. It also feels to me a bit like an in-group signal of progressive groups and I cringed a few times when I felt socially compelled into using it.
Our own fundraiser was quite successful so we should be covered to pursue our original plans without limitations till at least the beginning of 2021. But since the donation volume in 2020 turned out to be much bigger than expected (at least a 6x increase compared to 2019 according to preliminary numbers) we are in the process of updating our plans and have some ideas how to use additional capital in a promising way (eg internationalization). So I'm happy to talk if you know someone... ;-)
Hey Sebastian, thanks for writing this! Could you share an updated breakdown of how much was donated to each cause via ES over the past 12 months, similar to this graph that you showed here in your last report? I'd be interested to see it and I think others would too.
It's important though that we only offered GiveWell recommended charities for the first 7 month and that most of the press we got also focused on them (and to a lesser degree on climate change). The numbers have been more evenly distributed lately.