Where are you donating this year and why – in 2019? Open thread for discussion.

post by weeatquince · 2019-12-11T00:57:32.808Z · score: 69 (24 votes) · EA · GW · 20 comments

The idea for this thread is that people can post as top level comments a short piece on where they are donating and why.

The main aim is that others can comment and provide feedback and criticism. Please give feedback.

That said I'm also super keen for general sharing on this topic and to hear from people who have already donated / have ongoing donations / don't want critical public feedback / etc. Also keen for the general giving of love and support and encouragement. Please give love and support.

Happy with very short posts, very long posts, big donations, small donations, whatever.

Hope this is useful. I'll start off with my plans and committing to give thoughts on at least the first half dozen or so other posts. (If this seems useful could repeat next year a but earlier in the giving season).


20 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by weeatquince · 2019-12-11T01:04:55.087Z · score: 44 (19 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Donation: £5,000

Cause: EA meta (+ global poverty)

Main donation: £3000 to Happier Lives Institute (HLI)

Other donations: £500 to each of EA meta Fund, Let’s Fund, Rethink Priorities, Against Malaria Foundation (AMF)


Why EA Meta
Leverage: It seems empirically evidence to me that meta EA activity is influencing both the amount and the direction of funding at a ratio of at least £10 influenced £1 inputted.
Evidenced: I was skeptical of what EA meta work could achieve but over the last few years this kind of giving has gone from being an idea to having demonstrated impact.
Underfunded: The EA Meta Fund has than other EA Funds and on its last pay-outs it only filled about 15% of the funding gaps of the organisations it was looking to support.
Collective action: If everyone in EA funded meta work rather than pet causes more money would go to good places (or we may learn we were wrong about our pet causes).


Why EA meta research not outreach
I think we are still learning about how to do good and getting that right is more important than getting more money moved. This has had most impact to date and I am very unconvinced that we are getting close to diminishing marginal returns on this.


Why £3000 to HLI
Happier Lives Institute are doing innovative and useful new research on subjective wellbeing data that I believe could significantly change how people in the EA community think about what causes are most important. I expect this donation combined with a donation from a collaborator can fill their funding gap at least until August 2020. I may donate more at a later date.


Why £500 each EA Meta Fund, Let’s Fund and Rethink Priorities
I am not giving everything to HLI partly because I think HLI’s immediate funding gap can be filled and partly I want to influence and keep up with these other projects and partly just poor heuristics on my part. Note that my view that HLI is better than any of these 3 other donation opportunities is very weak (although I expect they have a more pressing funding gap).
These 3 projects are the other EA meta (research) projects that I think it is worth supporting. Splitting between them because not sure it is worth the time / energy to evaluate and compare them all given the amount of money I am giving. I have not included GPI because I have not been as impressed by the immediate usefulness of their research or research agenda.
On Let’s Fund: They are not actually asking for money but they are doing good work and always seem short of funds so will try to offer them funds. If they don’t take it will split the money between other projects.


Why £500 to AMF
I am not giving everything to meta, partly I want to still force myself to think about what is the most important non meta cause and partly because I think if I am give the amount I would likely have given to non-meta causes had I not come across EA / GWWC then I help avoid the meta trap [EA · GW].
Against Malaria Foundation are an excellent charity, continuously top-rated by GiveWell. (Giving to AMF rather than to GiveWell to distribute as not totally convinced that Deworming or GiveDirectly are as good as AMF).
I might alternatively give the EA Animal Fund – need to think about this more.


Key uncertainties
Is it silly to split my donations this much?
Have I done enough due diligence of HLI?
AMF or the EA Animal Fund?

comment by utilitarian01 · 2019-12-11T04:56:09.174Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

>Leverage: It seems empirically evident to me that meta EA activity is influencing both the amount and the direction of funding at a ratio of at least £10 influenced £1 inputted.

How? Skimming through the page I see no evidence of that, it's literally just a random hypothetical that they throw out.

comment by weeatquince · 2019-12-11T08:27:33.174Z · score: 10 (7 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Giving What We Can's impact reports (when I last read them) suggested they had raised for effective charities £6 per £ spent using pessimistic assumptions or £60 per £ best guess.

The Life You Can Save raised $11 per $ spent for effective charities

Raising for Effective giving has raised $24 per $ spent, for effective charities.

EA London (which does not do much fundraising) roughly raised £2.5 per £.

Rethink Forward moves £7 per £.

This are all post hoc analyses of money moved to date, not estimates of future impact. The quality of the evidence for these is variable between the different programs and you can look into it. As well as moving money I believe all of cheese ALSO purport to have improved the effectiveness of donations given.

If helpful to provide a baseline / prior against which to judge these successes note that the standard fundraising ratio in the charity sector is that charities raise £4 per £ spent on fundraising.

comment by MichaelStJules · 2019-12-13T01:37:40.631Z · score: 40 (14 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

This is my first year donating, and I was earning to give until now. I welcome feedback.

My general plan is to support animal welfare, specifically intervention and (sub-)cause prioritization research, international movement growth and the current best-looking interventions, filtered through the judgment of full-time researchers/grantmakers.

I donated $7K (Canadian) to the EA Animal Welfare Fund about a month ago. I think they're the best-positioned to identify otherwise neglected animal welfare funding opportunities when evidence is relatively scarce, given grantmakers working at several different animal protection orgs, and Lewis Bollard's years of experience in grantmaking.

I'm looking at donating another $30-40K (Canadian) to be split primarily between the following groups, roughly in decreasing order of proportion of funding, although I haven't decided on the exact amounts:

1. ACE's Recommended Charity Fund. I think the EAA community's research supporting corporate campaigns and ACE's research specifically have improved considerably in the past while, so I'm pretty confident in their choices working on these. I'm also happy to see expansion to countries previously neglected by EAA funding and support for further research.

2. Rethink Priorities. I've been consistently impressed by their research for animals so far, and I'm keen to see further research, especially on ballot initiatives, for which I'm pretty optimistic. Also, it looks like they've got a lot of room for funding, and it would be pretty cool if they hired Peter Hurford full-time. Btw, they have an AMA going on now [EA · GW].

3. Charity Entrepreneurship. Also very impressed by their research for animals so far, both exploratory and in-depth, including a cluster-thinking approach. I hope to see more of it, and any new animal welfare charities they might start.

4. Possibly the EA Animal Welfare Fund again.

5. RC Forward. Both for my own donations and as a public good for EAs in Canada, since they allow Canadians to get tax credits for donations to EA charities. More here [EA · GW] and here [EA · GW].


It's worth noting that Rethink Priorities and Charity Entrepreneurship have each received funding from Open Philanthropy Project (Farm Animal Welfare) and EA Funds recently; RP from the Animal Welfare Fund and CE most recently from the Meta Fund (and previously from the Animal Welfare Fund).


I have a few other research orgs in mind, and I might also donate to Sentience Politics, for their campaign to support the referendum to end factory farming in Switzerland (some discussion here on Facebook). I'm also wondering about Veganuary, but I'm not in a good position to judge their counterfactual impact from the numbers they present.

comment by weeatquince · 2019-12-16T19:03:51.954Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi Michael,

First year donating is super exciting!!

Not an expert but some feedback that jumps to mind is:

  • Overall this looks like a great donation plan.
  • Giving to the Animal Welfare Fund or ACE's top recommended charities seems like a pretty solid surefire bet / way to outsource donations.
  • I am slightly less certain about donating directly to RP or CE unless you have a reason to think the Animal Welfare Fund is not funding these enough (which does happen), but either way you are following the donations of the Animal Welfare Fund so there is really not much in it and it is useful sometimes to donate and see how the orgs are using your money.
  • One extra thing to consider is donating to the charities being created by Charity Entrepreneurship, (for example https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/iMofrSc86iSR7EiAG/introducing-fish-welfare-initiative-1 [EA · GW] ). I cant talk for CE but I think CE believe donations to their new charities are a bit more urgent than donations directly to CE. Maybe one of the fish people can say if they are looking for funds.
  • I endorse solving collective action problems that benefit you and other donors. You are probably better placed to evaluate RC Forward than us non-Canadians, and if RC Forward is useful to help you donate more then supporting it with at least some of your donation makes sense.

Hope that helps,

Sam

comment by haven · 2019-12-16T19:32:07.100Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks Sam for mentioning us! I'm half the co-founding team of Fish Welfare Initiative (ie one of the fish people), and we are now looking for funding. If you're interested, you can check out our website or email me directly.

At the moment, we're looking to fill a roughly $30K funding gap to get us to June.

comment by MichaelStJules · 2019-12-16T22:59:22.697Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the feedback!

Probably the main reason I'm leaning towards not donating directly to CE's incubated animal charities is that I'm not in a very good position to judge them on their own merits, and I think this would be best left to grantmakers. It's worth noting that Karolina Sarek, the director of research at CE, is one of the fund managers for the EA Animal Welfare Fund, and I'm not sure if this prevents the fund from making grants to CE or CE-incubated charities.

On the other hand, I have been reading a decent amount of Charity Entrepreneurship's research (much of which supports their incubated charities, of course) and Rethink Priorities' research, too. I think intervention/cause research is one of the best funding opportunities, given how much gets granted by OPP and other funds, and how little we still know. I had been previously skeptical of corporate outreach given the criticisms of EAA research a few years ago (ACE has since archived a lot of research and improved their process), but reading reports by Rethink Priorities and Charity Entrepeneurship (and Founders Pledge) gave me good reason to believe that both corporate outreach and cause/intervention research are very cost-effective, in expectation. On top of the appreciation I have for the research from RP and CE themselves, they also aren't committed to research on specific causes/interventions within animal welfare, so they have more freedom to explore and prioritize. They're also both small and seem pretty funding-constrained.

I see my planned donations to ACE's Recommended Charity Fund + Rethink Priorities + Charity Entrepreneurship together as a substitute for (further) donations to the EA Animal Welfare Fund, emphasizing our best bets and research more over other neglected opportunities. The EA Animal Welfare Fund seems to not donate to ACE-recommended charities too often, in part, I think, because OPP does so in its place (both lead by Lewis Bollard), but OPP also typically doesn't aim to fully meet their funding gaps (and ACE wouldn't recommend these charities if OPP did this). So, I don't think that the EA Animal Welfare Fund is necessarily a better or worse buy than ACE's recommended charities. (Also, Charity Entrepreneurship and Rethink Priorities are out-of-scope for consideration by ACE, although I only just found this out.)

Some other (minor) considerations:

  • ACE's Recommended Charity Fund is currently being matched and it seems partially counterfactual since it's coming from a common pool of funds that can go to other causes.
  • I'm not sure if I can get tax credits for the CE-incubated charities, but maybe I can through Charity Science, which is registered in Canada.
comment by weeatquince · 2019-12-24T08:42:19.453Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi Michael, That all sounds really sensible and well thought out. Good job :-)

comment by ImmaSix · 2019-12-15T08:47:23.537Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Sounds like a plan. Congratulations with doing your first donations!

How do you prioritize between the 5 charities that you mentioned?

comment by MichaelStJules · 2019-12-17T10:24:55.511Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I'm still thinking about how to prioritize. This comment [EA(p) · GW(p)] might give you some ideas where my thinking is now.

I've also been in contact with a few of these charities.

I might comment again here with updates.

comment by Nicole_Ross · 2020-01-08T15:22:33.902Z · score: 38 (16 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I decided to mostly not donate this year, and instead save for future donations. Because of my role at CEA and the fact that I might not be doing as much grantmaking in the future (see "Update on CEA's EA Grants Program"), I think it's reasonably likely I'll come across some small grantmaking opportunities that otherwise might not be funded. I want the resources available to be opportunistic. If I don't come across any opportunities this year, I think I should reassess my donation plans.

I also cut down my allocation this year in order to cover some health expenses. I have a chronic illness and am doing a big health push right now, including seeing a doctor not covered by health insurance. I strongly think that people should take care of their health (physical and mental), so wanted to explicitly mention that here. My mom also passed away so I am allocating more money towards therapy and grief processing support, which I similarly endorse for others in this position.

comment by HowieL · 2020-01-08T18:34:43.420Z · score: 4 (5 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for setting such a good example here, Nicole! Taking care of yourself like this is a really important community norm and sharing your example seems like a really good way to promote it.

comment by Linch · 2020-01-10T12:19:40.876Z · score: 14 (6 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Donation: Slightly over 10% of 2019 income* (plus some backlog from 2018).

Cause: Longtermism

Intervention: I gave almost all of it to the Long-term Future Fund. There were much smaller amounts that I gave to individuals (not tax deductible) for things that I personally thought, based on local knowledge, were more high-impact in expectation than the average LTFF project (low credence).

Reasoning: I got convinced about longtermism at some point in 2017, after some soul-searching, reading through Reasons and Persons and thinking through how to host a good meetup on population ethics. To some degree, I think this is overdetermined since many other serious EAs made the same update around that time or a little earlier.

On the margin, I think it's probably most valuable according to my current values to donate to direct longtermism or meta-EA.

For the amount, I (rather publicly) committed to the Giving What We Can pledge to donate 10%+ of my income, which seems like a safe lower bound. For the upper bound, I decided not to give substantially higher amounts because I wanted to have the option of quitting my job and self-fund potential EA projects or retraining. The exact amount was dictated to a large degree by logistics.

For charities, I did not do a lot of research on best charities in the meta or the longtermism space, except lightly investigating a few options and reading through some EA forum posts. I did not find significant donation opportunities I was confident about that I think LTFF would have overlooked.

Based on the information above, an obvious question is why I didn't donate to the Donor Lottery instead. The answer is that I would have preferred to give to the donor lottery, but logistical stuff prevented this from being realistic.

Another reason I did not give to organizations other than the LTFF was that I do not find the arguments for giving to multiple charities (rather than just one) to be compelling, for small donors.

I feel somewhat guilty for not spending more time thinking carefully about donation opportunities, and wish to do better in the future.

Logistics:

First of all, calculating income was annoying because, eg, some of my compensation was not liquid. I decided to be conservative and used a fairly high estimate as a base to calculate the 10%.

I had some backlog from 2018. I (intentionally) gave less than 10% in 2018 because I thought lumping my donations in one year would be better for tax reasons (this turned out to be much less practically relevant than I initially believed**).

My previous employer had a 1:1 donation matching program. Before leaving in mid-2019, I figured I should max out the 2019 match. At the time, I would have weakly preferred giving to the donor lottery (which is where I gave for most of my 2018 donations) again, but the donor lottery was not open then (since it was not a prime giving season).

For end-of-year donations, I took part in the Giving Tuesday Facebook Donation Matching Initiative. Facebook gives 1:1 matching to charities of your choice if you donate fast enough (likely <5 seconds). A lot of EAs put substantial work into making this viable and easy to do (shout-out to the EA Giving Tuesday team!). The donor lottery was not an option because of the complex logistics involved, so I again gave to the Long-term future fund.

(Well, specifically, I gave the money to Facebook which is giving it to Rethink Charity which is regranting it to CEA which is setting it aside for the Long-Term Future Fund, who hopefully will direct the money to useful interventions to spend altruistically...)

*"Income" seems like a somewhat nebulous concept unless >90% of your compensation is in cash, but I tried to have a good ballpark estimate. I imagine this problem to be much bigger for people who are, eg, startup founders.

** (Not financial advice. Also pretty America-central problem) Basically, the idea behind lumping donations is that if instead of donating in eg, December 2018 and December 2019, you can instead donate in January 2019 and December 2019, taking the standard deduction in 2018 and itemize in 2019.

This is a pretty good idea for many people in the US. Unfortunately, a) California has a pretty substantial state income tax, which is deductible on your federal income tax and b) it would be irrational not to max out the employer donation matching. So those two combined were already a lot relative to the standard deduction.

comment by JP Addison (jpaddison) · 2020-01-08T22:14:27.737Z · score: 14 (7 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I'm donating my entire giving to the Donor Lottery. If I win I can spend much more time researching and non-profits will be able to devote more resources to answering my questions. Given these advantages, and the fact that I am variance neutral, I believe this makes the Donor Lottery strictly better than my other options.

Disclosure: I worked to set up the first version of CEA's Donor Lottery before I switched full time to the Forum, and continue to work for CEA, which still runs it. This was the project that CEA pitched me that helped convince me to work here though, so I'd say my enthusiasm for donor lotteries predates my conflict of interest.

comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) · 2020-01-07T21:09:42.522Z · score: 12 (6 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

In 2019, I planned to donate 5% of my income. I used payroll donations in the following proportions of this 5% for three months: EA Funds Animal Welfare 5%, LTFF 35%, EA Meta 30%, ALLFED 25%, and due to reading this, CFRN 5%. Then I became more concerned about GCRs, and switched to 50% to GCRI and ALLFED, again through EA Funds.

I used my old company's matching scheme to provide £500 (plus GiftAid) through EA funds to ALLFED, which was free of charge for me. I donated £100 to Climate Outreach when they had a week of matching. I've also previously donated £20/month to the Vegan Society, because of their public campaigns to increase the availability of plant-based food, but I stopped donating there so I could invest more in GCR reduction.

In the last few months of the year, I watched Phil's talk about optimal philanthropy and decided that a. I was in an optimal stopping problem where I hadn't explored enough options yet, and b. that there may well have been higher marginal benefits to future spending on x-risks. Since then, I've maintained a spreadsheet of my income (of which I've spent about 35%), and have invested the rest using this advice.

I tentatively plan to donate to long-term causes, but potentially not any time soon, once I've done more research on the most tax-efficient way to invest and donate. For 2020, my only outgoing donations so far have been to CATF and CFRN because of this talk on climate and x-risk, which I'm planning to write up in a forum post soon.


comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2020-01-07T09:46:00.021Z · score: 12 (5 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I log all my "EA-aligned" donations on this page. (I also make some small "warm fuzzies" donations that I don't log for this purpose, or count toward my Giving What We Can pledge.)

I rarely spend much time conducting personal research on donations, because I give a very small amount relative to the overall EA funding pool. My extra "EA thinking" time is probably better spent on CEA-related work or my advisory work for a foundation that has more money to grant. 

Still, I'm sharing my donations because I really appreciate the goals of this post! (And also to get over my fear of being "exposed" as someone who gives in a way that isn't wholly in line with my beliefs about what actually has the most long-term impact.)

This year's giving:

$500 to the EA Meta Fund. I've been happy with the grant rounds I've seen from the Meta Fund so far, but I try to limit how much I donate to projects backed by my employer. I also try to limit my giving to causes that seem especially high-variance, and I like some of the Fund's grants much more than others. 

$4998 to GiveWell, split evenly between operating expenses and grants to their top charities. I think GiveWell's first-in-class research is a key part of what makes the EA community tick, and I'm enthusiastic about their future goals as outlined here. I also think their top charities are excellent, and I care (both emotionally and in a risk-averse sense) about at least some of my donations going to help people directly. I joined this movement because I was stunned by the impact I could have on strangers who needed my help, and my giving partly reflects the continuing strength of this motivating factor.

The weird amount, by the way, was to stay within the limits of Facebook's Giving Tuesday fundraiser without adding a lot of extra complexity to my donation (Facebook had more rules/requirements for donations over $2499).

$2000 to The Life You Can Save. I've been impressed by their fundraising results, their recent growth, and the work that went into relaunching The Life You Can Save as a free, star-studded audiobook. Dollar-for-dollar, they seem to me to be among the most effective orgs in the meta space (though this is based on a series of impressions picked up through my work rather than on direct research).

Next year, I want to put more advance planning into this (I was traveling a lot leading up to Giving Tuesday), but I still want to be open about my reasoning this year.

comment by ImmaSix · 2019-12-15T08:41:08.903Z · score: 11 (8 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Related: GiveWell's staff personal donations

I strong upvoted the post because I'm really happy to see a discussion about donating - this is an important and actionable topic.

comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2020-01-14T07:37:11.886Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Related: A selection of responses to the same question on r/EffectiveAltruism.

comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2020-03-03T20:19:15.304Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Another response to this [EA · GW] from a Forum user.