comment by Linch ·
2020-01-10T12:19:40.876Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
Donation: Slightly over 10% of 2019 income* (plus some backlog from 2018).
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.
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.