Did Fortify Health receive $1 million from EA Funds?

post by HStencil · 2019-11-26T18:41:41.684Z · score: 18 (8 votes) · EA · GW · No comments

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Fortify Health appears to have received a new, $1-million GiveWell Incubation Grant in June 2019 (distinct from the ~$300,000 grant it received in June 2018). If I understand correctly, CEA’s Global Health and Development Fund has been the default funding source for GiveWell Incubation Grants since at least around that time [EA · GW]. Was it the source of Fortify Health’s grant? (Fortify Health's blog post suggests that it was.) If so, is there any particular reason that isn’t reflected on the EA Funds website?

Answers

answer by CatherineHollander · 2019-11-27T18:17:54.764Z · score: 7 (6 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi HStencil, Catherine from GiveWell here—you're right that the grant was made from the EA Fund for Global Health and Development. Our page publishing process can take a long time, so we haven't yet published our write-up on the grant on GiveWell.org, but we're planning to in the future. We expect that information to be shared on the EA Fund page once it is published.

comment by SamDeere · 2019-11-27T18:27:52.229Z · score: 12 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks HStencil for flagging this. As Catherine said, the process of publishing reports can take some time, which is why there's been a delay adding these grants to the EA Funds website. However in the interests of transparency I've added placeholder payout reports for both the Fortify Health grant, as well as another recent grant to One for the World which is also waiting on the full report. We'll update these reports as soon as GiveWell has completed their publication process.

comment by HStencil · 2019-11-27T18:45:52.863Z · score: 12 (8 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for responding, Catherine and Sam (and also for posting those payout reports on EA Funds). I understand that the process of releasing a comprehensive write-up on each grant may take some time, but to me, it seems better (as policy) to at least let donors know about the existence of new grants within, say, 30 days of their being made than to not disclose them at all for months. I understand there are pitfalls to releasing the information that a grant was made without also explaining the process and justification behind it, but at least as I understand the relevant considerations, the benefits of doing so outweigh the harms.

On a related note, do you know whether the Global Health and Development Fund's balance figure on EA Funds has been accurate since June, even though these grants were not included on the website?

comment by SamDeere · 2019-11-27T22:17:57.353Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks – yeah, I agree, and we should have let donors know about this sooner.

The Payout Reports shouldn't affect the Fund Balance, as that number is calculated directly from our accounting system. That said, this means it's subject to some of the vagaries of bookkeeping, which means we ask donors to treat it as an estimate. At the moment we're waiting on a (routine) accounting correction that should be posted once our most recent audit results are finalised, which  unfortunately means that the current figure is somewhat inaccurate.

The Payout Report total would have been inaccurate as that's calculated by summing the figures from the published payout reports.

comment by HStencil · 2019-11-28T01:35:15.909Z · score: 18 (5 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Okay, that makes sense – thanks for explaining.

One other thing: Any chance you or Catherine have an estimate of when we can expect a full write-up on the One for the World grant to be published? I'm curious mostly because it seems like a slightly atypical use of the Global Health and Development Fund (perhaps a better fit for the Meta Fund, from which One for the World received a grant earlier in the year).

comment by CatherineHollander · 2019-12-11T20:25:09.575Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks, HStencil - I've passed your feedback on timing of information sharing to the team for consideration.

We hope to publish the One for the World grant write-up soon, but are not sure of the precise timing.

I'm glad to share some quick context for why this grant was made through the Global Health and Development Fund. The scope of the fund, as indicated in the "Fund scope" section here (https://app.effectivealtruism.org/funds/global-development), is to support activities whose ultimate purpose is to serve people living in the poorest regions of the world, including by raising additional funds for charities operating in those regions. The One for the World (OFTW) grant fits into this category. (We recently updated that page to make the fund scope clearer).

One additional process piece that may be helpful to have in mind: each EA Fund manager has discretion over their own pool of funds, and sources and considers grants independently. It's possible there are grants, like OFTW, that fit into the scope of more than one fund. Part of the discussion around grantmaking is understanding other funding the group expects to receive, so we don't believe there's an issue if a group is supported by multiple EA Funds.

comment by CatherineHollander · 2019-12-21T00:45:29.769Z · score: 9 (4 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi HStencil, we just published the grant write-up. It is available here: https://www.givewell.org/about/impact/one-for-the-world/october-2019-grant

comment by HStencil · 2020-01-05T23:10:25.554Z · score: 18 (7 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi Catherine,

Thank you for your thoughtful responses and for getting the grant write-up online. After a busy holiday season, I just had a chance to go through it, and I appreciate the rationale provided therein.

I also noticed the update you mentioned to the Global Health and Development Fund’s webpage back in early December. While I’m grateful for the improved clarity with regards to the Fund’s current scope, my memory is that the previous webpage included language that specifically indicated the Fund would only be used to support direct work in global health and development, not movement-building work (e.g. in the section discussing why potential donors might not want to give to the fund). As a donor to the Fund with a strong preference to support direct work over movement-building work, this language was a part of the reason why I decided to support the Fund some time ago. While I am confident that this was not anyone’s intent, an outside observer might well infer that the webpage’s description of the Fund’s scope was updated in the wake of the One for the World grant as a means of shielding that grant from the scrutiny of donors who had been under the impression that their money would only go toward direct work.

These optics, I think, are further worsened by the fact that the grant was not disclosed to the public until I inquired about the Fund’s transparency a month after the fact, as well as by the nature of One for the World as a meta-charity. As far as I’m aware, One for the World is the only meta-charity that recommends donors support exclusively charities selected by GiveWell, and it features GiveWell’s logo on its website, thereby promoting GiveWell’s brand. While I am a strong supporter of GiveWell, and I hold its research in extremely high regard, I do think that the circumstances surrounding the October 2019 grant to One for the World give the impression that GiveWell took funds donors believed would be spent on direct anti-poverty work and directed them instead to a publicity/fundraising effort.

I understand that drawing more money to its recommended charities is one of GiveWell’s primary organizational goals at this point in time, and I fully support that. However, I would not support GiveWell spending funds donated for discretionary regranting to its top charities on advertising campaigns. I think that the only difference between that hypothetical and the One for the World grant is the greater degree of ambiguity in the way funds given to the Global Health and Development Fund are to be used compared to funds given to GiveWell for discretionary regranting. To be sure, this is an extremely important difference, but all the same, I do not think that the comparison is wholly unjustified.

Finally, given that GiveWell is providing the majority of One for the World’s funding through 2022, it seems exceptionally important that One for the World offer some kind of disclaimer about the nature of its relationships with GiveWell on its website (financial and otherwise). At the moment, its FAQs page says that it receives substantial funding from the Open Philanthropy Project, The Life You Can Save, members of its executive committee, and “a private donor.” Where the website does feature GiveWell, it states only that GiveWell is mission-aligned and a “partner” of One for the World. Neither gives readers any sense of the magnitude of One for the World’s reliance on GiveWell’s support. On the contrary, these statements give the impression that One for the World’s leadership opted of their own accord to make use of GiveWell’s recommendations in deciding how to structure their meta-charity. I expect that impression is likely true, and I would have done the same if I were founding a meta-charity. All the same, however, at the point that GiveWell is providing the majority of this organization’s budget, and that budget is being used to promote GiveWell’s work, that financial relationship must be disclosed. Donors should understand, for instance, that if the quality of GiveWell’s research were to suddenly decline for some reason, One for the World might nonetheless feel unable to alter its charity selection process due to its reliance on grants recommended by the GiveWell team.

I hope none of that comes across as unduly harsh. I hold your work in the highest possible esteem. I think it has done an enormous amount of good, and I hope to see it continue long into the future. Though I will no longer be donating to the Global Health and Development Fund, I will continue to support GiveWell’s top charities on the basis of GiveWell’s recommendations for the foreseeable future.

comment by SamDeere · 2020-01-10T12:45:11.651Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi HStencil,

Thanks for your thoughtful comments here. 

Late last year I was working on updating and formalising the scope of each of the EA Funds, and in discussions with Elie and others at GiveWell, we updated the wording of the scope to explicitly include projects that were more indirectly serving the mission of the Fund:

In addition, the Global Health and Development Fund has a broad remit, and may fund other activities whose ultimate purpose is to serve people living in the poorest regions of the world, for example by raising additional funds (e.g. One for the World), or exploring novel financing arrangements (e.g. Instiglio).

A previous version of the page had the following wording on it:

You might choose not to support the fund if you think donations to organizations working in effective altruism community building will produce more money for highly effective global health and development charities than the money they receive. Historically, this seems to have been true for Giving What We Can, Charity Science, and Raising For Effective Giving among others.

The previous text wasn’t intended to rule out donations to global-health focused metacharities, rather it was predicated on the assumption that Elie would be most likely to recommend charities doing direct work, and donors who were looking for a larger multiplier on their global health donations might want to consider other options. Because we previously didn’t have a formal policy ruling grants to meta/indirect projects in or out, our internal assessment was that such grants would be in scope (hence the approval of the grant).

However, I can see that this was pretty unclear, and that the text could easily be read as suggesting that the Fund would never make such grants, which could have set donor expectations that were different from our original intention. We should have noticed this discrepancy, and taken it into account by deferring approval of any ‘meta’ grants until after we’d published the more formalised Fund scope – we didn’t, and I want to apologise for that. 

If you (or any other donors) would like a refund on donations made to the Fund because you feel you were misinformed about the Fund’s scope, please email funds[at]effectivealtruism[dot]org.

comment by HStencil · 2020-01-15T05:51:56.266Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi Sam, thank you so much for explaining all of that — it’s all good to know. I certainly wouldn’t ask you to refund any of my donations (though I do appreciate the offer).

There’s just one more thing I’d like to flag. Recently, I noticed the “Scope and Limitations” page on the EA Funds website for the first time, which says it exists in part “to set clear expectations” for donors. The section dedicated to describing the scope of Global Development Fund reads, “The Global Health and Development Fund makes grants that aim to improve the health or economic empowerment of people around the world as effectively as possible,” giving the following as examples of “expected recipients”:

· [Projects that] directly provide healthcare, or preventive measures that will improve health, wellbeing, or life expectancy
· [Projects that] directly improve economic conditions or income
· [Projects that] build capacity in government or social systems such as healthcare systems, policymaking, or education, or conduct research that will be useful for building such capacity”
· [Projects that] conduct research that will assist practitioners in delivering such projects more effectively

It seems to me that the One for the World grant falls outside of the scope of those expected recipients. I understand that the expected recipients list is intended to be non-binding and that “if a Fund’s management team decides that a grant fulfils the Scope/Limitations, and the spirit of the Expected Recipients section, they may recommend the grant.” However, if it’s reasonably likely that the Global Development Fund will make more grants to movement-building organizations down the road, do you think that perhaps the expected recipients list should be updated to reflect that?

Finally, the webpage says, “Where a grant is determined to be ambiguous with respect to scope . . ., approval may require additional scrutiny.” If I understand correctly, you now agree that the One for the World grant was “ambiguous with respect to scope,” but on account of your prior understanding of the Fund’s prior scope, you did not feel that way at the time of the grant. Accordingly, I assume that the One for the World grant did not receive additional scrutiny. Is that correct?

Thanks again for engaging with me here. I’m grateful for the thought.

comment by CatherineHollander · 2020-01-09T18:28:08.798Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi HStencil,

Thank you for sharing these concerns. We're sorry that this grant came as a surprise, and that you would prefer that it wasn't made via this EA Fund.

Some context on the fund may be helpful in explaining the decision to make this grant. The Centre for Effective Altruism set the original scope of the fund and asked Elie to serve as the manager to recommend grants to the fund. Elie thought that a grant to One for the World may be better in expectation than GiveWell's top charities (the broad mandate for the fund) and staff at the Centre for Effective Altruism communicated to Elie that One for the World was within the scope of the fund. Elie elected to make the grant on that understanding.

However, we at GiveWell didn't confirm the language on the now-previous version of the fund page, which we believe said: "You might choose not to support the fund if you think donations to organizations working in Effective Altruism Movement Building will produce more money for highly effective global poverty charities than the money they receive." If we had done that, we would have had more questions about whether the grant was in the scope of the fund; failure to do so was an oversight by us and CEA.

Elie appreciates hearing from EA Fund donors about their preferences for allocating funding and would appreciate other donors communicating with him about their interests.

comment by HStencil · 2020-01-10T03:08:18.080Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thank you for that explanation. I’m glad to hear that the language of the Fund’s previous description would have raised questions at GiveWell about whether the One for the World grant was within the Fund’s scope, had it been on the relevant individuals’ radar at the time. In light of the fact that CEA told Elie the grant was within the Fund’s scope, it’s understandable that the GiveWell team did not pore over the Fund description to double-check CEA’s judgment. While I’m curious about how CEA understood the scope of the fund internally at the time (e.g. is it their view that the scope has changed?), I’m glad that we are all on the same page about it now. I’m also curious about when the GiveWell/CEA teams realized that the old EA Funds webpage’s description of the Fund’s scope might reasonably be read to exclude the One for the World grant. Was that realization the reason why the fund descriptions were updated back in late November/early December?

Additionally, I noticed you didn’t comment on the issue of One for the World presenting itself as fully independent of GiveWell when in fact it is highly reliant upon GiveWell for funding. I understand that you, of course, can’t speak for One for the World, but all the same, I think it’s important for this to be addressed. With that in mind, would GiveWell support One for the World in taking steps to clarify the nature of its relationships with GiveWell on its website?

comment by CatherineHollander · 2020-01-11T01:03:50.290Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi HStencil,

"I’m also curious about when the GiveWell/CEA teams realized that the old EA Funds webpage’s description of the Fund’s scope might reasonably be read to exclude the One for the World grant." We realized this when prompted by your comments here.

"With that in mind, would GiveWell support One for the World in taking steps to clarify the nature of its relationships with GiveWell on its website?" We have shared this feedback with One for the World and understand they plan to update their site accordingly.

comment by HStencil · 2020-01-15T05:04:00.343Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi Catherine, thanks so much for clarifying that and for passing my feedback on to One for the World. I am thrilled to see that they have now added a new page to their website explaining the nature of their relationship with GiveWell in detail. To my eye, the page does a great job of providing donors with all of the information they might want to have and would be a good model for other organizations confronting similar issues.

comment by jlewars · 2020-01-20T19:58:41.961Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi HStencil

Thanks for your time in raising the points above. To introduce myself, I am the new Executive Director of One for the World. I think you make some very important points and we have taken action to address several of them.

I'm pleased that the thread seems largely to have been resolved positive. However, to respond directly on our own behalf:

  • We take your point that we could be seen as a marketing investment by GiveWell. I think it slightly understates/misstates our work to suggest that we are a publicity effort or advertising campaign, but I don’t think this is material to your point. Our founders did indeed decide to fundraise for GiveWell’s recommended charities independently when they set up in 2014, although as part of a wider group of charities. We then fully aligned with GiveWell in April 2019 (see blog post here). GiveWell requested that we switch our portfolio to align with their recommendations as part of recommending a grant; we were enthusiastic about making this switch.
  • While I agree with your points in the main, I think it’s important to note a couple of things. First, while GiveWell does provide ~75% of our funding at present, we are working to diversify our funding, to make sure we can take a balanced view of GiveWell’s work (and as a general risk management strategy). While we consider GiveWell’s research first class at present, as you do, we agree that we need to be able to review this relationship regularly and have backup plans in case we no longer feel comfortable raising only for GiveWell charities or accepting their funding. It’s important to say that GiveWell have in fact encouraged us in this effort, by only granting us 75% of our operating costs for the 2020-21 financial year. They have made it clear to us that a key indicator of success is raising the deficit from elsewhere and that the second year of funding could be withheld if we are unable to do this.
  • Second, we have tried to be transparent about our financial relationship in several forums, although I completely agree that we need to be better, especially for a casual website visitor. We acknowledged the substantial grant via GiveWell in several blog posts (August 2018 x 2, February 2019, March 2019) and last year’s annual report (let me know if you would like links to these). However, I completely accept your point that this should be consistent across all our content and also highlighted on our charities page - we’re now working to address this, so thanks for the prompting.

Finally, in terms of steps to address this:

  • we started work last week, after reading your post, on standardising our content to acknowledge the relationship more fully
  • we have updated our FAQs and About Us pages in particular, and linked to a specific one-pager on our relationship with GiveWell, which I think you have seen
  • our next annual report (due imminently) is explicit about the relationship
  • we have added something to our charity pages to highlight this relationship more prominently and fully

Thanks again for your input and your valuable support of GiveWell’s charities. If you would like to discuss anything further, my email is jack[at]1fortheworld[dot]org

comment by HStencil · 2020-02-05T03:39:19.874Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi Jack, thank you so much for your thorough response to my concerns. I have seen the additions to your website, and I think they’re great. I should also note that I think One for the World is doing laudable and important work. I did not intend to suggest otherwise. As you say, I believe you “could be seen” as a publicity effort for GiveWell, but I certainly do not believe that characterization accurately captures the full scope of your activities or of your role in the broader EA ecosystem. On a similar note, I apologize for missing the acknowledgements of your financial relationship with GiveWell in the blog posts you mentioned and in your 2018 annual report. I admit I simply was not looking that hard for disclosures – I just browsed what I took to be the main pages of your website. I am thrilled to see that these pages now feature a similar (or greater) level of transparency. Finally, I am glad to hear that you are engaged in efforts to reduce your reliance on GiveWell for funding and that GiveWell is supporting you in those efforts. That strikes me as an excellent best practice. Thanks again for your response, for the changes, and for all of the great work you’re doing at One for the World.

comment by Ben Pace · 2019-12-21T02:57:48.969Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

You included a full-stop at the end of the link, so it goes to a broken page ;)

comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2019-12-31T06:39:55.757Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Fixed.

comment by AnonymousEAForumAccount · 2019-12-09T23:44:30.463Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for explaining how this works Sam. I’ve got a few followup questions about fund balances.

The animal and meta fund pages both show new grant reports with November payout dates- are these grants reflected in the fund balances? Both funds have end of November fund balances that are the same ballpark size as their November grants, suggesting they might not be updated.

The Payout Reports shouldn't affect the Fund Balance, as that number is calculated directly from our accounting system. That said, this means it's subject to some of the vagaries of bookkeeping, which means we ask donors to treat it as an estimate.

This makes sense. Generally speaking, how accurate should we expect those estimates to be? Is it possible to say something along the lines of “we expect the fund balance estimates to be accurate plus or minus 10% and generally not off by more than $100,000”?

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