effektiv-spenden.org: 2019 - Year in Review

post by alexherwix, Sebastian Schwiecker (EA-Basti) · 2020-06-08T13:04:48.642Z · EA · GW · 12 comments

Contents

  Summary
  Table of Contents
  What is effektiv-spenden.org?
  Our Year in Numbers
  What We Have Learned So Far
  Plans Moving Forward
  Whether to Support effektiv-spenden.org
None
12 comments

Summary

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.

In 2019, ES has generated a donation volume of 358,869.75 Euro with a strong growth trajectory for 2020 (i.e., ES already regranted 157.427,45 Euro in Q1 2020). Survey data of donors suggest that a good proportion of the donation volume came from beyond the established EA community in Germany and, thus, probably generated substantial counterfactual donations to effective charities. We attribute this success at least in some extent to the opportunistic use of media outreach opportunities.

In 2020, ES is planning to grow the donation volume significantly through two strategies. First, ES will continue to push effective giving to the public at large by opportunistically using media engagements. Second, ES is planning to extend its operations to Switzerland and also take over the legacy regranting operations of the EAF focused at the EA community in Germany and Switzerland. This second development is a response to EAF’s pivot away from EA community building related activities toward a focus on the research of longterm suffering risks.

If you are considering to support the continued operations and growth of ES directly you can donate via https://www.effektiv-spenden.org/effektiv-spenden-unterstuetzen/ or get in touch with us at info@effektiv-spenden.org

Table of Contents

What is effektiv-spenden.org?

ES is a donation regranting platform in Germany that started in April 2019. ES was co-founded and is run by Sebastian Schwiecker in close coordination with EAF. Looking back, the reason for the foundation of ES was a combination of the strategic considerations of the EAF to deprioritize efforts directed at EA community building in Germany as well as a general goal to expand the appeal of donations to effective charities beyond the EA community to the general public. In particular, ES was founded on the working hypothesis that a much broader fraction of the population might be interested in donating effectively compared to becoming full fledged and dedicated EAs. Thus, ES has developed a brand identity that is complementary but separate to that of the EA community in Germany. For instance, ES has so far limited itself to charity recommendations for a selected subset of broadly appealing cause areas, ES uses images prominently to appeal to the emotional dimensions of donations, and the term EA is only mentioned on the FAQ page rather than the homepage. Also ES has been very open to engage with mainstream media outlets (e.g., a German public TV station, radio stations, and newspapers) to push the basic idea that it is often possible to donate more effectively.

The selection of charities supported by ES is based on the recommendations from charity evaluators such as GiveWell, Animal Charity Evaluators, Founders Pledge, and Let’s Fund. Currently, ES is raising donations for 9 effective charities from 3 cause areas:

Our Year in Numbers

Altogether, ES raised 358,869.75 Euro for regranting to effective charities in 2019. The following table lists the distribution of donations per charity and cause area.

Charity Payout in Euro Payout in %
Against Malaria Foundation 27.395,69 € 7,63%
Deworm the World 52.161,27 € 14,53%
GiveDirectly 83.879,53 € 23,37%
Malaria Consortium 67.794,60 € 18,89%
Global Health and Development (Total) 231.231,09 € 64,43%
Clean Air Task Force 32.180,17 € 8,97%
Coalition for Rainforest Nations 54.109,00 € 15,08%
ITIF 27.219,17 € 7,58%
Climate Change (Total) 113.508,33 € 31,63%
Good Food Institute 7.717,67 € 2,15%
The Humane League 6.412,67 € 1,79%
Animal Welfare (Total) 14.130,33 € 3,94%
Total 358.869,76 € 100,00%

Looking at the temporal distribution of donations, we see a strong growth trajectory for total donations from the start in April to December which extends into 2020. In addition to seasonal effects, the explosive growth in donations in December might be explained with the addition of Climate Change and Animal Welfare as new cause areas. As one can see despite only being available for about a month, Climate Change has already started to compete for the top spot in terms of donation volume.

We are especially happy to see that the giving season seems to have boosted the overall donation volume directed at ES with a monthly donation volume of around 50k Euro carrying over into Q1 2020. In March 2020 ES had 359 monthly recurring donations with a total donation volume of 20.529,21 Euro. Conservative extrapolation based on these numbers yields an estimated growth of donation volume by more than 2x over the course of 2020.

The cost for running ES in 2019 have been less than 60k Euro which includes 1 FTE and expenses for marketing, hosting, and transaction costs.

What We Have Learned So Far

In addition to collecting general data about operations, ES has also been running a donor survey as part of the donation process. After a donation is made, a simple form asks the donor for additional information regarding their donation such as how knowledgeable they are about EA and how they got to know about ES. Given an analysis of 326 responses (45% of all donors in 2019) we can observe that the overall EA knowledge of donors was rather low (49% of respondents rated their EA knowledge as 1 or 2 on a scale from 1 "never heard about it" to 5 "expert") and outreach activities were mentioned by 46% of respondents as referrals.

We see this data as support for the working hypothesis of ES that the general public outside of strongly engaged EAs is broadly interested in effective giving and can be motivated and reached through tailored offerings and broad outreach activities. Moreover, based on this data we also tend to conclude that a significant amount of the donation volume was counterfactually directed to effective charities based on the outreach activities of ES. Altogether an preliminary cost-effectiveness analysis suggests that ES has had a positive counterfactual net impact in its first year of operation with a funding multiplier of 1.2 to 2.6 (best guess 1.8) and much room for scaling growth at a comparable level of operational overhead in 2020.

Plans Moving Forward

ES plans to significantly expand the reach of its operation through a takeover of the legacy donations regranting activities of the EAF in Germany and Switzerland. This takeover is expected to take place in Q4 2020 and shift an annual donation volume of over 1,000,000 Euro to ES. It is important to note that these donations would only marginally increase the counterfactual donations raised by ES because they are already occurring. However, this move will help the EAF complete its organizational pivot and free up significant resources that can then be directed at other activities.

In addition to the expansion in terms of regranting operations, ES is currently engaged in a project to update and redesign effektiveraltruismus.de, which is the most prominent EA website for German speaking individuals. The main goals of this project are to increase the accessibility of knowledge about the EA community and improve the overall user experience for people interested in EA in Germany. A detailed measurement of the effectiveness of this project is planned.

Beyond these exciting new developments, ES is planning to stay true to its original focus on targeting the general public rather than only the existing EA community and currently working on a complete redesign and relaunch of its brand identity and website for the giving season in 2020. Deliberate and opportunistic engagement with mainstream media outlets is planned to remain a core ingredient of ES outreach strategy going forward. Additionally, ES will try to further broaden its reach through a stronger emphasis on content marketing, advertising via Google grants, social media formats, newsletters, public lectures, and individual donation advisory. Portfolio-wise an expansion to all charities recommended by GiveWell and ACE is planned.

Whether to Support effektiv-spenden.org

ES operations are currently funded until the end of 2020. Beyond that point ES is looking for active support through donations. We currently plan with a yearly budget of around 120k-150k Euro in 2021 to support a workforce of 1.5 FTE and cover expenses such as operations, marketing and hosting. We conservatively expect at least a stable funding multiplier of at least 2x with considerable room for additional growth.

Below we’ve outlined a handful of considerations examining how sensible it is to support ES, followed by our brief reply to these points. Feel free to pass additional considerations to info@effektiv-spenden.org.

The cost-effectiveness analyses of these organizations are based on different models of cost-effectiveness and, thus, difficult to compare. We have attempted to synthesize a comprehensive, yet easy to understand, cost-effectiveness model based on prior art and estimated rather conservatively to arrive at a hopefully realistic estimate of cost-effectiveness. Having said that it seems like ES cost-effectiveness is in a similar ballpark with RCF but currently less than REG due to the significant differences in donations raised. However, we expect the cost-effectiveness of ES to significantly increase over time as ES matures and becomes more established in the German speaking charity sector. Our positive experiences with mainstream media engagements suggests significant room for growth.

We acknowledge and follow the ongoing discussions about the role of outreach activities within the EA community. There are good arguments for an increased focus on outreach as well as against it. ES is somewhat agnostic regarding this issue and views the role of its operations from an orthogonal perspective. The working hypothesis of ES is that effective giving has potentially a much broader target audience than EA itself. As a consequence, we do not emphasize the EA brand in our activities and communications but rather focus on building a separate brand identity for effective giving. We argue that this reduces the risk exposure of the EA community significantly because effective giving is a much less sophisticated and nuanced concept compared to EA at large. Nevertheless, we hope to share potential upsides with the EA community by providing clear links to EA organizations and thinking were appropriate.

12 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by markus_over · 2020-06-19T17:14:40.392Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Just a random experience report - I've been using the website for my monthly donations for about half a year now, and think it's great. The process is so easy and friction-less that donating is something I'm always looking forward to as opposed to it feeling like an obligation I need to get through with, which basically had been my feeling about it beforehand. The website's great UX really makes a huge difference.

Also it's a great and easy page to point people to that sympathize with the idea of effective giving but don't really know what the next steps would be. Which isn't surprising as I guess that's partly the reason the project exists in the first place.

Random thought - I've seen many EAs apply stickers (e.g. GiveWell) to their phones or laptops, which I guess is a very cheap tool that may lead to a couple of conversations (and an expected >0 "conversions") about EA or the respective org in particular. I'd assume that at least marginally such stickers are pretty effective little things, but it may depend on how difficult it is to set up and distribute such a product. So it may certainly not be on top of your backlog if anything, but have you put any thought into such ideas? Maybe something like this would be a good opportunity for a volunteer, as I imagine it would require very little coordination initially.

comment by Tsunayoshi · 2020-06-09T11:14:22.380Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
working hypothesis that a much broader fraction of the population might be interested in donating effectively compared to becoming full fledged and dedicated EAs

N<10, but I have had some friends approach me asking, I would like to help cause X, how can I do it most effectively. This is also one of the more frequent requests we get in our local EA group.

In general, people should have a much easier time asking the question how to e.g. support climate change most effectively, rather than whether to support climate change vs. long term risk reduction. The latter requires a substantial change of values and therefore also often identity while the former seems like a more practical question.

Therefore, this seems like a very promising and straightforward initiative!

comment by NunoSempere · 2020-06-08T23:21:46.907Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Have you considered moving into Austria as well?

comment by Sebastian Schwiecker (EA-Basti) · 2020-06-09T08:29:19.340Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Yes, but concerning tax deductibility Austria seems to be one of the hardest countries to get into. You actually have to get on a small list of tax exempt Organizations provided by the Austrian financial authorities which might take years. Therefore it currently is not a priority for us but we might get back to it one day.

comment by EirikMofoss · 2020-06-21T19:57:21.717Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

EA Australia does this as well (for many years), and donations through them are tax deductible. See https://effectivealtruism.org.au/

comment by meerpirat · 2020-06-08T16:23:50.485Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Regarding the topic of potentially harmful mass media outreach:

As a consequence, we do not emphasize the EA brand in our activities and communications but rather focus on building a separate brand identity for effective giving.

I thought that this statement is in conflict with you also being

engaged in a project to update and redesign effektiveraltruismus.de, which is the most prominent EA website for German speaking individuals.

This does sound like ES will be intimately linked to the EA movement, no?

Also, I'd be interested in hearing more about your positive experiences with German media. My rough impression from a few interaction about this topic with EAF some time ago was, that they were generally both very careful about and not very happy with the accuracy in media potrayals in Germany.

comment by Sebastian Schwiecker (EA-Basti) · 2020-06-08T21:28:27.780Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for your questions/comments.


With regards to effektiveraltruismus.de we plan to ran it as an independent project with some community input and at least initially oversight from the EAF. The outreach strategies will be different and overall much less active for effektiveraltruismus.de.


With regards to the Media our biggest successes have been to be portrayed in German television several times (see eg https://www.ardmediathek.de/swr/video/Y3JpZDovL3N3ci5kZS9hZXgvbzExODMxMDc or https://www.zdf.de/verbraucher/volle-kanne/richtig-spenden-112.html ). Thischelped to draw a lot of donors. What made it easier for us than for eg the EAF was that we could focus in effective giving and also only highlighted cause areas people are already familiar with (especially development aid and climate change). I think that is much easier than eg talking about X- or even S-Risks or some of the other more abstract aspects of EA. Most talks with journalists were about things like the overhead ratio, potential difference in cost-effectiveness, charity watchdogs vs. charity evaluators or the 2019 winners of the Nobel price in economics (who happen to be the founders the Deworm the World Initiative). The only time I got kind of challenged was when I was asked if I would rather save an expensive painting than a child from a burning building (in order to sell the painting and donate the money). My answer didn't even survive the final cut though.

comment by Tsunayoshi · 2020-06-09T11:05:40.459Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Sebastian, those two media reports seem rather positive and you outline your cause very well. I also realize that this is something you have less control over, but both of those clips have a clear association with EA. They both talk about William MacAskill as the founder of EA, the second one has a tag calling you "Supporter of Effective Altruism", while the first one has a separate interview with an anonymous person who is being introduced and interviewed as a member of the EA community. Thus at least those two clips *did* have a strong emphasis on the EA brand which seems to be somewhat in opposition to "We do not emphasize the EA brand in our activities and communications".

To be clear, I do not think of this as a net negative, especially if the portrayals are as sympathetic to the cause as the ones you linked.

comment by Sebastian Schwiecker (EA-Basti) · 2020-06-09T14:00:16.942Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, you are right that although we didn't emphasize it some journalists asked about EA and made it part of their coverage. I don't think that this has been negative but one challenge might be not to give the wrong impression that EA is only about donating money (we are at least aware of it).

comment by meerpirat · 2020-06-08T15:29:51.746Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for sharing! Just stumbled across a typo: Animal Welfare (Total) in the table should be 14.130,33 €

comment by alexherwix · 2020-06-08T15:36:33.792Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thank you for the pointer. I updated the post to correct the typo.

comment by agent18 · 2020-06-09T08:46:18.187Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

All numbers seem to not be in the same format across the entire post. Here is one example.

Altogether, ES raised 358,869.75 Euro for regranting to effective charities in 2019. The following >table lists the distribution of donations per charity and cause area.

Charity Payout in Euro Payout in % Against Malaria Foundation 27.395,69 € 7,63%