My open-for-feedback donation plans

post by MichaelA · 2020-04-04T12:47:21.582Z · score: 23 (14 votes) · EA · GW · 2 comments

Contents

  Overview 
    You’re very welcome to just skip to whichever sections sound most interesting/relevant to you.
  Purpose of this post
  1. Should I donate to ALLFED?
  2. Should I donate to GCRI (the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute)?
  3. Should I give to CEEALAR (aka EA Hotel)? 
  4. Should I donate to orgs/people who could be crippled by coronavirus’s economic impacts?
  5. Should I donate to something else?
  6. Should I give more than 10% this year, due to COVID-19?
None
2 comments

Overview

I'd like people’s input on:

  1. Whether I should donate to ALLFED
  2. Whether I should donate to GCRI
  3. Whether I should donate to CEEALAR (i.e., the artist formerly known as the EA Hotel [TAFKATEAH])
  4. Whether I should donate to organisations/projects/people who, if not given extra funding, would soon have to make hard-to-reverse decisions because of COVID-19’s impacts
    • Do such orgs/projects/people exist? Would they let the EA community know before making those decisions?
  5. Whether there are other things I should donate to instead
  6. Whether I should give more than 10% this year, due to COVID-19

You’re very welcome to just skip to whichever sections sound most interesting/relevant to you.

(Maybe this should be a “Question”? It just seemed perhaps too bulky for that.)

Purpose of this post

I’ve taken the Giving What We Can pledge, and plan to donate somewhere around 2000-5000USD this year. I will probably do this sometime months from now, due to how in-flux just about everything is at the moment. But I think it makes sense to talk about donations earlier and more [EA · GW]:

EAs often post records of where they donated, sometimes with their reasoning attached. That's great, but it would be better if people posted before they donated, were explicit about whether they wanted feedback, and told others if their writing persuaded us to donate differently.

And I saw that the UK tax year ends on the 5th, so I imagine a decent number of relatably procrastination-prone EAs are thinking about donations now. Plus, it seems possible that the economic impacts of COVID create a reason for urgency (not sure; I want people’s thoughts on this). So this is a quick post about my current thoughts, to solicit people’s feedback and thoughts, and to hopefully also promote the general idea of posting about donation plans before making such donations.

Unfortunately, I don’t have time right now to do the full research I’d like to on these donation options and questions, nor to fully write up my thoughts. This is certainly not a definitive evaluation of any of the options mentioned. I also don’t really address how I arrived at ALLFED and GCRI as among my top contenders, out of all the many other possibilities.

Final note: I’m very empirically and morally uncertain [? · GW], and think all the main EA cause areas are great, but I’m pretty sold on longtermism [EA · GW]. So I’ll almost certainly donate to something longtermism-aligned or “meta”/“general” (like the EA Hotel).

1. Should I donate to ALLFED?

My current plan might involve giving most of my 10% to ALLFED.

Some potential pros:

Some potential cons:

Donation link here.

2. Should I donate to GCRI (the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute)?

My current plan probably doesn't involve donating to GCRI, as they seem great but perhaps less valuable to fund on the margin than ALLFED. But I’m quite open to being convinced.

Some potential pros:

Some potential cons:

Donation link here.

3. Should I give to CEEALAR (aka EA Hotel)?

Here, I have three different types of rationale.

First, I spent a month at CEEALAR recently. I was a “grantee”, so I didn’t have to pay for my stay, and I haven't done so. But I’m able to, and it seems like probably a good norm for those who stay at CEEALAR and are able to pay to do so. And I enjoyed my time there, and it was useful to be able to stay there (in order to have my first month of work for Convergence Analysis be in-person).

If I wasn’t a grantee, I’d have had to pay around 800-1000USD, so that’s probably the starting point for how much I might donate.

Second, my understanding is that CEEALAR has a fairly limited runway. Thus, if this pandemic reduces donations to things like CEEALAR, it seems plausible CEEALAR will end up having to make hard-to-reverse decisions that lastingly damage its ability to have an impact in future (see next question).

A consideration pushing against me donating now is that CEEALAR have applied for charitable status, and might get it sometime soon-ish. So if I wait for that, I could essentially give more (since I’d be able to claim tax deductions and thus have more income left to give).

But in any case, that second rationale wouldn’t matter if CEEALAR didn’t matter. Which brings me to my third rationale: I think that the marginal impact of donations to CEEALAR in general (i.e., ignoring COVID-19) is plausibly fairly high. This is mostly based on the sorts of arguments that have been discussed in the links given here; I don’t think I have much in the way of separate knowledge or insights to add, and I’m fairly uncertain about this (as I am about most important things!).

I’d be interested in other people’s thoughts on the value of donating to CEEALAR, and on the possibility of impending hard-to-reverse decisions.

Donation link here.

4. Should I donate to orgs/people who could be crippled by coronavirus’s economic impacts?

Sanjay from SoGive wrote recently [EA · GW]:

Our experience of the charity sector at the time of the Global Financial Crisis of c2009 suggests that we expect the following to happen [during this pandemic]:
The need for all the various (non-coronavirus-related) charitable projects won’t go away; if anything the need will increase
Some charities will have lost money because of the impact of the markets on their investments
Many funders will have lost money because of volatility in the financial markets, and will therefore less able to providing funding
The remaining funding may be diverted to coronavirus-specific work

That all seems to make sense to me. I suspect the marginal value of donations to high-impact organisations/projects/people are unusually high at the moment.

But what seems like it could be even more unusually important right now is donating to orgs/projects/people who seem particularly likely to otherwise be forced to make hard-to-reverse decisions due to this pandemic. By that I mean things like:

If these things are done, we might later want them to be reversed, and it might be much more expensive or difficult to do that then than just to keep things afloat now. E.g.:

So I’m wondering:

  1. Does that seem like something that might happen? It’s just something I’m concerned about, not something I’ve seen other people explicitly discussing the possibility of.
  2. If it were to happen soon, would those orgs/projects/people let the EA community know first? Can I just worry about that as and when it arises, or might I just find out several months from now that this happened and that we could’ve helped if we acted earlier?
  3. Do people know of specific orgs/projects/people who this sort of thing could apply to? I imagine this might mostly boil down to “valuable things with limited runway and no clear relevance to COVID-19”.
    • As noted above, CEEALAR might count.
    • I also think I’m open to helping to support individuals and small projects, not only established orgs.

(ETA: There's some relevant discussion of this sort of matter here [EA · GW] and in question 21 here [EA · GW].)

5. Should I donate to something else?

Some candidates that occur to me:

6. Should I give more than 10% this year, due to COVID-19?

Ultimately, I plan to give away a very high proportion of the income I earned over my lifetime. But for now, I see value in maintaining runway for myself, as I’m also doing direct work.

And there seem to be good arguments for mostly investing, letting interest compound, and giving a lot later (or setting up a trust or something to do so on one’s behalf). For some reason, I don’t “feel” very convinced by those arguments. But I don’t think I have specific counterarguments other than those which Phil Trammell (in the linked episode) already seems to account for. So I think I should probably read Trammell’s write-up, and ideally see what clever responses the rest of the community comes up that that write-up, before ramping up my present donations.

But maybe the answers to question 4 would indicate that donations in the present are exceptionally valuable right now, and so I should ramp up my present donations substantially. This seems somewhat unlikely, but I’m not sure, and I'm open to thoughts.


Thanks for reading this far (or clever move skipping some sections!).

I look forward to seeing people’s thoughts on this (ideally as comments, so others can benefit too, but you're also welcome to message me if you'd rather not make your views public). And I hope this helps prompt others to make similar posts in future!

2 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by MichaelA · 2020-05-07T12:37:37.963Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

In case people still stumble across this post in future, I've just discovered this post, which I plan to read (along with its comments) before deciding whether to donate to CEEALAR: $100 Prize to Best Argument Against Donating to the EA Hotel [EA · GW].

comment by Khorton · 2020-05-07T15:29:53.307Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I just saw the post, I guess because of your comment.

I don't think that the EA Hotel is one of the most impactful and cost effective charities in the world. However, if you got personal value out of it and can afford it, perhaps you could consider donating to them out of your non-charity money?

I think it's good for EAs to contribute to the local community centres, churches, hospices etc that benefit them or the people they care about. I try to contribute to some charities that have benefited me personally, but I don't count that as part of my 10%. Hopefully that makes sense.