A corporate skills bake sale? 2019-04-13T15:49:40.178Z · score: 21 (10 votes)
Employee Giving incentives: A shared database... relevant for EA job-seekers and activists 2018-05-19T09:37:01.877Z · score: 8 (8 votes)
Wiki/Survey: Experiences in fundraising/convincing people/organisations to support EA causes 2017-11-25T19:34:06.732Z · score: 4 (4 votes)
Give if you win (innovation in fundraising) 2017-05-26T19:36:09.542Z · score: 11 (11 votes)


Comment by david_reinstein on The case of the missing cause prioritisation research · 2020-08-21T15:35:52.139Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Great post! I laid down a variety of comments and suggestions within your post using If you want to check it out (you need to install the browser ad-in and get a free account to see these.

I prefer to comment within the text rather than here at the bottom, cutting and pasting quotes. Anyone else here tried

(By the way, I'm an academic economist. I don't have any stake in I just like it.)

Comment by david_reinstein on Growth and the case against randomista development · 2020-08-19T13:56:17.896Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I am an academic economist. I agree that economic development is important and is likely responsible for the majority of welfare gains in poor countries (although the spread of medical treatments, eliminating polio etc., are also huge). Yes, we have some good evidence that certain policies substantially inhibit development. And we should advocate against these policies.

However, some parts of the argument seem a bit overstated or unfair to me. Some points

  1. "Randomista": that is not the term the advocates would prefer, is it?

  2. Even if the best policies are pursued, the benefits will be slow and uneven. In the meanwhile, donations to prevent malaria, fund micronutrients, and even provide fistula and eye surgery can have a huge impact/$.

    • I don't think many donors will decide between giving $ to bednets and giving it to fund advocacy for pro-trade policies. However, presenting the benefits of the former as 'a drop in a vast ocean' will discourage giving overall
  3. The benefits of these health interventions are not primarily their impact on boosting economic growth/income. They yield direct welfare benefits. The comparisons you highlight above make it seem as if the main intention of these is to boost growth/income.

  4. The main issue: You state

friendly economic policies can often be orders of magnitude more cost-effective than direct funding of evidence-based interventions.

Perhaps, but that is not the issue from a donor point of view. The issue is the cost-effectiveness of money donated to support these policies. I see very little reason to believe that "funding a bunch more economists" (again, I say this as an economist myself) would have a substantial beneficial impact, much less on a per-dollar basis.

Maybe it would, but I think there are orders of magnitude of uncertainty over this impact. The assumptions for this in the spreadsheet seem simply like guesses to me.

My reason to be a bit skeptical... we have many many economists out there. I don't see how more economists–or even more think tanks–will do much to clearly advance the argument against the known-to-be-bad growth policies.

Comment by david_reinstein on Growth and the case against randomista development · 2020-08-19T13:33:59.338Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Agreed. Also you should call people by what they refer to themselves as. I think 'Randomista' comes across of a pejorative.

Comment by david_reinstein on Important EA-related questions EA would like to know from general public · 2019-12-23T09:52:06.272Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I just added some links to the shared google doc also

Comment by david_reinstein on Important EA-related questions EA would like to know from general public · 2019-12-23T09:41:12.111Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I may be too late to the game (been away and @DavidJanku only recently alerted me to this ) but some quick thoughts:

The current version seems to have many questions that will tell you about how people either 'consciously answer this question to themselves' or how they want to present themselves. It may not reveal their true motivations. There's a lot of work point in this direction.

I would try to focus more on very specific questions that permit less constructed justification and 'lying to oneself.'

It may be very helpful to present simple and yet that ask for a hypothetical response such as "which of the following charities would you be more likely to donate to?" and "how does the following information make you feel?" (although the latter may also offering for motivated reasoning). My recent paper with Robin Bergh some of this but with real donation choices; it still would be interesting to consider hypothetical choices and responses.

I have a wiki/hub that attempts to summarize much of the evidence on Charitable giving, with a particular focus on the consideration of effectiveness.

See INNOVATIONSINFUNDRAISING.ORG. There is also an underlying database I can share (with more detail and recent updates) if you message me at daaronr AT

I have also done a lot of work recently summarizing the evidence on "How do people respond to effectiveness information".

E.g., pasting some text from a recent grant application:

So far, we have limited evidence on these questions, and the existing evidence is far from systematic or consistent Mixed results, e.g.,- Small et al vs Karlan, Parsons, and Reinstein et al work with Donor Voice; a Previous studies have largely relied on hypothetical and small-scale lab-based experiments(Metzger & Günther, 2015, Berman et al., 2018, Verkaik, 2016). Only a few large scale natural field experiments have been run. Karlan and Wood (2017) simultaneously varied emotional and cost-effectiveness information, with the latter presented largely qualitatively and in a particular ‘scientific’ credentials frame. Parson (2007) presented accounting information (uninformative about per-dollar effectiveness). In contrast, our field experiment project aims at large sample sizes in real donation environment, testing a set of particularly relevant and practical framings of real per-dollar impact information in the presence/absence of an emotional appeal (further measuring interaction effects, as in Bergh and Reinstein, 2019).

Please message me for more detail.

Comment by david_reinstein on A Framework for Thinking about the EA Labor Market · 2019-05-11T20:20:09.222Z · score: 9 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Well written. I agree with most of the points. A minor quibble: I'm not sure I'd consider the wages in the nonprofit sector/EA to be 'structurally suppressed'. There are other considerations (both good and bad) limiting wages, particularly:

  1. Donors may be repelled by high salaries (but this is less likely to be true in EA imho)

  2. There is a case (and several good academic papers arguing this, e.g., Steinberg, 2008; Delfgauw and Dur, 2002 ) that a lower salary can screen for more cause-motivated employees; where performance and outcomes can not be as easily monitored and incentivized, intrinsic motivation is important. This is not to say that I think a higher salary will attract less-motivated employees, but these can be hard to distinguish from others. In net the gain from higher salary may not be as strong in the nonprofit/EA sector.

You note:

The Centre for Effective Altruism is hiring a new CEO. Should it restrict its search to candidates willing to show their commitment by pledging everything they earn above a modest amount to effective charities? (Purely hypothetical question, I have no reason to think CEA is doing this).

As we discussed in the doc, I suggest there is a middle ground: Give preference to hiring people who have committed to donate at least a certain share of their income (and have demonstrably fulfilled this pledge).

Comment by david_reinstein on Salary Negotiation for Earning to Give · 2019-04-13T14:58:40.367Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW
How would you ensure people stick to their promise to donate and don't just use the advice/time for non-earning-to-give causes.

1. We could offer this only to those who already have a public verified record of substantial EA giving.

This would seem to be a reasonable filter/screen on honesty. It is possible that such people would take advantage and not keep the promise to donate the additional amount, but it seems unlikely. Perhaps there are people with a consequentialist ethic who want to help effectively and donate a lot, but are nonetheless willing to be dishonest and swindle fellow-EA-ers, but it doesn't seem terribly possible.

Note that even if people did not consistently donate the additional negotiated salary, this would still serve as a 'reward' for public EA donors, perhaps encouraging others to follow suit.

2. I would suggest that the negotiator/EA sponsor ask them to state their expected salary and salary range and then afterwards to state the amount they were able to negotiate and the amount they had donated. People will probably be less willing to default on their promise if doing so requires explicitly stating this or lying about it.

Comment by david_reinstein on Salary Negotiation for Earning to Give · 2019-04-13T14:52:24.365Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Trigger warning: contains some academic economics palaver and self-promotion.

Classical economics arguments

The case (as in 'no Lean Season') seems to depend on inefficient behavior/job applicants leaving money on the table. If there were such great gains to negotiating why wouldn't the applicants always hire a negotiator? This lends some credence to those saying that there is a cost in terms of rescinded offers. In some sense, this would mean that if the EA community offered free negotiating services in exchange for such a pledge, they would be gambling with the applicant's funds.

*So what might be the case to still justify this?*

Behavioral and modern economics/psychology

1. Psychology/biases in giving

This is not necessarily a bad thing. If the applicant is willing to take such a risk, this might be a good way to indirectly elicit donations. It also relates to the give if you win mode I have been researching.

2. Biases in negotiating

This also might be a 'nudge towards negotiating'; perhaps people are reluctant to stick their neck out and negotiate for themselves because of some intrinsic psychological bias, but they might be willing to do so with the support of the EA community, and knowing that it would lead to helping effective causes, well bringing them some positive reputation in the process.

3. Psychology and 'biases' in volunteering

This may unlock the volunteer services of expert negotiators in a particularly effective way. Because of the signaling benefits (it's more public!), corporate rewards, and internalised feeling of impact people may be more willing to volunteer than to donate the equivalent amount in terms of the value of the time. This relates to my proposal for the Corporate bake sale.

4. Synergies enabled by cooperation between altruists

In Principal-Agent problems there is a well-known inefficiency that results from the combination of hidden information and either limited-liability or asymmetric risk-preferences. This is essentially why economists believe (and have some evidence) that real estate agents usually get a lower price when they sell a house for someone else vs. their own house.

However, if the negotiator here is EA-aligned, their interests will better converge, and there is an efficiency gain to be had here. (A bunch of papers make this case ... about the efficiency gains resulting from altruism on one side or the other, including my own paper on the theoretical argument for 'fair trade'.

Comment by david_reinstein on Wiki/Survey: Experiences in fundraising/convincing people/organisations to support EA causes · 2017-11-29T11:00:40.844Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you; I had not seen this before. It is very helpful and I will strive to incorporate this.

Comment by david_reinstein on Give if you win (innovation in fundraising) · 2017-06-05T12:00:21.382Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

For banks and big corporations to want to join, there probably needs to be a greater sense of assurance that their signing up will actually lead to the publicity you suggest there would be.

I agree. It would be good to think of ways to line up endorsement and positive publicity in advance. Still, I think it depends on the cost-benefit calculation. If they can try this without much effort or risk, they might be willing to do so internally and roll out the PR gradually.

That in mind, it's plausible that 1. cancer charities would do better than an investment in something westerners aren't personally affected by, such as schistosomiasis, and 2. that one big check to one big organization will garner more attention than many checks to a myriad of organizations.

Domestic charities and charities like CRUK will typically tend to do better in general, I suspect. However, i. increasing the overall volume of giving should increase effective giving at least proportionally and ii. more so if we focus on this in the promotions and work with EA supporters in organisations.

Developing approaches to get people outside of the EA movement to support EA charities is a separate and very important one (e.g., Deloitte could have at least one international/effective charity partnership. I'm working on this as well (I hope to update soon about the wiki and other things people can engage in.)

I would be very keen to work with a big, known charity. It may not be the highest-rated EA charity, but it would be good to partner with one that is at least somewhere on the EA spectrum even if not perfect (an Oxfam, MSF, Comic Relief, etc).

Comment by david_reinstein on The value of money going to different groups · 2017-05-24T17:19:59.095Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you Toby. The 'preference over gambles' as a way of measuring diminishing marginal utility will depend strongly on the expected utility maximization assumption; in practice, it could be vulnerable to reference-point effects I believe. (Also the logarithmic utility function is obviously an imposed parametric assumption, but a good start.)

Still, these approaches seem reasonable, especially insofar as broadly similar results come from varying contexts.

Comment by david_reinstein on Are Giving Games a better way to teach philanthropy? · 2017-05-24T17:14:23.435Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you. It sounds somewhat similar to some economics experiments involving charity that I have seen, but of course with a different goal in mind. I will look into this -- I am curious also about the evidence one might collect from such games, especially about which arguments people have found convincing, and which approaches have convinced people to choose the more effective charities.

Comment by david_reinstein on The value of money going to different groups · 2017-05-20T18:29:50.698Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I like this article and I agree with the argument in principle, but I'd like to see a bit more information presented about how the elasticity parameter is estimated.

In other words, what data has been used to compute this parameter? Experiments where people make choices among different lotteries? Implicit choices where people make tradeoffs involving risk? Stated preferences over comparisons of societal distributions of wealth?

Comment by david_reinstein on The value of money going to different groups · 2017-05-20T18:23:46.458Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

That page is good, but it would be better if they could give an apples-to-apples comparison. There must be domestic US charities that aim to save lives domestically, from which a 'cost per life saved' estimate could be drawn. ... Or a developing country charity that provides a similar service as the US charities mentioned (education, neo-natal care, etc), from which many more people could be serverd for the same $.

Comment by david_reinstein on Open Thread #36 · 2017-05-20T18:17:00.202Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Moving to a low-income foreign country could indirectly help the people in that country, if you buy goods and pay taxes there, create jobs, etc.

Comment by david_reinstein on Open Thread #36 · 2017-05-20T18:15:26.965Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Not sure what a DAF stands for. On retirement, buying an inflation-adjusted annuity could be a good of assuring you can donate a particular amount in your will while ensuring a steady income until you die.

Comment by david_reinstein on [deleted post] 2017-05-20T18:12:01.473Z

My thoughts, apologies if I am just reiterating what you already know.

It seems like there are 3 very difficult things to get a ballpark estimate of:

  1. The likelihood of developing a successful fake chicken as a function of the number of investment dollars. This seems like a scientific/technical question. The impact-driven EA investor will want to know the impact of his/her $1 on this probability, i.e., the slope of this given the likely level of other's investment. I.e., if I expect others will invest $1 million, I consider how the probability of a chicken differs when investment increases from $1 million to $1 million +1. (Or to $1 million + 1*leverage multiplier, see below).

  2. The multiplier effect of a (donated) investment dollar, including both a. The leverage of a dollar (how much more you could borrow at a reasonable interest rate with an additional dollar of equity collateral); I think this could be estimated under some reasonable assumptions b. The effect of an additional investment dollar on subsequent investors/altruists willingness to invest. This seems like the hardest thing to calculate, and it is not completely clear whether that effect should even be positive. This is the 'seed money' question. It might be that when altruists see a greater amount of investment already, they see their own contribution as less vital, and invest less.

  3. The likely overall distribution of total amount invested; the $1 million in the example in part 1.

Comment by david_reinstein on Are Giving Games a better way to teach philanthropy? · 2017-05-20T17:55:43.179Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Briefly, how do you define/describe 'Giving Games'?