EA grants available (to individuals)

post by Jameson Quinn (jameson-quinn) · 2019-02-07T15:17:38.921Z · score: 33 (11 votes) · LW · GW · 8 comments

Contents

  OpenPhil
  CEA (Center for Effective Altruism)
  BERI (Berkeley Existential Risks Initiative) individual grants
  EA funds 
  Conclusions
None
8 comments

I'm considering applying for some kind of a grant from the effective altruism community. A quick sketch of the specifics is here [LW · GW]. Raemon replied there with a list of possibilities [LW · GW]. In this post, I'll look into each of those possibilities, to make this process easier for whoever comes next. In the order Raemon gave them, those are:

OpenPhil

"Can I apply for a grant?
In general, we expect to identify most giving opportunities via proactive searching and networking. We expect to fund very few proposals that come to us via unsolicited contact. As such, we have no formal process for accepting such proposals and may not respond to inquiries. If you would like to suggest that we consider a grant — whether for your project or someone else’s — please contact us. "

This looks like a case where it's at least partially about "who you know". I do in fact have some contacts I could approach in this regard, and I may do so as this search proceeds.

But this does seem like a bias that it would be good to try to reduce. I understand that there are serious failure modes for "too open" as well as "too closed", but based on the above I think it currently tilts towards the latter. Perhaps a publicly-announced process for community vetting? I suspect there are people who are qualified and willing to help sort the slush-pile that would create.

CEA (Center for Effective Altruism)

Applications for the current round have now closed. If you’d like to be notified when applications next open, please submit your contact information through this form.
The goal of Effective Altruism Grants is to enable people to work on projects that will contribute to solving some of the world’s most important problems. We are excited to fund projects that directly contribute to helping others, as well as projects that will enable individuals to gain the skills needed to do so.
...
CEA only funds projects that further its charitable objects.[1] However, we welcome applications that may be of interest to our partners who are also looking to support promising projects. Where appropriate, we have sometimes passed applications along to those partners.

This would seem to be a dead end for my purposes in two regards. First, applications are not currently open, and it's not clear when they will be. And second, this appears to focus on projects with immediate benefits, and not meta-level basic research like what I propose.

BERI (Berkeley Existential Risks Initiative) individual grants

BERI’s Individual Grants program focuses on making grants to individuals or teams of individuals, rather than to organizations. There are several types of individual grants programs that BERI expects to run, such as:
Individual Project Grants are awarded to individuals to carry out projects directly in service of BERI’s mission.
Individual Level-Up Grants are awarded to individuals to carry out projects or investigations to improve the skills and knowledge of the grantee, with hopes that they will carry out valuable work for BERI’s mission in the future.
What is the process for obtaining an individual grant from BERI?
Typically, BERI will host “rounds” for its various individual grants programs. Details about how to apply will be in the announcement of the round.... If you would like to be notified when BERI is running one of the above grants rounds, please send an email to individual-grants@existence.org noting which type of grant round you are interested in.

Another dead end, at the moment, as applications are not open.

EA funds

There are 4 funds (Global Development, Animal Welfare, Long-Term Future, and Effective Altruism Meta). Of these 4, only Long-Term Future appears to have a process for individual grant applications, linked from its main page. (Luckily for me, that's the best fit for my plan anyway.)

We are particularly interested in small teams and individuals that are trying to get projects off the ground, or that need less money than existing grant-making institutions are likely to give out (i.e. less than ~$100k, but more than $10k). Here are a few examples of project types that we're open to funding an individual or group for (note that this list is not exhaustive):
+ To spend a few months (perhaps during the summer) to research an open problem in AI alignment or AI strategy and produce a few blog posts or videos on their ideas
+ To spend a few months building a web app with the potential to solve an operations bottleneck at x-risk organisations
+ To spend a few months up-skilling in a field to prepare for future work (e.g. microeconomics, functional programming, etc).
+ To spend a year testing an idea that has the potential to be built into an org.

This is definitely the most promising for my purposes. I will be applying with them in the near future.

Conclusions

I'm looking for funds in the $10K-$100K range for a short-term project that would probably fall through the gaps of traditional funding mechanisms — an individual basic research project. It seems the EA community is trying to address this issue of funding this kind of project in a way that has fewer arbitrary gaps while still having rigorous standards. Nevertheless, I think that the landscape I surveyed above is still fragmented in arbitrary ways, and worthy projects are still probably falling through the gaps.

Raemon suggested in a comment on my earlier post that "something I'm hoping can happen sometime soon is for those grantmaking bodies to build more common infrastructure so applying for multiple grants isn't so much duplicated effort and the process is easier to navigate, but I think that'll be awhile". I think that such "common infrastructure" would help a more-unified triage process so that the best proposals wouldn't fall through the cracks. I think this benefit would be even greater than the ones Raemon mentioned (less duplicated effort and easier navigation). I understand that this refactoring takes time and work and probably won't be ready in time for my own proposal.

PS: see also this website on AI alignment funding options, which came up in comments.

8 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by NicoleRossCEA · 2019-02-07T20:49:05.695Z · score: 31 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Hi Jameson,

I lead the EA Grants program at CEA and anyone should feel free to contact me (nicole.ross@centreforeffectivealtruism.org) if they have any questions or if a time sensitive opportunity comes up before the next grant round opens. Please feel very free to reach out!

Also, in case it's helpful: I looked at your other post briefly, and I don't think the topic automatically excludes it from EA Grants.

More generally, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts about the types of projects that might be falling through the cracks. I only recently started at CEA and am still thinking through what EA Grants should look like in the future (e.g. what niche it should fill within the funding space, how it can be better and more efficient). If you (or others) have thoughts on this topic, please email me: nicole.ross@centreforeffectivealtruism.org.

comment by Raemon · 2019-02-07T20:05:20.304Z · score: 10 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for writing this up!

I wouldn't translate "organization isn't currently holding a funding round" into "dead end." Yes, it does mean you can't get money right now, but grants are (afaict) almost always a fairly involved process that takes awhile to pay out. The way to get money via grants involves multiple-month-long time horizons even in the best of circumstances.

I think each of the organizations involved has done at least one funding round per year and often multiple ones, which means your time horizon is something like 6-9 months instead of 1-6 months (i.e. the way it'd be if you'd lucked into asking this question right as a funding round was underway)

So I'd say the "not currently in a funding round" organizations should be translating into a next action of "making sure you'll be notified when the next round opens. Possibly send a 1-3 sentence email to them sooner to check if the general scope of your work is something they're interested in." (Which they might or might not reply to)

comment by Raemon · 2019-02-07T20:09:04.698Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If it is the case that you need money now to get started, I think that sort of circumstance almost always requires you to either:

  • Directly solicit money from people who already know you
  • have networked your way into an institution that gives you some freedom to spend time thinking.
  • Pitch your ideas in an immediately-accessible crowd-fund-y way.

This does suck, but any improvements on that status quo would be fairly difficult

comment by Jameson Quinn (jameson-quinn) · 2019-02-07T21:57:27.398Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My time horizon is about 6 months. I could probably extend that by a few months but that would involve (tolerable but noticeable) sacrifices. So the difference between 1-6 months and 6-9 is meaningful to me, though not completely dispositive.

comment by Benito · 2019-02-07T16:14:40.943Z · score: 10 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Just a short note to say that CEA’s “EA Grants” programme is funded in part by OpenPhil.

https://www.openphilanthropy.org/giving/grants/centre-effective-altruism-general-support-2017#Budget_and_room_for_more_funding

comment by John_Maxwell_IV · 2019-02-08T04:30:55.557Z · score: 9 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Paul Christiano [LW · GW] might still be active in funding stuff. (There are a few more links to funding opportunities in the comments of that post.)

comment by Jameson Quinn (jameson-quinn) · 2019-02-08T12:39:31.327Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks.

I'll look into those possibilities. However, though my proposed work relates to AI alignment, it is not focused on that issue; and I'd consider it "outside the dominant paradigm" of AI alignment work.

Edited to add: I was going to do a separate post about those possibilities, but it appears that this website is a reasonably up-to-date summary of all the funding sources that are linked from that post, so me repeating that work would be redundant..