Effective Altruism vs Missionaries? Advice Requested from a Newly-Built Crowdfunding Platform.

post by lululu · 2015-06-30T17:39:09.721Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 11 comments

Hi, I'm developing a next-generation crowdfunding platform for non-profit fundraising. From what we have seen, it is aeffective tool, more about it below. I'm working with two other cofounders, both of whom are evangelical Christians. We get along well in general, but that I strongly believe in effective altruism and they do not.

We will launch a second pilot fundraising campaign in 2-3 weeks. My co-founders have arranged for us fund raise for is a "church planting" missionary organization. This is so opposed my belief in effective altruism I feel uncomfortable using our effective tool to funnel donors' dollars in THIS of all directions. This is not the reason I got involved in this project.

My argument with them is that we should charge more to ineffective nonprofits such as colleges, religious, or political organizations, and use that extra to subsidize the campaign and money-processing costs of the effective non-profits. I think this is logically consistent with earning to give. But I am being outvoted two-to-one by people who believe saving lives and saving souls are nearly equally important.

So I have two requests:

1. If anyone has advise on how to navigate this (including any especially well written articles that would appeal to evangelical Christians, or experience negotiating with start-up cofounders). 

2. If anyone has personal connections with effective or effective-ish non-profits, I would much prefer to fundraise for them than my co-founder's church connections. Caveat: the org must have US non-profit legal status. 

About the platform: the gist our concept is that we're using a lot of psychology and biases and altruism research to nudge more people towards giving and also nudge them towards a sustained involvement with the nonprofit in question. We're using some of the tricks that made the ice bucket challenge so successful (but with added accountability to ensure that visible involvement actually leads to monetary donations). Users can pledge money contingent on their friend's involvement, which motivates people in the same way that matching donations motivate people. Giving is very visible, and people are more likely to give if they see friends giving. Friends are making the request for funding, which creates a sense of personal connection. Each person's mini-campaign has an involvement goal and a time limit (3 friends in 3 days) to create a sense of urgency. The money your friends donate visibly increases your impact so it also feel like getting money from nothing - a $20 pledge can become hundreds of dollars. We nudge people towards automated smaller monthly reoccurring gifts. We try to minimize the number of barriers to making a donation (less steps, fewer fields).  

 

11 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-01T01:19:24.036Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

You have a basic foundational difference in your values- if it's showing up in your very first project, it's going to be showing up through the entire lifecycle of the organization. This is a GOOD thing, as learning this now will save you a bloody battle down the road.

Either get out now, and find a way to amicably split your assets, or, if you think I'm overreacting, simply get, in writing, an ironclad agreement that determines what happens if one of you wants to exit. This is standard advice any way for cofounders, and I guarantee you'll thank me later.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-01T11:10:59.777Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I agree wholeheartedly, and wish I had received such advice when faced with a similar situation some years ago. If you are in a 2:1 minority and your most important aims & goals are not being considered at this early stage, it's not likely to get better without detailed consideration of potential future outcomes. I am being this negative because it sounds like you've already had some frank discussions about your differences of opinion, and you are having to go along with something you completely disagree with.

comment by Larks · 2015-07-01T01:00:36.778Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

saving lives and saving souls are nearly equally important.

If souls actually exist (and could go to heaven and hell) then saving souls is far more important than saving lives! Your disagreement with them is surely not about relative importance, it is about ontology.

comment by A11AF82 · 2015-07-01T13:30:29.512Z · score: -5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

If.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-30T22:29:17.916Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

How about posting this to the EA forum: http://www.effective-altruism.com/

comment by SilentCal · 2015-07-01T18:24:31.949Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My qualifications to give this advice are nil, but...

Given your differences, I'd think the only way the partnership can possibly work is to focus on creating a neutral platform. That would mean giving up on preferential treatment for effective over religious charities (though you might be able to all agree to penalize political orgs). If your platform becomes what you hope it will, presumably it'll be useful to effective charities without the need for subsidies.

I mean, if you can persuade them to see things your way, that's great, but I don't see it happening.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2015-07-01T07:28:36.886Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Someone wrote an introduction to EA for Christians here, not sure if it's any good.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2015-07-05T16:13:35.098Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I strongly believe in effective altruism and they do not. [...] I am being outvoted two-to-one by people who believe saving lives and saving souls are nearly equally important.

Differences in belief about what's important are somewhat independent from differences in disposition about pursuing effectiveness. A person may have very unusual beliefs about what's important (i.e. caring about lives of insects), but remain motivated to seek the most effective ways of influencing these things.

comment by aarongertler · 2015-07-10T04:32:20.087Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is the best article on EA and religion that I've seen so far, and uses selective Bible quotes to make points:

https://www.givingwhatwecan.org/blog/2014-12-02/christianity-and-giving

Of course, you can use selective Bible quotes to make nearly any point, so this probably won't work if framed as a counterargument. Perhaps you can just show it to your cofounders and ask what they think, as the beginning of a discussion about what God might want or what Christians owe to non-Christians.

But I second MattG's advice that leaving is probably advisable, particularly if the above goes nowhere.

comment by rancar2 · 2015-07-01T16:03:23.589Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There are a few partners in the EA community that may be able to help. We have US 501(c)(3) status and likely will charge inline with your arguement (proven effective programs by evidence-based charities are fee-free). Feel free to reach out to me to see what we may be able to help with, randy@charity.is.

comment by Bryan-san · 2015-07-01T00:40:19.010Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

So... a large part of what you're doing involves teaching christians how to psychologically manipulate people into donating more money towards converting more people into Christianity?

How likely is it that these two who have the voting control will vote you out of decisions or convert all future efforts into only evangelical efforts?

What percent of future dollars do you think will be spent on purely evangelical efforts and have you fully justified the harm they will/may do by greater benefits elsewhere? (I'm not sure how to calculate the harm of converting someone to a belief system that isn't grounded in reality. I bet someone here has done so before.)