Questions from potential donors to Giving What We Can, 80,000 Hours and EAA

post by Giles · 2012-11-11T18:54:32.073Z · score: 13 (14 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 22 comments

Contents

  UPDATE: Will has responded here.
  UPDATE: Will has responded here.
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22 comments

UPDATE: Will has responded here.

The Centre for Effective Altruism has recently opened up for donations. This is the umbrella organisation for Giving What We Can (GWWC), 80,000 Hours (80K) and Effective Animal Activism (EAA, which I think is still formally part of 80K). I responded to Will Crouch in an email with a list of questions. You're welcome to add to the list in the comments and I'll make sure the questions get to him.

Will seems pretty cool about the whole transparency thing so any answers will hopefully make their way onto the LW Discussion board. Will (and Ben Todd) will try to take the time to give accurate and well-formed answers where possible.

CEA is based in the UK so figures are in GBP.

1. What would you do with different funding levels?
- The "what would my money buy" section of the donate page gives me a vague idea
- It's easier to understand information of the form "If we got £50,000 over the next year we'd do this, if we got £100,000 over the next year we'd do this and this"
- I understand if you're unable to produce that kind of information
- That kind of information is particularly useful for evaluating "did things go as well as they were supposed to, given the amount of funding we actually received"
- Particularly useful for me as I'm trying to train myself to identify funding opportunities. So I'll need feedback as to whether I got it right!

2. How much money are you expecting?
- You say on the donate page that you've spent less than £20,000
- This must have come from somewhere - how much of that particular source of funding is still available?
- Are you getting any other emails like this one? (Edit: i.e. which are offering donations, possibly conditional on answering some questions first)
- Do you have any plans (perhaps in the longer term) to chase after big money e.g. Peter Thiel?
- Are you expecting to get a lot of donations back from people who've received advice and help from 80K?
- I sort of get the impression that there's a lot of good feeling towards 80K at least within the effective altruist community, and for that reason it might not be too hard for you to find funds. To what extent do you agree with this?

3. Which is more useful, regular donations or lump sums?

4. If you had funds to hire an extra person, do you know how that person would be?
- How important is it to find talented people to work for you?
- Are you trying to find someone from the top 5%? The top 1%?

5. Where do you see the delineation between what CEA does and what other effective altruist orgs do?
- THINK
- Global Catastrophic Risk Institute
- Center for Applied Rationality
- Future of Humanity Institute
- GiveWell

6. How much personal connection and communication is there between CEA and these orgs?

7. How do you assess the credibility of money pledged?

8. How are you measuring money moved/pledged?
- GiveWell give the impression of being particularly careful about this
- GW also communicate it very openly, including a breakdown of how much money goes to which cause. Are you planning to communicate it in a similar way?
- How much money do you expect to move next year?
- How much of your "money moved" will also get counted as GiveWell's "money moved"? (This is particularly relevant when using money moved figures to estimate the size of the effective giving sector as a whole)

9. You do a bunch of different but related things - website content, speaker events, career counseling,
- Do you imagine yourself specialising in just one of these in the future?
- Are you at the stage of experimenting to find out which activity is the most effective?
- Is there synergy between them? (e.g. if career advice sessions and website content are both a lot more effective if you're also doing the other one)

10. I have very little idea about what the 80K community is like or how exactly you invest in it
- in what ways does your team interact with your community, other than one-on-one career advice and hosting speaker events?
- do you invest in members' skills such as critical thinking and the ability to evaluate organisations?
- what other skills and qualities do you want to develop in your members, and how do you plan to go about it?
- to what extent do you think talents and abilities are inherent (or at least beyond your control), and to what extent are they trainable?

11. Is 80K planning activity in any new physical locations?
- If so, where?
- If there's already a THINK community in that location, what do you imagine the relationship between THINK and 80K looking like?

12. What does 80K/CEA plan in the way of self-evaluation?

13. What are you planning in the way of financial transparency?

14. You said in your LW post that you have "much more information available" on GWWC's impact.

15. There's apparently a lot of interest in xrisk among 80K members. Do you know why this is?

16. Do you know of any other organisations that do anything similar to what you do? (other than ones I've already mentioned). In particular any groups that give career advice to philanthropists.

UPDATE: Will has responded here.

22 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Pat · 2012-11-11T21:51:24.356Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What are the plans for EAA? When will it be spun off? Is there much interest in it from new members of 80k? Is anybody other than Eitan Fischer (who's in school) working on it at the moment?

Are you getting any other emails like this one?

I sent him one, except it had about two questions instead of sixteen. Thanks to Giles for asking all these questions and to Will for agreeing to make the answers public.

comment by Giles · 2012-11-11T22:30:34.399Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I sent him one, except it had about two questions instead of sixteen

I missed out some context here - I sent this email in the context of "I'm thinking of giving you some money but I have a bunch of questions first". So with this point I was more asking whether people were offering money than whether they were asking questions. I've edited the post to clarify.

Thanks for asking him questions though!

comment by lukeprog · 2012-11-11T22:22:34.339Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Does CEA have its own website, or are there only websites for the "sub-organizations"?

Do any of these groups have affiliation with Effective Altruism, LLC? Do you know the person who runs that?

comment by wdmacaskill · 2012-11-12T01:14:55.821Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Here is the CEA website - but it's just a stub linking to the others.

And no. To my knowledge, we haven't contacted her. From the website, it seems like our approaches are quite different, though the terms we use are similar.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-11-12T09:17:26.689Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Here is the CEA website - but it's just a stub linking to the others.

The important part is whether the other charities are linking to CEA. Or at least acknowledge its existence. And cooperation.

As an example of what may be wrong, look at this website: "www.ombudsmaninternational.com". It has a "Donate" button and links to many important organizations. But it's (almost certainly) a scam.

comment by tog · 2012-11-12T16:32:49.434Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can you clarify the question? The other charities all have legal text on their websites saying (for example):

"80,000 Hours is part of the Centre for Effective Altruism, a charitable company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales, number 7962181. Centre for Effective Altruism, Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Littlegate House, St Ebbes Street, Oxford OX1 1PT, UK"

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-11-13T07:41:01.887Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Then it's OK. (And would be even better if the text contained a hyperlink to the CEA website.)

comment by peter_hurford · 2012-11-13T21:53:52.634Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Giles, thanks again for unwittingly doing the work that I wanted done, so I don't have to. :) You did it better than I would have, as well. I stand by these questions and would like them answered before I give to GWWC/80k directly (of which I am a member of both).

comment by Giles · 2012-11-11T19:07:11.301Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some people have indicated that they might want to restrict their donation to just one of GWWC, 80K or EAA. But earmarking often doesn't work in the presence of unrestricted funding

  • How much of CEA's funding do you expect to be restricted vs. unrestricted?
  • Is the unrestricted funding likely to all go to the same preferred cause?
  • Do you have any other measures in place to guard against the effect described in GiveWell's post?
comment by David_Gerard · 2012-11-11T20:06:03.658Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

From someone who's been involved in charities for decades:

For pity's sake, don't earmark. It's a goddamn pain in the arse to deal with and can greatly increase inefficiency in dealing with the tainted money. If you trust them enough to give them money, trust them enough to work out what to do with it.

If the charity has set things up so you can donate to a particular programme, do that; otherwise, just donate, possibly with a suggestion.

comment by Giles · 2012-11-11T22:23:21.825Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, I should have clarified - by "earmarking" I meant "80K" or "GWWC", not things like "please only use this money for things directly related to existential risk" which would definitely be a pain in the arse.

comment by Pat · 2012-11-11T21:33:39.203Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The donate pages for 80k and GWWC both say "Whichever way you donate, please also notify will.crouch@80000hours/givingwhatwecan.org, in order that we can restrict your donation to 80,000 Hours/Giving What We Can." So it seems that they're OK with earmarking.

comment by EricHerboso · 2012-11-12T00:31:36.308Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Actually, I think this is a technical problem they have, and should not be construed as a positive endorsement of earmarking. It looks like what they want are separate organizations (80k, GWWC), but the way their org is set up, they can only be tax deductible if you donate to the "Tides Foundation" instead.

Although technically this looks like earmarking, the intent seems to be that they wanted to have separate organizations with separate funding but have so far not actually separated them for the purposes of tax deductibility.

comment by Giles · 2012-11-17T17:48:57.762Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Note that the Tides Foundation is not the same thing as CEA. I'm not sure what CEA's exact relationship is with the Tides Foundation - I'll add this to the list of questions.

My guess would be that the relationship to Tides is necessary in order to get US tax deductability (CEA is based in the UK), and that splitting off 80K and GWWC from each other wouldn't help with that. I will ask though.

comment by Pablo_Stafforini · 2012-11-11T20:29:25.082Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A charity may have different programs, and you might reach the conclusion that some of these do much more good than the others. To abstain from earmarking on the grounds that this "can greatly increase inefficiency" runs the risk of attaching excessive weight to efficiency. But it is effectiveness, not overhead that matters. To consider the charities at hand, Effective Animal Activism is officially a part of 80K, but due to its focus on animal suffering--which is much more neglected than human suffering--it might be considerably more effective than its parent organization, as I believe it is. So I don't think earmarking should be discouraged in this case.

comment by EricHerboso · 2012-11-12T00:40:13.936Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree with the idea that EAA seems more likely to be more effective than 80k for the reasons you stated. However, I disagree that this is sufficient reason to encourage earmarking.

It's true that I'd prefer to give to EAA directly, and the only way to do this currently is to write a check to the "Tides Foundation" and earmark it for EAA. But I think the far better way of doing this is for EAA to be separate not just from Tides, but also 80k (which has a confusingly distinct mission focused on careers and lifetime charitable donations, not animal welfare). Until they're separate, I can see why earmarking is justified, but you said it should be encouraged, which is an entirely different thing. I would NOT encourage earmarking; I'd earmark regretfully, and only until they separate out the organizations so that I can donate toward the mission I consider to be genuinely more effective.

comment by Giles · 2012-11-21T04:50:23.739Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If I understand Will's response correctly (under "Earmarking"), it's best to think of GWWC, 80K, EAA and LYCS as separate organizations (at least in terms of whose money will be used for what, which is what really matters). I don't know if this addresses your concern though.

I admit it makes the actual physical donation process look slightly clunky (no big shiny donate button), but my impression is they're not targeting casual donors so much so this may not be such a problem.

comment by tog · 2012-11-12T21:02:33.071Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some people have indicated that they might want to restrict their donation to just one of GWWC, 80K or EAA. But earmarking often doesn't work in the presence of unrestricted funding

I've been helping CEA work out how to handle earmarking; naturally we're aware of the fungibility problem, and there is in fact a whole page on the GWWC website about it. So I can promise that we're being careful to respect the wishes of donors who wish to earmark, while being upfront about any fungibility issues with them.

comment by wdmacaskill · 2012-11-12T01:18:30.137Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's a good question! I was going to respond, but I think that, rather than answering questions on this thread, I'll just let people keep asking questions, and then I'll respond to them all at once - hopefully that'll make readability clearer for other users.

comment by wdmacaskill · 2012-11-12T17:08:52.790Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can I clarify: I think you meant "CEA" rather than "EAA" in your first question?

comment by Giles · 2012-11-12T18:05:20.075Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, thanks - fixed.

comment by Xodarap · 2012-11-15T23:56:27.575Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I second #12. Some of the benefits (e.g. providing social support for philanthropists) seem hard to measure.