One for the World: update after 6 months of our first staff member

by rossaokod1 min read15th Feb 20196 comments

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In July, One for the World hired its first full time member of staff, following a generous grant from the Open Philanthropy Project and a private donor, on the recommendation of GiveWell. I posted about that on the EA forum here. We just posted an update on our website about our growth in the first 6 months since our first hire, from July-Dec 2018.

The headline figures from this report are copied below:

- The 'annual donations in the pipeline' recruited so far this academic year is up ~500% relative to the same time last year ($404k vs $70k). However, ~40% of the new dollars recruited will only become active after 1-3 years, which presents challenges in limiting donor churn. Taking this delay and historical rates of churn into account, we estimate that the expected present discounted value of these pledges is about $1.1m.
- We think that this step change in growth is a direct result of increasing our capacity by hiring Evan in July 2018, which has allowed us to expand the number of chapters we have, improve chapter management and focus on improving OFTW's donation infrastructure.
- Our members have donated ~$110k to our charities in the first half of the year (July - Dec 2018), compared to ~$67k in the same period last year (July - Dec 2017).

We think this strong growth in pledged donations is a direct result of hiring full time staff, and are now looking to transition from our current volunteer leadership team to one or more full time founding executive directors to help scale the organisation. We're looking for people interested in taking on this project on a full time basis, and taking OFTW to the next level. If this interests you, please check out more details of what we're looking for here.

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It's really encouraging to see this kind of growth in overall giving!

I looked through your annual report and didn't see these statistics (but please pardon me if I missed them):

1. What is the average % of income pledged by One for the World members so far?

2. Have you seen many cases of people signing up for a small pledge, but planning to increase it at some set point later // at a steady rate? (For example, "1% more per year until retirement".)

One percent seems low for an initial pledge, given that the "average American" donates ~2% of income, but as a starting point that gets people to keep following OFTW, or a suggestion that most people surpass, I can see it fulfilling a strategic purpose.

One percent seems low for an initial pledge, given that the "average American" donates ~2% of income

FWIW, I don’t think this is a great reference point. The 2015 Money for Good study found a median gift of ~.4% of income in their sample (which overweighted high income households), and 1% giving would be something like to top quintile. So getting young people to (initially) donate 1% to effective causes seems like an excellent win.

Good point: "Average giving" =/= "what a typical American gives", and the latter is a better reference point. I've had the title of an article called "The Stubborn 2% Giving Rate" stuck in my head for too long, but the number doesn't really apply here.

Hi Aaaron,

I'm currently the chair of OFTW's volunteer group so hopefully can help answer this. I'll take your questions together as they're related.

On the current giving as % of income rate: There's a chart of our progress on this over time about half way down the post. This year, about half of donors are giving at least 0.9% of their income.

On average all time the proportion would be lower than this. This is an area where we're making progress by a) better understanding our donor base (what makes them resistant to giving more?) b) better training / equipping our campus leaders to ask their classmates to make a larger pledge (our chapter leader training has materially improved on this front) and c) improving our donation platform settings and defaults.

We have a small (single digit) number of donors who have given meaningfully more than this as a result of OFTW. We've done some small experiments aimed at getting existing donors to increase their pledges, but haven't had much success and haven't prioritized this as much as we have training new chapter leaders and increasing our penetration rates in existing chapters.

Ultimately getting people acculturated to thoughtful, effective giving is the near term goal, because if we build that habit it gives us a platform for bigger asks. If you think about the long term there are two potential prizes: 1) get a generation of people to give to effective causes and to give more, earlier than they otherwise would, and 2) get people to give more effectively on the path they would've otherwise followed (e.g. once someone is mid career and would normally give to their alma mater, give to AMF). Clearly 1) is a much bigger, more valuable change, and we want to work out how to do it. But preserving a relationship and building affinity over time also keeps 2) alive as an option, which is valuable.

Steve

One quick P.S.: Clearly if our low, 1%, ask were creating moral permission for people to give less than they otherwise would, it would be bad. We don't see much evidence of this - very few of our donors were giving to EA causes before pledging to OFTW, and not many were giving at all.

Thanks, Aaron. Just to add to Steve's response below:

1) We think that part of the reason for the large increase in people pledging ~1% of their income this academic year is due to (a) better training and messaging (largely because we now have a full time staff member doing this), and (b) our improved donation platform. (b) has allowed us to set different defaults for different chapters, and for donors to set their start date further in the future, so it coincides with graduation. Before that, our donation defaults were targeted at MBAs, so undergrads in particular would log on, see a massive default relative to their expected salary, and pledge something significantly lower. Juniors and sophomores would also be unable to pledge far enough in the future to start giving at graduation and so would often put in a 'symbolic' $10 pledge, which partly explains why the average donation (as percentage of average graduation income) was pretty low before this year.

2) Our donation data indicates that the power of defaults is pretty strong among our members (a large mass of people give the default amount on the sign up page). We plan on experimenting with changing these default options (e.g. having 2% and/or 5% as well as 1%) and testing whether this makes a difference. At first we will just do this on the online platform, but we'll also consider randomly selecting some chapters to have messaging about higher percentages in future years, and again testing if this makes a difference.