Many organisations in the effective altruism community (‘EA orgs’) are currently fundraising (see Rob Wiblin’s GDoc “Fundraising and annual review posts on the EA Forum around Dec 2018”).
I’ve created a spreadsheet summing up the fundraising targets of EA orgs. In brief, EA orgs are currently trying to raise roughly $10m - $16m.
- Some EA orgs seem to be maturing to the point at which they have multi-million dollar budgets.
- One concern: Big donors often do not fully fund an organisation and it is good for organisations to diversify funding from different sources. This might lead to a situation where big EA orgs are hovering up donations from many small EA donors. This money is likely to be very valuable counterfactually, because it could be given to smaller EA projects or high-impact non-meta causes. EA orgs might want to try to professionalize their fundraising efforts and diversify their funding by reaching out to more non-traditional EA donors. For instance, like other big non-profits, EA orgs might want to hire institutional fundraisers to tap into larger grants from big foundations other than the usual suspects (e.g. Vox’s Future Perfect has received a $380k grant from the Rockefeller Foundation), or get academic or government grants (e.g. the academic institute GPI at Oxford University wants to hire someone to do “Fundraising, particularly from private donors.”).
- These figures might also suggest that the EA community is relatively more funding constrained again. In other words, earning to give might be relatively more effective again (even though the talent vs. funding constraints topic is which is a complex issue).
If we're using these numbers to inform whether EA is funding constrained, it would be good if someone followed up and figured out how much these organizations actually ended up raising.
I think many organizations try to raise money at the end of the tax year ("giving season"), because many people put off their giving until then. If they are still trying to raise money in 2019, that suggests that they didn't hit their fundraising targets for 2018's giving season.
Maybe for each organization, we could gather info on how long that organization has been doing fundraising for its latest round, and how successful it has been so far?
I've looked into this a few times and it does seem like it will become a promising channel. In particular from the big donors that do very large checks (>$500k). At least one org I know is experimenting with hiring a full-time grant-writer. I currently think it won't work well for most EA orgs for some time to come.
Worth noting that most big foundations have large sr. management time overheads and often require designing bespoke projects just for that foundation. Grant-writers also generally have slow payback periods (>1-2 years not rare, more if first one doesn't work out), are very tricky to evaluate during hiring and expire once you run out of foundations / major donors to apply to (most don't do much repeat funding). Not insurmountable challenges.
An alternative is to hire one-off fundraisers who approach lesser known major donors for you, I think that may be promising but requires a large time investment to train that person to talk about your charity. They also still require a large amount of Sr. mgmt's time (non-foundation major donors will generally want to speak to the founders and most those conversations will end up being a no) and are more likely to generate one-off funding rather than repeat.
It may be that expanding philanthropic advisory within EA in general is more promising. Whilst not specifically focused on raising funds for EA orgs, an increased number of smart and best-arguments-aware donors in the space in general could well have a similar result for less sr. mgmt time cost.
It could also be that having a semi-centralised fundraising team that manages a team of generalist fundraisers that are shared and specialist fundraisers that each work for a different large EA org could work really well. Train them all up in tandem and work out how to evaluate them, focus on >$300k checks from major donors but also have a grant-writer or two shared between them, hire most talent from mainstream pools, etc., We looked into something like this to function across all the GiveWell charities but it ultimately looked like it wouldn't work.
It doesn't seem unlikely that that last option never makes sense, because by the time you have orgs large enough to justify the above ($5m-$10m pa), those orgs also organically start to hire their own internal fundraisers and grant-writers just to meet their large budgets.
Looking forward to putting more thought into this.