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Are there any other pro athlete aspiring EAs?

by Marcus Daniell1 min read8th Sep 202048 comments


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I'm starting an EA aligned non-profit called High Impact Athletes that is aiming to funnel donations from current and retired pro athletes and their fans towards the most effective orgs in the world.

It's still early stage but I wondered if there were any pro or ex athletes hiding in the EA Forum who might be interested in supporting the idea? I believe pro sport is a relatively untapped space for EA and potentially has huge pulling power if the athletes get their fans on board.

Many thanks,

Marcus Daniell

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I'm a university professor (senior lecturer, is what we call it down under) and sport psychologist, so if ever you want me to speak to how involvement in your project can actually increase the quality of athletes' motivation and therefor performance, I can hopefully act as a credible source for an interesting angle to sell it.

For context, I assume you are this Marcus Daniell?

The most similar organization to High Impact Athletes that I'm aware of is Raising for Effective Giving, which recruited a lot of top-tier poker players to donate some of their winnings to EA-aligned charities.

While there are a few high-profile actors and musicians prominently linked to EA, no professional athletes come to mind for me. However, given the size and prominence of some EA-aligned charities, I'm sure they've had brushes with pro athletes in the same way other charities do. For example, Michael Phelps participated in one of the first big fundraising events from the Against Malaria Foundation.

This sounds like a great idea Marcus!

I’d love to put you in touch with Charlie Bresler, the Executive Director of The Life You Can Save. In addition to being an avid tennis fan, Charlie has been very interested in working with athletes to promote effective giving for a long time. TLYCS has worked with a bunch of celebrities before (though unfortunately no athletes yet), most recently as audiobook narrators for the 10th anniversary edition of the book the organization is named after. If you PM me your email address I’ll connect the two of you.

Interesting idea! A few reactions:

  • Outreach to poker players has an advantage over outreach to athletes, in that i) intelligence is a central requirement of being a good poker player, whereas it's only a secondary requirement of being a good sportsperson in general, ii) thinking about expected values and rationality is a central component of the way poker is played. Whereas it's only a medium-sized part of how sports in-general are played.
    • Edit: a lot of people seem to have been offended by this line of reasoning. But it's unavoidably true: people who calculate expected values and engage in meta-reasoning for their day job will, on average, be vastly more interested in philosophical questions related to impact evaluation, and better equipped to solve difficult societal problems, than those who don't.
  • Maybe poker players are richer, relative to how rare their skill is, due to the fact that their sport is played with money. I imagine a larger fraction of poker players are pro than tennis players, at least.
  • However, athletes are more often well-known. So maybe it makes sense for athletes to mostly focus on raising funds, running for office, things that use things other than just money.

Still, it's a cool idea - interested to see how it develops!

Hi Marcus, I think this sounds like a great idea.

There are a number of communities that have been created across the EA space which bring together people with a professional affiliation (I see Aaron has mentioned REG, which is likely the most similar to your concept). I don't believe this has been done with pro athletes before.

I founded and run a group called SoGive which raises funds and does analysis on charities.

I would be happy to connect with you and support you if that would help; I'll send you a direct message on the EA Forum.

It's a cool idea! Athletes do seem to have a lot of very flexible and general-purpose fundraising potential, I think it makes a lot of sense to try to direct it effectively. Charity Entrepreneurship (an incubation program for founding effective non-profits) works with Player's Philanthropy Fund (a service which helps athletes and other entities create dedicated funds that can accept tax-deductible contributions in support of any qualified charitable mission) to help our new charities who have not completed the fairly complex process of formally registering as a non-profit get off the ground. You can actually see us on the roster, alongside various athletes. This doesn't mean we are actually working with athletes - we are just using some of the same operations infrastructure, but it might be a useful thing to know. In general I've noticed that there is quite a bit of infrastructure similar to PPF aimed at helping athletes do charitable fundraising, which I think is a good sign that this idea is promising.

This seems like an fantastic opportunity. Another athlete who certainly seems to be following a Giving What We Can-style approach, is Sadio Mane. He could be a potential recruit / model, whether he joins High Impact Athletes or not. From this article.

“Why would I want ten Ferraris, 20 diamond watches, or two planes? What will these objects do for me and for the world? I was hungry, and I had to work in the field; I survived hard times, played football barefooted, I did not have an education and many other things, but today with what I earn thanks to football, I can help my people,” Mané explained. “I built schools, a stadium, we provide clothes, shoes, food for people who are in extreme poverty. In addition, I give 70 euros per month to all people in a very poor region of Senegal which contributes to their family economy. I do not need to display luxury cars, luxury homes, trips and even planes. I prefer that my people receive a little of what life has given me.”

The founders of bigleagueimpact.org attended the 2015 EAG and expressed a very similar goal. I'm not sure what's happened since; it looks like they were either unsuccessful or there may have been some value drift.

This is a bit tangential, but I expect that pro athletes would be able to provide a lot of valuable mentorship to ambitious younger people in EA--my general experience has been that about 30% of the most valuable growth habits I have are imported from sports (and also not commonly found elsewhere). E.g. "The Inner Game of Tennis" was gold and I encourage all my PhD students to read it.

Matthew Dellavedova is on Momentum's board, and they're an EA-aligned org, so I suspect he might be EA-sympathetic (or at the very least familiar with it).