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This post is to announce a change Elie Hassenfeld and the GiveWell team are planning to make to the Effective Altruism Global Health & Development Fund's disbursement schedule.

In brief, we're planning to disburse funds as we identify promising "high-risk" opportunities (i.e. opportunities which we think are more uncertain, but may be substantially more cost-effective than our current recommendations), rather than on a fixed schedule of three times each year.

If we are unable to identify sufficient high-risk opportunities we are excited about within a six-month period, we plan to recommend that any funds remaining are allocated to our top charities.

We expect this change will increase the expected impact of the fund and more accurately track donor preferences by increasing the likelihood that funds are allocated to opportunities that are high risk.

About the Global Health & Development Fund

The Effective Altruism Global Health & Development Fund ("the Fund") is managed by Elie Hassenfeld, the Executive Director of GiveWell, with support from the GiveWell team. This team recommends grants to the Centre for Effective Altruism, which manages grant logistics.

The intention of the Fund, outlined here, is to give donors an opportunity to support giving opportunities within global health and development that are riskier, but potentially have higher returns, than GiveWell's top charity recommendations.

Up until now, if we didn't identify high-risk opportunities we were excited about at the scheduled Fund payout date, we defaulted to recommending funds be paid out to whichever of our top charities we believed had the highest priority funding gap at the time.

To date, the Fund has disbursed $1.06 million total to two high-risk opportunities (Innovation in Government Initiative, and Instiglio) and $3.68 million to GiveWell top charities.[1]

The change

Rather than continuing to make recommendations three times a year, we intend to recommend disbursements according to the following principles:

  1. When GiveWell identifies a high-risk grant we are excited about making, we would default to recommending that grant to the Fund, regardless of the timing.

    There may, on occasion, be good reasons to deviate from this default. For example, if the intended grant size is larger than what is currently available in the Fund, we would likely seek funding from the Open Philanthropy Project (which has funded grants via GiveWell in the past), rather than waiting until there is sufficient funding available in the Fund.
  2. In February and August of each year, we plan to either:
    1. Recommend that all remaining funds, which haven't already been allocated to high-risk opportunities, are disbursed. Our recommendation would most likely be to disburse the funds to the most pressing needs we see among GiveWell top charities, which we believe are excellent giving opportunities, but we do not perceive to be high risk.
    2. Write publicly about why we're holding remaining funds for longer. We expect the most likely reasons for this would be if (i) we were close to concluding an investigation into a grant which may be a better fit for the Fund's intention, or if (ii) we have granted a substantial proportion of the funds available during the preceding six months, such that the remaining funds would be better saved until we can identify another high-risk opportunity.

Why are we making this change?

We believe moving to a more flexible grantmaking schedule will increase the likelihood that we are able to identify, thoroughly vet, and recommend high-risk giving opportunities to the Fund by increasing the time we have available to identify and prioritize between these opportunities (rather than by committing us to take action three times a year.

Exploring these high-risk opportunities is an important part of GiveWell's research agenda. We expect to research a number of areas in some depth before committing funding, so we don't expect our grant recommendations to fit neatly into the previous schedule.

At the same time, we recognize the importance of making prompt and regular grants, both because we think there are benefits to regular giving, and to ensure donors continue to trust that their donations are being used effectively.

Ultimately, we felt that moving to a roughly six-monthly schedule would strike the right balance between ensuring timely payouts and maximizing the likelihood of us identifying outstanding grants.

How did we decide to make this change?

GiveWell proposed this change to the Centre for Effective Altruism in May 2019. The Centre for Effective Altruism believed the rationale for the change was reasonable and agreed to update the intended grantmaking schedule.

[1] See this page for a full list of Fund disbursements.

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