The 2022 Giving What We Can donor lottery (previously managed by EA Funds) is now open, with block sizes of $100k, $500k, and $2 million. To enter a lottery, or to learn more about donor lotteries, head to the Giving What We Can donor lottery page.


Why enter a donor lottery?

We’ve written before about why you should give to a donor lottery this giving season. If you’re intrigued about what a donor lottery is, or why you might want to enter, I’d recommend reading that article, including the comments (note that it’s from last year, so some specifics like block sizes and dates are different). I’ve copied in some of the key points below:

  • A donor lottery allows you to turn your donation into a larger donation with some probability, while holding the expected donation amount constant. E.g., you can trade a $1,000 donation for a 1% chance of allocating $100,000 worth of donations. Your expected donation size stays constant at $1,000.
  • If you win, it will be worth the time to think more carefully about where to allocate the money. Because extra time thinking is more likely to lead to better (rather than worse) decisions, this leads to more (expected) impact overall, even though your expected donation size stays the same.
  • For this reason, we believe that a donor lottery is the most effective way for most smaller donors to give the majority of their donations, for those who feel comfortable with it.
  • If you win, we can put you in touch with experienced grantmakers who can help you with the decision.
  • You should only participate in a donor lottery if you think there’s a good chance you (or someone who you trust) will spend additional time thinking about your donation if you win.
  • We also think there’s a good case for continuing to make some fraction of your donations directly, to keep engaged with EA donation opportunities.
  • You can participate anonymously if you like.

Continue reading the original article here.

Practical information about the 2022/2023 Donor Lottery

The Giving What We Can Donor Lottery is now open. The lottery will close to new entries on Monday, Jan 10 2023, 12:00 PM UTC. Any payments not confirmed by Giving What We Can by Monday, Jan 17, 2023, 12:00 PM UTC will not be accepted as entries. 

The lotteries will be drawn starting at Mon, Jan 24, 2023, 12:00 PM UTC (drawings for each block size will be spaced five minutes apart).

There will be three block sizes:

Which block you decide to enter is up to you (there are no minimum entry sizes on any of the blocks). If you’re not sure, we suggest that you aim to enter with a 1%-30% chance of winning.

Donations are tax-deductible in the US, the UK, and the Netherlands. However, if you live somewhere else, you should still consider entering if you think the expected value of the lottery (including the potential to allocate winnings to projects that are more effective than the most effective charity that’s tax-deductible where you live) is a larger value-add than tax-deductibility.

It is possible to participate anonymously, such that your personal details will only be visible to Giving What We Can and EV operational staff, even if you win. By default, all grants will be made public, unless winners or recipients request otherwise.

For more in-depth information about the lottery process (including the important Caveats and Limitations section), please see the donor lottery website.

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4 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 3:59 PM

Thanks so much for organizing this!

As the winner of the last $500k lottery, I wrote some of my thoughts in a comment here.

If you have any questions, I would be happy to share my experience! Have a low bar to send me a DM

Is anything publicly disclosed about the benefactor?

Looking at past lotteries, it seems that much or most of the block size did not fill . . . meaning that the winner may be allocating mostly money that would have counterfactually been allocated by the benefactor, not by people making smaller donations.

Thus, it seems that in deciding whether to enter, I should heavily weight a comparison of how effectively I think I could allocate (with extra research and resources) versus how effectively I think the benefactor could allocate.

I don't know anything about the benefactor beyond that they are in a position to stake up to 2.6 MM -- which makes me think a good bit of time/resources would have gone into their decision about where to counterfactually donate the benefactor's share of each block. In contrast, the logic looks a lot more compelling if I'm predominately allocating monies from smaller donors who wouldn't have counterfactually spent much time / resources on allocation.

Previously the benefactor has been Carl Shulman (and I'd guess he is again, but this is pure speculation). From 2019-2020 donor lottery page:

Carl Shulman will provide backstop funding for the lotteries from his discretionary funds held at the Centre for Effective Altruism.

The funds mentioned are likely these $5m from March 2018:

The Open Philanthropy Project awarded a grant of $5 million to the Centre for Effective Altruism USA (CEA) to create and seed a new discretionary fund that will be administered by Carl Shulman

I disagree:

  1. If you win you can always decide to ask GWWC to defer to the benefactor for the allocation (if they would be interested in doing so), or to the people or funds that you think would best allocate the winnings.
  2. The benefactor chose to participate in the lottery, if they thought it would be worse for the world they wouldn't have, so allocating resources to something other than the lottery because you think their allocation is better than yours is counterintuitive to me.
  3. In expectation, you are not "taking money" from the benefactor by playing, since the expected value is the same as donating directly. In expected value, the benefactor gets the same money that they put in.
    To say it in a different way: the amount of money that was allocated by participants instead of the benefactor is the same as the amount of money that was allocated by the benefactor instead of the participants, so who is a better allocator seems independent from whether the lottery is a good idea.

(I don't know who the benefactor is, I assume it's a large fund or an individual large donor for whom $2.6M is not a large amount of money)