Effective Ventures Foundation USA (“EVF US”) has appointed Zachary Robinson as its Interim CEO as of today. We’re also taking this time to announce that Effective Ventures Foundation (“EVF UK”) appointed Howie Lempel as its Interim CEO back in November.
EVF UK and EVF US together act as hosts and fiscal sponsors of many key projects in effective altruism, including the Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA), 80,000 Hours (80k), Longview Philanthropy, etc. These charities (EVF UK and EVF US) previously did not have the position of CEO, and project leads (for CEA, 80k, etc.) reported directly to EVF boards for management oversight.
The FTX situation has given rise to a number of new challenges. In particular, there are financial and legal issues that occur at the level of the charities (EVF UK and EVF US), not at the project level, because the projects are not separate legal entities. Because of this, we’ve chosen to coordinate the legal, financial, and communications strategies of the projects under EVF much more than before.
In response to the new challenges from FTX, the boards became much more involved in the day-to-day operations of the charities. But it’s not ideal to have boards playing the role of executives, so the boards have now also appointed Interim CEOs to each charity.
The Interim CEO roles are about handling crises and helping the entities transition to an improved long-term structure. They are naturally time-limited roles; we aren’t sure how they might change, or when it will make sense for Howie and/or Zach to hand the reins off. The announcement of these Interim CEOs doesn’t constitute any change of project leadership; for example, Max Dalton will continue as leader of CEA, the community-building project which is part of EVF.
- This post is written on behalf of the boards of EVF. It’s difficult to write or act as a group without either doing things that not everyone is totally behind, or constraining ourselves to the bland. In the case of this post, it is largely the work of the primary authors; other board members might not agree with the more subjective judgements.
- The impetus for getting this post out now was a desire to empower the CEOs to speak on behalf of the entities; there are some time-sensitive updates they expect to share soon.
- Edit: Howie has now shared one
- There’s a lot to say about what FTX’s collapse means for EA and EVF; in many ways we’re still in the early days of wrestling with what this means for us and our communities. This post isn’t about that. However, we know that this is the first major public communication from the EVF boards, and we don’t want the implicature to be that we don’t think this is important or worth discussing.
- We’re hoping to write more soon about why we haven’t said more, how we’re seeing the situation, and how EVF’s choices may have impacted EA discourse about FTX.
About Howie and Zach
Howie Lempel has been Interim CEO of EVF UK since mid-November. To take this on, Howie took leave from his role as CEO of 80k, one of the largest EVF projects. In light of Howie’s move, Brenton Mayer was appointed as Interim CEO of 80k in December. Brenton was previously Director of Internal Systems at 80k.
Before he worked at 80k, Howie went to Yale Law for two years. He left Yale to join Open Philanthropy while it was still being incubated at GiveWell, working as their first Program Officer for Global Catastrophic Risks. Howie has also worked on white collar crime at the Manhattan DA’s office and on U.S. economic policy as a research assistant at the Brookings Institution. In addition to his role as CEO of 80k, he’s also known in the EA community for his personal podcast episode on mental health.
Zachary Robinson starts full time as Interim CEO of EVF US today. Zach comes to EVF US from his most recent position as Chief of Staff at Open Philanthropy. There, he managed comms teams, helped set org-wide policies, and worked to identify new Global Health and Wellbeing cause areas for Open Philanthropy, among other things. Prior to his work at Open Philanthropy, he was the director of product and strategy for startup Ivy Research Council and worked as a consultant at Bain and Company.
We’re delighted to have both of them joining in these roles. There’s a lot of uncertainty facing EVF, and the Interim CEOs are stepping into an unorthodox situation with challenges on multiple fronts, but both Howie and Zach have impressed us. Howie has been doing this work far more than full-time since the second week of November and has shown a dedication, tenaciousness, wisdom, and patience that we find inspiring. We are lucky to have him in this role. Although Zach has only started in his role today, we're excited to work with him going forward and expect his involvement to be a major help.
What is Effective Ventures?
Effective Ventures Foundations (“EVF”) is the name we use to describe two separate legal entities, each with their own CEO and boards:
- Effective Ventures Foundation (“EVF UK”) in the UK
- Effective Ventures Foundation USA (“EVF US”) in the US
EVF UK and EVF US together act as hosts and fiscal sponsors of many of the key projects in effective altruism. EVF currently operates the following discrete “projects” (colloquially known as orgs):
- 80,000 Hours
- Longview Philanthropy
- Centre for the Governance of AI
- Giving What We Can
- Forethought Foundation
- BlueDot Impact
- Wytham Abbey
- EA Funds
- A small number of shared offices as community infrastructure
- Three individuals doing independent work
Since the brands and activities of the projects are so distinct, many members of the EA community think of these as distinct nonprofits; however legally they are actually “projects” jointly housed within the two charities of EVF US and EVF UK.
Terminology: this post distinguishes between “projects” like CEA, 80k, and Longview, run by project leads (with varied titles, e.g. “Max Dalton, Executive Director of CEA”; “Natalie Cargill, Co-CEO of Longview”), and the two “charities” or “legal entities,” EVF UK and EVF US, run by Interim CEOs (Howie, Zach). Here’s a diagram:
EVF US and EVF UK coordinate closely to support the projects while allowing for a good deal of operational autonomy by the project leads. Specifically:
- The “EV Ops” team provides coordinated operational support to the projects.
- The project leads have been reporting directly to the boards, which provide charity-level oversight.
- Over the last few months, we’ve added an executive team on both the US and UK side, led by the Interim CEOs, to facilitate coordinated operations and oversight.
- In other respects, the projects operate independently from each other (within the scope of their budgets and delegated authorities; and subject to appropriate oversight by EVF US and/or EVF UK).
Why have two charities?
Charity law works differently in different countries. Typically, charities need to fulfil specific legal requirements in order to get official status as a charity in a given jurisdiction. Also, generally speaking, charity tax reliefs are granted only to charities that are established in the relevant jurisdiction. In the US, charities recognized by the IRS are also not subject to income tax on donations they receive and are entitled to a variety of other tax and regulatory benefits. Likewise, a UK taxpayer needs to donate to a charity established in the UK if they want gift aid relief on their donations.
Having two separate charities enables them to work together collaboratively, and tax effectively, to support the projects that they fiscally sponsor.
Until recently, “the Centre for Effective Altruism” referred to two different things:
- The EA community-building project run by Max Dalton, which runs EA Global, the EA Forum, etc. (This is the main thing most people think of “CEA” as referring to.)
- Either or both of the two separate charities (which were previously called CEA International and CEA USA and are now called EVF UK and EVF US).
To do away with this ambiguity, the two charities (now called EVF UK and EVF US) recently changed their names. (Think “Google” → “Alphabet” or “Facebook” → “Meta”). The community-building project run by Max Dalton is still called CEA, and remains a project of EVF.
A note on EVF communication re. structural changes
To date, we haven’t been very communicative about what’s going on inside EVF. We think we’ve been making a mistake by not investing more in transparency. We previously announced EVF’s renaming, but in retrospect our announcement was unclear both about the nomenclature and about the ways the legal structure had evolved. We also think it was a mistake not to make the time to announce Howie’s role much closer to when he was appointed. We’re sorry about this, and we’re optimistic that the appointment of Interim CEOs will help us to do better in the future. We’re working on another post about why we haven’t said much over the past few months, so we’ll save further discussion for that post.
The EVF UK board consists of Will MacAskill, Tasha McCauley, Claire Zabel, Owen Cotton-Barratt, and Nick Beckstead. The EVF US board consists of Nick Beckstead, Rebecca Kagan, and Nicole Ross. Given their ties to the FTX Foundation and Future Fund, Will MacAskill and Nick Beckstead are recused from discussions and decision-making that relate to FTX, as they have been since early November.
We hope that this post helps to clarify EVF’s structure and leadership. We’d love for you to ask further questions you have (communicating is sometimes a bit difficult, so we can’t guarantee to answer them, but we’ll try).
Meanwhile, we’re grateful to have Zach and Howie lead EVF through this challenging time, and look forward to supporting their work in the coming months.
A huge thank you is owed to the dozens of people who reviewed drafts of this post and subsequent posts we hope to release soon. Your comments made this post significantly better; we are grateful for the time that you spent editing. All opinions and mistakes are our own.
Coordinated management work has included:
* Developing and deploying processes and systems for crisis response
* Responding to PR inquiries and handling the competing needs of external comms
* Hiring Interim CEOs of EVF UK and EVF US, and other members of the executive offices (e.g. in house counsel)
* Helping projects to assess their financial situation and how the FTX collapse might affect them
* Preparing for regulatory and legal attention
* Looking at governance systems and increasing board capacity
Complicating matters, the US renaming hadn’t been finalised at that point, it was still called CEA USA. The EVF US name change has since been filed and is now awaiting approval with the state regulators.
Opinions differ as to how much more we should have invested.
This means for example that posts such as this are not written on their behalf, since we’re making judgement calls about how to discuss FTX.