This is a couple weeks old, but I don't think it's been shared here yet. For context: GiveWell recently took GiveDirectly (which runs cash-transfer programs) off its "top charities" list. GiveDirectly wrote a very gracious and interesting response. One section particularly jumped out:
GiveWell is a charity evaluator with the stated goal of “finding and recommending a small number of outstanding giving opportunities to help donors save or improve lives the most with their gifts.” As one of the largest private funders in global health and development, they’ve made a huge difference in the lives of millions and been a positive influence in the sector. Their priority is to maximize the impact of the funds they direct from donors (~$500M in 2021), so they choose cost-effectiveness cutoffs based on the amount they expect to move.
But there’s a lot more money at stake. Official development assistance is $178B a year, and U.S. charitable giving alone is another $484B a year. Recently, Mackenzie Scott gave away $4B in 9 months, and Elon Musk debated how to use $6B with the head of the World Food Programme. We want an approach to giving well that has answers for budgets at these scales.
GiveWell would say they’re focused on prudently allocating the money they expect to direct, and if they received even more funds, they would figure out how to allocate those well too. We expect that they would. But GiveWell is not just any other donor — it is the premier, trusted voice on how to give. Structuring GiveWell’s recommendations only around the funds they expect to direct, at best, says nothing about the vast majority of funds that could help people living in extreme poverty. At worst, it suggests these funds can’t do much good.
This strikes me as a good point. It makes complete sense to direct the funds we have, right now, to charities that are 10x as cost-effective as cash transfers. But my (very uncertain!) understanding is that those programs will run out of room for funding at some point. So it does seem weird for EA organisations to not say anywhere that if we had billions more in resources we could also massively scale up cash transfers. That seems particularly worth saying because by highlighting that, we might be able to encourage those billions to come our way. To take GiveDirectly's example, we could say to Mackenzie Scott: if you give us $4B tomorrow to spend on global health, we can give all of it away really effectively through a mix of malaria nets, malaria chemoprevention, vitamin A supplements, conditional cash transfers and unconditional cash transfers.
But, like I say, I'm uncertain here, and would love other people's thoughts. One idea: perhaps GiveWell should have a "If we had X amount of money we'd do this" page, with milestone targets?