Nonlinear spoke to dozens of earn-to-givers and a common sentiment was, "I want to fund good AI safety-related projects, but I don't know where to find them." At the same time, applicants don’t know how to find them either. And would-be applicants are often aware of just one or two funders - some think it’s “LTFF or bust” - causing many to give up before they’ve started, demoralized, because fundraising seems too hard.
As a result, we’re trying an experiment to help folks get in front of donors and vice versa. In brief:
Looking for funding?
Why apply to just one funder when you can apply to dozens?
If you've already applied for EA funding, simply paste your existing application. We’ll share it with relevant funders (~50 so far) in our network.
You can apply if you’re still waiting to hear from other funders. This way, instead of having to awkwardly ask dozens of people and get rejected dozens of times (if you can even find the funders), you can just send in the application you already made.
We’re also accepting non-technical projects relevant to AI safety (e.g. meta, forecasting, field-building, etc.)
Application deadline: May 17, 2023. [Edit: new deadline is the 24th, to accommodate the NeurIPS deadline]
Looking for projects to fund?
Apply to join the funding round by May 24, 2023. Soon after, we'll share access to a database of applications relevant to your interests (e.g. interpretability, moonshots, forecasting, field-building, novel research directions, etc).
If you'd like to fund any projects, you can reach out to applicants directly, or we can help coordinate. This way, you avoid the awkwardness of directly rejecting applicants, and don’t get inundated by people trying to “sell” you.
Inspiration for this project
When the FTX crisis broke, we quickly spun up the Nonlinear Emergency Fund to help provide bridge grants to tide people over until the larger funders could step in.
Instead of making all the funding decisions ourselves, we put out a call to other funders/earn-to-givers. Scott Alexander connected us with a few dozen funders who reached out to help, and we created a Slack to collaborate.
We shared every application (that consented) in an Airtable with around 30 other donors. This led to a flurry of activity as funders investigated applications. They collaborated on diligence, and grants were made that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.
Some funders, like Scott, after seeing our recommendations, preferred to delegate decisions to us, but others preferred to make their own decisions. Collectively, we rapidly deployed roughly $500,000 - far more than we initially expected.
The biggest lesson we learned: openly sharing applications with funders was high leverage - possibly leading to four times as many people receiving funding and 10 times more donations than would have happened if we hadn’t shared.
If you’ve been thinking about raising money for your project idea, we encourage you to do it now. Push through your imposter syndrome because, as Leopold Aschenbrenner said, nobody’s on the ball on AGI alignment.
Another reason to apply: we’ve heard from EA funders that they don’t get enough applications, so you should have a low bar for applying - many fund over 50% of applications they receive (SFF, LTFF, EAIF).
Since the Nonlinear Network is a diverse set of funders, you can apply for a grant size anywhere between single digit thousands to single digit millions.
Note: We’re aware of many valid critiques of this idea, but we’re keeping this post short so we actually ship it. We’re starting with projects related to AI safety because our timelines are short, but if this is successful, we plan to expand to the other cause areas.