I've been thinking about what to do with my personal donations again this year and am curious for other people's thoughts. (On the meta-question of how to decide, not on the object-level question of where to donate.)
Since I joined Wave, I've mostly been donating to a DAF, on the reasoning that properly deciding where to give takes a long time and is distracting, and most of my positive impact on the world comes from working on Wave so it's better to spend my time optimizing that.
I still think that's true, but also the DAF balance is now ~2x my gross salary even before this year's donation, and I expect the above reasoning to stay true for the next 5 years, so it seems like I should probably bite the bullet and make an actual decision.
One idea would be to find someone else who I think is very aligned with how I'd think about where to give and delegate the decisionmaking to them as, effectively, a grantmaker. But the wonderful thing about the EA community is that the people I would trust the most with this are already doing that for people with >1000x more money than me :)
That leaves me with a few other options:
- I could give to whatever my current best-guess donation opportunity is, with the understanding that my current best guess isn't very good because I haven't put much time into it.
I'm not a huge fan of this option because YOLOing a donation that's >2x my gross salary feels silly. But if it's small relative to my overall impact on the world, maybe it's the right call anyway!
- I could put a lot more time into donation research (as a "side project" type thing) so that my best-guess donation is actually a good guess.
I'm not a huge fan of this option because it doesn't feel like my comparative advantage and I don't like (and am not good at) splitting my focus like this.
If EA is vetting-constrained, then plausibly even though it doesn't feel like my comparative advantage, it's useful to the community if I spend time vetting things. But my impression from my brief stint in EA funds was that the funds felt more good-opportunity-constrained than vetting-constrained, and I don't feel as well-positioned to address that bottleneck.
- Instead of making one big donation decision, I could do some sort of microgrant type thing (example). It feels less bad to YOLO a large number of small grants than a single large one. The hard part here would be figuring out how to source the grant opportunities. If EA funds are good-opportunity-constrained, it's not clear how I would do better.
- I could take a bet on less trusted/proven people as grantmakers—allocating some fraction of the DAF for them to decide the donation target and spending some amount of time with them to make sure we're aligned etc.
This seems plausibly interesting, but I'm not sure where to start, nor if there's a model for this that would actually make it a reasonable use of time for a person/people who were good enough that I would also be happy to have them be grantmakers.
Some other random thoughts:
- I think part of my instinct that "I should try really hard to optimize what I do with this money" comes from the fact that it's way more money than I've ever spent on myself, and for personal spending, I try pretty hard to optimize spending decisions that are a lot less than this. Possibly this means that I should try less hard to optimize my personal spending (and spend relatively more on myself).
- Another contributing factor might be that, because it seems clear that working at Wave is an unusually good personal fit for what I'm good at and how I operate (I'd spitball ~10x better on that dimension than the next best thing I could do), I've been able to get away without thinking very hard about cause prioritization for a long time, and that part of my problem is that it's pretty hard to delegate thinking about cause prioritization specifically.
I'm curious if anyone else has experienced the same dilemma (maybe unlikely since I think Wave pays unusually high salaries for a role focused on direct work), or has suggestions or opinions!