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This post is a personal reflection that follows my journey to effective altruism, my experiences within it, the concerns I've developed along the way and my hopes for addressing them. It culminates in my views on funding constraints — the role we can all play in solving them and a key question I have for you all: What stops us? (Please let me know in the comments).


My journey

While this starts with a reflection on my personal journey, I suspect it might feel familiar, it might strike a chord, at times it might rhyme with yours.

I was about eight years old when I was first confronted with the tragic reality that an overwhelming number of children my age were suffering and dying from preventable diseases and unjust economic conditions.

It broke my heart. 

I knew that I had done nothing to deserve my incredibly privileged position of being born healthy to a loving, stable, middle-income family in Australia (a country with one of the highest standards of living).

Throughout my early years, I took many opportunities to do what I could to right this wrong. In school, that meant participating in fundraisers and advocacy. As a young professional, that meant living frugally but still giving a relatively meagre amount to help others. When I got my first stable job, I decided it was time to give 10% to help others... But when I calculated that that would be $5,000, this commitment began to feel like a pretty big deal. I wasn't going to back down, but I wanted to be more confident that it'd actually result in something good. I felt a responsibility to donate wisely.

Some Googling quickly led me to discover Giving What We CanGiveWell, and Julia Wise's blog Giving Gladly. From this first introduction to what would soon be known as the effective altruism (EA) community, I found the information I needed to help guide me, and the inspiration I needed to help me follow through.

I also took several opportunities to pursue a more impact-oriented career, and even tried getting involved in politics. These attempts had varying success, but that was okay: I had one constant opportunity to help others by giving.

Around this time, the EA community started expanding their lines of reasoning beyond effective giving advice to other areas like careers and advocacy. I was thrilled to see this. We all have an opportunity to use various resources to make a dent in the world's problems, and the same community that had made good progress on philanthropy seemed to me well-positioned to make progress on other fronts too.

By 2016, effective altruism was well and truly “a thing” and I discovered that there was an EA group and conference near me. So, I ventured out to actually meet some of these "effective altruism" people in person.

It hit me: I'd finally found "my people."

These were people who actually cared enough to put their money where their mouths were, to use the best tools they could find to make the biggest possible difference, and to advocate for others to join them. None of these things were easy, but these people really owned the stakes and did the work.

I admired the integrity and true altruism that I found. It motivated me to do better.

How I saw effective altruism change

As time went on, however, I noticed some changes that concerned me. The EA community’s expanded focus started to feel less like a "yes, and" message — supporting both effective giving and pursuing other effective paths to impact — and more like a "no, instead" message: giving began to feel a bit passé within the community.

Above: My response to the shift away from effective giving

 

It started slow, but the change became overwhelming:

  • 2015: 80,000 Hours started to advocate to focus on talent gaps, not funding gaps.
  • 2016: Giving What We Can (GWWC) was merged into the Centre for Effective Altruism (and the GWWC Chapters were shut down).
  • 2017: GWWC experienced a significant drop in the growth rate of pledges (which then gets worse each year until 2020).
  • 2019: When speaking with EAs who were engaged mainly by giving (like me at the time), conversations would often turn to how they were feeling out of place and unappreciated, that their donations sometimes felt like a drop in the bucket, or that they felt pressure to upend their lives to change careers to something that didn't feel like such a good fit. Around the same time, someone boasted to me at an EA conference, “I'm all into the effectiveness part, less so the altruism.”
  • 2020: I joined GWWC and tried to advocate again for the role of effective giving within EA, but would regularly face resistance on the ground ("It's just not a priority for us"). I reviewed common introductory materials and templates, and I'd see that obvious opportunities to mention effective giving often weren't taken — and some had even been removed from earlier versions.
  • 2021: Tech stocks and crypto were booming (EA-influenced funds were disproportionately invested in these sectors) and the term "funding overhang" started to be widely used (though later dissuaded from use) in ways that gave a misleading picture of the funding situation — often mistaken for or rephased as “not funding constrained” or even “overfunded”.
  • 2022: The Future Fund is announced, and grantmaking at Open Philanthropy scales up. The community expresses concerns about "free-spending EA" attracting "grifters" or "vultures" because it at times starts to feel like EA is more of a place where people come to get money, not a place where people come to give money. Will MacAskill responded by arguing for judicious ambition in light of recently increased funding (starting with "Well, things have gotten weird, haven't they?").

I fully acknowledge that a lot of changes were good, rational, and necessary. For example, an increase in funding really did mean that it was relatively more important to figure out how to scalably and effectively deploy it than it was to stockpile more funds, and it was relatively more impactful for middle-to-high earners to move into direct work if the right opportunity arose.

Several voices in the community expressed concern about certain attitudes towards funding or had visions differing from what they saw as mainstream EA. To mention a few:

Amidst these evolving discussions and emerging dissenting voices, I was personally observing, experiencing, and grappling with aspects of our community's developing culture around funding that seemed unsettling to me:

  • It seemed like funding was being treated less as a personal and collective responsibility, and more as the job of a few ultra-high-net-worth individuals.
  • Despite our achievements, people often talked as if funding was a solved problem, even though the funds we had at our disposal were dwarfed by philanthropy at large and the problems we were tackling were still severely underfunded (it pains me that still each day ~15,000 children die from preventable disease).
  • It felt as if personal contributions to funding were undervalued, even when they were impactful and often among the most effective things people could do.
  • I perceived an overconfidence in the community's funding growth (counting chickens before the eggs hatch), even though we were relying heavily on a small number of large donors with unpredictable assets.
  • It seemed that the problems inherent in an undiverse funding ecosystem weren't sufficiently recognised, addressed, nor seen as a collective problem to solve.
  • I felt that comments and policies about time-money trade-offs were becoming less reasonable and also tone-deaf; it seemed to me as if money was being taken for granted, which felt disheartening.
  • I observed the second-order effects of personal giving (such as it being a costly signal to demonstrate prosocial values like altruism, or a way people stay engaged with the community and ideas) often being downplayed, despite them arguably playing a major role in the community's initial success.
  • It felt like giving money was increasingly seen as a zero-sum game against giving time, without a clear explanation as to why they couldn't both coexist meaningfully for most people.

Then late 2022 rolled around:

  • Effective altruism-inspired giving was being discussed in the mediasphere as a "billionaires thing" (a far cry from the earlier stories of Julia & Jeff or Toby & Will giving a significant amount of a more typical income)...
  • Financial markets dropped (particularly tech and crypto)...
  • A recession hit…
  • FTX exploded…

Not only were we raising far fewer funds than we would have been in a world where the culture around funding was different, but a whole lot of funding (projected and actual) evaporated pretty much overnight, and a lot of the pipeline dried up.

Where are we now?

Now it's mid-2023: the funding bar is much higher than a year ago, and we're seeing more high-impact projects miss out on funding left, right, and centre.

Frankly, I've felt like we collectively scored an "own goal" by sidelining effective giving. And to be a bit vulnerable too: emotionally, I've found it viscerally painful. Sometimes when I let my mind wander to think of the impact this loss of funding has on those who could have been helped it brings tears to my eyes and wrenches my stomach.

But, all that being said, I'm (cautiously) optimistic.

I believe we can turn the ship around. In the last few months I’ve seen glimmers of hope as more people and organisations are starting to shift back to a world where effective giving is back in the picture more broadly.

I think we’re still far away from where we need to be though. My vision of the path forward is one where our community is taking both personal and collective responsibility for funding — a culture where funding isn't "somebody else's problem" but "everybody's problem." Or, even better: "everybody's opportunity."

We ain’t “got this”, but maybe we could. And if we did: the upside is huge.

What’s at stake?

In Natalie Cargill’s recent TED Talk she shared estimates of what could be achieved if the top 1% gave 10% of income or 2.5% of wealth. In just one year, it’s estimated we could:

  • Raise everyone in the world above the international poverty line for that year with unconditional cash transfers
  • Reduce the probability of a new global pandemic to near-zero
  • Double R&D spending on clean energy
  • Increase nonprofit spending on nuclear security 40 times over
  • Multiply by 10 the work to ensure provably safe AI
  • Fund a 15-year plan to end hunger and malnutrition
  • Ensure everyone has access to clean water and sanitation, once and for all
  • Give women control over their reproduction and reproductive health
  • Eradicate tuberculosis, malaria and HIV, as well as the 20 “neglected tropical diseases” that affect the world’s poorest
  • Fund a plan to halve, and plausibly end, industrial animal agriculture by 2050

Amazing. Inspiring. This is the kind of change we could make.

If we really get our act together and collectively own the problem (that we are funding constrained and that this results in inordinate amounts of unnecessary suffering and loss of potential flourishing) and collectively own the solutions (to put our money and actions where our mouths are by giving and raising funds from a diverse range of sources) then it seems plausible to me that that we can get much closer to this kind of world.

What can we do?

Each of us can play a role in this, because all of us have some combination of the following:

  1. Funds: We could give more or more effectively — now or in the future.
  2. Networks: We could advocate for effective giving and share high-impact giving opportunities to people we expect could be a good fit to fund them (i.e. things that fit their values and that they'd feel good about funding).
  3. Roles: We could find ways to advocate for effective giving in strategic ways through our roles within our workplaces or other social, community, or professional groups.

While the challenge before us is substantial, there are many practical steps that we can take to become part of the solution. Here are a handful of ideas, and I encourage you to consider other possibilities or explore the resources (e.g. GWWC’s Share Our Ideas page and Guide to Talking About Effective Altruism and Effective Giving):

  1. Give: There's immense power in giving, no matter how small the amount. Starting to give, even just a little bit, across a range of causes you care about, can not just have a meaningful direct impact and help solve funding constraints but it can also make you a more authentic and effective advocate for effective giving. It allows you to invite others to join you in something you are actively participating in, rather than asking them to do something you aren't.
  2. Fundraise: Actively participate in or even organise fundraising events within your university, city, workplace or professional group. This could be as simple as arranging a charity run (echoing back to earlier effective giving campaigns like Run to Better Days), fun games like a poker night where the proceeds go to an effective charity, or initiating a creative project that benefits a high-impact charity. This kind of fundraising often won’t stack up in the amount of funds raised immediately but it is a great form of advocacy (e.g. six years after this fundraiser I still get friends, family, and former colleagues coming to talk with me about donations that are larger than what was raised during the fundraiser).
  3. Introduce: Spend 30 minutes looking through your LinkedIn, Facebook, or other social networks. Write down the names of people who might be interested in funding a high-impact project that aligns with their values and that they'd feel good about supporting. Then, take the time to engage them in conversation, make an introduction (e.g. “I was thinking of our conversation about global inequality a while back and thought you might be interested in speaking with my friend Alice who’s been doing work on…”), or share a link or resource (“saw this and thought you’d be interested given [reason that’s personal to them]” is one of the easiest messages to write).
  4. Share: If you're actively practising effective giving, consider sharing your commitment with others. This could be your Giving What We Can pledge, your favourite articles about effective giving, or recent wins in the cause areas you support. Also, consider sharing your decision-making process by inviting friends or family over for a dinner discussion about your end-of-year donations. It's an excellent way to foster open conversations about effective giving and potentially inspire others to join in. If you’re hosting an event or sharing an article about an EA-related topic, why not also share how someone can help solve it right now by giving?
  5. Invite: Encourage engagement with effective giving by extending invitations to others. This might involve inviting friends to a local EA meetup focused on giving, organising a talk at your university, sharing what you’ve learned about giving at a “lunch and learn” in your workplace, or hosting an “effective giving 101” presentation (you could even just ask an effective giving organisation like Giving What We Can or One for the World to come give the talk for you). If you know of a funding constraint that might be relevant to your community you could try initiating something (e.g. “My friend Jude’s research on pandemic preparedness could be a game changer but it’s struggling to get support – did you want to join for a dinner where he’ll share what he’s working on and we can bounce some ideas around for him?”). By offering opportunities to learn and discuss, you can help cultivate a culture of effective giving in your communities.

Most of these specific examples will help solve funding constraints with relatively low effort and don’t require you to “convert people to effective altruism”. Identifying with the community isn’t required for donors to fund high-impact funding opportunities, and identity often follows after behaviour change anyway.

Remember, big leaps often follow from small steps (or are made up of many of them). I'd love to hear your ideas and strategies for promoting effective giving and fostering a culture of generosity in our community.

Okay, so I’ve given you some ideas for specific actions you can take, but this clearly isn’t always easy. There are many blockers, otherwise we’d already be doing this much more.

So the question I have for you all is one I ask myself regularly: what stops us?

What stops us?

To help solve funding constraints and really scale up our impact, it’s critical to understand the problems we each face when playing our part, and to align on (and then act on) potential solutions.

I'll start with a few of my own:

  • For my own giving: Uncertainty around finances. I estimate we'd give more if I sat down with my wife and a financial planner to hash out some of the details and feel more secure in our giving plans.
  • For my network: I'm not confident we have the right tools and resources in place to inspire and support many people I know in their effective giving journeys – I think that most people encountering effective giving for the first time would get lost and feel dissatisfied. If I could send people to a super slick, globally relevant, worldview-diverse effective giving platform, with high-quality and well-justified giving opportunities conveyed with compelling communications and an easy and legible path to follow — to go from a newbie to an effective giver with a fully customised donation portfolio and lifetime giving plan — I'd be sharing it constantly. I'd be perpetually texting it to all of my family and friends (particularly former colleagues and people I know from my tech entrepreneurship days) at any relevant moment. We're working towards this at GWWC but know we have a long way to go, and your input is very welcome. All that being said, it’s somewhat of an excuse — I’m sure I could start with having more conversations, and then any stumbling blocks along the way are a good case study for how to improve the journey.
  • In my role: I let my insecurities get in the way. When I feel that I’m not knowledgeable or charismatic enough I shy away from professional opportunities to advocate, particularly in higher-stakes contexts that could also be higher-impact. I’m working on this from a few different angles (e.g. learning, coaching, therapy, practice etc.) but probably need to “just do it” ✔ (so feel free to send opportunities my way and encourage me to accept).

These are just a few examples of what gets in my way and some things that could help me…

Now, over to you. What are your blockers, and what could help?

Please let me know in the comments. The more we know about the barriers, the more we can help to bring them down!


Postscript:

I just want to highlight a few things that I’m not saying in this post (that might otherwise be read into):

  • I’m not saying that everyone in the EA community should be giving effectively and significantly to be considered part of the community.
  • I’m not saying that giving is more important than other paths to impact (generally, or for specific people).
  • I’m not looking to place blame or assume some difficult-to-foresee things should have been foreseen.
  • I’m not saying that solving funding constraints should be done under any specific label (“effective altruism”, “effective giving”, GWWC, or any other specific organisation).
  • I’m not claiming that funding sources won’t follow a heavy-tailed distribution.
  • I’m not saying that everyone should or could be a “fundraiser” and am aware that there is a specialist skill set in fundraising, but we can all help in raising more funds.
  • I’m not saying that it is good to have too high of a standard of frugality or donations.

I’m just sharing my experience and my view that we’re leaving a lot of impact on the table if we don’t take more shared responsibility for funding, and I’m seeking input as to how we can help solve for some of the blockers — whether as the effective giving and effective altruism communities, as individuals, or as the team at GWWC.

As well as seeking more ideas about what the blockers are, I’m also very open to critiques on my views and representations.

Credits:

  • Thanks to Sjir H, Grace A, Michael T, Jack L, Lorenzo B and Katy M for their input and feedback on earlier drafts of this post. 
  • Thanks to the many community members who've shared their experiences with me over the years, this post was largely inspired by your experiences and our conversations.
  • Preview image photo by Katt Yukawa on Unsplash
Comments19
Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 2:12 AM

Thanks so much for a great post Luke. I have been a strategic supporter of EA from the early days, both meta and longtermism organisations. As you elude to I remember the strategic review in EA in 2015/2016 which led to the pivot and emphasis on career contribution and longtermism. Whilst I agree that existential risks and longtermism are very important and should be empathised, I wholeheartedly agree with your thinking that it should be as well as rather than instead of giving. There is no reason imho that the two should be exclusive, but rather they are synergistic. I know of many in high impact positions working on existential risks that came through GWWC, and they voiced concerns about the health of the EA community on the overemphasis of existential risks at the exclusion of others. I think the value of GWWC goes way beyond just the money given, it is also extremely valuable in ourteach - that is why GWWC is often quoted as an example in all kinds of contexts when promoting EA because it is is a very tangible example of a group of people acting on their EA principles, and I experience this first hand at UHNW outreach. I am so glad when GWWC was given new emphasis and you joning as ED.

Nice piece, Luke!

Now, over to you. What are your blockers, and what could help?

I think it would be nice to know what is the marginal value of my personal spending, increasing my reserves, and donating. Ideally, these should all be equal, but they are all hard to estimate. I think people aligned with EA could be persuaded to donate more if it was shown that reserves or personal spending are too high (for a given set of conditions). I agree that these 3 buckets are not mutually exclusive, but it is unclear how much should go into each of them.

FWIW, my current giving policy is defined by:

  • Spending on what intuitively feels right (I have only spent 3.65 k€/year of my own money since August 2018, thanks to lots of support from family).
  • Donating everything I have above 4 times the global real GDP per capita (43.3 k€), such that I maintain reserves which allow me to live for 2 years without gaining any income, and spending 2 times as much as the mean human.

One motive of concern for me is the lack of cost-effectiveness analyses of longtermist work. I think neartermist interventions are usually less effective, but seem to have much more impact evaluations.

I think it would be nice to know what is the marginal value of my personal spending, increasing my reserves, and donating.

I found this discussion of how much to save vs donate helpful when I was reviewing my finances recently.

Thanks for sharing, Holly!

I agree increasing reserves should be the priority early one. On the other hand, I think it makes sense to set a target level of personal spending and savings (which does not have to be the same for everyone), and just donate everything above that level. My reason for this is that the marginal returns on personal spending and savings diminish much more steeply than personal donations.

Agree re: marginal returns on personal spending, very uncertain re: savings, especially given uncertain income (I'm currently midway through a one-year grant) and uncertain projected expenditures (traveling to conferences, moving house, supporting family, etc). I've thought seriously about the "set threshold and donate everything else" strategy for a long time and envied folks with the financial security and other sources of privilege to feel comfortable implementing it, and I think there are many more people like me (especially from LMICs). So for now I default to giving 10%.

Fair enough Mo, especially when you are from a LMIC!

Another huge factor people should factor in is possible inheritance and safety nets from family, which are often quite large especially in high income countries.

I think many more people should set thresholds though, I was so inspired by Will McKaskill and his threshold (something like 35,000 pounds?) in the original "Doing Good Better" book.

Makes sense, Mo!

The way I think about it is that factors such as the ones you described will push the level of target savings to a higher level, and therefore the marginal returns on saving will be higher. I believe donating less than 10 % can be good strategy under some conditions.

This warms my heart man, massive respect and think of the difference you will make to the world through giving this generously over the years! I love that you live simply as well, something I would love to write more about - but a couple of pro simplicity comments I have made have recieved both a karma and agreement hammering so I haven't tried yet!

"FWIW, my current giving policy is defined by:

  • Spending on what intuitively feels right (I have only spent 3.65 k€/year of my own money since August 2018, thanks to lots of support from family).
  • Donating everything I have above 4 times the global real GDP per capita (43.3 k€), such that I maintain reserves which allow me to live for 2 years without gaining any income, and spending 2 times as much as the mean human."

Thanks for the kind words, Nick!

I love that you live simply as well

Just to clarify, note that I do not live as simply as 3.65 k€/year suggest. I live with family, so I do not have to pay for accomodation (unless I am travelling without family), which I guess accounts for the bulk of expenditure of most people.

something I would love to write more about - but a couple of pro simplicity comments I have made have recieved both a karma and agreement hammering so I haven't tried yet!

I guess the negative response comes from some people thinking (at least implicitly) that at the margin it is better to increase personal spending and reserves. This may well be true for some people, but not all, so I suppose it might still be good to write about ways to live simply while maintaining high productivity.

My blockers for donating more: 
1) Not being confident that I give to the very best program(s). I feel dissatisfied about my current donation behavior. I’d like to have a stronger personal hierarchy of the charity recommendations by GWWC. Now I give roughly 1/3 of my pot to GiveWell (because of their strong evidence base), 1/3 to either ACE’s recommended charities fund or Humane League (because of neglectedness in animal welfare funding), and 1/3 to Founders Pledge Climate change fund (as a relatively safe longtermist bet). These also seem highly cost effective to me, but the true reason I’m dividing my donations equally between them is not because I think all charities could have an equally big impact on the margin, but because I haven’t put enough effort into thinking what my values are, how I’d prioritize across cause areas, and how strongly I believe the recommended charities within the fields can effectively solve the problems they are focusing on. If I was more confident that the expected value of my donations is as I high as it could be with the information I have available, I would likely feel motivated to donate even more. I’d be happy to hear how other people who might have put more thought into it donate and why - so any resources are welcome!

2) Uncertainties about the trade-offs of donating. Should I increase my donations or are there potential self-development or volunteer opportunities that increase my impact long-term? 
Example: I’m currently in Tanzania for 2 months volunteering for an EA-minded company. I’ve only been here for 2 weeks, so I don’t know if it is an effectively altruistic use of my money, and it is hard to quantify in advance. When deciding to go on this trip months ago, I was quite sure that donating the cost of the plane ticket would’ve been more virtuous, but my curiosity drove me to go anyway. Now I’m not as sure anymore what would've been more virtuous, but in general I would bet more on donating to evidence-based charities than investing in myself.

I believe answering to 2 is easier if I get clarity to 1

Thanks for the post Luke... I was also rather perturbed at the language regarding the "funding overhang" and other implications that effective charities were adequately funded. The hundreds of millions in extreme poverty and countless deaths from preventable diseases speak otherwise. 

What really frustrates me is that while EA has been very thoughtful and innovative at identifying opportunities where dollars have had the highest impact, it has put very little comparative thought into how to generate more funding. Some notable exceptions are your organization, GWWC, The Life You Can Save, and several other organizations, mostly oriented around motivating people to donate more. 

But there are other ways to multiply donation funds. 

 For instance, Ribon has a system that can multiply donations by between 40-60% by essentially providing a free opportunity for people to direct a donation to an effective charity, which reliably, in aggregate, prompts people to contribute to the charity they directed the free money to.

And I am pretty confident that I have the damn solution to achieving the world envisioned by Natalie Cargill's TED Talk, but the EA community has been largely disinterested in exploring it. Profit for Good, which is probably best explained and argued in my draft for my upcoming TEDx talk in late July, is plausibly a huge multiplier for philanthropic funds (if you are interested in helping me edit the draft or otherwise have feedback, DM and I can give you editing permission). Of course, it is possible that I am totally wrong, but the sensible response is not endless redteaming (to which I have yet to hear a particularly strong contention), but, rather, to assess the costs of empirically validating/invalidating promising solutions. 

Institutions that promote effective giving have been shown to have compelling multiplier effects. However, we need to support new ideas regarding multiplying funds for effective charities if we want to create the world that we want to see. Currently, EA seems to support either interventions and cause areas that fall into categories that are already recognized as high impact, such as AI Safety, so it is great at exploiting opportunities its identified, but it has been less interested in exploration. Often we want the numbers when the most promising thing to do is spend money and effort discovering and revealing the numbers.

I can definitely attest to this timeline as someone who does earning to give and had a hard time with EA in 2022. I am so glad you wrote this. We can all do a little bit more to do good in the world and it wouldn't even need to cost anything. I hope we can come back to sanity. Here's to third wave EA!

Have you heard of ribon.io? They are a giving platform via an app and have a cool giving game-style concept.

Seconding Ribon as an awesome donation multiplier, I mentioned them in my comment.

EDIT: I'm seeing this post being disagreed with strongly by two people. It would be great if they can clarify why they disagree so strongly in the comments. Always looking for more people who think the below is a terrible idea!

What are your blockers, and what could help?

This is obviously biased, but I founded a company that has a great team (6 former startups, 3 exits, early unicorn employee, 31 years relevant experience), good growth traction, a tech USP and it's in a market that grows 25%. This company is not being funded because we donate all profits to close AMF's funding gap. It would certainly have had funding if we gave it to rich investors rather than AMF. 

I know at least 5 other companies that have above average odds of making tons of money for charities, but don't get funded because our funding system is there to maximise shareholder returns rather than funding effective charities with funding gaps. 

There's data and research that suggests these profit for good companies actually grow faster and more profitable than their shareholder value maximisation competitors. These companies exist from small startups until billion dollar companies (Bosch, Patagonia, Newman's Own). This might make them better money multipliers than traditional companies. So not only do they return all profits to charities (rather than shareholders who give only 5-10% to charity) , they generate more profits than these competitors. If this really works it could be the biggest source of funding for (effective) charities by far, because the world has 10 trillion dollars in profits every single year.

There's also a lot of talk about EA being serious about systems change and funding high-risk, high-reward opportunities but funding a systems change that would be, by far, the biggest source of money for good causes isn't being funded. I have talked to many EA's and EA organisations and AFAIK they seem completely uninterested (with the exception of 2 individuals) in the idea of funding any of these organisation (not now and not in the 'funding overhang' era). 

I think our assumptions our modest, our funding asks have been modest and many believe what we're working on is worthy of at least exploring. Until we do, EA and all charities in the world are always going to be dependent on Philanthropists deciding to share their wealth with those less fortunate. 

What would help is if you're interested in funding any of these orgs or know someone who might. Email me on vin @ boas dot co if you can make introductions or are able to fund. 

Vin's BOAS company is an example of a Profit for Good business that I referenced in a different comment.

And yeah, other than maybe AI Safety, IMHO, Profit for Good is by far the most promising of any cause area because it can multiply funding for effective charities that are potentially popular among consumers (global health and development, animal welfare, climate change). The fundamental premise it boils down to is that people have a nonzero preference for such causes over the enrichment of random investors. If people could buy some damn laundry detergent of the same price  and quality and the Against Malaria Foundation would profit rather than random investors, they would.

I have been immensely disappointed in EAs lack of interest in Profit for Good. If we had EA funds, expertise, time, and wisdom behind the endeavor, there is no reason that we could not present such a choice to the people of the world. I suppose the people of the world have shown that they are extremely selfish, most not donating even if it could benefit the recipient over 50-100x more than it could the prospective donor. However, we believe most people would still choose to benefit AMF, for instance, rather than a wealthy shareholder, if no sacrifice was required whatsoever, and we believe EA's lack of interest in testing this proposition is absurd. The hundreds of millions of people living in extreme poverty and billions of animals being tortured to death every year deserve better than a collective "oh, this sounds cool; glad someone is doing it."

In the event that this comment tree is the first you've heard about this idea, this is a reading list of some of our writings and thoughts on Profit for Good.


 

Fantastic post, thank you for writing it!  One challenge I have with encouraging effective giving, especially with a broader non-EA crowd, is that global health and development will probably be the main thing people end up giving to.  I currently don't support that work because of the meat eater problem.  If you have any thoughts on dealing with this, I'd love to hear them.

Some arguments to support global health work despite the meat eater problem that I see are:

"People in low-income countries that are being helped with Givewell-style interventions don't actually eat many animal products." (I think this is true relative to people in high-income countries, but I don't think the amounts are negligible, and are very likely sufficient to override the positive impact of helping people.  This post is the type of analysis I'm thinking of.  Some commenters rejected the whole line of reasoning, but I do think it's relevant here.)

"Some interventions improve lives more than save lives, so those that benefit don't eat more animal products." (Which ones are most in this category?  Will I end up getting people to donate to these, or would they still end up donating to the others?)

"People are more likely to accept arguments focused on nonhuman animal welfare when they have healthier and more stable lives."  (This one feels a bit fluffy to me despite some plausible degree of truth.  I think some people will change in that way, but not enough to compensate for the added harm.)

"Those that start doing effective giving with global health nonprofits will be more likely to engage with animal advocacy and other suffering-focused work in the future."  (This argument is more convincing than any of the others.  Personally I haven't seen someone who didn't learn about effective global health giving through EA do it, but I could see myself buying into this idea with more evidence, even some anecdotes.)

I think there's room for subject-specific giving advocacy campaigns. A single broad-based effective giving organization isn't likely to be effective at reaching all populations.

Thank you so much for this post, Luke! 

For the past few years or so, I've become increasingly surprised by how few people mention effective giving when I asked them about their current efforts or future plans to do good. I don't know if that is because it's actually the case that few people donate – or because almost all people do so it's not worth mentioning it. I'm sad that effective giving is appearing to have such a minor role in EA, particularly since I think effective giving is an excellent way to keep this community grounded.

Anyways, I really appreciate you lending your voice to effective giving and your great work at GWWC - keep it up! 

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