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In advance of this year’s giving season, EA Funds will once again run a donor lottery.

Donor lotteries provide donors with a chance to guide a large amount of money to projects they believe will do the most good.

There will be two open lotteries, one with a block size of $100,000 and one with a block size of $500,000. Carl Shulman will provide backstop funding for the lotteries from his discretionary funds held at the Centre for Effective Altruism.

If you’d like to read more about the process, please have a look at the EA Funds Donor Lotteries page. The TL;DR is:

  • You donate into one of the open lotteries
  • Your odds of winning are proportional to the size of your donation relative to the lottery block size
  • A winner is chosen at random
  • The winner may recommend grants to charitable organisations or other projects aimed at improving the world (subject to certain limitations), up to the value of the lottery block size

Key dates (both lotteries):

  • Open date: Monday, 2 December 2019
  • Close date: Friday, 17 January 2020 (date by which all entries must have been made through the EA Funds website)
  • Lock date: Friday, 24 January  2020 (date by which EA Funds must have confirmed receipt of money for entries to be valid)
  • Draw date: Friday, 31 January 2020

All dates are at 8pm UTC

To enter the lottery, make a donation via the EA Funds Donor Lottery page for the block size of your choice:

Enter the Donor Lottery

You can donate directly through the EA Funds interface. Donations are tax deductible in the United States and the United Kingdom (donors in the Netherlands can also make tax-deductible donations in £GBP by choosing the ‘UK’ option on the payment page). 

If you’d like to make a cryptocurrency donation worth over $1,000 (BTC or ETH) please contact funds[at]effectivealtruism[dot]org for more details.

Making recommendations

Winners will have the option to make recommendations to the Centre for Effective Altruism, which is the legal entity backing EA Funds. However, CEA may face constraints in the particular organisations that it can make grants to, and is likely to be somewhat averse to approving riskier grants. To allow for more flexibility, we’ll also offer potential winners in the US or the UK the option of setting up a Donor Advised Fund that can handle the grantmaking instead (if a winner arises in another country we’ll explore options for setting up a similar system, but can’t guarantee that this will be possible).  If you win a lottery block, we’ll talk to you about your preferences. 

For more information please see the ‘Caveats and Limitations’ section of the Donor Lottery page.

Previous donor lotteries:

  • 2017-18: $100,000 lottery, won by Adam Gleave, who generously published a report on his grant recommendations
  • 2018-19: a $100,000 lottery (no winners) and a $500,000 lottery won by an anonymous donor (grant decision in progress)

Further reading:

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Update – winners have been drawn!

Thanks everyone who participated this year. The lotteries have been drawn and both had a winner!

Congratulations both!

2018-19: a $100,000 lottery (no winners)

What happens to the money in this case?

The money is kept aside as the first tranche of backstop for future donor lotteries – if someone wins, we'll first draw from this pool of money to cover the pot, and then we'll use the lottery guarantor's money to cover any remainder.

I was confused by this as well. Does "no winners" mean "the backstop funder won"? If not, how can there not be a winner?

Yes, that's what it means.

You can think of the backstop funder as being a regular participant who happens to enter with the amount necessary to bring it to the promised pool size. This was basically the way we viewed it for the first lottery. The newer incarnations have shifted towards the view of the backstop funder as part of the infrastructure of the lottery. It's not much of a meaningful change, just a expression of the likelihood that the funder will want to do something with the winnings other than fund the lottery the next time and some (ambiguously intentional) nomenclature shifts.

Wait I missed a chance to link to my favorite part of the lottery UI – check out this beautiful visualization: https://app.effectivealtruism.org/lotteries/63715163508812

I just donated to the first lottery, but FYI I found it surprisingly hard to navigate back to it, or link others to it. It doesn't look like the lottery is linked from anywhere on the site and I had to search for this post to find the link again.

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