This post is about the first five months of the Swedish regranting organization geeffektivt.se, launched in December 2020. This write-up might be especially relevant for others considering setting up a similar project, those interested in providing input on our way forward, or just knowing more about EA initiatives across the world.
We made a Swedish duplicate of the existing Norwegian regranting platform gieffektivt.no, which went from idea to launch in about three weeks of November 2020. We raise money for effective charities within the global health, climate, and animal welfare cause areas.
Since launch five months ago we have raised about $105k in a mix of monthly and one-time donors, and Facebook fundraisers. We have one paid full-time employee, with some administration assistance from EA Sweden.
Since there has been a close collaboration between EA Sweden and EA Norway for the past few years there have been talks of bringing something like the Norwegian effective donation platform gieffektivt.no (“give effectively”, in Norwegian) to Sweden. In November 2020 EA Norway and EA Sweden decided to go for it as a trial during the giving season and see if the response was promising enough to keep going with the project.
The main reason that the timing was right was the urgency of the upcoming giving season. A second reason was that a suitable candidate (myself) had time available for the project, with previous experience from outreach, sales, and a charity startup that would come in handy. Funds for this trial were made available for a full-time salary for 2.5 months until the end of January, to get things up and running in time for giving season and then reasonably automated to keep going in the future on volunteer time only if needed.
I timed the hours spent on this and the site was up and running, ready for donations, after I had spent 67 hours on the project. We focused on an outside-in perspective where we prioritized things looking reasonably smooth to the end-user while letting things in the backend be a bit messy (as long as we could work on them retroactively later). If we had more time before giving season we probably would not have built it this way, but I'm very happy we did since it all worked out and it forced us to make something available rather than lingering with a slow process of iterations and improvements. My estimate of how much time others spent helping me is harder, but I would put people's combined efforts at EA Norway/gieffektivt.no, EA Sweden, and Swedish volunteers (translating existing content at other regranting sites/charity evaluators) at about 55 hours before the website was ready. This seems an important learning that might be useful for other countries’ communities, that we managed to set up something useful in about 120 hours of work. Note that it was largely a duplication and translation of the existing Norwegian site, which saved us a lot of time.
My personal estimate of the website’s value add is in the following order:
- Spread the word about effective giving in Swedish and reach new donors
- Reduce transaction costs (~2-5% → ~0-1% when accounting for currency costs) for international payments to effective organizations, for new and existing donors
- Make the tax deduction for global health donations easier for Swedes (not very important in Sweden, due to a very low cap, but still something that can incentivize donations)
Current situation five months in
December generated about $35k in charity donations. We are expecting to raise at least $235k this year, and hoping to get closer to $350k. So far we have raised $70k until mid-April. From many years' results in Norway, we expect about ~50% of the year's total to come in November and December so things are looking reasonably promising.
We will do this with a budget of ~$78k, mainly one FTE salary (mine). Other expenses mainly consist of bookkeeping, auditing, and digital marketing.
For funding of our operations we have had EA Norway and three private individuals support us, out of which two are donors from EA Norway's network:
- One is a long-time EA, Eirik Mofoss, who together with EA Norway decided to help fund a salary for 2.5 months during the launch, as well as 2 additional months due to the promising results. This project would not have happened without their funding, and I’m immensely grateful for it!
- One is a Swedish startup founder who recently sold off his company, Henrik Willstedt, who heard about geeffektivt.se on a podcast just after our launch, got interested in the project as well as EA as a whole, and wanted to fund some operations in addition to a charity donation.
- The largest donor is a wealthy anonymous individual who has been in contact with the EA community in Norway for some time without taking concrete steps until now. This person recently decided to close the total remaining funding gap for 2021 (in addition to funding gieffektivt.no in Norway).
We have applied for Swedish foundation grants that we are still waiting for decisions on, which could hopefully be highly counterfactual impact compared to other charity endeavors they would fund. We also applied to the EA Infrastructure Fund, when we had a short-term funding gap to stay fully operational, that we withdrew from once we closed our funding gap for the rest of the year.
We will continue our funding efforts with a focus on 2021. Depending on the outcome of grant decisions in the next months, we might prioritize less to fully focus on HNWIs.
Since starting we have had one FTE, me, Henri Thunberg, running the project and taking responsibility for long-term viability. There have been ~12 volunteers helping out to varying extents, out of which 8 are still regularly around. I estimate them to have spent ~30 hours in December and ~150 hours from January to the end of March (very unsure about the last estimate). Most of this is development work to get a better donation solution, adapting the Norwegian donation widget solution to Swedish conditions.
The project has used the organizational status and bank account of EA Sweden to get started as quickly as possible. Furthermore, EA Sweden has contributed with weekly coaching, strategy sessions, and bookkeeping, which we expect to continue to the end of Q2 2021. In the fall we expect to take on a part-time administrator since we think there is time to spend on other crucial activities like fundraising for operations, giving season work, and media outreach.
There have also been continuous sessions with gieffektivt.no/EA Norway, which were crucial to set things up initially with the fewest wrong turns possible. We are happy that some ideas used in our outreach have been picked up by gieffektivt.no, and look forward to our work further cross-pollinating in the future.
We are running on a website platform called Tilda since we duplicated the Norwegian solution already in place. The tool is easy to use and fairly flexible, I am very happy we’re working with a tool that anybody could learn to use in less than an hour. What also helped us to a quick start was using a separate bank account number in EA Sweden’s bank account.
The current payment process on the website is a basic form asking the user how they want to make the payment, telling us some information about the donation, and getting the information to make the transfer themselves. This will soon be replaced by our own version of the more user-friendly widget already live at gieffektivt.no.
A concern of mine has been the pros and cons of credit card payments. For now, we don’t have it, mainly to avoid the percentage fees. Considering how little the small donations contribute to the overall total we are worried that the convenience of credit cards would cost us more in transaction costs than the value from lost donors by not having the option. A caveat here is the particular Swedish market where a majority will pay their small transactions through local mobile payment app Swish.
We considered running payments through Donational since we had heard good things from other EA organizations, but when we managed to get a pro bono development deal we thought it would be more suited to our local payment needs to use the Norwegian widget as a base and tweak it from there.
Just a few weeks have passed since we got our nose above the water funding-wise, but now a prioritized activity is to create a better marketing plan. The main value is to better focus our activities and time spent in outreach, being more proactive in our bets rather than jumping on opportunities on a more ad hoc-basis. Any useful material you’re aware of that would make this quicker would be greatly appreciated.
Our media interactions so far are on two Swedish podcasts and two smaller niche news publications. We have so far not been able to get any of the largest Swedish publications to write about our launch or cause but will keep trying continuously and especially when we find current and relevant angles. We have investigated some of the possibilities in more niche media connected to global health, climate, and animal welfare. Those efforts have so far generated some TBA articles, and there are still lots of publications to reach out to given time.
Based mainly on the experiences from Effektiv Spenden and 1fortheworld we think "evergreen" articles on effective giving written in Swedish would be a relatively resource-effective way of marketing ourselves and expect to scale this up in the coming weeks. Since we have efforts from gieeffektivt.no and Effektiv Spenden to build on, loosely translated articles can in some cases be a way to speed things up further. It is a productive way to use a volunteer's time and also gives more credibility to the web page. We have also been able to find a digital marketing firm willing to do pro-bono-work this summer to maximize the output from such an initiative, once in place.
With a little bit of leeway in our 2021 budget, we want to do some smaller tests in paid digital marketing to see what Marketing ROI we get and whether it's an area where we expect to be able to productively use more funding. We are especially keen on getting the donation widget in place with parameters that can match against digital advertising, so we know what ad actually generated what amount of donations. We look forward to sharing such results with the rest of the effective giving community.
Anyone with existing advertising data to give us hints through what has worked for them would be of use to us when starting this project (I will, but have not yet, searched for the publicly available data).
Forming a new organization
The board of EA Sweden has decided that geeffektivt.se has good prospects of running and funding itself as a separate entity rather than a project within EA Sweden, and as the organization’s focus doesn’t entail running such projects, the project has after being incubated by EA Sweden now initiated a process to become its independent organization. Still with room for advice, talent supply, and active dialogue between the organizations. This will also bring more clarity to donors, and possibly reduce brand risk for the effective altruism movement.
This spring we will investigate the best setup for the new entity, including what board competencies would be most useful, and whether to make it a foundation or a non-profit. Learnings from board structuring, e.g. overvalued vs undervalued competencies, are greatly appreciated here.
One volunteer has made some outreach to GiveWell-recommended organizations to get them approved for tax deductibility in Sweden. This was first successful with Against Malaria Foundation in January, and we expect more to come in the next weeks/months. We are in talks with Swedish tax authorities to hopefully channel any “Let us pick”, GiveWell Maximum Impact Fund and Against Malaria Foundation donations through that deduction – which would account for more than half of donations (in # and $). Unfortunately, this is only possible up to a meager amount of ~$800 donations/person/year (out of which you get 25% back automatically next year), but it’s still something (and something many donors seem to care irrationally much about) and would be an automatic deduction for donors once things are set up on our side.
Average gift size: $224
Median gift size: $59
Distribution of donations: 80% of the donations represent only 10% of the money raised. (Apologies for the inconsistent bucket sizes.)
Cause area shares: The first $540k was distributed in the following manner:
Donations to specific organizations vs cause-area funding: 61% vs 39%
Number of donors: 198 unique email addresses and 75 anonymous donations out of 359 entries (recurring monthly donations counted as one entry).
I hope I can be of service if you have any questions about the project. There are also a few open questions that I’m asking for input on from the community. Please reach out through comments (preferably, for group learning) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you want to help out in learning more about the below questions.
Measuring our additionality
Figuring out our additionality is difficult yet incredibly important. We can take a few steps, especially filtering out donations from regular EAs and GWWC pledgers. Furthermore, we should place some insecurity about the additionality of anonymous donations.
It should be taken into account that one of the project goals is to convert existing EAs to more regular donors, including taking the GWWC pledge. So far, there are three confirmed pledges at least partially due to our site’s activities, as well as at least two Try Giving. These best guesses will also be complemented by a yearly survey to get an idea of our actual impact. More ways of capturing our true impact through smart filters are welcome from forum readers.
Fidelity and mass media
There was an interesting discussion on the EA Forum post about the launch of Ayuda Efectiva, which touched on the pros and cons of mass media. Further learnings since then on how to best communicate effective giving to a broad audience (if at all!) would be appreciated.
Setting up a new entity
Since we are moving geeffektivt.se out of EA Sweden I am trying to make use of experiences around forming new entities. If you have potential learnings on setting up the new entity (including legal status, board members, etc) and pitfalls to avoid? I expect some aspects to be particular to Sweden, but some to be universal.
Marketing strategies for effective giving/regranting
Any strategy writeups on communicating ideas on effective giving, both to HNWIs and smaller regular donors, would be greatly appreciated. In particular frameworks and prioritizations between the set of available outreach activities.
This post was written by Henri Thunberg. Thanks to Gabriela Overödder, Eirik Mofoss, Eirin Evjen, Anine Andersen, Jørgen Ringvold Ljønes, Andreas Stråbø Normann, Vilhelm Skoglund, and many more for helpful feedback throughout.
Thank you to those who have helped out as volunteers: Laura Cerisier, Lena Sundin, Joakim Lindqvist, Niklas Holmgren, Denise Ferreras, Simon Eckerström Liedholm, Adam Schill Collberg, Johan Edholm, Hektor Wallin, Thomas Ahlström, Agnes Stenlund, Lars Niklasson, and Miriam Ahlberg, as well as others.