I am trying to create a list of Effective Altruist organizations that are heavily constrained by funding, and are focused on cause areas that few or no other organizations are working on. Donating to well-funded charities working on well-known causes likely has limited impact per dollar due to diminishing returns. The best organizations to donate to may be organizations that have limited funding, and are working on causes that few or no other organizations are working on. These sorts of organizations and their respective cause areas may have high potential for growth, and donating to these types of organizations may therefore have the most impact per dollar of any charity. Thus, these organizations need to be identified in order to maximize impact. In other words, what cause areas and charities are the most neglected relative to their importance?
There are a number of factors that seem to influence how much funding a charitable organization receives. These include:
- How old and well-known the organization is. Older organizations have had more time to become more well-known and attract potential donors. New upstart organizations have had less time to do this.
- Whether the organization is independent or affiliated with an academic institution or some other parent organization
- The type of cause the organization is working on
The charitable organizations that tend to be the most underfunded relative to their importance tend to work on very obscure and “abstract” causes that few or no other organizations are working on, that involve issues with a heavily far-sighted “big picture” orientation. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the charitable causes that are the most oversaturated tend to be causes that are very concrete, short-termist, well-known, widely discussed, and photogenic, like cancer research, climate change, or the Starving African Children cliché. In the middle of the spectrum, causes that are well-known within the rationalist/EA community but are not well-known outside of it are causes like existential risk, curing aging, and AI alignment. AI alignment has become much more well-known and better funded in recent years, and there are now many organizations focused on AI alignment. Anti-aging research has become increasingly well-funded, with organizations like the SENS Research Organization receiving millions in donations from people like Vitalik Buterin, and Altos Labs being backed by Jeff Bezos.
Independent EA organizations also seem to have consistently less funding compared to EA organizations that are part of larger parent organizations. The Effective Altruism Foundation, for example, has a number of projects focused on neglected longtermist causes, and has millions of dollars worth of funding that it has received through grants. Still, donating to independent EA organizations may have more impact per dollar, since independent organizations have more intellectual freedom and don’t have to deal with the bureaucratic hurdles and pressure to maintain continuity with old research paradigms that other organizations have to deal with.
I am trying to create a list of organizations that:
- Have received less than $1,000,000 throughout their history
- Are working on cause areas that few other organizations are working on
- Are working on cause areas that are important from a longtermist/negative utilitarian perspective
Here are a few organizations I know of that seem to satisfy these criteria:
- The Center for Reducing Suffering. They are an organization focused on S-risks and cause prioritization. They may have the single highest importance-to-funding ratio of any organization I know of. Brain Tomasik has endorsed the CRS as his top charity recommendation. They were founded in 2020 and are still an early stage organization. They are also not yet a registered UK charity in order to keep administrative effort low. They don’t appear to have specific financial information on their website, but they appear to have received less than $1,000 in bitcoin.
- The Qualia Research Institute. They are doing research on mathematical formalization of different states of consciousness, and I know of no other organization that is doing the type of research they are doing. As of early 2021, they have received $125k in total, or about $62.5k per year. They also have a detailed plan of what they would do with more funding. Andrew Zuckerman has argued that donating to QRI has a similar risk profile to buying bitcoin in 2010, and that in the best case scenario, donating to QRI has the potential to be 100,000x better than most other things one could do with their money, including donating to other charities.
What other organizations should I add to this list?
Not a reply to your comment, but you might be interested in the foundation program from Charity Entrepreneurship