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Giving What We Can (GWWC) is embarking on an exciting new chapter: after years of support, we will be spinning out of the Effective Ventures Foundation UK and US (collectively referred to as “EV”), our parent charities in the US and UK respectively, to become an independent organisation.

Rest assured that our core mission, commitments, and focus on effective giving remain unchanged. We believe this transition will allow us to better serve our community and to achieve our mission more effectively. Below, you'll find all the details you need, including what is changing, what isn't, and how you can get involved.

A heartfelt thanks

First and foremost, we owe a very big thank you to the team at EV. Their support over the years has helped us to grow and have a meaningful impact in the world. We could not be more grateful for their support.

A big thank you also to our members and donors who have supported us along the way. In particular I’d like to thank the many of you who we’ve consulted throughout the process of arriving at this decision and working on a plan.

Why spin out?

When GWWC was founded in 2009, it was among the first in a small constellation of initiatives aimed at fostering what would soon be called “effective altruism.” In 2011, following the establishment of 80,000 Hours, both organisations came together to form the Centre for Effective Altruism (which is now EV to disambiguate from the project called Centre for Effective Altruism, which is also housed within EV).

A lot has changed in the intervening years, both within GWWC and within EV. Today, EV is home to more than 10 different initiatives and is focused on a broad range of issues. As for GWWC, we have developed ambitious plans for our future and are committed to focusing more than ever on our core mission: to make effective and significant giving a cultural norm.

We’ve been considering this option for quite some time and have come to the conclusion that the best way to achieve our mission is to be an independent organisation. Being independent will allow us to:

  • Align our organisational structure and governance more closely with our mission.
  • Better manage our own legal and reputational risks.
  • Have greater clarity and transparency of our inner workings and governance to the outside world.
  • Have greater control over our operational costs.

We believe that these changes will enable us to serve our community better and to contribute more effectively to growing effective giving.

The details

For most of you, very little will change. There will be a multi-stage transition period (most of which we estimate will be completed over the next 12 months) and any relevant changes will be communicated in a timely and transparent manner. Here’s what to expect:

What's changing

  • We have registered Giving What We Can USA Inc. as a 501(c)(3) charity in the US, and have started the process of registering charities in the UK and Canada. There will be a transfer of GWWC-specific intellectual property, contracts, services, and data (e.g. brand, databases, website, files) to the new entities (exact structure to be determined) and a transition of the donation platform across to the new entities. Our supported programs (e.g. charitable projects and grantmaking funds) will need to be onboarded as programs with our new entities before any switch over dates (TBC) in each country.
  • We are recruiting new governance and advisory boards for the new entities.
  • We're also pursuing affiliate arrangements to continue to expand effective-giving support into new countries (e.g. our collaboration with EA Australia to launch GWWC Australia). This will include adapting our approach to local tax situations, cultural contexts, languages, and currencies.

What's not changing

  • Our dedication to fostering a culture of effective and meaningful giving continues unabated, guided by our long-standing mission.
  • Our community of members who have taken our pledge will continue to grow and be supported throughout the transition period and beyond.
  • Our trusted donation platform will continue being maintained and improved, serving as a gateway to impactful philanthropy.
  • Our research and inclusion criteria will continue iterating and improving, as we strive to be a robust and compelling resource for giving effectively.
  • We will continue to support fundraising for and grantmaking to our range of supported programs (both within and outside of EV).

How you can help

This is an exceptionally important time for us and your support is greatly appreciated.

Have more questions?

Please feel free to email luke.freeman@givingwhatwecan.org with any questions you have.


Note: EV has also been reconsidering their future organisational plans and have posted an update about it here.

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Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 3:24 AM

I'm really excited to hear this. I strongly believe more independence among EA orgs leads to better overall norms, epistemics and incentives.

Well done! I am excited to see this, and I wish you the best of luck.

I am not sure who, if anyone, will read this, but please stop downvoting my supportive posts mystery person(s), or at least explain your logic for doing so. 

As I understand, commenting on things to express enthusiasm/offer support is a good norm. This is a forum and lots of people put effort into posting things and want engagement and support from their posts (amongst other things). 

I certainly do. Feel free to comment on my posts saying anything supportive at any time, no matter how trite. I will always prefer it over you saying nothing at all, even if it isn't as valuable as some other comment. It not as if it crowds out better comments - this is why we have an upvote system.

Passive-aggressive stuff like this makes the forum less fun to use (but only in a very mild sense)

Jason
4mo31
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I didn't downvote your comment, and don't downvote similar comments. But I can understand why someone might.

One theory of voting is that one should vote in the direction of how much karma a post "should" have. And, in light of the purposes of the karma system, 28 karma for a sixteen-word comment expressing that this was well done, a sense of excitement, and well wishes is probably more than the comment "should" have.

So unless the mystery downvoter chooses to explain their rationale, I would suggest reading their downvote as an attempt to correct the perceived overkarma-ing of the comment. It's possible they simply dislike the comment, but there's not enough evidence to conclude that.

Fair but to be clear, this occurred, and usually occurs, before I had any upvotes.

That's weird. Someone could be downvoting in expectation of upvotes, but I agree that datum makes "someone just doesn't like these comments" much more likely. 

I think downvoting with the expectation of upvotes is very reasonable. It's probably a better norm than voting based on current karma when only some people follow the vote based on current karma level policy and you care about the steady state karma behaviour.

The main reason the pattern Peter described is weird is that the mystery downvoter, who is drastically outnumbered by mystery upvoters, usually beats all of them to the ballot box.

I would be more favorably inclined toward your theory if it were applied when a few upvotes were already on board. A very early downvote can have a disproportionate effect on a comment's visibility in some cases, or potentially influence other voters too much in a bandwagon effect of sorts. That's why, e.g., Reddit has a "contest mode" available, in which comments are randomly sorted and karma not displayed.

I feel quite confused about what empirical evidence from the forum would change your mind. I personally don't think that the comment folding of weakly negative comments has much effect on future engagement (particularly if it's a reasonable comment).

I initially thought that if your hypothesis about hiding influencing voting is correct and people regularly do the voting on expected Karma, then I think you should expect to see quite a few "reasonable to you" low negative karma comments (as they have been voted negative and then stayed negative due to hiding low visibility). I don't think I have really observed this, but maybe you can give an example?

Maybe you'd say that the comments in the position are actually 'band wagon-ed" to be very negative (in which case you should be able to find some reasonable-to-you comments that are very negative, but you also probably shouldn't believe the low negative karma hiding comments leads to little viewership (you should believe it leads to more viewership).

Maybe you could say, "Well both things are true at different times," which produces a bimodal distribution - I think that this gets a substantial "complexity penalty", though it's plausible - that said, I'd be pretty interested in seeing comments that are reasonable to you ending up negatively downvoted at all after more than 4 days, I think it's pretty rare.

Could you possibly make a prediction about a karma score on some kind of comment that you expect to see that is much more likely in worlds where you are right relative to worlds where you are wrong?

(I'm sure people will look at this and think we are rabbit-holing about something unimportant, but I think understanding karma dynamics is fairly important, and this isn't derailing any interesting discussion. afaict)

My view could be disconfirmed by various sorts of A/B testing. The most obvious of which would involve manipulating the amount of karma displayed to viewers shortly after posting. Let's say +3 of true karma for one group (A), true karma for a second group (B), and and -3 of true karma for the third (C). If my view that early negative votes can have a disproportionate effect is true, then we should see more downvotes and/or fewer upvotes coming from group C than groups A or B. Over a sufficient number of comments, this should be powered enough to reach statistical significance if there is a meaningful effect. This is similar to the methodology used by Muchnik et al. in their study on social influence bias on an unnamed upvoting/downvoting site. 

Notably, Muchnik et al. observed significant differences even though their karma manipulation was limited to +1/-1 at the time of karma creation. I suggested +3/-3 here because the types of voters I think likely to employ a preemptive strategy would typically have +2/-2 weight on ordinary votes, and there could be more than one person employing the strategy.

A less direct study design would be to show some users the comments as currently displayed (A), while other users see something akin to Reddit "contest mode" (B: random order, scores hidden). As one might guess, this strategy is used by some subreddits to mitigate the trend of users disproportionately upvoting comments that already had upvotes. For instance, on one major subreddit [link contains a few curse words], the top comment used to be on average posted 4.47 minutes after the post was made. Using contest mode in the first hour increased that to ~11 minutes, and the length of the top comment to almost double. This design couldn't prove my view, but a finding of no difference between A and B in a sufficiently powered sample would render it rather unlikely. 

One might reasonably counter that Forum users are less likely to be swayed by others' votes than users on a large subreddit. This is probably true, but the social influence bias is well-documented in other contexts as well (e.g., the classic line-drawing study by Asch), and I think that justifies a relatively strong prior that it exists here as well.

I think the absence of quality comments with net negative karma after a few days, and similar non-experimental observations, would be of limited relevance to establishing -- in either direction -- whether the early negative vote has a disproportionate effect on the ultimate karma level. There's no way to know what karma a comment would have received if the very early downvote were rendered later in the voting process. 

To the extent my reference to "bandwagoning" may have suggested that the end result would be negative as in a Reddit-style bandwagoning, I'll withdraw that unintended suggestion. I suspect there are enough users who will upvote reasonable-quality comments if in negative karma to avoid this from happening.

Finally, I think it's not advisable for any user to care solely about the final karma value. Earlier karma values serve two important purposes. First, karma provides feedback to authors about whether the community sees value in their contributions, and thus influences further contributions. Most authors aren't checking their comment's karma a week or two after posting. Second, then-current karma influences the order in which posts and comments are displayed -- and presumably many people see a comment in the first day or two. Anticipatory downvoting seems clearly negative to me for these purposes, so the expected value of the effect on final karma has to be high enough to overcome those negatives. So, for users who care primarily but not exclusively about final karma, there is still a thumb on the scale here.

We all have colds ahead of planned holiday travel in my household, so I am behind on some things and will leave the last word to you if you wish.

I've often thought that there should be separate "phatic" and "substantive" comment sections.

I'd add that this kind of supportive behaviour was encouraged by the forum team at least over some period of time.

Agree-upvoting and karma-downvoting similar comments seems like a sensible use of the split-voting system. They're not wildly insightful and don't add much to discussions beyond that commenters' own votes:
https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/oZff425xLnikfxeGD/pat-myron-s-shortform?commentId=HsadBx85nAggb8Q5T
Generic engagement/support can be channeled through voting/reactions rather than comments

Is this the opportunity for GWWC to expand into the EU - i.e. to see if there's a format that would enable transnational donations to be tax-deductible from anywhere in the EU? 

I keep getting feedback that tax-deductibility isn't a big deal. For example, in the UK, it seems to be limited to the charity being able to claim back an extra 25%. (I'm not an expert on this). 

But my point is that in much of the EU, tax-deductibility allows you to roughly DOUBLE your net donation. 

In Belgium, I could choose to give 100 euros to GWWC, or, with the same net cost, give 100/(1-.45) = 182 euros - almost double - to a registered charity like the Red Cross. In Germany, I could donate up to 20% of my income, and it would be fully tax-deductible, meaning that if I'm paying tax at 50% on my marginal income, I could donate twice as much for the same net cost. I could give 100 euros to GWWC, or give 200 euros to the Red Cross and receive 100+ euros back as a tax rebate (or a reduced tax bill). 

Even if EA arguments might convince me personally that it would still be much better to support the most effective charities, whose impact may be 100 times greater, it's unlikely that most tax-payers will be convinced. 

But there's another thing. Being a registered charity is a mark of trust. If someone tells me to support Charity X who are doing amazing work, but I don't know the, but I find them on the list of registered charities, that reassures me that they are a reputable, vetted organisation. 

I haven't done much research into this, but it would be interesting to see if a model exists to formally do this across all the EU countries. Failing that, it would be worth prioritising based on potential benefits. 

(to be clear, although I'm writing this comment here, I'm very conscious that both GWWC and Charity Entrepreneurship are aware of this opportunity - so really this comment is aimed at anyone else who might have knowledge or ideas). 

 

Not the main point of your post, but tax deductibility is a big deal in the UK as well, at least for higher earners; once you earn more than £50k donations are deductible at a rate of at least 40%, i.e. £60 becomes £100.

You are probably aware of this, but I think this is a great reason why CE just launched an Effective Giving Incubation program, and we should apply to start new Effective Giving Initiatives in underserved countries. (Belgium is even mentioned as a top-recommended country)

Absolutely - I love this initiative and I've applied, but also volunteered to help out if I don't end up being one of the founders. 

I looked into this for a few hours a while ago - it's crazy to me that Cross-Border commerce is so easy in the EU, but tax-deductible cross-border donations are not.

I think there should be a push for harmonizing EU rules on tax-deductibility. Two scenarios:

  1. You could make anything that's deemed a charity/public benefit in an EU country automatically deductible everywhere.
  2. Or, if member states can't agree on criteria, create a new legal status for some orgs that means they are automatically deemed public benefit by any EU country. Ideally, this status would also be available to non-EU entities.

I would like to make this happen, but I have no idea how.

Soon we'll have a critical mass of people interested enough to make it happen! I'm looking to find out more about who specifically would need to be convinced, and who would need to be involved to make it happen. I presume it's something that would have to be led out of Brussels (where I live), but it's not immediately obvious who (or even what DG of the Commission) would be involved. But I'm sure someone would know, and we can then start pushing to make it happen. It's such an obvious, positive step that it's hard to imagine anyone objecting with the possible exception of existing charities who benefit from these exclusive rights - but I have enough faith that most people working in charities are not the type who would object to enabling others to get tax-benefits to achieve really important and impactful goals. 

On further googling, there is actually an active proposal by the Commission!
The proposed directive introduces a new type of legal form (the "European cross-border association"), which will make it a lot easier for non-profits to operate across the entire EEA.

However, at this stage, the issue of taxation is not addressed. The European Parliament is expected to work on the proposal before the election next year, so now may be a good time to call further attention to this :)

Wow, I hadn't heard that. That's good news. 

Indeed, let's see what we can do to impact this! 

Executive summary: Giving What We Can (GWWC) is spinning out from its parent charities Effective Ventures UK and US to become an independent organization in order to better achieve its mission of making effective and significant giving a cultural norm.

Key points:

  1. GWWC believes independence will allow it to better align its structure and governance with its mission, manage risks, increase transparency, and control costs.
  2. Very little will change for most people - GWWC's mission, community, donation platform, research, and support for programs will continue.
  3. GWWC is establishing new legal entities, boards, and affiliate arrangements to support the transition and expansion.
  4. Support is needed through board participation, funding, and answering questions.
  5. The transition is expected to take around 12 months. EV is also reconsidering its organizational plans.

 

 

This comment was auto-generated by the EA Forum Team. Feel free to point out issues with this summary by replying to the comment, and contact us if you have feedback.

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