Hi all,

Managers of the EA Animal Welfare Fund will be available for an Ask Me Anything session on Friday, 14 May. We'll start early that morning and try to finish up by early that afternoon PST, so ideally please try to get your questions in on Wednesday or Thursday. Included below is some information that could be helpful for questions. 

Our latest grant round comprised a new set of highs for the fund, which included: 

  • A new high of 96 applications for funding (upping last round’s previous high by 20%). We then desk-rejected 11 of those, and evaluated the remaining 85 applications.
  • We selected 18 of those for funding (upping last round’s previous high by 20%), granted out most of the available balance (which at ~$2.7M at payout date was also a new high), with a total grant volume of ~$1.5M for the round (another new high, and ~100% increase on the previous round).
  • We significantly increased our grantmaking capacity through increasing the number of fund managers (recently increased to six from four), implementing a new evaluation system, and significantly increasing the time commitment per fund manager.

Here’s a list of grantees' names, a very brief description of what the grant is for, and grant amounts from our first payout round of 2021:

  1. Wild Animal Initiative, research and advocacy for wild animals, $360,000
  2. Rethink Priorities, research to inform effective animal advocacy, $225,000
  3. Sinergia Animal, Farmed animals in neglected regions, $165,000
  4. Insect Welfare Project, mitigate problems associated with insect farming, $135,000
  5. The Humane League UK, campaign work on broilers and layer hens, $120,000
  6. Global Food Partners, expedite the shift to cage-free egg production in China, $75,000
  7. Fish Welfare Initiative, Improving the lives of farmed fish in India, $70,000
  8. Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations, policy work on fish in India: $50,000
  9. OBRAZ, general support for promising farmed animal group in Czechia, $50,000
  10. Vegans of Shanghai/xiaobuVEGAN, restaurant and public outreach in China, $50,000
  11. Animal Rights Center Japan, cage-free work in Japan, $45,000
  12. Coalition of African Animal Welfare Organizations, influencing South African farmed fish legislation, $40,000
  13. Institute of Animal Law of Asia, supporting a new group on Asian farmed animal law, $30,000
  14. Modern Agriculture Foundation, promoting plant-based alternatives co-manufacturing site, $30,000
  15. Education for African Animal Welfare, expanding the cage-free movement in Tanzania, $26,000
  16. Jah Ying Chung, assessing the viability of an industry tracker for alt-proteins in China, $20,000
  17. WellBeing International, academic review of invertebrate sentience, $15,000
  18. Daniel Grimwade & Mark Borthwick, researching how to reduce the number of fish and insects killed for fish feed, $12,000

The full payout report will be published soon.

And here’s an updated request for proposals which we will be using to help solicit proposals for our second round of 2021. The application deadline for that round will be the 13th of June. 

Ask any questions you like; we'll respond to as many as we can. 

EDIT: Thanks for the great questions everyone! We are going to call it for the day. Hope to return next week in case there is anything outstanding. 


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How much do you think you would've granted if your total fund size at the time was ~$5M instead of ~$2.7M? What if it were ~$20M? (This is getting at whether you are bottlenecked more by funding or by good ideas for using funding.)

Some differences here:

  • For the counterfactual that someone unknown to me dropped ~$17.5M in the fund only a few weeks out from the payout, I think this round we would have perhaps would have given something like $3M-$4M out. This is because due diligence for larger grants takes longer than only a few weeks for us to do. However, in the round following we would look to do ~2.5-3.5X that $3-4M for something like $7M-$14M next round. 
  • Alternatively, if, instead, we knew that 6 months in advance there would be a sum like that (~$20M), then I would imagine we would be in a much better position to significantly scale our giving and likely would have given something like ~$12M out in this round. Importantly, I think we’d push to give it to some of the outstanding bigger orgs (e.g. THL and GFI). Another way to put this would be: the Fund's current strategy (mostly smaller orgs / mostly things Open Phil & other big funders aren't funding) is constrained by applicants & our capacity (though those constraints have gotten better over time). But that doesn't constrain total funding in the space. I think that point is worth emphasizing because I think our field as a whole could easily
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I'd also be interested in an answer to this question, though I think there are probably more possible bottlenecks than just those two (or maybe you meant "good ideas" very broadly and I'd want to subdivide it). I imagine that other possible bottlenecks could include: * good applicants with good proposals for implementing the good project ideas * grantmaker capacity to evaluate project ideas * Maybe this should capture both whether they have time and whether they have techniques or abilities to evaluate project ideas whose expected value seems particularly hard to assess * grantmaker capacity to solicit or generate new project ideas
Some related questions, adapted from something I wrote previously: * To the extent that you're bottlenecked by the number of good applications or would be bottlenecked by that if funded more, is that because (or do you expect it'd be because) there too few applications in general, or too low a proportion that are high-quality? * When an application isn't sufficiently high-quality, is that usually due to the quality of the idea, the quality of the applicant, or a mismatch between the idea and the applicant’s skillset (e.g., the applicant does seem highly generally competent, but lacks a specific, relevant skill)? * If there are too few applicants, or too few with relevant skills, is this because there are too few of such people interested in effective animal advocacy, or because there probably are such people who are in EAA but they’re applying less often than would be ideal? (It seems like answers to those questions could inform whether AWF should focus on generating more ideas, finding more people from within EAA who could execute ideas, finding more people from outside of EAA who could execute ideas, improving the match between ideas and people, or just building the relevant community.)
[-][anonymous]2y 16

How do your criteria for making a grant differ from ACE's criteria for recommending a charity? Do you have different goals, or are the differences between you and ACE more a matter of reading the same evidence differently? For context, I'm a donor wondering when it makes sense to donate to ACE's Recommended Charity Fund versus through the Animal Welfare Fund.

A good rule of thumb is that ACE’s Recommended Charity Fund tends to donate to fewer, larger charities that have a demonstrated track record of success. In contrast, the EA Animal Welfare Fund tends to donate to more numerous, often earlier-stage projects that are higher-risk and, arguably, higher-reward. Perhaps also relevant, ACE Movement Grants focus on a wider-range of interventions with less rigorous supporting evidence that aim to build a more pluralistic farmed animal advocacy movement. 

The EA Animal Welfare and ACE Recommended Charity Fund sometimes act as a pipeline, where a nascent project will seek support from the EA Animal Welfare Fund before growing into a more established charity that receives support from the ACE Recommended Charity Fund. One example of this pipeline is Wild Animal Initiative, which has received EA Animal Welfare Fund grants since 2017 (under the name Wild Animal Suffering Research), and became an ACE Top Charity in 2020. 

[Observations from inside the charity pipeline] As Mikaela said, the EA Animal Welfare Fund has a lot of leverage to strategically diversify the effective animal advocacy movement: I'm lucky enough to work for Wild Animal Initiative, and I can confirm that the EA AWF's support was essential to establishing enough of a track record that ACE could evaluate us. Without that funding, ACE just wouldn't have much to evaluate, and whatever we might have accomplished could not have been accomplished nearly as professionally. As a former donor to the EA AWF, it's really important to me that it keep playing this role as the beginning of the high-impact project pipeline. So we're taking care to design a fundraising strategy that allows the EA AWF to dial down their funding for us as soon as possible. Over the next 2-5 years, we plan to grow a donor base rooted more and more in the broader wildlife advocacy movement. We'll need the EA AWF's support to get there, but once we get there, we're looking forward to freeing up more funding for fledgling ventures.
[Adding some unoriginal thoughts on risky donations] As Mikaela said, which fund you donate to depends in large part on how safe/risky you want your donations to be: When I first got involved in EA, I thought "high-impact donations" obviously had to be "safe donations." Over the past several years, I've changed my mind. I now think EAs should generally lean toward riskier donations than the average donor, for three reasons: 1. Preferring safety too strongly can be irrational. As this article on risk aversion [https://concepts.effectivealtruism.org/concepts/risk-aversion/] concludes, "it may be best for altruists to be approximately risk-neutral overall." 2. Neglected [https://concepts.effectivealtruism.org/concepts/importance-neglectedness-tractability/] causes are both especially likely to be high-impact and especially likely to be relatively risky to work in. In order to pick low-hanging karmic fruit, you may have to start a new charity or try a new method. They might not be the safest bets, but they can still be good bets. 3. Non-EA donors tend to be risk-averse. That means those relatively risky projects in neglected cause areas are likely to stay neglected until risk-neutral donors support them. In other words, EAs have a comparative advantage in making relatively risky donations. I think all that makes the EA Animal Welfare Fund an incredibly exciting place to donate to. So much karma to pluck, and so few plucking it!

I've heard that academic research is funding constrained, in the sense that there are academics who would be willing to do research, particularly in the field of cellular agriculture, but they can't get grants. (I think this funding constraint is partially a reflection of biological research being pretty expensive.) I noticed that very few of your grantees are formally affiliated with an academic institution.

Is this just because you don't get applications from academics, or are there reasons against funding them (e.g. the minimum grant size is too high)?

In the just completed round we got several applications from academics looking to support research on plant-based and cultivated meat projects though we ultimately decided not to support any of them. We definitely welcome grant applications in this area and our new requests for proposals [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/yDhijyrbu3fYPLbn2/request-for-proposals-ea-animal-welfare-fund#Alternatives_to_Using_Animals_] explicitly calls for applications on work in this space. Additionally, I would direct them to consider applying to GFI’s alternative protein research grants [https://gfi.org/researchgrants/], and the Food Systems Research Fund [https://www.fsrfund.org/], among other locations, if they believe they have promising projects in this space. On the specific reasoning, there are reasons against funding some work in this area, as there are every area we consider, but ultimately I don’t think the general case for or against grants in this space is decisive. It’s definitely true, as you point out, that some grant requests in this area can be high relative to the median grant request but this prior round featured five grants over $100,000. So, to me, the ultimate concern is the expected rate of return on the particular grant relative to other possible options we have before us. In this particular instance we didn’t fund one of these projects but I definitely wouldn’t want to deter researchers with valuable ideas from applying, as I think work in this space has the potential to be extremely valuable. All the said, I think there are a some reasons other places might be a better fit for some other funders: * Academic social science research is often a better fit for the EA research fund or Food Systems Fund because of their expertise + focus. * Academic plant-based + cultured meat research is often a better fit for the GFI fund because of their expertise + focus. * Academic farm animal welfare science research is often a better fit for Humane S
7Avi Norowitz2y
Did you mean the ACE Research Fund / Animal Advocacy Research Fund [https://researchfund.animalcharityevaluators.org/]?
Fairly sure it was the ACE Research Fund. :)
Funding is also a major constraint in wild animal welfare. At Wild Animal Initiative, our core objective is to establish a self-sustaining academic field dedicated to improving wild animal welfare. This welfare focus is a major paradigm shift from the naturalness focus that currently dominates conservation biology and related disciplines. That means one major constraint is the availability of interested scientists. Many researchers need to be persuaded before they can develop relevant projects. However, we've been finding that we consistently underestimate the number of scientists who don't need any persuasion at all. Plenty of people pursue careers in wildlife sciences because they love wildlife the same way they love their pets: they just want animals to be happy. Then there are the people who pursued careers in wildlife sciences for other reasons, but devoted themselves to helping them after seeing wild animals suffer in their labs or in the wild. (One such researcher was so radicalized by her experiences studying flying snake biomechanics [https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/22325435/animal-welfare-wild-animals-movement] that she eventually became our executive director.) Funding is the main thing keeping these scientists from researching the highest-priority wild animal welfare questions. Often, they have to put aside their welfare concerns to focus on projects that appeal to traditional conservation funders. Sometimes they manage to fund welfare research by appealing to funders' other priorities. These compromises tend to lead to suboptimal projects (e.g., exploring high-cost ways to improve rare species' welfare, rather than low-cost ways to improve common species' welfare). And even the best welfare projects funded by traditional funders tend to have limited impact, because the conservation spin makes it harder for other scientists to recognize the work and contribute to a cohesive research agenda. More funding would give these scientists the support the

This is a lot more invertebrate welfare work than has been ever supported in the EA space than before (as far as I can tell).

  • Are you funding more invertebrate work because new opportunities are available, or because your minds have changed on working in this space?
  • Do you see invertebrate work becoming part of mainstream animal advocacy over the next few decades? Or, how do you see invertebrate welfare advocacy becoming part of the broader animal advocacy community in general?
That's right, there is growing support for invertebrate welfare work. * For the EA Animal Welfare Fund, it is a matter of the availability of new opportunities. Historically we have been limited by the applications we received and the talent pool for active grantmaking in this space—both of those increased over time, corresponding to greater support of such initiatives from the fund. * We can already see growing interest from animal advocates. Outside our last funding round grantees, we can see groups like Material Innovation Initiative [https://www.materialinnovation.org/] working on silkworms or Charity Entrepreneurship planning to incubate shrimp welfare charity [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/9h6GTpxAX35ets2TQ/why-we-want-to-start-a-shrimp-welfare-charity-founders] . I believe it may be a matter of time when work on invertebrates will become part of mainstream effective animal advocacy movement.

Right now it seems like there are some really promising but risky opportunities for the EA AWF (e.g. all of insect and invertebrate stuff this grant cycle). How do you evaluate some of these more speculative or high-risk / high-return grants vs. something like corporate chicken campaigns in a neglected region, or an ACE top charity in a neglected space (e.g. Wild Animal Initiative)?

Yeah, I feel uncertain about how to weigh these. Here are some things that feel important: * What feels like one of the stronger considerations for me, is I am generally more excited about the EA AWF taking on some of the more high-risk stuff given that it's easier for Open Phil and others to pick up the proven stuff. It’s also easier for the more proven stuff to fundraise from non-EA sources. E.g., with a group like Crustacean Compassion we gave them a few smaller grants, prior to them getting significant Open Phil funding. * All else equal, we look to explore and vet projects that donors to the AWF are less familiar with. At least two reasons as to why: so we can add value over what their counterfactual donations may have been, and the AWF can play an important role in signalling the quality of groups to other donors, or in pioneering certain areas or subfields (somewhat like what we’ve done in invertebrate welfare) for others then to hopefully take up in future. * Wild Animal Initiative is a special case right now. Namely, so far, WAI hasn’t received much support from major individual donors focused on animal suffering. As they are a quite promising and relatively established group that major donors such as the Open Phil don’t yet fund (though they recommend others do [https://www.openphilanthropy.org/blog/suggestions-individual-donors-open-philanthropy-staff-2020#Farm_Animal_Welfare_recommendations_by_Amanda_Hungerford_and_Lewis_Bollard] ), that creates somewhat of a unique comparative advantage for the AWF, and results in our presently being the major wild animal welfare funder. If that situation were to change, our level of support may also change. * In some cases, I am wary of us funging Open Phil or OWA or some other funder. E.g., potentially at times with some corporate chicken campaigns in a neglected region, or even with larger promising groups based in Europe or the US. * Larger groups
Because Lewis Bollard is both a manager of the EA AWF and a program officer at Open Philanthropy, does his involvement reduce the likelihood of funging with Open Phil?
Yes, definitely helps! :)

What are your favorite productivity tips?

If you had to choose between saving

a. 1 horse-sized duck, and

b. 100 duck-sized horses,

which would you save?

Ha! Excellent question and should be raised in every AMA :) 100 hundred duck-sized horses! Hard to improve on Will's answer here [https://amahighlights.com/william-macaskill/]: > I’d certainly rather save a hundred duck-sized horses. It’s hard to know how to compare the moral importance of different creatures’ experiences. How many happy chicken-days is as good as a happy chimp-day? The best guess I currently have is to use the logarithm of neural mass. And I think that the total log(neural mass) of a hundred duck-sized horses is much greater than that of one horse-sized duck. There’s just a lot more experiencing entities, and even if the horse-sized duck’s experiences are a bit more valuable in light of greater computational resources powering them, it’s not that much greater.Moreover, horses live a little longer than ducks (25-30 years compared to about 20 years, according to a quick google). Insofar as I think we should care not about number of lives saved, but number of quality-adjusted life-years saved, then saving the duck-sized horses is clearly going to have the bigger impact. Not sure logarithm of neural mass is the best way to approach this... but the selection seems right to me! For those interested, stay tuned, as RP has some really exciting work upcoming on moral weights that I think may help give a truly cutting edge response to this age old question :)

It looks like most of these grants fall into a few categories:

  • Highly neglected areas / research (e.g. WAI, invertebrate stuff, Rethink Priorities)
  • Non-US/Europe farmed animal work

This seems good since many groups recommended in the EA space seem to be in the US and Europe (GFI, Albert Schweitzer, Anima, etc.), so I imagine these other opportunities are especially neglected. The exception to this are the grants you made to THL UK and OBRAZ. I'd be interested in what makes these two groups such good opportunities compared to the charities typically recommended that work in the US / Europe?

I think I would name the categories a bit differently but your point still stands. Fwiw, I would name the categories: * Large-scale and neglected animal populations (for instance, farmed fish and wild animals) * Large-scale and neglected geographies (for instance, China and India) On THL UK and OBRAZ being exceptions, briefly, a few thoughts: THL UK: * We think THL UK has been instrumental to the successes of the broiler movement. * The THL UK team plays a major role in OWA’s global & European progress (e.g., last years helped with training in eastern Europe. * Pretty interested in the specific ways that they are expanding, with more work on fish and legislative efforts. * Generally less concerned about funging with them than we are for some of the other bigger groups in Europe or the US. OBRAZ: * They do seem to have made, relatively speaking, quite good progress on cage-free. Honestly, to an extent, we have been blown away by the progress they have made on cage-free. * This group has won two major victories in Czechia in recent years. In 2017, the group achieved a ban on fur farming [https://www.obrancizvirat.cz/prezident-podepsal-zakaz-vstupuje-v-platnost/] that went into effect in 2019; more recently, they successfully pushed for a ban on cages for laying hens [https://www.obrancizvirat.cz/podpis-prezidenta/] that will become effective in 2027. The recent ban on cages was preceded by successful corporate campaigning efforts led by OBRAZ in partnership with the Open Wing Alliance [https://openwingalliance.org/].

What is your view on how longtermism relates to or affects animal welfare work? Are you interested in potentially supporting someone to look into this intersection? If yes, what might be some of the sub-topics that you might be interested in? Thank you!

Good question!

In short, I think it may be important but I feel pretty unsure about what the implications are. I guess it generally updates me somewhat towards some of the more speculative things that fall inside our remit, including wild animals and invertebrate welfare.

But basically, I think that longtermism is still way underexplored... so when we start talking about longtermism’s intersection with something like animal welfare, I think it is just really really underexplored. At this point, there may have been a few blog posts looking at that intersection. 

So yes, I would be interested in potentially supporting someone to look further into this intersection and believe we mentioned a point on that in our RFP.    

Quick thoughts, in terms of subtopics that could be interesting (only if the right person(s) were to do it): 

  • Further examine, from a longtermist perspective, to what extent is wild animal welfare or invertebrate welfare important
  • Further examine plausible ways emerging tech may entrench bad practices for animals 
  • Explore how likely animal friendly values are to be adopted/accounted for by an AI (obviously do so in a way that isn’t going to put
... (read more)

Animal advocacy movement is now supported by a number of quite diverse funders with their own nuance - Open Phil, ACE, FAF, EA Funds and few others. What is the comparative advantage of EA Funds in this space? In this context, is there any other approach to funding that you would be excited to see?

You’re right that farmed animal advocacy has benefited from increased funding in recent years. Interestingly, though, the majority of philanthropic dollars in this space doesn’t come from EA-aligned donors. Perhaps because of this, the overwhelming majority of funding to alleviate farmed animal suffering comes from donors who live in and support projects in North America. On this point alone, by supporting more neglected, important, and tractable interventions particularly in LMICs, the EA Fund has a comparative advantage. Then, in comparison to EA-aligned donors, the EA Fund has an additional comparative advantage in that it funds higher-risk, earlier-stage projects that may lack a track record of success. Larger foundations like Open Phil and some members of Farmed Animal Funders don’t often have the ability to support nascent, higher-risk projects for a variety of reasons, including minimum grant size, struggling to get unproven charities or certain interventions approved by their boards, and lacking the time to find and assess many smaller, higher-risk projects. On your second question, we’d like to see an EA-aligned donor bet on promising individuals and give them latitude (e.g. giving a few top EA animal welfare advocates $100k each to pursue promising and cool ideas). Most foundations and Donor Advised Funds don’t have the ability to directly fund individuals (without affiliations to charities or universities to accept the funds). You’d need to make sure your donation vehicle legally permits you to directly donate to individuals, and you’d need to trust the individual to act in a values-aligned way.

The recent grantees are very welfare-reform heavy, and there are relatively few organizations here who are taking an abolitionist approach (even though many, like THL, advocate achieving abolition through welfare reforms). This portfolio of grantees is fairly common in EA giving: Welfare reform organizations are invested in very heavily right now (for which they're all very grateful :).

I sometimes get concerned though that our movement puts too great of confidence in incremental welfare reforms as like "the best thing", thus stifling innovation. I feel this in our work at our organization, where I feel some pressure to always have numbers of the number of animals we're helping. While I think this pressure is often good in our case, I recognize that very popular focus on "number of animals helped" leads certain approaches (e.g. more activist-style abolitionist approaches) to look less promising than they actually are, as these approaches do not easily lend themselves to such calculations.

So I sometimes worry that the EA side of the animal rights movement (and also the AR movement more generally, though to a lesser extent) has reached a sort of local optimum with welfare reform work:... (read more)

> To what extent do you worry that we're underinvesting in approaches outside of incremental welfare reform work right now? Hmmm… I think it is fair to say that this isn’t in my top-tier of worries. Some things that inform that take are: * Some other major funders, that I am aware of through FAF, focus more on non-incremental welfare stuff but at the same time seem aligned with some principles of EA * As other funders focus more on it, the movement as a whole seems to adequately experiment with and explore some things that look promising from that perspective. E.g., I have been somewhat interested in institutional meat reduction work, or on more generalized field-building stuff, and some documentary efforts. * Even within EA aligned funders/ orgs a significant amount of that focused on alt-proteins. * Underappreciated but welfare stuff should increase price which can be useful for longer term decreases in demand * A decent number of the now welfaristy groups seem interested in doing some more abolitionist things, but we just haven’t identified much with a proven track record outside of corporate welfare reforms right now. If we were, I would expect them to be interested in doing that. * I would add that under your definition we have historically funded some of those efforts abolitionist efforts, eg. Crustacean Compassion working on legal recognition of sentience of some crustacean, or legal ban on cages for eggs-laying hens are good examples of more "abolition-like" approaches that we still consider good opportunities. > Do you have any sense for when (if not now) we might reach that point where it makes more sense to invest in more abolitionist approaches? To some extent, this whole endeavor is like a multi-armed bandit [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-armed_bandit]. Using that analogy, I feel across the movement we are adequately pulling on the abolitionist levers. But we are just yet to see much in terms

Would the AWF be interested/able to indicate if the grantees have room for more funding from individual donors?

A grant from the AWF is a strong indication of a good potential donation opportunity, however the grant may have already filled the funding gap. If a donor (for whatever reason, e.g. tax deductibility, running a fundraiser etc) wants to donate directly to an animal welfare charity (instead of a fund), would you recommend they donate to any recent grantees or only follow the advice of a charity evaluator (e.g. ACE)?

7Peter Wildeford2y
I'd add that even if these organizations are already very well funded from Open Phil and the EA Animal Welfare Fund, there still is a lot of value in getting additional donations from other donors... `1.) diversity of donations is generally important for organizational health, to avoid overreliance on any one funder and to provide more independence from intentional or unintentional pressures from that funder. (That being said, for some organizations, having pressure from these funders is a really good thing, as many times I trust the strategy of these funders more than the strategy of these organizations.) 2.) if you trust an organization and its leadership and are not personally as constrained (say by cause area or mission or need to justify decisions) as the big funders, providing fully unrestricted funding can be much more valuable to the organization per dollar than money received from large institutions in allowing them to try new initiatives, etc. (Though of course you would want to understand more about why these large funders aren't also funding these new initiatives or other ideas.) 3.) some large funders are capped in the amount of a budget they are willing to be for an organization (say max 50%) and it can be much harder to get the other part. By providing money to an organization, you may be unlocking more funding from these larger funders due to the cap. (Though as far as I know the "max 50%" thing is no longer true for Open Phil or any of the EA Funds and I think these funders are much more comfortable now funding very large portions of a budget. However I think this factor still exists to some degree.) 4.) it can be a useful signal to larger funders that individual donors trust the organization enough to support it
I think we would be interested and able to do this. However, I am not sure exactly what that would look like. I can think more about this and might look to implement something! In the meantime, if you’re a donor who is interested in our thoughts, please feel free to contact us [kieran@farmedanimalfunders.org]. Another solution is to allocate to the fund, and we can then distribute it from there!
I'm sure others have much more considered thoughts on how to evaluate and communicate room for more funding, but here are some I've been musing on. I've found it more productive to frame the question in the negative: "Why wouldn't this charity have room for more funding?" I think that's because it only takes a few things to constrain a charity's growth, but when the org has room to grow, there are many directions it can grow. So when I try to think of the ways a charity could grow, I'm almost always going to underestimate the number of opportunities the charity itself has identified. For example, I might think a charity has exhausted the opportunities for a certain kind of campaign, but it probably wouldn't occur to me that they could make all of their campaigns much more effective if they hired an operations staffer with Salesforce expertise. Starting with the negative framing, there seem to be only a few kinds of constraints a charity can have other than funding. Probably not exhaustive, but here's my list: * Mission constraints: Do I generally expect this charity to do high-impact work? If I'm only excited about a few of their projects, then it's less likely that marginal donations will counterfactually increase those projects. * Note that questions of program constraints (e.g., "no more states they could run ballot measures in") often reduce to questions of mission constraints (e.g., "if they run out of states to do ballot measures in, will they identify another high-impact program to launch?"). * Talent constraints: Is the charity able to hire people good enough to continue their high-impact work? * Operational constraints: Does the charity have enough administrative bandwidth to hire staff or expand programs without straining their systems so much that their effectiveness suffers? * Relative timing constraints: Are there comparably cost-effective charities with much more urgent and important funding ne
3Peter Wildeford2y
I would think if an organization had operational constraints, it would still have room for more funding, just the funding would be spent on expanding operations (e.g., hiring more operations staff, buying operations software, etc.) One relevant constraint I can think of that would (hopefully temporarily) affect room for more funding are issues around management / culture / strategy capacity around the speed of hiring - an organization can only spend money to hire and expand so quickly and maybe they are already saturated. Typing this out now, I realize this is probably what you meant anyway.
tl;dr: I don't think "slow and steady" growth is a problem, only "slow and unsteady" growth. Actually, I don't think expansion speed alone should be considered a factor in room for more funding. If there are no mission constraints or relative timing constraints, should it matter to me when the organization spends my money? If not, why not donate now so they'll have more to use once they are no longer saturated? I was trying to define operational constraints more narrowly, to include only the kind of growth that actually threatens the effectiveness of the org. I'm not sure exactly what this would look like. Perhaps if an org currently has promising programs, but is growing in a way that I think will create problems for them, then I would worry they won't be effective by the time they are no longer saturated.
3Peter Wildeford2y
Yeah, I think it certainly would be fine to donate to an organization that can make use of your money but not for a year or two. I think this would actually be very helpful to the org as a signal of support and for removing some uncertainty for them, to allow them to actually grow (steadily).
Great point!
My guess is that the EA AWF's grantees almost always have room for more funding. In addition to the reasons I think effective orgs generally tend to have room for more funding [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/pmr9tR2GYoxDMqbor/animal-welfare-fund-ask-us-anything?commentId=WcBhdNHmJY3GYptHq] , the EA AWF does an excellent job highlighting neglected orgs in neglected areas. I think the grantees least likely to have room for more funding are individuals, teams of less than 4 people, and high-impact projects within lower-impact organizations. But these are also the cases where it tends to be easiest to cold-call the grantee and get the full answer in a quick call. For example, an independent researcher could tell you "I'm doing this alongside my PhD so I really can't actually take on more projects" or "My last grant just ran out so I can keep working on this new project as long as I can pay for it." Note that my reasoning might be motivated by the fact that I work for an org that receives substantial support from the EA AWF (Wild Animal Initiative), and part of my job includes fundraising. Hopefully my perspective contributes more than my bias detracts!

Would you be able to share around what % of the 85 non-desk-rejected applications that you got were applications that were within your request for proposals?

I'd like to get a sense of what the current base rate of acceptance is in applying for a grant for a project that's within your preferred proposal areas.

Of the 85 non-desk-reject proposals we reviewed, 38% fell outside of our request for proposals and 62% in some way pertained to our RFP. (I took a liberal approach to calculating this number—for example, if we received a proposal about advancing alternative proteins in any way, I counted it as pertaining to our RFP.) It’s probably worth noting that 17 out of the 18 proposals we ended up funding in the latest round fell *within* our RFP. 

Got it, thanks!

Hi, and thanks for running this AMA!

I’d be curious how you went about building the sort of network that allows you to identify promising projects in many different countries, including countries whose language and culture you may not be conversant in.

Two follow-up questions that may not be applicable: If this is a network of trusted experts who make grant recommendations to you when they notice such a project, then what, would you say, is the weight of their recommendation in the final grant decision? Should more funders outsource grant recommendations to be able to identify a wider variety of grant opportunities?

1. Many of the fund managers interact with NGOs seeking grant funding through our day jobs, so we've built up a network of potential grantees that we can refer to the EA Fund. We also ask people in neglected areas, where we're less likely to have connections or speak the language, to refer promising people and projects to the EA Fund. Those referrers are often movement leaders whose work we value and opinions we trust. We rarely haven’t heard of an EA Fund applicant. When that’s the case, the quality of the idea presented in the application becomes all the more important. If we don’t know the applicant, we often make a point of checking their references before making a decision. 2. In terms of how highly we weigh a referrer’s opinion, it depends. If we’re on the fence about funding someone and we hear glowing reviews of their work (and depending on how much money they request + the EV of the project), a positive reference could tip us towards funding them. On the flip side, if we’re skeptical of a proposal and we hear mixed or negative reviews about the project manager, we’re more likely to pass on funding. The answer to this question is also influenced by the quality of the other proposals we receive. 3. In general, I’d say yes.
2Dawn Drescher2y
Thank you! :-D

My impression is that the Animal Welfare Fund essentially focuses on "neartermist" animal welfare issues. (I mean this mostly in the sense of "the intrinsic/terminal goals you target are those which occur in the coming decades, rather than the longer-term future". But it also seems true in the sense of empirical and epistemological aspects of the AWF's "worldview" seeming closer to those standard among "neartermists" rather than longtermists - e.g., I'd be surprised to hear that the Animal Welfare Fund made a grant partly based on how valuable a project wo... (read more)

I don’t think it is true the EA AW Fund is essentially neartermist, though this may depend somewhat on what you mean. We definitely consider grants that have potential long term payoffs beyond the next few decades. In my opinion, much of the promise of PBM and cultivated meat relies on impacts that would be 15-100 years away and there’s no intrinsic reason held, for me and I believe other funders, to discount or not consider other areas for animal welfare that would have long term payoffs.

That said, as you suggest in (2), I do think it is true that it makes sense for the LTFF to focus more on thinking through and funding projects that involve what would happen assuming AGI were to come to exist. A hypothetical grant proposal which is focused on animal welfare but depends on AGI would probably make sense for both funds to consider or consult each other on and it would depend on the details of the grant as to whose ultimate domain we believe it falls under. We received applications at least somewhat along these lines in the prior grant round and this is what happened.

Given the above, I think it’s fair to say we would consider grants with reasoning like in your post, but sometimes the... (read more)

For what it's worth, I think there is a good case to be made that WAI is somewhere between a neartermist and longtermist organization (mediumtermist?) — e.g. this research and similar [https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5f04bd57a1c21d767782adb8/t/5f160c91bc0bff4abe964d5a/1595280529848/WAI_PersistenceAndReversibility_Dec2019.pdf] seem to be from a relatively longtermist perspective. Though I'm biased because I know that I am sympathetic to some aspects of a longtermist worldview (though obviously no longer work there), and that several of the staff there are also somewhat sympathetic to longtermism. These views might be separated from the work of the organization. And they received around 25% of the total made in this grant cycle.
From my limited knowledge of WAI, I think I'd say that that research you link to is indeed from a long-termist perspective, but most of the other stuff seems either targeted mostly at the next 5-60 years, or perhaps targeted at long-term futures that look much more like the present world than I expect (which would then go with the empirical/epistemological views that seem more "neartermist"). Or maybe it's also partly that the work could plausibly be top priority from a longtermist perspective, but I haven't seen/heard WAI framing or justifying the work that way. But this is just based on reading a handful of posts a while ago, watching some talks, etc. - I haven't looked very closely. (I'm also not necessarily saying I think WAI should change its priorities or how it frames/justifies them.)
Hi Michael and Abraham! The answer depends on which type of longtermism [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/qZyshHCNkjs3TvSem/longtermism#Strong_Longtermism] we're talking about. As an organization, Wild Animal Initiative is committed to the position that animals matter equally regardless of when they exist. That is, we exist to help as many wild animals as we can as much as we can. All else equal, it doesn't matter to us whether that happens in our lifetimes or in the long-term future, because it feels the same to the animals in either case. We're not in the business of warm fuzzies [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/EcCW8L7ej47sCgo4k/purchase-fuzzies-and-utilons-separately-eliezer-yudkowsky] -- despite the warmth and fuzziness of many of our clients. In practice, because there are so many wild animals in the far future, that leads us to think about the far future a lot. It's the main reason we're laser-focused on supporting the growth of a self-sustaining academic field dedicated to improving wild animal welfare. As far as we can tell, that currently seems like the most reliable vehicle for institutionalizing an ethical and scientific framework capable of continuously serving wild animals' interests. Several of our staff also believe that our decisions should primarily work backward from what we think would be best ~1000+ years from now. But we haven't committed to that as an organization. This position has been called "strong longtermism." It's something we plan to consider further. Even though it's not our official position, strong longtermists might still choose to donate to WAI -- because they believe we have the most promising theory of change, because they believe we're the most funding-constrained of available longtermist projects, or for other reasons. In the meantime, I'd love to hear from anyone who has ideas on what we might do differently if we were to adopt a strong longtermist position.
Relatedly, I'm vaguely curious as to whether you have any thoughts on the longtermist case for working on farmed animals that I sketched in that post [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/bhGuf6uDXd63g6GPx/on-the-longtermist-case-for-working-on-farmed-animals] . (To be clear, as I say in the post, I don't know if I endorse that case myself.)

How do you go about evaluating a grant for research vs. a grant that supports direct work?

We grade all applications with the same scoring system. For the prior round, after the review of the primary and secondary investigator and we’ve all read their conclusions, each grant manager gave a score (excluding cases of conflict of interests) of +5 to -5, with +5 being the strongest possible endorsement of positive impact, and -5 being a grant with an anti-endorsement that’s actively harmful to a significant degree. We then averaged across scores, approving those at the very top, and dismissing those at the bottom, largely discussing only those grants that are around the threshold of 2.5 unless anyone wanted to actively make the case for or against something outside of these bounds (the size and scope of other grants, particularly the large grants we approve, is also discussed).

That said, in my mind, grants for research are valuable to the extent they unlock future opportunities to directly improve the welfare of animals. Of course, figuring out whether, or how much, that’s feasible with any given research grant can be very difficult. For direct work, you can, at least in theory, relatively straightforwardly try to estimate the impact on animals (or at least the range of anim... (read more)

What's the smallest grant you'd consider making?

E.g. are you open to funding individuals for a few months' living expenses while they explore a promising project idea?

E.g. would you be willing to fund data collection for a single study if someone already had a promising research idea and had the time to carry it out?

Smallest grant we can do through the EA Fund is $1k. If you are interested in something smaller than that, please get in touch and I might be interested in funding in order to reach my personal giving pledge. Yes and yes to your examples!

If you had to make some predictions about what the animal advocacy space will look like in 20 years, what would be different from today?

Great question! Multi-decade forecasts are hard, so take all these quick thoughts with some salt :) * Amount of funding in our space increases significantly. Sometimes I find it pretty inspiring to think that over the past decade or so, we have almost gone from no field really existing to a budding one. It has gone from <$20M/yr to ~$200M/yr. Predict (75%) that positive trend continues and we would be at >$500M/yr by 2040. * Alt-proteins have significant progress and are really important. Again, it can be inspiring to look back on our progress. Circa ~2015, GFI didn’t exist, alt-proteins were barely a thing. Now GFI is one of (if not the biggest) group in our space. Since, ~2015 we have also seen the 2.0 of PB alts. The likes of Beyond and Impossible suggest that taste and price-competitive alternatives for some animal products are likely, and we are actually now quite close to (if not at) parity for some product categories like beef patties. I predict that we would see this trend continue and there would be at least a couple of other product categories where we reach parity. I think 65% chance that we will see >5% of meat consumption be from alt-proteins. I am hopeful that we may even see some big government funding (scale: tens or hundreds of millions) in open access-research on pb alts, and think that the folks at Mobius [https://mobius.life/] have been doing some great work on this recently! * Movement becomes even more global. Again, past progress seems inspiring. We have gone from basically not much happening throughout large parts of Asia to now a number of groups active there. I would expect that general trend to continue and we will significantly scale up in the likes of Latin America, Africa, and the Middle-East, too. * Continue to expand on the neglected animal frontier. To an extent, I think that over twenty years for our movement we will see: fish become the new chicken, crustacea

Can you give an overview how much funding went into the different world regions, in the payout reports? For example XX% to organizations in North America, XX% in Africa,... I would find it interesting (especially if you want to focus on neglected regions)!

We had aggregated the data from 2017 (when the fund started) to 2020. One caveat is that it doesn't represent the ideal distribution of funding that we are aiming at. For example, if we had received more applications from groups working in Asia, the amount granted to that region would have likely increased as well. Additionally, the difference in cost of running a program in various parts of the world also makes the amount look slightly disproportional, so I outlined the amount and number of grants made in each region. The current breakdown looks like the following: * North America: $2,646,000 (44 grants) * Europe: $1,430,210 (36 grants) * Asia: $1,177,000 (35 grants) * South America: $565,000 (15 grants) * Africa: $80,000 (2 grants) * Australia/New Zealand: $60,000 (1 grant).

How important is the track record of the applicant to your decision-making?

E.g. if someone proposes a promising research idea but they have little to no track record of relevant research (maybe just good university grades etc), how likely does it seem that you would fund them?

E.g. if a nonprofit that you have not funded and whose work you generally see as being of low usefulness or quality asked for funding for a specific project that you were optimistic about in a generalised sense, how likely does it seem that you would fund them?

I think we’re looking for promising projects and one clear sign of that is often a track-record of success. The more challenging the proposal, the more something like this might be important. However, we’re definitely open to funding people without a long track record if there are other reasons to believe the project would be successful.

Personally, I’d say good university grades alone is probably not a strong enough signal, but running or participating in successful small projects on a campus might be particularly if the projects were similar in scope or size to what was being proposed, and/or this person had good references on their capabilities from people we trusted.

The case of a nonprofit with a suboptimal track record is harder for me in the abstract. I think it depends a lot on the group’s track record and just how promising we believe the project to be. If a group has an actively bad track record, failing to produce what they’ve been paid to do or producing work of negative value, I’d think we’d be reluctant to fund them even if they were working in an area we considered promising. If the group was middling, but working in a highly promising area, I’d guess we would be more likely to fund them. However, there is obviously much grey area between these two poles and I think it really depends on the details of the proposal and track record of the group in determining whether we’d think such a project would be worth funding.

We significantly increased our grantmaking capacity through increasing the number of fund managers (recently increased to six from four), implementing a new evaluation system, and significantly increasing the time commitment per fund manager.


What do you think are the main benefits of the increased grantmaking capacity? For example, is it more about generally increasing the precision of your estimates about grants or about allowing you to consider more grants or allowing you to reach a degree of certainty about some grants that you feel confident maki... (read more)

There are multiple benefits I see: * More time for in-depth evaluation, therefore increasing the average ROI of grants, * Increased capacity for active grantmaking. Previously we were mainly evaluating applications submitted through the application form. Now we have more time to create RPF, individually distribute it to potential grantees, and help with coordinated efforts. As a result, we may be able to create uniquely impactful opportunities that wouldn't have existed counterfactually, * Enabled more specialization and therefore even more informed decisions, especially in relation to more unusual opportunities, e.g., neglected species, research, or new approaches, * Increased ability to support grantees with resources other than funding, e.g., connecting with relevant experts, * Increased capacity for communicating Fund's approach, like this AMA.

What approaches or ideas do you wish the animal welfare fund would have invested more heavily in sooner?

To some extent, we are only able to work with what is available to grant to. And I think we have been pretty good at granting to things as soon as they’re ready. But we could probably have done more to get some projects/NGOs ready for grants. 

So the main thing that comes to mind when I think about this, is I think we probably should have started doing more active grantmaking sooner. That would look like us more actively trying to bring new promising projects into existence. And note that could be either through seeding new groups or having existing groups further incorporate certain considerations into their efforts. In doing so, perhaps we could have been a bit more ahead of the curve on fish, crustaceans, wild animals, and invertebrates, as well as some of the international groups, or even some alt-protein items.   

Separately, I think we also probably could have been better in referring funding opportunities to other funders or in further providing support, connections, and guidance for our grantees.

Do you think industrial factory farming will ever end? If so, when do you think it will?

By end I mean something like there are like 95% fewer animals being farmed, and the ones that are farmed are farmed in more natural, extensive system (e.g. pastures or extensive fish ponds).


And do you think animal farming will ever end? If so, when do you think it will?

I would be pretty surprised if I was somehow resurrected, or otherwise able to observe, millions of years from now and factory farming was still happening! In terms of probabilistic predictions as to the chance that factory farming is still around x years from now, I think mine pretty roughly looks like some exponentially decaying function. If you want to model it [https://www.desmos.com/calculator/piejbnkgoq], I would put P0 at 1 and alpha at ~0.988. So, I’d guess there are decent chances forms of it are still around at the end of this century, but 200 years from now, I think there are pretty good chances that we will have ended it :)

Thanks for doing this AMA!

What processes do you have for monitoring the outcome/impact of grants? 

Relatedly, do  the AWF fund managers make forecasts about potential outcomes of grants? 

And/or do you write down in advance what sort of proxies you'd want to see from this grant after x amount of time? (E.g., what you'd want to see to feel that this had been a big success and that similar grant applications should be viewed (even) more positively in future, or that it would be worth renewing the grant if the grantee applied again.)

(I imagine th... (read more)

Thanks for all your questions! :)

>What processes do you have for monitoring the outcome/impact of grants? 

We have a ~10 question questionnaire that we send grantees. We send these out 6 months after the grant's starting date - which coincides with the payment date usually. We then send them out every six months and then a final report at the grant’s end date. E.g., if the grant was for an 18-month project, we would send the progress report to that grantee at the 6-month mark, 12 months, and then 18 months. 

I feel like I am also just fairly regularly in touch with a lot of grantees in addition to that. Or across all of us we usually have a pretty good sense of where things are at. 

> Relatedly, do  the AWF fund managers make forecasts about potential outcomes of grants? 

Not as of now. I would like us to use forecasts more often and think there might be some low effort ways where we could get most of the value out of them.

>And/or do you write down in advance what sort of proxies you'd want to see from this grant after x amount of time?  

We haven’t historically done this. But again, I am interested in possibly adopting in future rounds. 

I speak with a lot of people with software engineering backgrounds who are looking for impactful projects. Are there any software projects you wish people would take on?

I sometimes refer engineers to the cultivated meat modeling consortium, but that group doesn't seem very active.

I would expect that people with deep expertise in software engineering may have a better understanding of how they can apply those skills than a person without such background. We are always keen to hear people's ideas, so you can encourage others to think of an impactful project and apply to the fund! 

One example of an idea we funded in this category was a prototype algorithm that identifies the exact location and number of animals in each Iowa egg farm based on Google Earth data developed by Charles He. 

One of the projects I would be keen to see is an interactive data visualization of issues faced by different animals in different countries and conditions, similar to what GDP Compare created to aggregate and visualize sources of DALYs lost due to different conditions in humans. Maybe some software engineering skills could be helpful in research on wild animals, e.g. tracking patterns of behaviors. Again, I have very low confidence in those ideas, so they should be treated as creative brainstorming rather than a recommendation. :)

Lastly, I would recommend checking out services offered by Animal Advocacy Careers, including their job board and career coaching. They may be aware of some opportunities available for people with a background in software engineering.

Hi Kieran, thanks for organizing the AMA! What is the EA fund? How does it work and how does it make decisions?  Is the fund trying to find grantees that will have the highest expected impact, or is it also using other criteria? And finally, how does its focus differ from ACE's Movement Grants? Thank you!

Hi William, > What is the EA fund? Briefly, the EA AWF is a regranting mechanism for donors interested in maximizing their impact on non-human animal welfare. Contributions to it are allocated out to grantees by fund managers three times per year. > How does it work and how does it make decisions? As outlined in another question by Karolina. We solicit applications via an open process advertised on relevant sites, Facebook groups, and by individually reaching out to promising candidates. Additionally, we create an RFP and distribute it accordingly. AWF applications are initially triaged, rejecting applications that are out of scope or clearly below the bar for funding, we reject <5. The remaining applications are assigned to a primary and secondary fund manager with relevant, compatible expertise. The assigned fund manager will read the application in detail, and often reaches out to interview the applicant or ask clarifying questions. In addition, they may read prior work produced by the applicant, reach out to the applicant's references, or consult external experts in the area. They produce a brief write-up summarizing their thinking. What follows is voting by all fund managers. As outlined in another question by Marcus, we grade all applications with the same scoring system. For the prior round, after the review of the primary and secondary investigator and we've all read their conclusions, each grant manager gave a score (excluding cases of conflict of interests) of +5 to -5, with +5 being the strongest possible endorsement of positive impact, and -5 being a grant with an anti-endorsement that's actively harmful to a significant degree. We then averaged across scores, approving those at the very top, and dismissing those at the bottom, largely discussing only those grants that are around the threshold of 2.5 unless anyone wanted to actively make the case for or against something outside of these bounds (the size and scope of other grants, particularly the
I echo Kieran's points on the difference between EA AWF and ACE Movement Grants. The only other distinguishing factor I'd mention is that because the grant managers and processes differ, the projects that end up being funded tend to have different trends between funds. You can find a list of previous Movement Grant recipients on this page [https://animalcharityevaluators.org/donation-advice/ace-movement-grants/#eaaf-distribution-10-20] which may give you a better idea of the types of projects funded as well as the size of those grants for each round.

What books do you most recommend for someone looking to spend their career fighting for animals?

I've recently become more skeptical of the value of diet change (including from increasing the availabiliy of alternative proteins), due to uncertainty/cluelessness about the effects on wild animals (including wild fishes, but generally through effects on environments and even climate change), especially population effects, and especially from a roughly negative utilitarian point of view. This gets even trickier if we include invertebrates, to whom EAAs are granting more and more concern.

I worry (although don't specifically expect) that diet change may cau... (read more)

Hmm… on first-pass, two main points I would make: 1) I think that trying to take into account the flow-through effects of just about everything will make you more skeptical of just about everything. Stated differently, I am not sure there is much in particular about diet change and flow effects from it which leads to this being a particular problem for it. So I think that if you apply that lens elsewhere you’ll run into similar issues. Reality is just really complicated and it’s nigh on impossible to truly know how our actions reverberate throughout. Fwiw, I often find myself identifying with some sort of clueless skeptic position. 2) I feel one solution to this line of analysis was put forward in this comment [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/M9PihwHRtmvzLz78g/what-is-the-expected-effect-of-poverty-alleviation-efforts?commentId=a7DD7f8hSLxYhBAc6] several years ago. That solution seems appealing to me. Basically, for farmed animal welfare work, focus on the primary impacts, which would be for farmed animals. For wild-animal welfare work, focus on the primary impacts on wild animals. So I guess I don’t think this is a strong factor in decisions about interventions that impact diet, and I probably wouldn’t prioritize it. But if you do look into it, I would be pretty interested to see what you come up with. :)
I think one way 2 might not be appropriate here is that diet change may have more important effects on wild animals1than on farmed animals, and also more important effects on wild animals than our targeted wild animal interventions2. Say 1. Diet change gives you 100 utility per $ in expectation for farmed animals, and -1000 to 900 utility per $ in expectation for wild animals, and it's very ambiguous, so you aren't willing to commit to a single expected value, and you instead use this whole range of -1000 to 900 (or -700 to 1100 or whatever). 2. Wild animal-targeted interventions give you 100 utility per $. Then donating $1 to diet change and $c to wild animal interventions would give the following utility in expectation: (100-1000) + 100c to (100+900) + 100c, or -900 + 100c to 1000 + 100c, and you need c>9 to make sure this is positive, so you'd spend at least 9x more on wild animal interventions than diet change to ensure a positive expected value. I've written more about this idea here [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/Mig4y9Duu6pzuw3H4/hedging-against-deep-and-moral-uncertainty] . 1. possibly counterfactually increasing the populations of wild invertebrates and wild aquatic animals, especially; many wild-caught fishes are also fed to farmed fishes. 2. because the population effects are more important.
Right. So I still might not be fully understanding. I guess it seems hard for me to understand thinking both: A) Diet change has more negative effects on wild animals than positive effects on farmed animals. And B) Diet changes’ negative effects on wild animals are in expectation greater than the positive effects from further work on wild animal welfare (e.g., of the sort WAI completes). But maybe I am misunderstanding. Do you think both of those? Separately, and another quick thought, it could be helpful to more formally model it, as that could help with intuitions here. Part of what seems to be going on in my head is very roughly something like, some diet change CEE gives say a 95% CI [60,140] utils/$, excluding impacts on wild animals. So say mu=100, sigma=20(?) Then impacts specifically on wild animals cause the estimate to shift somewhat downward. Impacts on wild animals may be, say, [-1000, 900]. Say, mu=-50, sigma=~450 In my head that additional consideration on wild animals just doesn’t shift the mean util/$ estimate much. That is because the variance on that estimate is so large compared to the variance on the original. I think what may end up mattering a lot for this type of thing is the ratio of the variance on the cee for utils/$ of diet change intervention for farmed animals, compared to the variance on the impact of diet change on wild animals. How does that all sound to you?:)
In short, I think 1. A is reasonably likely to be true. 2. If A is true, then B is very likely to be true, too (I'm less sure about the reverse implication). 3. A's probability itself seems really uncertain to me, and I'm not comfortable picking one number before seeing models. Picking 50% seems wrong, since I don't have evidential symmetry as in simple cluelessness; this is a case of complex cluelessness. On 1, the main reasons diet change would be bad for wild animals would be through wild fishes and wild invertebrates (and Brian Tomasik's writing [https://reducing-suffering.org/vegetarianism-and-wild-animals/] is where I'd start). Because of the number of animals involved (far more fishes and invertebrates than chickens, and there may be generational population effects since you prevent descendants, too, but maybe what matters most is carrying capacity), it seems pretty plausible these negative effects could heavily outweigh the positives for farmed animals. I think one thing Brian might not have been aware of at the time is that many wild fishes are caught to feed farmed fishes, so fish farming might be good for reducing wild fish populations. There's also all the plastic pollution from fishing that plausibly reduces populations, and not just fish populations. On the other hand, maybe the wild fishes get replaced with more populous r-selected species, and that's bad. I think 2 is true, because * I already think the number of wild animals affected will be larger from diet change, since this is a major ecosystem change whereas wild animal welfare interventions will be more targeted. * A implies the negative effects of diet change are quite large (enough to make up for the benefits to farmed chickens and farmed aquatic animals), and the worlds in which A is true but B is not are the (in my view) unlikely ones in which we're radically interfering in nature to help wild animals through population control or genetic intervent
Great discussion. :) For whatever it's worth, I was aware of that at the time. :) I'm uncertain about the net impact of fish farming, but like for most other farmed animals, I err on the side of thinking it's bad in expected value because it's bad for the farmed animals directly, and I'm fairly clueless about the indirect effects. For example, maybe reducing populations of small forage fish increases zooplankton populations. Or if the small forage fish are fished sustainably, then maybe fishing them just kills a bunch of them painfully without affecting their populations too much. With things like crop cultivation, I'm also fairly uncertain. Some crop fields in the US Midwest have higher net primary productivity than native grassland, and in places like California, where there's a lot of irrigation, it seems pretty plausible that crop cultivation increases invertebrate populations. That said, I tend to agree with Michael's thought that the indirect wild-animal impacts of diet may be more significant than many of the kinds of interventions that WAI could pull off because WAI-type interventions may not be focused on reducing numbers of wild animals, and without reducing numbers of wild animals, it's difficult for me to know if suffering is actually being reduced in light of cluelessness.
Oh ya, you would probably have been aware of fishes caught for feed, but a recent estimate for their numbers is surprisingly huge (to me), to the extent that fish farming's welfare effects could pretty plausibly be dominated by the effects on wild fishes (and other wild aquatic animals). From the Aquatic Life Institute [https://ali.fish/blue-loss]: I think ALI is going ahead with recommending the replacement of fish feed, but this seems plausibly a bad thing to do (and more so the more weight you give to fishes than invertebrates), although I'm not sure either way. I do think WAI could come up with interventions that we could agree net reduce expected suffering while keeping populations roughly constant by reducing causes of suffering or death, paired with (more) humane population control (wildlife contraceptives, sterilization, or CRISPR to manage fertility rates, or more humane methods to cull or euthanize animals). However, these seem much harder to implement and scale to me, due to the costs, complexity and public disinterest or opposition. Humane insecticides in particular seem promising, though.

Have you considered sometimes producing longer write-ups that somewhat extensively detail the arguments you saw for and against giving to a particular funding opportunity? (Perhaps just for larger grants.) 

This could provide an additional dose of the kind of benefits already provided by the current payout reports, as well as some of the benefits that having an additional animal welfare charity evaluator would provide. (Obviously there's already ACE in this space, but these write-ups could focus on funding opportunities they haven't got a write-up on, ... (read more)

Not strongly considered longer write-ups at this point. Basically, it takes a lot of work to publicly and extensively communicate our views in the form of longer-write ups. We generally don’t think that work adds much value to our primary output; it’s not a big part of how we make grant decisions, and donors rarely ask about it. So we usually prefer to focus our time on other parts of grant reporting, as well all the other work the Fund requires. That said, if you have any questions about any of the decisions we’ve made, please feel free to contact us [kieran@farmedanimalfunders.org]. Fwiw, we are doing somewhat longer write-ups for our biggest grantees of the round. However, these are more like a page or a bit over a page rather than a paragraph, but in the scheme of things, that may not be that much longer of a write-up. >A similar idea would be to sometimes investigate a smaller funding opportunity or set of opportunities in detail as a sort of exemplar of a certain type of funding opportunity, and produce a write-up on that. Yeah, that feels pretty interesting to me. I won’t make any commitments but I could see us doing more of that in the future. It could be worth experimenting with that.

The Long-Term Future Fund put together a doc on "How does the Long-Term Future Fund choose what grants to make?" How, if at all, is the AWF's process for choosing what grants to make differ from that? Do you have or plan to make a similar outline of your decision process? 

Similarly to LTFF, we solicit applications via an open process advertised on relevant sites, Facebook groups, and by individually reaching out to promising candidates. Additionally, we create an RFP and distribute it accordingly, which I believe LTFF decided not to do. Although similarly to LTFF, at AWF applications are initially triaged, rejecting applications that are out of scope or clearly below the bar for funding, we reject <5% instead of 40% of applications at that stage. The remaining applications are assigned to a primary and secondary fund manager with relevant, compatible expertise.

From the LTFF: 

The assigned fund manager will read the application in detail, and often reaches out to interview the applicant or ask clarifying questions. In addition, they may read prior work produced by the applicant, reach out to the applicant's references, or consult external experts in the area. They produce a brief write-up summarizing their thinking, and assign a vote to the application.

This is applicable to AWF as well. However, before the primary reviewer assigns their vote, they notify the secondary reviewer and ask for their input. We’re also a bit less likely to reach out ... (read more)

Thanks! It seems to me like you might now be like 80% of the way to a write-up like the LTFF's one with this comment of yours, haha. Maybe it'd be easy enough to just lightly edit that into a google doc framed as "what AWF does" rather than "how AWF differs from LTFF", and then link to that from the fund's page or future posts? (I don't really have a stake in this - just sharing a thought that occurred to me.)

I sometimes hear from people who are interested in working on cellular agriculture or other meat alternatives, and want to do a PhD, but can't find an advisor who is working on one of those subjects, so they instead plan to research e.g. tissue engineering or cell modeling for the purpose of treating human disease (or some other better funded domain).

In your request for proposals, you seem mostly interested in people who are working full-time on animal-related research.

I'm curious if you have advice for people who are in the situation I described (includin... (read more)

On who to be in touch with, I would suggest such a prospective student is in touch with groups like GFI and New Harvest if they would like advice on attempting to find advisors for this type of work. On advice, I would generally stay away from career advice. If forced to answer, I would not give general advice that everyone or most people are better off attempting to do as high impact research as soon as is feasible.

Are there ideas or approaches that you would have liked to seen receive funding, but where there weren't any or sufficiently strong enough proposals?

More generally, what do you think our movement is neglecting right now?

I would like to see more applications in the areas outlined in our RFP [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/yDhijyrbu3fYPLbn2/request-for-proposals-ea-animal-welfare-fund] and I’d encourage anyone with interest in working on those topics to contact us. More generally, I would like to see far more people and funding engaged in this area. Of course, that’s really difficult to accomplish. Outside of that, I’m not sure I’d point to anything in particular.

As more EA-aligned funders emerged, they usually request the same data and information, but often using their own methodology. There is a benefit to that, but there is also a cost for organizations that grows with the scale, for example by obtaining information from many countries and configuring it to the specific metrics requested by a funder.

EA Funds seems to have a diverse representation of funding groups in this space. Are funders coordinating in data sharing or thinking about standardizing parts of it, in order to free some capacity for both sides? If not, is there any plan to do so?

Some funders share data, typically when they’re considering funding a project and want other funders to co-fund it with them, but I’m not aware of any funders standardizing what they look for in grant requests, renewals, or progress reports. I think this a good idea—though it would require a high level of collaboration between funders that I think could be a bit challenging to achieve. FWIW, I pitched a few funders on this idea roughly a year ago at Farmed Animal Funders but didn’t get enough buy-in to warrant moving ahead. My sense is that many EA-aligned donors (excluding Open Philanthropy) don’t require too much in the way of grant applications or reporting from their grantees, so that’s some comfort. 

Congrats on being the new fund chair, Kieran!

I notice you've made a huge grant to Wild Animal Initiative. That's great! 

With work on this subject, I'm curious how you would prioritize between research to inform future interventions, advocacy to raise concern about the subject, and current interventions to improve wild animal welfare? 

Thanks, Max! :) There certainly are. Here’s what we listed in our RFP [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/yDhijyrbu3fYPLbn2/request-for-proposals-ea-animal-welfare-fund#Expressions_of_Interest__Feedback__and_Applying_for_Funding] : We’d be interested in hearing from you if: * You want to tackle some “big-picture” question regarding wild animal welfare * You would like to launch a new non-profit venture, or you would like to trial something new, in the wild animal welfare space * You’re a scientist and want to pursue field-building activities, such as organizing conferences, trainings, courses, or events * You’re a scientist that could add welfare metrics to your current or planned research * You’d like to do some research regarding wild animal welfare field-building opportunities * You’d like to scope some opportunities for initial policy work on wild animal welfare * You’d like to explore the potential of non-controversial means to improve the lives of any relatively large-scale population of wild animals * You’re interested in exploring what for-profit business ideas might exist in the wild animal welfare space We would love to hear from you regarding any of the above! If in doubt, please err on the side of reaching out.
Hi Max! I may not have much to add, because I know you've thought a ton about this and I'm obviously not on the AWF panel. But for what it's worth, here's how I would rate those categories, in descending order of expected impact: 1. Research to inform future interventions 2. Advocacy to raise concern about the subject 3. Current interventions to improve wild animal welfare Most of all, I think we should be measuring projects by how they contribute to the formation of a movement around wild animal welfare. That points in a slightly different direction than if we just think about the direct impact of a particular project. For example: 1. Research: Developing methods or concepts might catalyze further research better than simply developing technologies or species-specific knowledge. 2. Advocacy: Appealing to conservation organizations ("grasstops") might build coalitions quicker than appealing to the general public ("grassroots"). 3. Current interventions: Conceptually simple interventions on somewhat likable species (e.g., rat contraception) might attract more resources to the cause than counterintuitive interventions on alien species (e.g., humane insecticides), even if the latter would have more impact in the short term. Feel free to reach out if you want to bounce around ideas! cameronms@wildanimalinitiative.org [cameronms@wildanimalinitiative.org]

How did you come up with the requests for proposals list? and would you say there are any key priorities (either overall or per category) that you would definitely like to see in your next grant round?

In terms of the process, I drafted the RFP and then ran that by the other fund managers. After that, I incorporated their feedback. Hearing that, I suspect you might be somewhat less interested in the process and more interested in how we reached those areas and ideas. I think a quick response to this is: * All of us fund managers try to stay quite up to date on the body of evidence in our sector * We also routinely have calls with others involved in our sector and bounce ideas off of them, and try to hear their ideas * We then try quite hard to apply EA considerations in our sector (such as scale, neglectedness and cost-effectiveness) * We spend a lot of time reflecting on it * A lot of us are directly working on research into effective animal advocacy as part of our full-time job All that, feeds into and generates what we think priority areas are. But I am not sure that adequately addresses your question. Please feel free to follow up. > would you say there are any key priorities (either overall or per category) that you would definitely like to see in your next grant round? In terms of key priorities: * I would like us to fund further work in Asia * I would like us to fund further work on farmed fish * I would like us to fund further work on wild animals * I would love to find some promising new initiative on pb alternatives.
4Peter Wildeford2y
Can you say more about what kind of wild animal welfare work you would want to see?
Yeah, I think I would be interested in a variety of scoping projects. Briefly, some ideas that seem top of mind for me now are: * Someone thinking more about some very preliminary things that could be done in the policy space * Or more about an organization that might focus on wild animal welfare within cities * Or even more about a generalist group that may be to wild animals what GFI is to alt-proteins (some variety of programs and decent emphasis on movement-building) However, I think the bottleneck here may be more about finding talented people to do this type of work, rather than the outlining of specific ideas. Honestly, if readers have an idea for something that they would like to explore with regards to wild animal welfare, I expect I would probably be interested in hearing about it!
4Peter Wildeford2y
Can you say more about what you think a promising new initiative on PB alternatives might look like?
Sure. Very quickly, here are a few ideas/interventions that seem interesting to me: * Helping scope whether large and respected enviro groups may lobby on this if funding was available * Helping establish additional university-affiliated research centers that focus on research into pb alts * Helping establish trade associations in important places that don’t really have them right now Honestly, I think there’s just a lot of underexplored territory in the area. To some extent it is now about us diversifying somewhat, trying a number of different approaches, and then re-evaluating as to what has traction. The value of information from exploring some different interventions feels like it could be pretty high to me.

What are the fund's current focus areas? And Kieran, congratulations on being the new fund chair. Projecting yourself into the future, what would you say future areas of focus might be a year from now? 5 years from now?

I would say the current focus areas are: 1. Large-scale and neglected animal populations (for instance, farmed fish and wild animals) 2. Large-scale and neglected geographies (for instance, China and India) 3. Exploratory work regarding the scaling of alternative proteins (for instance, a novel and potentially scalable intervention on plant-based alternatives) In terms of projections, I think it is hard to say. There are going to be a lot of inputs into that output. Inputs that will only become known over the next couple of years Here are some plausible priority areas that come to my mind for the fund on a 2-5 year timeline: * Seeding some groups in the Middle-East and further seeding groups in Africa. * Alt-proteins * Fish welfare * Field building on wild animal welfare

Could you please list some of the past grantees? Which past grants are you the most proud of? And conversely have there been some lessons learned or updates to the methodology?

Sure. :) Somewhat random sample of past grantees includes: * FIAPO * Essere Animali * Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan * Compassion in World Farming USA The full list with description regarding the grants are available in our payout reports [https://funds.effectivealtruism.org/funds/animal-welfare#payout-reports]! Some specific grants that I have been particularly proud of include early stage grants to: * Crustacean Compassion * Equalia * Rethink Priorities * Wild Animal Initiative * Fish Welfare Initiative * Sinergia Animal In terms of lessons learned, I would quickly say: * Active grantmaking is important * Take the growth approach to evaluating startup non-profits, not the marginal approach [https://80000hours.org/2015/11/take-the-growth-approach-to-evaluating-startup-non-profits-not-the-marginal-approach/] * Double-check grantees understand any restrictions * References are useful in evaluations, although remember to ask for reasons behind references * Don’t spend some minimum amount of time on each grant out of a fairness intuition – instead, just focus on the grants that really matter. * It can be surprisingly difficult to get applications for funding out of some international groups

Besides trying to get people to eat plant-based and cultured foods instead, are there any promising ways to undermine the advance of insect farming, rather than just make it more humane? Maybe eliciting disgust reactions, expensive regulations to meet, promoting NIMBYISM? Could undercover investigations slow it?

It seems that attitudes towards insects as food are worse than towards other alternative proteins. Can we reinforce that?

Given we know so little about their potential capacities and what alters their welfare, I’d suggest the potential factory farming of insects is potentially quite bad. However, I don’t know what methods are effective at discouraging people from consuming them, though some of the things you suggest seem plausible paths here. I think it is pretty hard to say much on the tractability of these things, without further research. Also, we are generally keen to hear from folks who are interested in doing further work on invertebrates. And, personally, if you know of anyone interested in working on things like this I would encourage them to apply to be ED of the Insect Welfare Project [https://rethinkpriorities.applytojob.com/apply/hdV2YaubMH/Executive-Director-Of-The-Insect-Welfare-Project] .
2Peter Wildeford2y
How is NIMBYism helpful?
Preventing the farms from being built, but I guess they would just find somewhere else to build them, although the delay and costs might spare some insects. I'd guess insect farms would be less polluting than mammal and bird farms, so this might be harder to push.

In Lewis's recent AMA, he said this about the cost-effectiveness of Open Phil's grants, with many caveats following in the orginal comment:

Our current very rough estimate is that our average $ spent on corporate campaigns and all supporting work (which is ~40% of our total animal grant-making) achieves the equivalent of ~7 animals spared a year of complete suffering. We use this a rough benchmark for BOTECs on  new grants, and my best guess is this reflects roughly the range we should hope for the last pro-animal dollar. 

Do you have an estimate o... (read more)

We don’t have a cost-effectiveness estimate of our grants. The reason as to why not, is it’s likely very difficult to produce, and while it could be useful, we're not sure it's worth the investment for now.

Have you considered providing small pools of money to people who express potential interest in trying out grantmaking and who you have some reason to believe might be good at it? This could be people the fund manager's already know well, people who narrowly missed out on being appointed as full fund managers, or people who go through a short application process for these small pools specifically. 

Potential benefits:

  • That could directly increase the diversity of perspectives represented in total in animal welfare funding decisions
    • Not just in the sense o
... (read more)
That is interesting! Haven’t really thought much about doing it. But I think a lot of that is because I have not really come across anyone who has expressed this desire. It seems interesting, though, and could be worth exploring further. If someone is curious about doing something like this, I think it is worth reaching out to either me or Jonas.

My impression is that the ratio of organisations to individuals among Animal Welfare Fund grantees is much higher than among Long-Term Future Fund grantees. If that's correct, do you have a sense of why that is? 

Some possibilities that come to mind:

  • Simply a difference in what applications you tend to get
  • A difference between the two cause areas in what kinds of projects tend to be most impactful
  • A difference between the two Funds in the typical views of the Fund Managers regarding what kinds of projects tend to be most impactful 
    • (Such that, if the
... (read more)
Yeah, I think your impression of the ratio is correct. Briefly, as Michael St Jules notes, AWF interfaces with a much bigger community/movement than the LTFF currently does. I think that goes some of the way to explaining the difference in the ratio. Within the respective remits of each fund, it seems the AWF just generally has a more developed movement that it can grant to. The total FAW movement is > $100M per year. My guess is the total EA-aligned LTF movement is now just a pretty small fraction compared to that total. I think the research point is also important. My impression is that they tend to have a higher % of grantees focused on research than we do, and that in general, a higher number of research projects tend to be by individuals.
I would guess it's because there just are a lot more animal charities, and because the LTFF is mostly research-focused, and research is doable as an individual, whereas the other activities charities work on are less so. It might make sense to compare research grants at both funds, specifically. One major difference could be that EAA research requires more data collection, which could be harder as an individual. Another reason might be due to the existence of the research fund at ACE, which does fund individuals. Another could be that the LTFF space is much better funded, especially the organizations by large grantmakers, so what's left to fund is mostly individuals.

How has the EA fund grown over the years? Do you have a sense of what percentage of overall EA Animal Welfare giving is being done through the fund as opposed to direct donations from EAs to orgs? How it is being advertised both within the EA community and outside of it?

You can check the donations made through all the funds on our website [https://funds.effectivealtruism.org/stats/donations/fund]. Below I pasted a graph illustrating AWF’s growth over the last three years: I’m not aware of any comparison data of that sort, but a couple of sources (mainly EA Survey) may give us some approximate answers. EA Survey 2019 Series: Donation Data [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/29xPsh2MKkYGCuJhS/ea-survey-2019-series-donation-data] quotes the following amount of donations made by EA community members who filled out the EA Survey. Note however, that $87,385.50 of that amount was donated to EA Animal Welfare Fund. Out of that following organizations received funding: * ACE 132,222.80 * THL 128,012.00 * EA Animal Welfare Fund: 87,385.50 * GFI 85,778.53 * Mercy For Animals: 29,705.96 Those numbers add up to 463,104.79, so something is not right with the data. But it gives us a ballpark number. Lewis Bollard provided another interesting piece of data in one of his newsletters [https://us14.campaign-archive.com/?u=66df320da8400b581cbc1b539&id=a146d09d32], where he estimated a Farmed Animal Advocacy Groups and Team’s Revenue by Year. Note however, that those estimates are from 2014 and 2016, so before AWF launched. Lastly, for comparison data from Lewis Bollard’s newsletter [https://us14.campaign-archive.com/?u=66df320da8400b581cbc1b539&id=d62a9f2746] released in 2018 claiming that “Since the start of 2016, the Open Philanthropy Project has approved 82 farm animal welfare grants totaling $47M to 50 grantees in 24 countries.”
Karolina, Re: the 2019 EA Survey donation data, I think ACE was categorized under Meta? If you take ACE out of that list above the data looks more accurate (~$330k for Animal Welfare).

Much of your grantmaking goes to new and less established projects. There are many of those. Should we fear the (successful) programs get more funding-constrained once they have scaled up and therefore need more funding, but maybe they have lost the novelty for high-risk-high-reward-seeking donors? Or are other funders (individual donors, ACE recommendations, OpenPhil, other philanthropists) likely to take over?

In general, the AWF would be inclined to continue supporting those groups as they scale up if their work continues to be effective and in line with our funding priorities. I suspect as we have more funding available, we will be able to balance our support of new projects while helping to sustain existing groups. We are also in touch with other funders and grantmakers in this space and will reach out if we think a particular group is better suited for a different funding opportunity.

What will the AWF look like in 5 years? What may have changed? What do you hope for? What challenges do you foresee?

I think (and hope) that 5 years from now the AWF will allocate more than $10M in a single year. Here are some plausible priority areas that come to my mind for the fund on a 2-5 year timeline: * Seeding some groups in the Middle-East and further seeding groups in Africa. * Alt-proteins * Fish welfare. * Field building on wild animal welfare In terms of challenges, quick thoughts: * Navigating funding weirder/speculative stuff if our donor base has a lot of relatively new EA’s * Maintaining a high level of expertise across some pretty disparate areas (geographies, farmed animals, alt-proteins, wild animals, etc.) * Balancing my time on the fund vs my full-time job! :)

Besides your request for proposals, do you do any active grantmaking? How much? If so, how do either of the two ways bring you good opportunities?

Yeah, we definitely do other things on active grantmaking than just our RFP. Other things we do include: * Having calls with potential applicants * Encouraging some applicants to apply * Encourage some applicants to apply for more funding * If someone applies for something we don’t find as promising, we think of whether there are ways to get them above our bar for funding * Help initiate some projects I think historically most of our success in active grantmaking hasn’t come through our RFP and I think I would expect it to stay that way.

Do the fund managers ever do fun things together?? :)

Unfortunately, not yet. Pandemic certainly makes it harder. I would be keen for an in-person meet up at some point! 

Also, I whole-heartedly blame Jonas for not enough fun. Readers are generally encouraged to please aggressively contact and petition him on our behalf about making things more fun :)