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We think this post will be relevant for people who want to apply to Meta Charity Funders (MCF) in the future and people who want to better understand the EA Meta funding landscape. 

The post is written by the organisers of MCF (who are all authors of this post). Some of our members might not agree with everything said.  

Summary

Meta Charity Funders (MCF) is a new funding circle that aims to fund charitable projects working one level removed from direct impact. In our first grant round spanning Aug-Oct 2023, we received 101 applications and ultimately funded 6 projects: Future Forward, Ge Effektivt, Giving What We Can, an anonymous GCR career transition initiative, promoting Peter Singer's work, and UHNW donation advisory. In total, our members gave $686,580 to these projects. We expect our next round to give 20% to 50% more than this amount, as our first round had less donor engagement and funding capacity than we expect in the future. The next grant round will open in February 2024, and we will welcome applications similar to the last round, especially "giving multipliers" that help grow the pie of effective donations.

Our grant-making process this round  

MCF was launched at the end of July 2023, and applications closed a month later, at the end of August. Over two months, our funding circle convened every two weeks to collaboratively decide on funding allocations, with individual members devoting additional time for evaluation between meetings. Our active members, composed of 9 individuals, undertook this project alongside their regular commitments.

From the 101 applications received, the main organizers conducted an initial review. This process was aimed at creating a short(er) list of applications for more time-constrained members by rather quickly determining if proposals were within scope, with a relevant approach and aligned team. This first stage resulted in 38 proposals advancing for further discussion, out of which 20 applicants were interviewed for more detailed insights.

As the funding decisions approached in October, it became clear that many in our circle were nearing their annual donation limits or had less time than expected, which affected our final funding capacity. Ultimately, we funded 6 projects with total allocations of $686,580. See more about the grants we made below.

While we are generally happy with this first round and very grateful for the many great applications and donors who have joined, we think we have significant room for growth and improvement. Most concretely, we hope and expect to give out more in future rounds; there were fewer active donating members in the circle this first round and several had already made their donations for the year. We also hope and expect to form and communicate a clearer scope of our funding priorities and make final grant decisions sooner within each round.   

Information for the next round

The next round will open in late February, with grants given out in May. The application form will remain open but don’t expect your application to be processed before March. We were generally excited about the applications we received for this round and hope that we will get similar applications in the next round as well.

If you want to join Meta Charity Funders as a donor, please fill in this form. Note that there is an expected annual donation amount of a minimum $100,000, but you obviously do not have to donate if you do not think there are good enough opportunities, and during the first year you can mainly observe. If you have any questions, please contact us at metacharityfunders@gmail.com.

Check out our website to learn more about Meta Charity Funders and stay up-to-date with the new funding round.

The most common reasons for rejection

By sharing the most common reasons for rejections, we hope to support future grantees and help people make more informed decisions on whether they should apply to Meta Charity funders. (Note that we only speak for ourselves here, not other funders.)

  • The suggested project was not within scope: A fair amount of applications fell outside of the areas which our donors were interested in supporting. We think this was primarly our fault, as we were still figuring out who our donors were and what they were interested in when we launched. However, at a high level, Meta Charity Funders exists to fund projects that fall within the “Meta” category and are unlikely to be funded by other major funders in this space. Applications that we are less excited about include direct first-order interventions (e.g. health interventions) and individual career upskilling focused on a particular path. We will provide greater clarity on our scope and areas of interest among our donors when we launch our next grant round.
  • Going too big too early: We hesitate to give large grants (~$150K+) to new projects without much track record. An incremental upscaling is generally preferred to a more sudden upscaling, as something akin to “track record” or “expected upside” divided by “funding ask” is the ratio we’re trying to maximize as funders. The absence of a substantial track record makes it challenging to justify larger funding requests, such as those needed for hiring additional employees. To be more specific, we are particularly wary of situations where a project seeks to more than double its budget with less than 12 months of demonstrated success. This caution stems from the need to ensure that significant increases in funding are truly warranted and likely to yield proportional benefits.
  • Insufficient alternative funding sources: A number of grants seemed good if continued but nevertheless did not receive funding because they seemed unlikely to be able to fundraise enough to sustain their budget long-term. While we are okay with funding a large portion of a project’s budget as a one-off grant, we do not want organizations to depend on us for long-term funding as we are very uncertain about who our donors will be or what grants they will prioritize in the future. This is another reason we prefer not to fund large grants for newer projects.
  • The theory of change was unclear, unfocused, or seemed implausible: Some applicants did not share sufficient reasoning on how their project (in the end) contributes to a better world. Other applicants had a theory of change which seemed too complex or involved too many programs; we generally prefer fewer programs with a more narrow focus, especially for earlier-stage projects. Other theories of change simply seemed like an inaccurate representation of how well the intervention would actually work. As a starting point, we recommend Aidan Alexander’s post on ToC’s.

Grants we made

Below we will provide a summary of the projects that we ended up funding as stated by the applicants themselves, to what extent we have chosen to fund them, their ask, and our reasoning. Note that all funding decisions are made personally by individual members and do not necessarily reflect the priorities of the funding circle in its entirety.

Giving What We Can ($200,000 in donation matching of $1,500,000)

“Giving What We Can (GWWC) is working to grow the effective giving community both directly through pledges and donors on our own platform and indirectly by helping other initiatives get started and providing support (e.g. research, donation platform, marketing etc). This in turn translates into funds for high-impact charities and funds.”

Our donors have been offering up to $200,000 in donation matches to GWWC at a 1:1 ratio since December 7, 2023 and ending by January 31, 2025. If you are interested in supporting GWWC, we highly encourage you to do so before this deadline! See here for more information about the match.

Reasons for funding

  • GWWC has a very strong historic giving multiplier, with a lot of room for funding. 
  • We expect their multiplier to be only slightly worse going forward, as their expected growth in total pledgers/donors likely balances out the diminished returns from marketing/services per pledger/donor. 
  • They also have a track record of getting people engaged in impactful actions beyond giving (e.g. career changes), so the multiplier likely greatly undercounts their impact.
  • We are doing the donation match because we hope it will both help GWWC to diversify their revenue sources while allowing us to give a relatively large grant without being as large a portion of their 2024 budget as we otherwise would be.

Future Forward ($36,580 of $36,580) 

“Our proposal rests on the assumption that good judgement is what separates effective leaders from ineffective ones, and that the environment and exposure required to cultivate these skills is severely lacking in India. [...] This leads to lost opportunity when seeking out promising talent for global opportunities. We've already run a self-funded pilot and need funds to run more iterations to polish the 4 factors: Environment, Audience, Programming, and Impact.”

Reasons for funding

  • We’re generally excited about India as a hub of talent that EA has so far failed to build a sufficiently strong foothold in. 
  • This sits in a funding gap where they would likely fall outside of the scope of other funders.
  • Self-funded pilot shows commitment and proof of concept.

Ge Effektivt ($140,000 of $197,000)

Description our own: Ge Effektivt, is a Swedish fundraising platform for effective charities within global health, animal welfare, and climate. Shortly after bringing on a new team of senior fundraisers, they lost significant funding, putting them at risk of collapsing unless given a lifeline while looking for other funding.

Reasons for funding

  • Solid multiplier to relevant charities.
  • They were in an urgent funding situation, and this grant will likely allow them to find other means of funding, with lower counterfactual, while also proving their prowess within donor advising for HNWI, which we think is an underutilized approach in the EA community.
  • As the organization is already up and running, it’s better to keep it afloat as opposed to funding other similar new initiatives applying for funding.

Anonymous initiative to support people making career transitions into global catastrophic risk fields ($170,000)

Reasons for funding

  • We are excited by proposals for increasing the talent working in these fields
  • They seem to have achieved some success in their goals so far

Promote Peter Singer's work ($40,000 of $40,000)

“This grant will be used to hire a contractor to enhance the online presence of Peter Singer’s advocacy including website redesign, YouTube channel development, podcast development, and a monthly newsletter.”

Reasons for funding

  • Peter is retiring from Princeton and wants to shift his attention toward growing his online presence and advocacy, which given his track record of outreach to get people interested in doing good effectively, seems like a promising opportunity to support
  • We believe Peter has been underresourced, e.g. not getting a social media assistant until quite recently, and this was a very modest ask.
  • This grant is unlikely to be funded by someone else, as indicated by another funder forwarding it to us since it fell outside the scope of their program

Anonymous initiative in UHNW Donation Advisory ($100,000 of $300,000)

“There seems to be common agreement that there is a gap in general, disinterested infrastructure around UHNW giving in EA, which can: 

  • Find and build trust with UHNW donors. 
  • Educate donors in Effective Altruist principles and research. 
  • Coordinate the experience of these donors in engaging with the best advisors and research in EA. 

I propose to begin doing this work, as a freelancer, to test my assumptions in thinking that I can be successful in this field.”

Reasons for funding

  • Members are generally excited about this type of endeavor as we agree with the problem statement and that it seems like few are doing this overall and even fewer within non-longtermism causes
  • We think it’s important that the right support is given, as there are significant downsides to suboptimal outreach.

 

Ending remarks

All funding decisions are made personally by individual circle members and do not necessarily reflect the priorities of the funding circle in its entirety. For any information about funding or membership, please reach out to metacharityfunders@gmail.com! 


 

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Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 10:14 PM

As an unsuccessful applicant, I was impressed by MCF's straightforward, non-onerous application, quick turnaround, (at least by the foundation NGO standards I'm used to) and the great specific feedback that I received as to why our initiative didn't get funded. 

I hope these initiatives go well, and the donor circle can further grow. 

Great job!

Thank you very much for the kind words Nick!

A number of grants seemed good if continued but nevertheless did not receive funding because they seemed unlikely to be able to fundraise enough to sustain their budget long-term. While we are okay with funding a large portion of a project’s budget as a one-off grant, we do not want organizations to depend on us for long-term funding as we are very uncertain about who our donors will be or what grants they will prioritize in the future. This is another reason we prefer not to fund large grants for newer projects.

 

(Disclaimer: I was involved with such a project, and no longer am, though for now it's still continuing)

This seems like a strange way of thinking about it to me - sure, it feels bad if you fund a project that goes under sometime thereafter, but those project are where I would imagine such grants to have the highest leverage. In many cases, they're in a vicious cycle of needing to spend time to seek funding and then looking worse to funders because they haven't had enough time to spend on pursuing their nominal goals or improving operational efficiency. Often a single large grant might help them break out of that cycle, especially if it were presented with a clear understanding that it were such a grant. So you'll get fewer 'successes' than you would from donating to more established orgs, but I would think the expectation from well chosen grants to less established organisations would be much higher.

This seems to be exactly the reason you've given for funding Ge Effektivt, so it seems like you accept this reasoning in some circumstances. I don't want to pretend I know what your money would be best spent on, but for the sake of future applicants I think it would be helpful to have more clarity on this reason for rejection.

Thank you for your feedback, I completely agree with your comment that

[...] for the sake of future applicants I think it would be helpful to have more clarity on this reason for rejection.

So I’ll try to clarify what we mean here. 

First, I would like to stress that that the funding circle gathers individual funders with separate wills cooperating under a joint brand to i) more easily process a higher number of applications ii) have a forum where we can discuss the grants to make a more informed decision. So, while the list of the “most common reasons for rejection” is written with the intent to reflect an amalgamation of views of the funders, every funding decision is made by individual members. 

More to your question,

“[...] you'll get fewer 'successes' than you would from donating to more established orgs, but I would think the expectation from well chosen grants to less established organisations would be much higher [...] This seems to be exactly the reason you've given for funding Ge Effektivt.” 

I agree with this reasoning and certainly believe in hits-based giving. However, we mean something different here. We’re not trying to say that we don’t want to take bets and risk having very limited impact, but that when comparing funding opportunities it, all else being equal seems worse if one does not look like it will be able to raise funds to continue to operate. Regarding Ge Effektivt, which I personally decided to donate to, I was taking a bet that GE will be able to get on its feet with this injection of cash. One of the reasons it stood out to me was actually that I think they can raise money with lower counterfactual going forward.

"In many cases, they're in a vicious cycle of needing to spend time to seek funding and then looking worse to funders because they haven't had enough time to spend on pursuing their nominal goals or improving operational efficiency. Often a single large grant might help them break out of that cycle, especially if it were presented with a clear understanding that it were such a grant."

We would be happy to fund an applicant that could convince us that that is the situation they have found themselves in. However, I don't think that you in (hits-based) grantmaking, would fund something for which you do not think there will be a later funder, if you cannot fund it yourself.

Hope that clarifies things a bit!

Thanks, that's useful :)

I would still worry that in practice most organisations don't know how much they're in that situation, so if you're penalising uncertainty, you're going to lose a lot of expected value - but I guess that's a balance you can figure out (and I hope be somewhat explicit on) over time.

It's great to see more funding for meta initiatives, so thank you for your work on the MCF!

and we will welcome similar applications as the last round, especially "giving multipliers" that help grow the pie of effective donations.

Could you say more about your circle's reasons for focusing on giving multipliers? I'd be especially curious about why you might focus on donations instead of multiplying other resources like human capital.

(Maybe answered in the first question) What is the object-level cause prioritisation of circle funders?

Hi Peter, 

Thanks for the questions. I am afraid I cannot give a particularly good answer, as each member speaks and makes decisions for themselves, and I have not properly investigated the things you are asking about. I hope to build higher clarity on this over time and give a better answer, but I will say a few high-level things that I think are true and might shine some light. 

- Several members prioritize global health and well-being (high confidence) and think that this cause seems more funding-constrained than talent-constrained (low confidence)
- Some members are more excited about projects with clear feedback loops (medium confidence)
- Some members think there is an opportunity here as few other funders are focusing on giving multipliers (low confidence)

Importantly these are my impressions, not more. Also, it does not reflect all members' views. E.g. I prioritize GCRs and multiplying human capital, due to thinking this is more important than financial capital for the causes I think are most important.