This payout report covers the Effective Altruism Infrastructure Fund (EAIF)’s grantmaking starting January 2022 (after our December 2021 payout report), until early June 2023 (1 January 2022 - 15 June 2023).
In 2022, the EAIF received 595 applications, requesting a total of $77.8M in funding. Of these, the EAIF desk-rejected 77 applications. Among the remaining 518 applications, the EAIF recommended funding 264 applications (51%) for a total of $11,265,585. A further 10 applications (1.9%) were referred to private funders for a total of $59,289.
In 2023, the EAIF (as of June 5th) received 280 applications, requesting a total of $17.1M in funding. Of these, we desk-rejected 52, and (as of June 5th) were evaluating 34 applications. Among the remaining 194 applications, we recommended funding 83 applications (43%) for a total of $2,079,927. One application (0.52%) was referred to a private funder for a total of $10,000.
The current version of this post was primarily written by Tom Barnes and Linch Zhang. Significant writing and feedback came from Max Daniel (who wrote the earliest draft), Michelle Hutchinson, Peter Wildeford, and Caleb Parikh.
(This section was written by Linch Zhang)
The EA Infrastructure Fund last published a payout report for the period September - December 2021. Since then, we decided to deprioritize the publication of payout reports, as EAIF’s capacity has been low. Instead, EA Funds launched a Public Grants Database which provides basic information on all grants.
Nonetheless, we believe that a payout report is (long) overdue, especially given a number of changes to EA Funds. For the EA Infrastructure Fund, the most immediately relevant updates are:
- EAIF (along with LTFF) is significantly funding constrained. If donations to EAIF continue at their (post-FTX) rate, EAIF will be unable to make ~$3.5 million in impactful grants over the next 6 months.
- Open Philanthropy is matching donations to the EAIF (and LTFF) until the end of January 2024, at a rate of 2:1 (i.e., a $1 donation will lead to EAIF granting out $3). At the time of writing, ~30% of the match has been filled.
- Max Daniel, Senior Program Associate at Open Philanthropy, has stepped down as chair of EAIF. EA Funds Project Lead Caleb Parikh has since served as interim chair.
We hope that by giving further insight into past EAIF grants, potential donors can make better informed decisions about whether to support the EAIF going forward.
Highlighted grants in 2023
We selected grants that provide examples of EAIF grants that seem especially impactful, or for which it seemed especially illuminating to share the fund managers’ reasoning. They are not a comprehensive list of all the most impactful EAIF grants (and any such list would be pretty debatable and differ between fund managers). We chose to highlight grants from 2023 rather than 2022 because they are more representative of EAIF’s current funding bar, and more generally of EAIF post-FTX. For a list of all EAIF grants, see our public grants database.
Grants investigated by Max Daniel
Abigail Olvera ($12,000): Project expenses for a book on scholarship strategies for low-income students that also includes a chapter on high-impact careers and pointers to EA-related resources such as 80,000 Hours.
- One strong feature of this application was that the applicant seemed like a great fit for this project: Abigail has been involved in the EA community for multiple years and is very familiar with EA ideas (including, e.g., from her current work on AI governance at Rethink Priorities); and she was a low-income student who then successfully secured scholarships to attend some of the world’s top universities.
- By the time of her application, the applicant had already demonstrated a lot of initiative and follow-through on this project – a first draft of the book was basically completed. (Though note that we don’t generally require applicants to already have substantial completed outputs by the time of an application.)
- While I don’t know of data to back this up, my impression is that people from low-income backgrounds are underrepresented in the EA community, and I’d also guess that EA-related content on average resonates less well with that audience, e.g., because many recommended actions such as donations or risky career moves are more accessible to people in a comfortable financial position. Put differently, introducing EA principles in a context that otherwise is attentive to challenges disproportionately faced by low-income students seems neglected to me, which made me more excited about funding this opportunity.
- We had some concerns about overemphasizing or advertising EA opportunities in an unnatural way, given that the overall goal of the book is to help low-income students navigate college. We discussed them with the author, and our impression was that we were broadly on the same page on how to best navigate this. (We also approved the second half of this grant, which was for marketing expenses, only after we were able to review an edited draft in order to make sure that we’re comfortable with promoting the relevant content.)
Zachary Thomas ($13,200): 6-month career transition grant to enable an early-career professional with EA-related work experience to make a more informed decision on which of three career paths to pursue (research, policy, or entrepreneurship) and to prepare strong applications for their next step.
- The EAIF has made several similar grants aimed at facilitating an applicant’s move to a higher-impact career, so I’m mostly going to share my thoughts on this general type of grant.
- Many people encounter situations where they could leverage a break of a couple of months between jobs to increase the long-term impact of their career by upskilling, networking, testing their fit for different career paths, or making a lateral move between different fields or industries (which can take a while, especially if it’s a relatively uncommon move). Financial support that enables such career transitions continues to strike me as a potentially high-leverage grant opportunity.
- That said, I think there are some common pitfalls that people contemplating such plans may want to be aware of: Many people find it challenging to navigate professional situations with relatively little external accountability and structure, so if someone’s plans involve these issues I’d encourage people to consider how big a challenge this may present for them (e.g., by considering in which sorts of environments they have flourished vs. struggled in the past). I think it’s also worth keeping in mind that learning on the job or in a more structured environment (e.g., a coding bootcamp) can be more efficient than independent upskilling with little management or mentorship.
- When evaluating such grants for the EAIF, I’m most interested in understanding what cause areas and broad types of career an applicant intends to focus on, their thinking on these cause areas and career paths (because that’s relevant to whether they’d be able and motivated to identify and pursue high-impact opportunities within their fields in the future), how well they might do in the relevant careers, and what difference funding would make to their plans. Applicants need not have previous work experience in effective altruism, have a highly specific plan, or be at any particular career stage.
- Depending on their situation, applicants interested in such grants might also be interested in applying to the Long-Term Future Fund (also part of EA Funds) or Open Philanthropy’s early-career funding program.
Grants investigated by Max Daniel with significant input from assistant fund managers
Hear This Idea ($35,328): One year of operations support and part-time stipend for Fin Moorhouse and Luca Righetti to continue producing episodes for Hear This Idea, a podcast focused on new thinking in effective altruism. This includes funding for an “mini-series” on reducing existential risks from artificial intelligence and for operations assistance for the podcast’s small media grants program Amplify.
- Hear This Idea presents the work and motivations of nascent EA researchers in a fair amount of depth. In general, I’m happy with the quality of the work produced for the podcast, and I think the podcasters’ internal theory of change is reasonable. The podcast has a modest listenership that has grown steadily (and doubled) over the past year. The vast majority of the existing listener base does not currently work on EA topics full-time and around one third of the listeners are current students, which suggests that there is room for inducing career changes. Hear This Idea is focused on these routes to impact—during the grant window, the podcasters plan to add more concrete calls to action, produce episodes that facilitate plan changes (e.g. episodes focused on skill-building), and create episode series that provide in-depth information on topics they find important, including artificial intelligence.
- The operations support for the Amplify creative grants program is relatively low cost, and it seems likely to help give the 12 media projects supported by Amplify a higher chance of success.
- The content and listenership of Hear This Idea both have substantial overlap with the 80,000 Hours podcast, which reduces the counterfactual impact of the podcast. However, I estimate that >25% of listenership for Hear This Idea does not listen to the 80k podcast, and the in-depth mini-series on particular issues, continued growth, focus on path changes and skill-building, and additional high-quality EA content for people in and adjacent to the EA community all increase the likelihood that the podcast catalyzes valuable career changes.
Grants investigated by Michelle Hutchinson
Training for Good’s EU Tech Policy Fellowship ($114,411): 8-month programme helping ambitious graduates to launch EU policy careers focused on emerging tech. The majority of the funding went to paying stipends to allow 8 graduates to do placements at EU think tanks, but it also included doing a retreat between all the fellows.
- The model of paying stipends to allow graduates to try out working in policy seems sensible to me given that both think tanks and graduates are typically constrained by funding. Training for Good had run a previous small iteration of the fellowship (5 participants), and the fellows they took in that cohort seemed impressive. By the time of applying for this funding, 3 of those 5 had permanent jobs in EU policy, providing some evidence of it as a programme for getting people to test their fit working in the area and allowing them to find jobs. References for the individuals and organisation as a whole were very positive and their plans and answers to questions were an impressive mixture of comprehensive, measured and thoughtful.
- One worry we had was that EU policy was less impactful than US policy and that this would encourage people who could work in the US to work in the EU instead. Fund managers had different views about the strength of this concern. When we discussed it with Training for Good they were thinking carefully about how to mitigate that possible harm.
Grants Investigated by Tom Barnes
The following were grants investigated by Tom Barnes, an assistant fund manager at EAIF. As an assistant fund manager, Tom conducted the primary investigations and wrote up notes for permanent fund managers, but he did not vote on the grants directly. Instead, the final grant decisions were made by other fund managers.
Scholars for Society (Birmingham Chapter) ($10,000): Logistical costs for a single in-person educational event helping young people explore potential effective career paths.
What is this?
- Scholars for Society (SfS) is a student-led organization based in the US, raising interest in global problems. SfS Birmingham is a new branch, aimed at getting high school UK students engaged in EA-related topics
- This grant covered the costs of running an event in Birmingham, where high school students met for an all-day conference discussing high-impact causes and career opportunities for young people.
Why did we recommend it?
- We were impressed with the organizers’ plans, motivation and background, and thus felt excited to empower them to run events like this
- The event themselves sounded well thought through, with well targeted outreach and strong speakers
- We received strong references from others who had supported them at other high school programs like LEAF and Non-Trivial
- The amount of money requested was very low, relative to the potential upside. As such, we recommended a larger amount of funding than originally requested ($5,025), to help cover more costs of running the event.
What were some uncertainties?
- Given the relative youth of the organizers, we believed there was a higher risk that the event wouldn't be a success, given less of a track record to rely upon. Similarly, Scholars for Society is a relatively new organization, and one we did not spend long evaluating, and thus there was some uncertainty about how effective they are.
- We were unsure about how impactful the event itself would be, believing there to be a decent chance that the vast majority of attendees don’t go onto more impactful careers.
- Nonetheless, we think the experience was sufficiently valuable for the organizers to be worthwhile
Anonymous ($15,500): 6-month salary to support transition from PhD to a more impactful career in biosecurity
What is this?
- A very promising individual working in biosecurity had an emergency funding shortfall, for which they required immediate financial support.
Why did we recommend it?
- We received very strong references from all experts we reached out to in the biosecurity space, who were all keen to ensure they were supported, given the applicant’s experience and potential in biosecurity.
- References also believed a grant at this time for a career transition could be highly impactful, given the individual’s personal circumstances.
- We trusted the judgment of the references we reached out to, making us confident that this application was especially promising.
What were some uncertainties?
- Given the time sensitive nature of the application, we were unable to develop a strong inside view of the individual, mostly deferring to experts in the field instead.
- Career transitions can generally be highly heavy-tailed, with a relatively limited number of successes which ex post we would be glad to have made the grant (especially given funding constraints)
- Nonetheless, we think the evidence given by references was strong enough to overcome this skeptical prior.
An update on this grant is that the grantee was able to evaluate a number of opportunities (including completing 3 final-round work trials for biosecurity roles, and exploring local options in their underrepresented-in-EA geographical region), and have career conversations with multiple knowledgeable people in biosecurity. Ultimate, the grantee decided based on their experiences to go back and finish their PhD. They’ve spent $10,000 on the grant and will return the remaining $5,500.
The Life You Can Save ($21,800) - Print, pack and ship copies of The Life You Can Save for distribution by Booktopia in Australia
What is this?
- The Life You Can Save (TLYCS) Australia developed a partnership with Booktopia, the largest online book retailer in the country.
- $21,800 allowed TLYCS to print and distribute for free an estimated ~4,000 additional books through Booktopia
Why did we recommend it?
- We were impressed with TLYCS’ track record in driving money to effective charities, on a relatively slim budget. For instance, in 2021 TLYCS reported ~$23m moved on a total budget of $1.3m, giving a gross multiplier of 18.5x. We believe a decent fraction of these donations were counterfactual, giving a predicted gross multiplier of around ~16x
- Thus, extrapolating TLYCS’ track record, we estimated that ~$22k could move about $350k to TLYCS-recommended charities.
What were some uncertainties?
- We were concerned about the cost-effectiveness of TLYCS-recommended charities. Charity evaluators like GiveWell would not consider above their bar for funding. Our best guess (with high uncertainty) was that the average cost-effectiveness of donations driven by TLYCS would be ~3-4x lower than to GiveWell.
- Nonetheless, we believed that the quantity of money moved to charities at this level of effectiveness was sufficiently high to justify making the grant. Specifically, multiplying donations to TLYCS charities by 16.5x would be roughly the same as multiplying donations to GiveWell charities by 4x.
- We were less sure about the counterfactual value of other TLYCS programs. In a sense, our model alone is a lower bound for the median guess of their impact, as TLYCS comes out ahead even when we conservatively estimated the counterfactual impact of their other work to be 0.
What are some updates?
Due to some reflection and review after making the grant, some of us decided that our initial evaluation of counterfactuality was likely too optimistic. However, we still think the grant was worth making. Note that this reflection is due to a re-evaluation of existing evidence, not due to any new evidence that came in.
Anonymous ($52,500) 12-month stipend to support EAs via Effective Altruism Anywhere and professional development
What is this?
- The grantee had been involved in several EA Community Building projects, including support for CEA, organizing community building retreats, leading on aspects of EAGx Singapore 2022 & EAGx Virtual 2022, and volunteering for EA Anywhere, running events in the Asia-Oceania timezone.
- At the time of evaluating, EA Anywhere was reaching a large number of EAs (via 1:1s, events, Coworking, talks and more). Furthermore, they were seeing a large fraction of their members moving into impactful careers. However, they were capacity constrained, with just 1 FTE staff member supporting the community.
- Thus, the grantee was keen to support EA Anywhere’s growth and provide more capacity.
Why did we recommend this grant?
- As mentioned, EA Anywhere has seen significant growth, providing a critical contact point for EAs who may not have a local EA group to rely upon. We were excited to see how EA Anywhere could build on the community it had developed, deepening engagements with existing members as well as recruiting new people to the community
- We were impressed with the grantees' extensive experience in community building, through both virtual and in-person projects. Additionally we received positive testimonies about the events that the grantee helped to lead.
- Given a more funding-constrained environment, we think projects such as EA Anywhere look more promising (relative to pre-FTX), since online groups cost much less to run, and these costs probably decrease faster than any lost benefit from not being in person.
What were some uncertainties?
- We were uncertain about whether scaling support for EA Anywhere would be above the bar in the new funding environment, since we generally expect diminishing returns.
- [for context, this grant was made at a time when EAIF believed it would be highly funding constrained given the separation of Open Philanthropy and EA Funds]
- I think there may be potential in the broad space of online/virtual community building in principle, and perhaps experimenting with new activities would be able to identify new, more cost-effective ones. But I'm unsure, and this makes me reluctant to commit 12 months of funding for EA Anywhere upfront, compared to shorter experiments.
- We were uncertain whether the grantee's time would be more impactful at EA Anywhere supported by EAIF or organizing events such as EAGx Virtual and EAGx Philippines with support from CEA. Thus, we reached an arraignment in which EAIF and CEA would separately cover expenses for the respective projects.
Causeway Charitable Foundation ($50,000)
What is this?
- Causeway was set up as a new online platform to increase the impact of employee giving (primarily targeting employees in tech companies in the US). They provided users with personalized “portfolios”, which give a combination of charities within a given cause area (such as GiveWell’s recommendations in Global Health, Giving Green in Climate, and ACE in Animal Welfare).
- Our January 2023 grant followed a previous $50k grant made to Causeway in mid-2022, which helped to launch the organization.
Why did we recommend this grant?
- We were excited by Causeway’s two founders - Ben Horwitz and Reed Rosenbluth - who many people we spoke to had highly positive opinions of.
- We are excited to see that Causeway was recently acquired by Charity Navigator, hiring Ben as a Vice President. We hope this offers an opportunity to integrate ideas around effective giving into Charity Navigator’s evaluation process.
What are some uncertainties?
- We were unsure about how fast Causeway would be able to grow. Causeway had ambitions to grow very rapidly, which we were unsure would be feasible given the reference class of similar organizations like Tyve.
- We were unsure about the cost-effectiveness of donations that Causeway would be able to generate. We estimated that donations to charities in Causeway’s portfolios would be (on average) about as cost-effective as GiveDirectly, with some above and some below. As such, we expected that in order for this grant to be a success, we needed to see a large amount of money moved for each dollar provided.
Other grants we made during this period
You can see a list of all of our public grants here.
These applications were quickly rejected without substantive evaluation because they were out of EAIF’s scope or clearly below the funding bar.
The EA Infrastructure Fund is part of EA Funds, which is a fiscally sponsored project of Effective Ventures Foundation (UK) (“EV UK”) and Effective Ventures Foundation USA Inc. (“EV US”). Donations to EAIF are donations to EV US or EV UK. Effective Ventures Foundation (UK) (EV UK) is a charity in England and Wales (with registered charity number 1149828, registered company number 07962181, and is also a Netherlands registered tax-deductible entity ANBI 825776867). Effective Ventures Foundation USA Inc. (EV US) is a section 501(c)(3) organization in the USA (EIN 47-1988398). Please see important state disclosures here.
I.e. We believe marginal donations will allow us to make highly impactful grants. See marginal funding post here.
Where “impactful” grants are those we believe to be above Open Philanthropy’s bar for EA Community Building projects (see here).
Open Philanthropy is willing to match up to $3.5m in donations until the end of January 2024. So far, $1.08M of this match fund has been used, from $540k in EAIF donations. Full details here
However there are many grants from 2022 we are excited to have made - our decision not to cover them is not related to the quality of those grants.