I'd love to be able to give my family & friends gift cards that let them choose which EA charity they'll donate to. These would be more restrictive than overall charity gift cards where the funds can go to any tax-deductible organization. (Of the sort provided by every.org or tisbest.) But they would be more flexible than the tradition of just making a fixed donation to a specific charity in someone else's name. I want to load up a card with anywhere from $50 to $5000, then give it to my friend for them to allocate the cash among a curated selection of EA charities.

EA gift cards could be a really fun way to introduce people to effective altruism and make a positive impression. I'm thinking you'd redeem the gift cards on a website that contains materials explaining the overall concept of EA, followed by brief introductions to some individual wings of the movement: global development, x-risk reduction, animal welfare, cause prioritization, etc, explaining why each is a contender for the coveted title of most-effective.

Maybe clicking into each wing takes you to a page that explains the rationale for that wing in more detail, followed by a breakdown into sub-areas. X-risk would become AI vs biorisk vs others. Global development might become Against Malaria Foundation, versus more hits-based health interventions like deworming, versus economic growth interventions. And so forth. Just like on effectivecrypto.org, you could donate to either a cause-area bundle or your own custom mix of individual charities. Finally, of course, after the donation we could ask if people want to be signed up for the EA Newsletter or engage in other ways.

Pros:

  • This project seems like it would be pretty easy to spin up. (In fact, I wonder if it already exists -- let me know if I've just missed it in my googling.) It could be a side-project of existing organizations like EA Funds, Effective Crypto, or Giving Multiplier, or it could be somebody's independent project.
  • It would be a great way to introduce people to EA and get new people motivated to learn about the key ideas. Rather than seeming preachy and demanding or overly academic/theoretical, deciding how to use your EA gift card would ideally come across as a fun and real-world-relevant activity.
  • Lots of people in this here Forum would probably love to get their friends and coworkers EA gift cards.

Cons:

  • The pool of potential customers is naturally self-limiting since there are a small number of highly-engaged EAs in the world. Once everybody in the existing community has bought a gift card for their family members for Christmas, then there's no more room for growth.
  • It's possible that the recruitment-oriented messaging of this site ("Take lots of time to learn more about all these different areas!") would conflict a bit with the impact-maximizing message of bigger organizations like GiveWell. ("We make giving easy since you can follow our expert advice.") But in practice I don't think this would be too confusing.
  • There might be some tricky steps involved to set things up properly — anybody starting this project from scratch might have to incorporate as a new nonprofit, research what payment platforms to work with, figure out how to order nice plastic gift cards, etc.

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SoGive piloted charity gift cards some years ago.

Our charity donations product worked as follows:

  • The gift giver loaded up the gift recipient's account with however much money they liked
  • The gift recipient could choose to donate to any charity
  • The user journey "nudged" donors to high impact charities: the front page showed SoGive Gold-rated charities (which at the time perfectly aligned with GiveWell-recommended charities). To get to another charity required an extra click. The front page explained that those charities were there because careful research had shown these charities to be higher impact.

The successful bits:

  • Our user testing suggested the nudge was largely successful:  users largely wanted to complete the process as quickly as possible and were happy to accept the research done by others

The less successful bits

  • Donor acquisition costs (i.e. the costs of online advertising to get users) was higher than the donations generated

We then experimented with the model. We tried a different product where the gift recipient receives 50% charity donation, 50% Amazon gift voucher. This was more successful, in that the amount of charity donations generated at least exceeded the advertising costs. However this was not sufficient -- we had set a more demanding goal than this, and it did not reach that target.

We did not target the EA community, as we were aiming for impact, and didn't want to target users whose counterfactuals involved donating to high impact charities anyway.

"We did not target the EA community [...]"
Did you consider that EAs might want to provide this as a gift to their non-EA friends or family? Personally, it seems like one of the most likely ways/instances in which I would introduce some of my connections to EA charities.

Donating to a charity in someone else's name feels like a worse gift to me, and maybe unhealthy in EA circles. Would be interested in seeing people's anecdata to the contrary however! :)

As far as I know, the "tradition of just making a fixed donation to a specific charity in someone else's name" isn't a thing in the EA community. Rather it is something that I've heard of ordinary folks doing during the holidays as an alternative to a physical gift. Along the lines of "You like animals, so I donated to the local animal shelter on your behalf -- here is a little brochure/receipt about it." It strikes me as weird too, which is why I like the idea of giving people lots of choice so they have more say in "their" donation.

I also agree that it would be weird for already-committed EAs to get into the habit of gifting eachother a bunch of regranting funds. (There's enough of that craziness going on already!) But like I said, I think EA gift cards could make for a great way to introduce new people to the movement.

feels like a worse gift to me

maybe unhealthy in EA circles

Could you explain a little bit about the above?

My first impression seems in favor of the OP. I haven't thought about your considerations, which seem important.

I like this idea a lot. I spent O($1k) on giftcards this year from tisbest instead of giving more traditional gifts. This is nice in multiple ways: this is way more than I would have spent on regular gifts, and each person gets the chance to give to something they care about. And selfishly I get a tax deduction (although I would have gotten it anyway since most of this money would have been donated anyway) and get to push my agenda on family that giving money is good (this doesn't seem like the worst thing in the world, but I'll take it for what it is: I'm doing something that I hope will cause them to be more inclined to make marginally more altruistic choices).

There's not an easy way for me to make this about EA, though, other than if they ask for advice or something like that, since it ruins the gift a bit if I push them in some direction. But if the gift card mechanism could somehow nudge them towards effective charities, that would be awesome.