Scott Alexander writes:

"The past year has been a terrible time to be a charitable funder, since FTX ate every opportunity so quickly that everyone else had trouble finding good not-yet-funded projects. But right now is a great time to be a charitable funder: there are lots of really great charities on the verge of collapse who just need a little bit of funding to get them through. I’m trying to coordinate with some of the people involved. I haven’t really succeeded yet, I think because they’re all hiding under their beds gibbering - but probably they’ll have to come out eventually, if only for food and water. If you’re a potential charitable funder interested in helping, and not already connected to this project, please email me at scott@slatestarcodex.com. I don’t want any affected charities to get their hopes up, because I don’t expect this to fill more than a few percent of the hole, but maybe we can make the triage process slightly less of a disaster."

I think this argument is probably correct. Potentially we shouldn't fund every organisation that would have been funded by the Future Fund. Potentially, we shouldn't fund things that were started because FTX had so much money, and which are then going to die in a year or two now that the Future Fund isn't around anymore. This might be a time of "right-sizing" projects for available money. However, even with the recent reduction in total assets, many of these projects/organisations should probably be supported. One could simply apply the heuristic of "should this be part of the EA portfolio?" after taking into consideration that EA has less funding now.

There are also considerations about community support and mutual insurance; e.g. donors might want to help out individuals who quit their jobs because they expected a grant from the Future Fund, and so on. I'm going to stop here now, as this is not my main point.

My main question is this: HOW should small-to-medium sized donors (let's say people who want to donate 3-to-7 figures) actually go about this? In particular, if they don't want to put out a public call for proposals, which will likely end in receiving dozens and dozens of grant requests?

One option is to email Scott (see above). Any other ideas?

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Open Phil is accepting applications from impacted FTX grantees (see our post here), and we’ve been giving donors the option to either contribute to that effort (effectively funging us), or to request that we forward particular kinds of applications to them (with the applicants’ permission). If you’re a 6-figure-or-more donor and are interested in either of the two, you can reach out to us at inquiries@openphilanthropy.org. (Note that we may have to prioritise earlier/larger donors if we get a large volume of requests.)

Scott said in his email that OpenPhil is only taking donations >$250,000. Is this still true?

Scott has sent me the following email (reproduced here with his approval). Scott wants to highlight that he doesn't know anything more than reading the public posts on this issue.

I'd encourage people to email Scott, it's probably good for someone to have a list of interested donors.
 

 

------------------------------------
Scott's email:

SHORT VERSION

 

If you want to donate blindly and you can afford more than $250K, read here for details, then consider emailing Open Philanthropy at  inquiries@openphilanthropy.org . If less than $250K, read here for details, then consider emailing Nonlinear at katwoods@nonlinear.org. You might want to check the longer section below for caveats first.


 

If you want to look over the charities available first, you can use the same contact info, or wait for them to email you. I did send them the names and emails of those of you who said you wanted to focus on charities in specific areas or who had other conditions. I hope they'll get back to you soon, but they might not; I'm sure they appreciate your generosity but they're also pretty swamped. 
 


 

LONG VERSION (no need to read this if you're busy, it just expands on the information above)


Two teams have come together to work on this problem - one from Open Philanthropy Project, and one from Nonlinear.

I know Open Philanthropy Project well, and they're a good and professional organization. They're also getting advice from the former FTX Future Fund team (who were foundation staff not in close contact with FTX the company; I still trust them, and they're the experts on formerly FTX-funded charities). For logistical reasons they're limiting themselves to donors potentially willing to contribute over $250,000.

I don't know Nonlinear well, although a former ACX Grants recipient works there and says good things about it. Some people in the EA Forum have expressed concerns about them - see https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/L4S2NCysoJxgCBuB6/announcing-nonlinear-emergency-funding , I have no context for this besides the comments there. They don't seem to have a minimum donation. I'm trying to get in touch with them to learn more.

Important consideration: these groups are trying to maximize two imperatives. First, the usual effective altruism do-as-much-good-as-possible imperative. But second, an imperative to protect the reputation of the EA ecosystem as a safe and trustworthy place to do charity work, where your money won't suddenly disappear, or at least somebody will try to help if it does. I think this means they will be unusually willing to help charities victimized by the FTX situation even if these would seem marginal by their usual quality standards. I think this is honorable, but if you're not personally invested in the reputation of the EA ecosystem you might want to donate non-blindly or look elsewhere.

Also, FTX Future Fund focused disproportionately on biosecurity, pandemic prevention, forecasting, AI alignment, and other speculative causes, so most of the charities these teams are trying to rescue will probably be in those categories. If you don't want to be mostly funding those, donate non-blindly or look elsewhere.

I've given (or will shortly give) both groups your details; they've promised to keep everything confidential and not abuse your emails. If they approach you in any way that seems pushy or makes you regret interacting with them, please let me know so I can avoid working with them in the future.

I can't give you great answers on ACX Grants now, but I'll hopefully know more soon, and if things don't work out with this opportunity I'd be happy to work with you further then.

Thanks again for your generosity, and please let me know if you have any questions.

Yours,
Scott

SoGive ran a grants programme earlier this year, and we plan to publish an update explaining how it went (should be published in the next few days). 

We would be happy to:

  • have a chat with funders who want to run their own grants process
  • incorporate funds into our next grants round (which likely won't happen until next summer, assuming it goes ahead)

Our impact market platform might help with this.

Obviously I’m biased here, and there are a number of other good approaches too (funds, Eigentrust, topping up Open Phil grants, donor lotteries, etc.).

Our platform allows anyone to publish a project proposal. Soon we’ll also have a Q & A system to replace the various Google forms that are currently used for grant applications.

If there’s no prize contest going on, it’s basically a centralized platform for grant applications, like a Facebook fundraiser but more geared toward using market mechanisms to highlight particularly promising projects.

If there’s a prize contest going on, it’s a proper impact market where even profit-oriented investors can seek to seed-invest into projects where they can make a sufficiently big profit in expectation.

This is a much too condensed summary, but this article that Amber Dawn has written for us should be more accessible.

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One thing to consider: it is possible that the ultimate real-world effect of a donation to certain organizations would be increasing the funds flowing back to the FTX bankruptcy estate rather than furthering the donor's charitable intent.

For one, donating any significant funds could increase the organization's profile as a clawback target. Two, some organizations may need to close down whether you provide some additional funding or not. Three, some organizations could benefit from the cleansing waters of bankruptcy themselves (or settling any FTX claims first) before being infused with new money. Finally, if you want to donate to an organization with serious clawback risk, you may want to think about ways to structure that donation to minimize creditor risk.

All of this is based on my view that prospective donors have no ethical obligations to FTX victims. Your mileage may vary if you hold a different view.

That makes sense, thanks. Although this will not apply to organisations/individuals that were promised funds from the Future Fund but didn't receive any, right? This case is pretty common, AFAICT.

If an organization received nothing, there is nothing to claw back.

I see no risk to donating to those organizations (unless you feel an organization somehow so overextended themselves in expectation of FTX cash that they cannot recover from it disappearing -- that is not a clawback risk though).

I'd be interested to know, if any of the powers that be are reading, to what extent the Long Term Future Fund could step in to take up the slack left by FTX in regard to the most promising projects now lacking funding. This would seem a centralised way for smaller donors to play their part, without being blighted by ignorance as to who all the others small donors are funding.