Aaron Gertler

19003 karmaJoined San Diego, CA, USA


I ran the Forum for three years. I'm no longer an active moderator, but I still provide advice to the team in some cases.

I'm a Communications Officer at Open Philanthropy. Before that, I worked at CEA, on the Forum and other projects. I also started Yale's student EA group, and I spend a few hours a month advising a small, un-Googleable private foundation that makes EA-adjacent donations.

Outside of EA, I play Magic: the Gathering on a semi-professional level and donate half my winnings (more than $50k in 2020) to charity.

Before my first job in EA, I was a tutor, a freelance writer, a tech support agent, and a music journalist. I blog, and keep a public list of my donations, at


Part 7: What Might We Be Missing?
Part 8: Putting it into Practice
Part 6: Emerging Technologies
Part 5: Existential Risk
Part 4: Longtermism
Part 3: Expanding Our Compassion
Part 2: Differences in Impact
Part 1: The Effectiveness Mindset
The Motivation Series


Topic contributions

Thanks for sharing your views!

Have you written anything about your own take on the project, and how it compares to other donation options you were considering?

Open Philanthropy has published a summary of the conflict of interest of policy we use. (Adding it as another example despite the age of this thread, since I expect people may still reference the thread in the future to find examples of COI policies.)

I think of EA as a broad movement, similar to environmentalism — much smaller, of course, which leads to some natural centralization in terms of e.g. the number of big conferences, but still relatively spread-out and heterogenous in terms of what people think about and work on. 

Anything that spans GiveWell, MIRI, and Mercy for Animals already seems broad to me, and that's not accounting for hundreds of university/city meetups around the world (some of which have funding, some of which don't, and which I'm sure host people with a very wide range of views — if my time in such groups is any indication).

That's my way of saying that SMA seems at least EA-flavored, given the people behind it and many of the causes name-checked on the website. At a glance, it seems pretty low on the "measuring impact" scale, but you could say the same of many orgs that are EA-flavored. I'd be totally unsurprised to see people go through an SMA program and end up at EA Global, or to see an SMA alumnus create a charity that Open Phil eventually funds.

(There may be some other factor you're thinking of when you think of breadth — I could see arguments for both sides of the question!)

Hi Vasco,

Thanks for asking these questions.

I work on Open Phil's communications team. Regarding how Open Phil thinks about allocating between human and animal interventions, this comment from Emily (the one you linked in your own comment) is the best summary of our current thinking.

I'm glad to hear you liked the piece! Best of luck with everything.

When I started Yale's student EA group in 2014, we tried a bit of this (albeit with pharmacies, not grocery stores). IIRC, we got as far as a meeting with CVS's head of corporate social responsibility (CSR), plus a few other conversations.

The companies we spoke to were choosing large, well-known charities. This was partly because of their branding (easier to pick up positive associations from charities people have actually heard of), partly because big charities tend to have highly appealing missions (e.g. St. Jude's, which has used its "free care for children with cancer" pitch to become America's fourth-largest charity), and partly (I'd guess) because the charities were easy to work with thanks to their size and staff capacity. 

I also suspect, from these and other CSR-related interactions I've had, that changing a charity choice is hard once it's been made. The professionals I meet tend to form relationships with the charities and staffers they work with, and it's hard to tell someone you've fired them for a more effective charity (forgive the link, it was too easy a joke to make).

We don't currently have concrete plans for this, but it's something we might consider doing in the future; if we do, we'll post about it on the Forum.

I love that we're still seeing new "writing about my job" (WAMJ?) posts 2.5 years after the initial post, especially for jobs like this one that are on the obscure side (and thus unlikely to be covered by 80,000 Hours, Probably Good, or other career-focused resources). 

Thanks for taking the time to share this!

I'm an OP staffer who helped to put the post together. Thanks for the nitpicks!

I suppose I'm asking what's the benefit of this format over individual recommendations?

I see the main benefit as convenience. If I'd asked OP staff to write individual Forum posts, I'd have gotten less interest than I did with "send me a few sentences and you can be part of a larger post". Writing an entire post is a bigger hurdle, and I think some people would feel weird writing a post just a few sentences long (even if the alternative was "no post").

Why should I put any more weight on a recommendation from an OpenPhil staff rather than any other EA person who had thought a lot about this?

I don't necessarily think you should.

But I personally put at least moderate weight on recommendations from people in research roles who’ve thought a lot about an issue, inside or outside of OP. (I like the GiveWell “where our people give” posts for the same reason!) I wish we had more charity recommendations from such people. And at OP, we’ve heard from enough people who find these posts valuable that we thought it was worth putting another one together.

The Glassdoor numbers are outdated. We share salary information in our job postings; you can see examples here ($84K/year plus a $12k 401k contribution for an Operations Assistant) and here (a variety of roles, almost all of which start at $100k or more per year — search "compensation:" to see details).

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