AmritSidhu-Brar

Operations Analyst at the Center on Long-Term Risk (CLR). I also do volunteer/consultant operations work for a few EA orgs/groups, and am a trustee of EA London. I previously worked in operations at a startup, and studied first physics and then medieval history/languages at university. Based in Cambridge (UK).

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AMA: We Work in Operations at EA-aligned organizations. Ask Us Anything.

Yeah it definitely seems accurate that the need for operations folk is significantly less than in 2018. That said, I've seen plenty of operations job postings in the last year or so, and it looks like e.g. CEA and OpenPhil currently have roles on the 80k job board. Combining that with the fact that EA organisations seem to generally be growing, it seems like there's still a need for more ops people in EA orgs overall. I guess the harder question is similar to your second one, namely whether such roles are currently easily filled with  the in-EA people already aiming for them or with non-EA applicants, vs. whether there'd be a benefit to more EAs (with a particular amount or type of experience) doing so. I don't have much of an answer to this, unfortunately.

One random thought on this is that  different kinds of operations experience might can be important as well as different amounts of experience.  I have the impression that EA orgs are getting large enough that operations roles can get fairly specialised in some places. For example, I'm not certain, but I think I've seen roles for people focussing on automation, for a Salesforce admin, for junior accounts people. I could imagine that for these roles, experience in the right specific thing might be an advantage, even if the experience isn't that long. (Though I wouldn't take that too strongly.) Something pointing in the other direction would be that, for more specific roles, value-alignment may be less important and so it may be easier to recruit from outside EA.

AMA: We Work in Operations at EA-aligned organizations. Ask Us Anything.

+1 to Martin's suggestion of reaching out to EA orgs and asking whether they need any short-term/contractor (or possibly volunteer) work doing.  

Orgs will rarely run full hiring rounds for these, but my impression is that a fair amount of this kind of work exists. (Not saying that I think this strategy is anywhere near certain to work, but I would recommend it.) I never managed to make myself proactively ask people for roles like these, but the roles in this category that I got (which I think happened to me through chance really) mostly ended up being really useful for skill-building.

AMA: We Work in Operations at EA-aligned organizations. Ask Us Anything.

For point #2, one speculative thing that comes to mind is the legal and governance structure of an incorporated organisation, i.e. being incorporated, and having a board – whether a board of directors/trustees who have legal responsibility for the organisation and whom the team ultimately report to, or an advisory board.  

I know that plenty of larger EA groups, particularly national ones, have these kinds of things already, and I wonder whether it would be beneficial for more large EA groups to do so. (I don't know what the answer to this question is.) Possible advantages that I can think of of such a setup:

  • If you can find board members who are knowledgeable about the area – like maybe some EA community-building funder, or a leader of a larger EA group or something – their input might be great for strategy.
  • Running the legal entity's operations could be good skill-building for the organisers, e.g. if any of them want to work in operations or entrepreneurship.
  • It might be better for longevity and stability of the group – the board would always be responsible for the organisation, so if a dedicated group leadership team moved on before finding good successors, it would be the board's job to try again later.
  • If there are paid organisers, they could be on payroll, which might be nicer experience for them than being paid directly by the funder. If the group ever wanted to rent property, it could do so in its own name.
  • Particularly if it's a charitable structure, having a legal entity might help with outreach due image reasons, particularly if targeting professionals rather han students.
  • If a  charitable structure, it might help get more funding, or funding from more diverse sources.

DIsadvantages I can think of include the effort and administrative complexity (which for a charity, might be very high), the time cost to the board members, the financial cost (e.g. incorporation fees, insurance etc, maybe legal advice or professional fees depending how much you did yourself), and maybe worse consequences if things go wrong (like forgetting to do some legal filing or doing your accounting wrong or something). I also  have no idea whether groups that are student societies are allowed to be incorporated.

AMA: We Work in Operations at EA-aligned organizations. Ask Us Anything.

I'll have a go at adding some more ideas for #2. (Similarly to Martin, I don't feel like this is my area of expertise and I'm sure there are others in the EA community who've thought about thisway more than me, but here goes for a try: )

In an organisation that has paid staff one important thing for commitment would be making sure people are compensated well. While volunteers are unpaid and to a large extent doing it for the impact of the role, I wonder whether there are easy-ish ways to optimise the non-money benefits  that volunteers are getting out of the role – e.g. skills, connections and so on. I guess one way to do this would be just to pay particular attention to volunteers "as clients" when doing the group's normal community-building activities. Alternatively, are there benefits that can be provided specifically to volunteers – like maybe connections to more established people doing similar work to the volunteer's role, or social activities specifically for the volunteer team? (Though those probably aren't low-cost, now that I think about it!)

Martin's idea of a retreat could be good for the engagement goal too – at EA Cambridge, where I'm a volunteer, there was  a committee retreat one year. To be honest I don't remember what the main goals of the event were, but I think one benefit was helping me feel more engaged/committed in the committee that year.

The other main area I can think of that might help is ensuring that volunteers  have plenty of ownership and space to make meaningful decisions and innovate (and that things stay that way as the team grows), both so that people feel a sense of responsibility and are more committed, and just to help the work be interesting. Like, where possible, delegating an area of responsibility, a problem or a sizeable project rather than the implementation of a specific solution; and ensuring that volunteers know what the extent of their freedom to change things is. 

Long-Term Future Fund: Ask Us Anything!

That's really interesting to read, thanks very much! (Both for this answer and for the whole AMA exercise)

Why you should give to a donor lottery this Giving Season

Are lottery winners subject to  conflict of interest restrictions similar to EA Funds? E.g. could a winner end up choosing to donate to an organisation they run or work at, or fund themselves or a connected party to do independent work? 

( I am currently undecided as to whether I'm going to donate to the lottery, but this question isn't a factor in that – just asking out of interest as the question occurred to me, seemed like it might be important, and I don't think I know what I would want the answer to be as a donor, so would be curious to hear the answer!)

Long-Term Future Fund: Ask Us Anything!

A related question: are there categories of things you'd be excited to fund, but haven't received any applications for so far?

What is a good donor advised fund for small UK donors?

Okay, I called CAF to ask about this, as I was interested too. Apparently the Charity Account's 4% fee is a one-off at the time of donation, rather than annually recurring. You can hold the money indefinitely after it's put into the account for no fee. The fee is 4% on the first £22.5k donated per year, after that it reduces to 1%. (They linked me to a PDF detailing this here.) So this seems like it could well be worth it, in cases where you have more than a few £000 to donate to registered charities, if it would be more efficient to be able to move across tax year boundaries?

They also offer something called a CAF Charitable Trust, which is a fuller-service Donor-Advised Fund (not in fact a charitable trust...). It has a minimum opening balance of £10k, and this one (a) does have annual fees, of 1.2% to a minimum of £120/year, then reducing for very high balances (over £100k); and (b) allows investment. Their investment options seem pretty good: their basic service lets you access a range of funds called the "FP CAF investment funds" – the link was broken to on their website, but I got the impression there was a reasonable range of them, and the person on the phone said she'd email me details (I'll edit when I have them). They also have a "Premier service" for balances over £25k, with a higher fee of 1.5%, which lets you invest in any UK-listed fund or ETF that fulfils some requirements (which in practice are apparently usually fine).


They also said that, with either the Charity Account or the Charitable Trust, you can make donations to any UK-registered charity, most overseas registered charities, and sometimes social enterprises (overseas charities and social enterprises have an approval process to go through, which they're willing to do for a large enough donation).

I think I may open one of these at some point in the next couple of years, will update if I do!

What is a good donor advised fund for small UK donors?

My impression from CAF's webpage on their Charity Accounts was that the 4% fee was a one-off when you contribute money to the account, rather than an annual fee on the balance. However it's not very clear and the other interpretation definitely makes sense too. Is anyone's knowledge from a source other than the website?

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