John Salter

Founder @ Overcome
1248 karmaJoined Working (0-5 years)www.overcome.org.uk


Founder of Overcome, an EA-aligned mental health charity


I think there's a ton of obvious things that people neglect because they're not glamorous enough:

1. Unofficially beta-test new EA stuff e.g. if someone announces something new, use it and give helpful feedback regularly
2. Volunteer to do boring stuff for impactful organisations e.g. admin
3. Deeply fact-check popular EA forum posts
4. Be a good friend to people doing things you think are awesome
5. Investigate EA aligned charities on the ground, check that they are being honest in their reporting
6. Openly criticise grifters who people fear to speak out against for fear of reprisal 
7.  Stay up-to-date on the needs of different people and orgs, and connect people who need connecting

In generally, looking for the most anxiety provoking, boring, and lowest social status work is a good way of finding impactful opportunities. 

1. Get a pilot up and running NOW, even if it's extremely small. 

You will cringe at this suggestion, and think that it's impossible to test your vision without a budget. Everyone does this at first, before realizing that it's extremely difficult to stand out from the crowd without one. For you, maybe this is a single class delivered in a communal area. 30 students attending regularly, demonstrating a good rate of progress, is a really compelling piece of evidence that you can run a school. 

- Do you have the resilience and organisation skills it takes to independently run a project?
- Will people actually use it?
- Can you keep your staff?
- Can you cost-effectively produce results? 

It can compelling prove the above, whilst having a ton of other benefits.

2. YOU need to be talking to funders NOW

Don't fall into the trap of trying to read their minds. Get conversations with them. Get their take on your idea. Ask what their biggest concerns would be. Go address them. Repeat. Build relationships with them and get feedback on your grant proposals before submitting them.

As the founder, its YOUR job to raise money. Don't delegate it. It'll take forever to get them to understand your organisation well enough, they won't be as sufficiently motivated to perform, and you won't learn. This is going to be a long-term battle that you face every year. You need to build the network, skills & knowledge to do it well. 

3. Be lean AF

The best way to have money is not to spend it. Both you and your charity may go without funding for months or years. Spend what little money you have, as a person and as a charity, very slowly. The longer you've been actively serving users, the easier fundraising gets. It's about surviving until that point.

4. Funders will stalk your website, LinkedIn, and social media if they can

As much as possible, make sure that they all tell the same story as your grant application - especially the facts and figures. 

5. When writing your proposals, focus on clarity and concreteness above all else

Bear the curse-of-knowledge in mind when writing. Never submit anything without first verifying other people can understand it clearly. Write as though you're trying to inform, not persuade. 

- Avoid abstractions 
- State exact values ("few" -> "four", "lots" -> "nine", "soon" -> "by the 15th March 2024")
- Avoid adjectives and qualifiers. Nobody cares about your opinions.
- Use language that paints a clear, unambiguous image to the readers mind

OLD:  mean student satisfaction ratings have increased greatly increased since programs began and we believe it's quite reasonable to extrapolate due to our other student-engagement enhancements underway and thus forecast an even greater increase by the end of the year" 

NEW: When students were asked to rate their lessons out of 10, the average response was 5. Now, just three months later, the average is 7/10. Our goal is to hit 9/10 by 2025 by [X,Y,Z].

Good luck!

I think schlep blindness is everywhere in EA. I think the work activities of the average EA suspiciously align with activities nerds enjoy and very few roles strike me as antithetical. This makes me suspicious that a lot of EA activity is justified by motivated reasoning, as EAs are massive nerds.

It'd be very kind of an otherwise callous universe to make the most impactful activities things that we'd naturally enjoy to do.

Consider reaching out to AIM. 


They're doing something similar, but seem to have broken it down by country rather than by faith. They might even have some people who narrowly missed out on their incubation program who'd make a good co-founder.


EA for Christians might also have learnt some useful stuff they could share

This seems like a really promising idea - good luck with it!!!

The vast majority of psychotherapy drop-out happens between session 1 and 2. You'd expect people to give it at least two sessions before concluding their symptoms aren't reducing fast enough. I think you're attributing far too larger proportion of drop-out to ineffectiveness.

I run another EA mental health charity. Here are my hastily scribbled thoughts:

Firstly, why did you opt to not have a control group?

When psychotherapy interventions fail, it's usually not because they don't reduce symptoms. They fail by failing to generate supply / demand cost-effectively enough, finding pilot and middle stage funding, finding a scalable marketing channel, or some other logistical issue.

Given that failing to reduce symptoms is not that bigger risk, we and every other EA mental health startup I can name did not use a control group for our pilots. Doing so would increase the cost of recruitment by ~10x and the cost of the pilot by ~30% or so. 

The #1 reason is that so long as you're using an evidence-based intervention, cost explains most of the variance in cost-effectiveness.

Secondly, isn't it a massive problem that you only look at the 27% that completed the program when presenting results? You write that you got some feedback on why people were not completing the program unrelated to depression, but I think it's more than plausible that many of the dropouts dropped out because they were depressed and saw no improvement

It's also possible that they started feeling better and they didn't need it any more. IMO, this is a little tangential because most dropout isn't much to do with symptom reduction, it's more to do with:

1 - (A lack of) Trust in and rapport with the therapist

2 - Not enjoying the process

3 - Not having faith it will work for them

4 - Missing a few sessions out of inconvenience and losing the desire to continue

It's somewhat analogous to an online educational course. You probably aren't dropping out because you aren't learning fast enough; it's probably that you don't enjoy it or life got in the way so you put it on the back-burner

...[likely] many of the dropouts dropped out because they were depressed and saw no improvement. This choice makes stating things like "96% of program completers said they were likely or very likely to recommend the program" at best uninformative.

This is good point. These statistics are indeed uninformative, but it's also not clear what better one would be. We use "mean session rating" and get >9/10, which I perceive as unrealistically high. Presumably, this would have gotten around the completer problem (as we're sampling after every session and we include dropouts in our analysis), but it doesn't seem it to have. I think it might be because both our services are free, and people don't like to disparage free services unless they REALLY suck. 

If there was a marketplace where you could make bets like this in a low friction way, without much risk besides simply being wrong, would you use it? Please agree-vote for yes, disagree-vote for no

I'd personally strongly consider betting $1000-$10,000 USD so long as it's secured against the value of some illiquid asset (e.g. a building). Please DM me if you're interested in betting that the world ends.

What an amazing accomplishment!

  1. Tiny core team costs
  2. Being cost-effective AF year one
  3. Credible plans for becoming financially independent of EA when operating at scale.

Reading this has made my morning.

Strongly upvoted. Replications are really underrated, and so is sharing your code so people can check your work!

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