All of Jon_Behar's Comments + Replies

Should EA Buy Distribution Rights for Foundational Books?

Thanks for doing this, hadn't thought to use the Wayback machine. Really cool to see the quantitative perspective line up with our qualitative impressions!

Should EA Buy Distribution Rights for Foundational Books?

I took a look at the Goodreads data. Unfortunately it’s pretty messy and I don’t think it’ll be much help in understanding the popularity of the new book. Goodreads does distinguish between the different editions, but it’s clear from reading the reviews that some people are reviewing the old book but talking about the new one. And the interface won’t let me see total reviews across all copies by year, so we can’t see if that number has spiked.

Looking past the Goodreads data, I think it’s safe to say that the launch of the new edition was a success. TLYCS i... (read more)

2Jonas Vollmer6moOne way to do the analysis is to record the number of reviews on different dates using different snapshots in webarchive; my guess is that this is what Matt was doing with his analysis. (EDIT: Just saw that Bastian already did this)

As it happens, I did a quick-and-dirty version of this analysis yesterday - see this spreadsheet. It looks to me like Goodreads is actually helpfully aggregating ratings/reviews across editions (if you click on any one of the editions here, it shows you the same figures), and the rate at which the aggregate numbers have been going up seems to have increased meaningfully since the relaunch, which does seem to provide additional (encouraging!) evidence regarding its impact.

A Research Framework to Improve Real-World Giving Behavior

Sorry about that, fixed now. Thanks for the heads up!

Opportunity for EA orgs: $5k/year in ETH (tech setup required)

They want to stick with registered US charities for this initial round, to keep the grantmaking logistics simpler. 

I believe down the road, when FF has built up some grantmaking experience, they'd like to widen things up. 

Responses and Testimonies on EA Growth

TLYCS’s experience definitely suggests growth, not stagnation. Between 2014 and 2019, money moved increased at a compound annual growth rate of 75%. Web traffic did flatten out, but mostly after we started focusing more on offline fundraising.

7lukefreeman8moSimilarly, Effective Altruism Australia has been moving about 30% more money each year. https://effectivealtruism.org.au/reports/ [https://effectivealtruism.org.au/reports/] I hear similar numbers from most regranting organisations.
Opportunity for EA orgs: $5k/year in ETH (tech setup required)

I asked my contact at Fugue Foundation about this, and here's their response: 

We list information about our corporate structure on our website at the link below. We are incorporated in Arizona and await word from the IRS regarding our 501c3 application. Indeed, as a private foundation, and one that specifically lists privacy protection as one of our core principles, we do try to maintain a certain distance with online identities. I will certainly speak with any of the organizations that are selected to receive the grant.

https://fuguefoundation.org/docs/mission.html#incorporation

1FugueFoundation8moThanks for help with clarifying, Jon.
2Greg_Colbourn9moGreat, thanks. Do they accept UK charities? We are potentially interested at CEEALAR [https://ceealar.org/].
What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

Thanks to everyone who voted and commented! It was helpful to learn more about how EAs think about multiplier orgs, and I hope it was helpful to hear my perspective from inside one of those orgs. 

Here are my biggest takeaways from the discussion, apologies that it took me so long to post this:

  • Somebody is likely wrong: either multiplier orgs are pursuing strategies that don’t work, or those strategies do work and donors are missing out on leverage. If EAs can learn more about which statement is true, there’s a real opportunity for improvement. In theor
... (read more)
A ranked list of all EA-relevant (audio)books I've read

There's also an EA classic available as an audiobook: The Live You Can Save (the fully updated 10th anniversary edition) is  freely available (in audiobook or ebook format) making it a book to share with people you think might find it interesting.

What are some potential coordination failures in our community?

Search engine optimization.

Based on my very limited understanding, links are critical for SEO (though not as important as a few years ago). So conventions like “EA blogs should generally have blogrolls (i.e. lists of links to related blogs)” or “references to organizations (e.g AMF) on the EA Forum should generally link to them” would probably help the entire community.

2vaidehi_agarwalla1yYes, links from external sites, especially those with a high domain rating themselves (trusted sources - e.g. prominent websites, news outlets etc.) help improve a websites overall SEO ranking. 80,000 Hours or GiveWell are examples of high ranked websites within the EA community.
What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

These sophisticated donors’ support of such a wide range of multiplier orgs supports the idea that there could be a lot of leverage out there to be had. If that’s true, it also has some interesting implications for the “it’s hard to get a job at an EA org” discussion that’s been going on for a while, most recently here.

Here's a simplified thought experiment. Let’s say you invested $1 million in the orgs listed above, allocated proportionally to their current size (not all that far off from what the infrastructure fund has actually done, but we’ll use styli... (read more)

What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

Thanks for this data point Luke! It’s a good reminder that counterfactuals work both ways for multiplier orgs. Sometimes we count money that would have been donated counterfactually (overestimating our impact), but sometimes there are donations we don’t count that wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t exist (underestimating our impact).

Also worth noting that sometimes the spillover effect is in an area that isn't the multiplier orgs main focus. For instance, I'd also expect the book relaunch to help 80K which gets a nice discussion, but that's not anything TLYCS will capture in its metrics.

What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

My sense is that most individual donors aren't excited about multiplier orgs because they find them complicated, don't have time to dig into the leverage numbers to really understand them, and therefore don't trust those numbers. And I think that's a pretty reasonable strategy for most individuals. But it does seem telling that funders that have the resources to do more vetting have supported such a wide range of multiplier orgs.  

What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

Also, they [Open Phil] could fund TLYCS through their global health and poverty program instead. They've funded One for  the World. The EA Infrastructure Fund has also funded TYLCS among many other multiplier orgs.

To get funded, One for the World had to change the recommendations to use only GiveWell's research. That was also a precondition of any discussion with GiveWell about funding for TLYCS, which was not a strategic compromise we were willing to make. 

As you say, the EA Infrastructure Fund has funded a lot of multiplier orgs. But aside from... (read more)

What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

I think this is a really important point.

To give you some updated numbers, in 2019 TLYCS raised over $6 for AMF for every dollar we spent on operations plus another $7 for other recommended charities. If you look only at GiveWell recommended charities, our multiplier was 10X.

As I mentioned to HStencil, if these multiplier numbers are remotely accurate, there’s a huge margin of safety. You could believe that donations to any charity other than AMF are totally worthless AND that TLYCS overestimated donations to AMF by 3x, and you still would have doubled you... (read more)

What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

Really appreciate that you spelled out your thinking so clearly- thank you! 

I think intermediaries make more sense for more casual donors, unlike people like yourself who are putting lots of thought into where to give.

What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

Glad it helped! Thanks for the great questions, I'm sure you're not the only one who had them!

What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

I think it’s preferable to have people give through intermediaries, so that the message is “give to organizations the experts think is best” vs. having every charity try to argue for its own impact and having donors try to make sense of it all.

That message gets undermined if the recommendations aren’t independent, which is a serious problem with having the recommended charities fund the multiplier org.

4MichaelStJules1yThat's fair, but if the fundraising org (e.g. TLYCS) was independent of a charity evaluator (e.g. GiveWell) and took all of its recommendations from them, then this seems like it would be okay. I know TLYCS support more than just GiveWell-recommended charities, though.
What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

Interesting discussion! One of the things I find striking is how much stronger the case for multiplier organizations is now than it was a couple of years ago when that post was written. There are a now a bunch of organizations now have significantly higher multipliers than the ones discussed in the post, and also have an established track record of providing those multipliers.

What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

Thanks for sharing your thinking on this! Hopefully this exercise will shed some light on whether that lack of excitement is warranted, or whether it could represent an untapped opportunity.

What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

I don't think most people I know in the community (myself included) really understand what you do. 

 

I agree there’s a lack of understanding of our work, and hope this discussion helps clarify some things. And we haven’t done a great job of reaching out to the community to explain our work.  One difficulty in operating a multiplier charity is that it can be tough to promote your own organization since your whole purpose is to promote other charities. 

I was even unaware of how high your estimated multiplier is (if you had asked me to gues

... (read more)
8lukefreeman1yFor what it's worth – Giving What We Can also noticed a bump in pledges that came from The Life You Can Save book relaunch (and people specifying that is how they found out). There's often spill over like this that isn't directly tracked by the organisation doing the multiplying.
7HStencil1yThis is all fantastic information to have — thank you so much for explaining it! I'm really glad to have improved my understanding of this.
What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

Interesting talk- thanks for sharing!

Stefan’s framework (which I largely agree with) would argue that the potential funding base for multiplier organizations is quite small due to their complexity, and is probably limited to the EA community (or a subset thereof). So I’m trying to do a little market research to learn more about what that audience thinks about multiplier organizations. 

The talk also argues for focusing on the largest donors, which in EA usually means Open Phil. But that’s less of an option for multiplier organizations as Open Phil’s EA... (read more)

4MichaelStJules1yYou wouldn't necessarily approach large donors to fund TLYCS itself (although you could), you could approach them to directly fund the charities TLYCS supports. I think that's what Stefan had in mind. Also, they could fund TLYCS through their global health and poverty program instead. They've funded One for the World [https://www.openphilanthropy.org/focus/global-health-and-development/miscellaneous/one-for-the-world-general-support] . The EA Infrastructure Fund has also funded TYLCS among many other multiplier orgs.
What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

Thank you! This was exactly the sort of thoughtful explanation I was hoping for.

For what it’s worth, in my experience at TLYCS it takes a lot more than just a website to move money. When I look at the things that seem to have driven our growth over the years, a lot of it is simply having the capacity to do basic things like communicate more with donors. And the relative steadiness in TLYCS’s multiplier (between 9x and 13x from 2016-2019) as expenses more than tripled suggests that there’s not a huge difference between the marginal multiplier and the averag... (read more)

7MarisaJurczyk1y+1 to this. RC Forward wrote a bit about this in our year-in-review [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/fjAYqpth3gyDDqers/rc-forward-2019-cost-effectiveness-and-project-review#2__Donor_impressions_from_ease_of_use] in 2019.
6HStencil1yI'm glad to hear you found my reasoning useful, and I appreciate your explanation of where you think it may go astray. I'm a fairly marginal actor in the grand scheme of the EA community and don't feel I am anywhere close to having a clear view on whether the returns to adding further vetting or oversight structures would outweigh the costs. Naïvely, it seems to me that some kinds of organizational transparency are pretty cheap. However, it occurs to me that even though I've spent a fair bit of time on the TLYCS website over the past several years and gave to your COVID-19 response fund back in the spring, I honestly have no recollection of the extent of your transparency in the status quo. In a similar vein, to put it more flippantly than you deserve, I don't think most people I know in the community (myself included) really understand what you do. I was even unaware of how high your estimated multiplier is (if you had asked me to guess prior to your comment, there's no way I would've gone higher than 4x), and now, I am quite curious about how you’re estimating that and what you think is driving such a high return. I expect this is probably my fault for not seriously investigating "multiplier charities" when deciding where to give and instead presuming that they likely aren't a good fit for small donors like me for the reasons I explained. However, I also think I am exactly the persuadable small donor who you would want to be touching with whatever outreach or marketing you're doing , so maybe there's room for improvement on your part there, as well. For what it's worth, if you were going to invest in adding some kind of vetting or oversight structure, here are a few questions that—inspired by your comment—I would most want it to answer before making a determination about whether to give to TLYCS: 1. Why have TLYCS's expenses tripled since 2016? Other than the website overhaul and the book launch, what have you been spending on? Are you aiming to engage in simila
What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

I’m generally skeptical of the multiplier model because it seems too good to be true

What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

I think multiplier organizations have provided leverage in the past, but think that going forward the marginal multiplier will be lower than the average multiplier

What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

I think multiplier organizations are significantly riskier than organizations doing direct work

What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

Multiplier organizations typically raise funds for a lot of different charities, and I only care about money that’s raised for the charity with the highest absolute impact

What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

I feel an emotional “warm glow” when I give to charities that do direct work, but not when I give to multiplier organizations

What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

I don’t believe the multipliers that fundraising organizations report (e.g. because they don’t appropriately adjust for money that would have been donated counterfactually, rely on aggressive assumptions, or ignore the opportunity cost of having people working at the multiplier organization)

7MichaelStJules1yThere's also the question of whether the multiplier charities are just replacing some of the fundraising that the beneficiary charities would do in their absence, and whether or not they're better at it. Could the beneficiary charities coordinate to fund the multiplier charity? Why don't they? Is it because they think their own fundraising is better, or that their regular donors wouldn't like that, or something else?
3MichaelStJules1yI think the multiplier estimates I've seen are usually of the average multiplier, not the marginal multiplier, but what we care about is the marginal impact. See also HStencil's answer [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/jZSbfvZsAk5TM9vpz/what-are-the-most-common-objections-to-multiplier?commentId=8asEQiKqx5NSDb2ef] and the discussion that follows, though.
Are there any other pro athlete aspiring EAs?

This sounds like a great idea Marcus!

I’d love to put you in touch with Charlie Bresler, the Executive Director of The Life You Can Save. In addition to being an avid tennis fan, Charlie has been very interested in working with athletes to promote effective giving for a long time. TLYCS has worked with a bunch of celebrities before (though unfortunately no athletes yet), most recently as audiobook narrators for the 10th anniversary edition of the book the organization is named after. If you PM me your email address I’ll connect the two of you.

4Marcus Daniell1yAmazing! Have PM'd you. Cheers
Should EA Buy Distribution Rights for Foundational Books?
Presumably most of that is sunk cost and what the publisher ought to care about is discounted expected cashflows from the book.

I think that’s conceptually right. But it brings up another important point: negotiating to buy the rights was time-consuming and frustrating. And part of the annoyance was due to the publisher not acting as economically rational as you’d expect. We actually spent years saying things like “surely there’s a figure for which you’d be happy to sell the rights, could you just let us know what that nu... (read more)

Should EA Buy Distribution Rights for Foundational Books?

The book rights cost $30,000 to acquire.

It’s important to note, however, that there would likely be a ton of variation for different books. This would likely depend on what the publisher paid the author in advance and how many books they've sold / how much money they've made back.

4Cullen_OKeefe1yThank you for this datapoint! Presumably most of that is sunk cost and what the publisher ought to care about is discounted expected cashflows from the book.
Should EA Buy Distribution Rights for Foundational Books?

Good idea! Just set myself a reminder to look at this a year from now :)

8Jonas Vollmer6moI'd be very interested in seeing this analysis!
Should EA Buy Distribution Rights for Foundational Books?

Not sure, I'll check with the team and get back to you.

The book rights cost $30,000 to acquire.

It’s important to note, however, that there would likely be a ton of variation for different books. This would likely depend on what the publisher paid the author in advance and how many books they've sold / how much money they've made back.

Should EA Buy Distribution Rights for Foundational Books?

I don't think Singer has considered doing this for other books, but I'm not positive about that.

Should EA Buy Distribution Rights for Foundational Books?
The EA Meta Fund gave $10,000 for this, which seems very worthwhile. Of course, this may not be the full cost, and this also covered some other things. I like that they included free audiobooks; we should probably do that too if we pursue this.

FYI, this $10,000 grant (while greatly appreciated) was a (small) fraction of the total cost of the new edition of TLYCS. However, that project was significantly more ambitious that simply buying the rights and publishing an ebook; it was closer to writing, editing, and publishing an entirely new book given the scope... (read more)

Should EA Buy Distribution Rights for Foundational Books?
The key question here, is whether (and if so, to what degree) free download is a more effective means of distribution than regular book sales. So we should ask Peter Singer how the consumption of TLYCS changed with putting his book online.

Free distribution seems to have helped a lot. The original version sold ~45,000 copies in its first 10 years; in its first 6 months, we’ve distributed roughly the same number of copies of the 10th anniversary edition.

The original edition has presumably had more readers than the updated version so far: over 10 year... (read more)

Nice. We could check how many actually read the book by noting whether the book accumulated Goodreads ratings more quickly after the 10-year anniversary - especially once another 1-2 years have passed.

It's worth remembering though that when people who paid for the book are much more likely to have read it

Also, are you able to disclose the cost of buying those rights?

2Cullen_OKeefe1yThis is very helpful data; thank you! To your knowledge, has Singer ever considered doing the same for any of his other books?
EA Survey 2019 Series: How EAs Get Involved in EA

Thanks David, that all makes sense. For future iterations of this analysis, I’d be strongly in favor of adding a sentence about Peter like you had in last year’s summary.

6David_Moss2yI just added him a mention of this to the bullet point about these open comments.
EA Survey 2019 Series: How EAs Get Involved in EA
Personal Contacts (14%), LessWrong (9.6%) and 80,000 Hours (9.6%) are still the main ways most people have heard of EA over time.

Shouldn’t Peter Singer be on this list? He showed up in 203 of the open ended responses (9.5% of 2137 total responses), and that doesn’t count any open ended comments that didn’t mention him by name or non-open ended responses that he’s associated with (e.g. the people who answered they heard about EA through TLYCS the organization, which I work for in the interest of disclosure).

Thank you for conducting and sharing this analysis!

7David_Moss2yThanks Jon. I agree Peter Singer is definitely still one of the most important factors, as our data shows (and as we highlighted last year [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/uPFx462NAamBo5Eqq/ea-survey-series-2018-how-do-people-get-involved-in-ea-1] . He's just not included in the bullet point in the summary you point to because that only refers to the fixed categories in the 'where did you first hear about EA?' question. In 2018 I wrote "Peter Singer is sufficiently influential that he should probably be his own category", but although I think he deserves to be his own category in some sense, it wouldn't actually make sense to have a dedicated Peter Singer category alongside the others. Peter Singer usually coincides with other categories i.e. people have read one of his books, or seen one of his TED Talks, or heard about him through some other Book/Article or Blog or through their Education or a podcast or The Life You Can Save (org) etc., so if we split Peter Singer out into his dedicated category we'd have to have a lot of categories like 'Book (except Peter Singer)' (and potentially so for any other individuals who might be significant) which would be a bit clumsy and definitely lead to confusion. It seems neater to just have the fixed categories we have and then have people write in the specifics in the open comment section and, in general, not to have any named individuals as fixed categories. The other general issue to note is that we can't compare the %s of responses to the fixed categories to the %s for the open comment mentions. People are almost certainly less likely to write in something as a factor in the open comment than they would be to select it were it offered as a fixed choice, but on the other hand, things can appear in the open comments across multiple categories, so there's really no way to compare numbers fairly. That said, we can certainly say that since he's mentioned >200 times, the lower bound on the number of people who first
How to share the basic concept of EA on social media? (Facebook in my case)

I like the book distribution idea, but would suggest using the updated 10th Anniversary edition of The Life You Can Save. While its focus on global poverty makes it narrower than Doing Good Better, it has several advantages:

· The audiobook and ebook are available for free

· The celebrity narrators (e.g. Kristen Bell and Paul Simon) add credibility

· It’s more up to date

That said, I think it’d be really interesting to do an experiment comparing the efficacy of distributing each book.

Note: I work for TLYCS the organization

5alexrjl2yI definitely think recommending the TLYCS podcast as a "this is a specific thing I really liked and am recommending" is a brilliant shout. Having said that, I think that seperately there's value in a post which says "this thing was so important to me I will spend money in order to make sure you get a copy". Luckily, doing both is possible.
What are examples of EA work being reviewed by non-EA researchers?

The “Worm Wars” could arguably be an example (though the contentious research was not just from the EA community)

AMA: We are Jon and Kathryn. We work with The Life You Can Save. Ask us anything!

Most of the people on The Life You Can Save’s team have significant experience in the for-profit sector, which I think is relatively rare in the EA community. Charlie Bresler, our Executive Director, used to be the President of the Men’s Wearhouse. And before I served as COO for an extended period, I spent ~10 years in the finance sector at Bridgewater Associates. So I think those experiences helped shape The Life You Can Save’s culture. For instance, I think due to the diversity of the backgrounds of our team members, we may engage wi... (read more)

AMA: We are Jon and Kathryn. We work with The Life You Can Save. Ask us anything!

Here’s how our Oxfam information page describes why we recommend them. (FYI, on each charity’s information page we have an FAQ explaining our recommendation).

We recommend Oxfam for donors who want to support a large, multinational organization working to fight global poverty in a wide variety of ways and in a wide variety of places. Because Oxfam is so large, including them as a recommended charity also significantly expands the tax-deductible giving options and program locations we can offer our global audience.
Due to the breadth and scope o
... (read more)
AMA: We are Jon and Kathryn. We work with The Life You Can Save. Ask us anything!

We’ve worked with HNW donors to determine which of our recommended organizations are the best match for the donors’ specific values and causes of interest. So far we haven’t done any bespoke research for donors, though this is definitely an area we expect to expand into in the future.

We’ll sometimes get inquiries about causes outside our scope. Where possible, we refer them to EA resources, such as ACE for animal welfare and Founders Pledge’s research on climate change. (We also have links to those two organizations at t... (read more)

AMA: We are Jon and Kathryn. We work with The Life You Can Save. Ask us anything!

We recommend a significantly broader set of charities than GiveWell, which is an intentional strategy to offer donors a wider range of options. That said, in the near-term any additions to our list are likely to come from GiveWell. We had been sourcing new recommendations from Impact Matters as well, but they’ve recently pivoted away from the in-depth “impact audits” we’d been relying on and toward much shallower reviews of many more charities. We’ve written up our selection process in more detail here.

Down the road, we&#... (read more)

AMA: We are Jon and Kathryn. We work with The Life You Can Save. Ask us anything!

This is something that’s definitely on our radar screen due to climate change’s outsized impact on people living in extreme poverty. We also think it’s a cause area that’s of interest to donors (both our existing donor base and others). However, it’s unlikely that we’ll move forward on this until we have the capacity to add dedicated staff for charity assessment.

AMA: We are Jon and Kathryn. We work with The Life You Can Save. Ask us anything!

These aren’t really surprises, but the experience reinforced a couple of things: celebrities are really busy, and they have a huge reach (e.g. 1 instagram post from Kristen Bell led to over 1000 people downloading the book and subscribing to our newsletter.)

At least a few of the celebrities seem interested beyond seeing us as a random good cause. As an example, Michael Schur really engaged with the intellectual substance of the book in the foreword he wrote for the new edition. And that probably shouldn’t be surprising, as his show The Good Place is essentially oriented around some similar themes.

Long-term investment fund at Founders Pledge

1. Agree that equity valuations outside the US are much less extreme. But if you’re building a diversified portfolio, global fixed income and US equities are probably going to play a large part. So avoiding lower expected returns in those asset classes would require an element of active management, which I think raises the hurdle for this project significantly since active management is both expensive and hard to do well. Given the goals of this fund, I would think a passive Risk Parity strategy (which includes a lot of fixed income) would make a lo... (read more)

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