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UK Civil Servant and prolific tweeter (@EAheadlines)


Answer by Kirsten7

I'm not sure I have an answer, but one thing I aim to do is save a good amount and enable charitable donations of 10% or more by keeping housing and other fixed costs lower than I could, rather than seeing my budget as just a tradeoff between giving and saving.

I absolutely agree! One thing I've been thinking about recently: I used to think that if I want to make a career move in the next 6 months, I should start out by applying to really ambitious jobs and then lower my standards. I'm rethinking this. I now think it's probably good to get better-than-now Plan B offers early on too, even if I end up turning them down, both because it helps me calibrate, but honestly much more importantly because it keeps me motivated! Getting even 3 or 4 rejections in a row can be really hard emotionally

The British civil service is really good for this. We don't pay as much at a senior level as the private sector, so instead we put a lot of effort into creating a good work culture with lots of training and feedback (of course still varies between departments and managers!).

It's also very easy to get experience presenting to boards or helping to hire people, and relatively easy to get management experience.

The year in question, when they decided to hold some cash for a few months, it was because they had been researching new giving opportunities that were 10x cash and wanted to be able to use the money for that, rather than dropping the bar. (GiveDirectly criticised them for this and said they should've effectively lowered their bar to 1x cash in order to use the funds as soon as possible; they thought GiveWell's decision would be indefensible to the world's poorest people.)

Answer by Kirsten10

The section "What more donations will enable" from November 2023 looks relevant. Some excerpts below: https://blog.givewell.org/2023/11/21/givewells-2023-recommendations-to-donors/

"We set our cost-effectiveness threshold such that we expect to be able to fully fund all the opportunities above a given level of cost-effectiveness. Currently, we generally fund opportunities that we believe are at least 10 times as cost-effective as unconditional cash transfers to people living in poverty (i.e., “10x cash“). But there’s nothing magical about the 10x cash threshold. We’d be very excited to recommend programs that are 6x cash, for example, if we had enough funding—a program that’s 6x cash might save a life for less than $15,000."

"If we had a very weak Giving Season this year and expected donations to continue lagging, we might have to raise our cost-effectiveness threshold to something like 12x cash and fund fewer programs going forward. In contrast, with exceptionally strong growth in donations we might be able to use a bar of 8x cash, expanding the set of opportunities we can fund."

A bit of feedback, since this is a sales piece and I do actually like Giving What We Can:

Saying that there's no good reason not to pledge if you're already donating 10% sits really poorly with me. It feels insulting that you've decided that my reasons aren't good enough and must be only based misunderstandings.

Even if my only reason not to pledge is that I've thought about it carefully and decided I don't want to, shouldn't that be enough?

I also really disliked this section. "Let’s say only one other person in your network hears that you took the pledge and is inspired to do the same."

I don't care if other people take the pledge! I only care if other people give, and give effectively.

If they'd be influenced to "take the pledge" because me taking the pledge, why wouldn't they be influenced donate a proportion of their income effectively by seeing me donate?

You can make the argument for why the pledge is more effective than just donating, but you haven't done it here.

That would make sense! I think the civil servant in charge might also have a certain level of discretion with regards to how they represent the results - I did in my case.

I'm sorry, I didn't mean to imply that more responses mean nothing, just that bringing up a sensible consideration is more likely to affect outcomes than copying and pasting a response (which may have between no weight and a little weight with the policymakers)

There weren't many, so I don't know unfortunately. In this consultation you'd have a better chance because it's about a public-facing issue

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