Luke Freeman

Executive director @ Giving What We Can
4992 karmaJoined Aug 2021Working (15+ years)Forest Lodge NSW 2037, Australia



I’m Luke Freeman, Executive Director of Giving What We Can (GWWC), a global community on a mission to make giving effectively and significantly a cultural norm. We’ve got a strong base of over 8,000 members from 100 countries, who’ve pledged to give 10% of their lifetime income to effective charities, amounting to a collective $3 billion pledged and over $300 million given so far.

My journey started early, enrolling at university at 15 and developing a keen interest in media and communications. My career later steered towards tech start-ups, focusing on marketing and growth. I was on the initial team at Sendle, Australia’s first technology B-Corp, and co-founded Positly.

Beyond my work, I’m a devoted member of Giving What We Can and Founders Pledge, pledging to donate a significant portion of my income to effective charities.

I enjoy sharing my thoughts and experiences on effective giving and have had the pleasure to do so on platforms such as BBC Radio 4, Aussie Firebug, DW News, and hosting The Giving What We Can Podcast. Feel free to tune in!


Also worth noting that the 2020 podcast jump was significantly contributed to from the Sam Harris episode taking the GWWC Company Pledge (which was also a significant shift in his advocacy moving forward). This involved a lot of work behind the scenes from our side but would be attributed here as "finding EA (and GWWC)" from the podcast.

Also in ~2017 GWWC chapters were converted to EA groups so that also explains some of the difference (GWWC chapters used to be a way that people found out about EA in-person which was largely supplanted by EA groups so that now people find out about GWWC in-person via EA groups).

How fun!!! Now I'm even more jealous I'm not in NYC to hang out!

Thanks for sharing this! I like the series and would be excited to see it continue 😀

Yep! A few of our team members have chosen to do this (including myself).

(Note: It’s always been initiated by the team member themselves and there isn’t any expectation from the organisation which I think would be a problem.)

I do still donate to other things too. I think that beyond the direct impact of those donations it helps to be able to advocate to a broader audience when some of my impact-focused donations are more legible and relatable.

Also at GWWC we budget salaries at the full amount (calculated by a formula) as any salary sacrifices as donations are voluntary and reversible and we also want to ensure we have budgeted for the cost to replace someone using the same salary formula (eg if a researcher at our 3B level based in Oxford with 5 years experience leaves we’d want to have budgeted to replace them). For cost effectiveness calculations the salary sacrificed donations is ideally counted as income and the budgeted/offered salary counted as costs.

P.S. I always love how quickly you turn things into polls. Find it pretty interesting to get a more granular and clustering view of what people thing that’s often not reflected by upvotes and comments.

Keep it up!

This is pretty useful thanks! Have bookmarked 😀 

I can imagine myself opening this up myself and sharing it a bunch!

That's a tricky one! I think that at both extremes it's bad (so the answer lies somewhere between). 

  • If no small donors are informed and carefully checking then I think evaluators would generally do a much worse job.
  • If all small donors needed to be sufficiently knowledgeable about effective giving before donating I think that it'd be a big waste of time, fewer people would give, and evaluators wouldn't move enough money for their time to be worthwhile spent on it.

Generally, I'd prefer donors not be completely deferential and have at least a basic understanding of why they defer to a specific evaluator (at the moment I think this is super opaque to donors and we're hoping to help change that). But I also worry about donors trying to reinvent the wheel, be overconfident that they can outperform evaluators, or get so lost in the details that they don't end up giving.

My view is that it'll likely depend more on the temperament and context of the donor (including how much they're moving).

On a side note I think the donor lottery is a pretty interesting way of solving this (but feel like we probably need a few donor lotteries for it to work in an ideal way, such as a worldview diverse one and ones for specific worldviews so that you can at least think about worldviews before donating to the lottery).

Great question! I've not got very developed thoughts here but here's my quick take:

As much as I think taking and following through with giving pledges are generally a good norm to have within the community (for many reasons) I'm very sceptical about it being a requirement or anything like that for voting or allocating funds. I think it's fraught with potential unintended consequences. That being said, I've kicked an idea around for a while to have a GWWC community fund where anyone can donate to it (ideally many GWWC members choose to) and there's a process where active members collectively allocate the funds (likely with recommendations from other members and grantmakers and various ways for people to delegate their votes to others).

I started mostly in global health and then included some animal welfare. The vast majority of my donation in the past ~6 years has been EA/EG meta. Especially boring stuff that no one else wants to pay for (e.g. paying for accounting, audit and legal fees for an effective giving or community building organisation) but I find the multiplier mindset satisfying. That's mostly been EA Australia and Giving What We Can. I've also sponsored a lot of giving games and charity elections.

Other than that I have a mix of more direct organisations I support (e.g. GFI, AMF) on a regular(ish) basis. These also make it much easier for me to have entry level discussions about effective giving with people as a donor myself.

As another form of advocacy I quite like giving donations as gifts, thank yous, or follow ups (donating to something on someone's behalf after having a conversation with them about it).

Finally I'll often backstop or seed things with personal funds when I have high context (e.g. EAGxAustralia conferences, donor matching campaigns, early stage projects) so that they happen regardless but I hope another donor will step in or a grant will come through.

If I was less high context specific projects and weren't thinking about advocacy I'd likely just do a combination of funds and Charity Entrepreneurship.

On top of my impact focused giving I also like to support a token amount when friends do a fundraiser (provided it doesn't seem harmful) to affirm them looking outwards (it makes it easier to chat about charity in general too when I've actively supported them) and my wife gives some of her donations to the rescue we got our cats from and volunteered at (discussed between us as a bit of a social contract, special obligation type giving).

My views on this a very nuanced and I think it's hard to make general recommendations. I think it's quite inspiring and motivating to have people in my life who are more frugal and generous than me. That inspires me to also give more. It also makes it easier to have social norms around less expensive group activities etc.

However, I also worry about people being so frugal that it backfires and turns people from off following suit. I also worry if people don't spend on things that would improve their lives significantly (e.g. their health and wellbeing) and also their ability to have an impact (e.g. productivity, coaching, education etc).

My all things considered guess is that for many people the ideal mix of impact over the long term (considering personal $ moved, money influenced, and second order effects like values spreading and their pursuit of high-impact careers) is to find a sustainable level of giving and spending that is comfortably on the edge of what those around them could imagine doing themselves and what helps them be most healthy and productive.

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