Co-founder / Head of Tech, Effective Altruism Funds


Why you should give to a donor lottery this Giving Season

The Centre for Effective Altruism UK (the legal entity behind EA Funds' UK operations) is registered in the Netherlands as a tax-deductible charity.

When you get to the payment page you can select which country you'd like to donate in. To donate in a way that's tax-deductible in the Netherlands, select 'UK/NL' as your country, and then optionally select EUR as your currency code. You can donate via credit card or SEPA transfer.

ETA: I've updated the relevant FAQ entry to make this clearer.

Why you should give to a donor lottery this Giving Season

Yeah, I think ‘never’ is correct for donor lottery winners thus far. I’d guess this situation would be pretty rare in practice (even as we run more lotteries), but we want people to be informed that there are some constraints. People have generally checked in with us beforehand if they’ve got something of an edge-case in mind, and the only times I can remember saying a hard ‘no’ were for partisan political organisations (which we can’t make grants to).

Why you should give to a donor lottery this Giving Season

Yeah, I think the case of people not wanting to donate to EA Funds because of social/community dynamics (even if they think, on reflection, that they can't outperform EA Funds) is an interesting one. I guess that if someone is unsure if they can beat EA Funds (or some other 'boring'/deferent option) but that they feel like they'd be subject to social pressure to do something different regardless, that they could always enter anonymously (this doesn't solve the problem of people wanting to prove to themselves that they're good grantmakers, but hopefully goes some way to mitigating the issue).

We're also trying to provide good support to winners, in the form of contact with experienced grantmakers (including members from  each of the EA Funds). So, to the extent that this enables winners to 'import' that experience into their decision, while still being able to cast a wider net, it means that even less-confident donors will still be able to remain competitive with alternatives.

Why doesn't EA Fund support Paypal?

Thanks for the question! There are two separate things here, which I'll address separately.

  • Adding PayPal as a regular payment option to EA Funds that you can select when you're on the website making a donation (which would attract transaction fees)
  • Using the PayPal Giving Fund (which is fee-free) to donate to EA Funds

PayPal as a regular payment option

We've considered adding PayPal support, but it hasn't been a priority as we've found most donors are able to use one of our other payment methods (e.g. credit cart/bank transfer/check). Adding new payment methods adds some complexity to our payment processing operations (which we try to keep as streamlined as possible to reduce admin overhead), and given that most people use PayPal to process credit card donations, we haven't seen it as offering a significant  advantage over our existing credit card payment infrastructure. However, it's useful to know that PayPal is your only option, and is some data in favour of us considering adding it. This likely won't be for a while though, but if we do get to it I'll post an update as a comment on this question.

Using the PayPal Giving Fund

Unfortunately it's not possible to automate donations made through the PayPal Giving Fund, which means it's not viable for us to offer it as a payment option at checkout. Donations to the Giving Fund have to be made through PayPal's own website, which means we can't capture each donor's allocation, and therefore all the money appears as if it's just going to the Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA –the non-profit that EA Funds is a part of). This unfortunately just isn't scalable to hundreds of donors.

For larger donations ($1000+ or equivalent), you can use the PayPal Giving Fund to make a donation to CEA, but you'll need to email us so that we can manually add your donation to EA Funds and allocate it accordingly. If this fits your situation, you can make a donation using one of the links below, then forward your receipt to along with your preferred allocation (you can see the available organizations to donate to on this page)

Donating effectively does not necessarily imply donating tax-deductibly

I think that for most donors this can be disregarded. Even if the marginal use of your additional tax dollars is still pretty good (e.g. 10% as valuable as your best charitable option), you're still better off donating to the charity. In extremis, it would imply that your best marginal donation option would be to voluntarily pay more tax, rather than donate. 

While it seems in theory possible that the marginal dollar that your government spends is more effective than your best charitable donation option, I'd guess that in practice this is almost never the case, largely just because Your Dollar Goes Further Overseas, but also because your contribution to government revenue will be diffused between the many hundreds of programs that the government runs (some of which may be positive, like preventive health or basic research, others which may be pretty harmful, e.g. subsidies for industrial agriculture or maintaining nuclear arsenals).

Donating effectively does not necessarily imply donating tax-deductibly

Yeah, both good points. To further complicate things, if you're concerned about the net costs of your donation (e.g. both the transaction fees, as well as the administrative costs involved) then sometimes paying the transaction fee means that it's actually cheaper overall to process the transaction. For example, the service paid for by the credit card fees on EA Funds (Stripe) allows us to automate almost all of the accounting, saving a huge amount of person-hours and keeping running costs lower. Obviously there's a break-even point, and for larger donations it definitely makes sense to seek to avoid percentage-based fees.

How are the EA Funds default allocations chosen?

First, I'll note that we're actually planning to change this system (likely in the next week or two), so that instead of first seeing a default allocation, donors will choose their own allocation as the first step in the donation process.

To your question, the current EA Funds default allocation was chosen as an approximation of some combination of a) a representative split of the cause areas based on their relative interest across EA, and b) a guess at what we thought the underlying funding gaps in each cause area will likely to be. It's definitely intended to be approximate, and is there partly as a guide to give an indication of how the slider allocation system works, rather than an allocation that we think everyone should choose.

Context: I help run EA Funds and am responsible for the user-facing side of things, including the website

Announcing the 2019-20 Donor Lottery

Update – winners have been drawn!

Thanks everyone who participated this year. The lotteries have been drawn and both had a winner!

Congratulations both!

Effective Altruism Funds Project Updates

Yeah, this is something that's definitely been discussed, and I think this would be a logical first step between the current state of the world and hiring grantmakers to specific teams.

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