We do, although it looks like it's not showing on the site. I'm just fixing the issue, will update when it's there.
What's the logic here? Expected value is the same in all cases right?
Yep, the expected value remains the same, it's just a suggestion to encourage people make an entry that has a non-negligible chance of winning. As we say in the preceding sentence, there's no minimum entry size, so if you want to enter with a very long shot, that's entirely possible.
Can you share who the guarantor is this year?
As in previous years, the lottery is guaranteed by funds held at CEA on behalf of Carl Shulman.
We currently only require an email address to make deposits under $500k (so if you have an email address that doesn't identify you then this would get you most of the way there). With larger donations we'd likely need to collect more information for KYC purposes.
The system as described above isn't really set up to take deposits from smart contracts. The main issue is that EA Funds doesn't take 'unrestricted' funding (as a normal charity would), and in order for us to allocate the donation correctly, we need a matching payment record from the do... (read more)
Thanks for this writeup. I'd also add that EA Funds accepts cryptocurrency donations, is tax-deductible in the US (501[c]), the UK, and the Netherlands, and doesn't charge additional fees (fees are just whatever our exchange charges us, which is typically on the order of 0. 2% or lower). Donations can be made to any of our four Funds, or to a list of ~40 supported effective non-profits.
At the moment you need to get in touch with us directly to make donations, we support ~20 coin types, and our minimum donation size is $1,000+ or equivalent. Howeve... (read more)
DAFs do make it much easier to donate appreciated stock, and this is good advice. However, if you want to make a donation of appreciated assests and you aren't able to set up a DAF, EA Funds accepts donations of stock (in the US) and cryptocurrency (US, UK, and NL) for donations of more than $1000 (no promises that you won't have to send a fax to your broker if you want to donate stock, but in general that hasn't been the case for most of our donors who are donating from Vanguard etc).
For EA Funds this is something that we’re planning to do very soon. It’s something that’s always on the backburner (as shipping features always tends to take priority), but now that there’s a new website that has much better global control of component styling, this is something where I think we can get some easy wins.
Not really (we’ve sporadically used Personas in the past, but not very systematically), but I’ve actually just been doing more reading on this. I expect that (at least for EA Funds) Jobs-to-Be-Done will be a big part of our user research project going forward.
TL;DR; – For Funds/GWWC, the frontends are React (via NextJS) running on Vercel (previously a React SPA running on Netlify). The backend is a bunch of Node.js microservices running on Heroku, connected to a Postgres DB (running on RDS), and wired together with RabbitMQ. We’ve migrated most things to TypeScript, but a lot of the backend is still JS. A lot of business logic is written in SQL/plpgSQL.
EA Funds and GWWC have been on the same platform since 2017, and share the same backend.
The frontend was a pretty standard React SPA written in JavaScri... (read more)
We run a pretty lightweight version of Agile. We’ve tried doing more or less of the ‘canonical’ Agile/Scrum methodologies at various points, and settled on what we have because it works for us. Basically, JP and I have a weekly meeting where we set sprint goals, broken down by number of story points (where one story point = ~ half a day of productive dev work). These tasks are added to a kanban board that we update throughout the week as things progress. We do daily check-ins with each other, and with our respective managers, to discuss progress/challenges... (read more)
For EA Funds (and the pledge management parts of GWWC), that’s me. For the Forum it’s JP. We’re both devs first and foremost though, so we get a lot of input from other people (Aaron who manages the content side of the Forum, Luke Freeman who runs GWWC, Jonas who runs EA Funds, Ben West who manages the Forum team and who is a former tech startup CEO etc)
I think the biggest challenges we face are related to capacity rather than specific skills. So, a really productive fullstack dev could have a huge impact just by virtue of helping us to ship things faster, and cover more surface area.
That said, a few things that I think would be great to have more of:
I’ll first caveat by saying that I haven’t worked at either a typical startup or big tech company.
I think that there’s probably not a huge difference between CEA and a very early stage startup. I think that the most relevant dimension is just scale – currently we’re two devs working on a bunch of different projects, which means a high degree of autonomy and ownership over the code in a way that I expect is similar to a lot of small startups. We’re obviously a more mature org though, so we do have a lot of processes in place (CI, a dedicated Operations team... (read more)
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.
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).
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 goe... (read more)
Thanks for the question! There are two separate things here, which I'll address separately.
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 metho... (read more)
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 ... (read more)
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.
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 intende
Update – winners have been drawn!
Thanks everyone who participated this year. The lotteries have been drawn and both had a winner!
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.
Yeah, the Fund balances are updated when the entries for the grants are entered into our accounting system (typically at the time that the grants are paid out). Because it can take a while to source all the relevant information from recipients (bank details etc), this doesn't always happen immediately. Unfortunately this means that there's always going to be some potential for drift here, though (absent accounting corrections like that applicable to the Global Development Fund) this should resolve itself within ~ a month. The November balances included ~ half of the payments made from the Animal Welfare and Meta Funds from their respective November grant rounds.
[meta: apologies for the belated response]
Thanks again for the thoughtful comments. I agree that the numbers should have been higher; that was an oversight (and perhaps speaks to the difficulty of keeping these numbers accurate longer term). I’m not sure how I missed the extra 80K and Founders Pledge grants (I think they came from an earlier payout report that I forgot to include in my calculations). I’m sorry that this wasn’t done correctly the first time around.
I’ve since removed the grant amounts (leaving just the grantees/grant categories),
Most Fund balances are in general reasonably accurate (although the current balances don’t account from the latest round that were only paid out last month). The exception here is the Global Development Fund, which is still waiting on the accounting correction you mentioned to post, but I’ve just been informed that this has just been given over to the bookkeepers to action, so this should be resolved very soon.
1. I don’t have an exact figure, but a quick look at the data suggests we’ve moved close to $2m to US-based charities that don’t have a UK presence from donors in the UK (~$600k in 2019). My guess is that the amount going in the other direction (US -> UK) is substantially smaller than that, if only because the majority of the orgs we support are US-based. (There’s also some slippage here, e.g. UK donors giving to GiveWell’s current recommendation could donate to AMF/Malaria ConsortiumSCI etc.)
2. Due to privacy regulations (most notably GDPR) we can’t, b
Yeah, that’s interesting – I think this is an artefact of the way we calculate the numbers. The ‘total donations’ figure is calculated from donations registered through the platform, whereas the Fund balances are calculated from our accounting system. Sometimes donations (especially by larger donors) are arranged outside of the EA Funds platform. They count towards the Fund balance (and accordingly show up in the payouts), but they won’t show up in the total donations figure. We’d love to get to a point where these donations are recorded in EA Funds, but i
It’s hard to say exactly, but I’d be thinking this would be on the timescale of roughly a year (so, a spinout could happen in late 2020 or mid 2021). However, this will depend a lot on e.g. ensuring that we have the right people on the team, the difficulty of setting up new processes to handle grantmaking etc.
Re the size question – are you asking how large the EA Funds organisation itself should be, or how large the Fund management teams should be?
If the former, I’d guess that we’d probably start out with a team of two people, maybe eventually growing ~4 p
I agree with you that on one framing, influencing the long-run future is risky, in the sense that we have no real idea of whether any actions taken now will have a long-run positive impact, and we’re just using our best judgement.
However, it also feels like there are also important distinctions in categories of risk between things like organisational maturity. For example, a grant to MIRI (an established organisation, with legible financial controls, and existing research outputs that are widely cited within the field) feels different to me when compared t
Good question. My very rough Fermi estimate puts this at around $750/grant (based on something like $90k worth of staff costs directly related to grantmaking and ~120 grants/year). It’s hard to say how this scales, but we’ve continued to improve our grant processing pipeline, and I’d expect that we can continue to accommodate a relatively high number of grants per year. This is also only the average cost – I’d expect the marginal cost for each grant to be lower than this.
I don’t have a great sense of grantmaker overhead per individual grant, but I’d estima
Yeah, I’d love to see this happen, both because I think that it’s good to pay people for their time, and also because of the incentives it creates. However, as Misha_Yagudin says, I don’t think financial constraints are the main bottleneck on getting good feedback or doing in-depth grant reviews, and time constraints are the bigger factor.
One thing I’ve been mulling over for some time is appointing full-time grantmakers to at least some of the Funds. This isn’t likely to be feasible in the near term (say, at least 6 months), and would depend a lot on how the product evolves, as well as funding constraints, but it’s definitely something we’ve considered.
Meta: Just wanted to say thanks to all for the excellent questions, and to apologise for the slow turnaround on responses – I got pretty sick just before Christmas and wasn’t in any state to respond coherently. Ideally I would have noted that at the time, mea culpa.
Thanks for your thoughtful comments here.
Late last year I was working on updating and formalising the scope of each of the EA Funds, and in discussions with Elie and others at GiveWell, we updated the wording of the scope to explicitly include projects that were more indirectly serving the mission of the Fund:
In addition, the Global Health and Development Fund has a broad remit, and may fund other activities whose ultimate purpose is to serve people living in the poorest regions of the world, for example by raising additional funds (e.g.
The money is kept aside as the first tranche of backstop for future donor lotteries – if someone wins, we'll first draw from this pool of money to cover the pot, and then we'll use the lottery guarantor's money to cover any remainder.
I was confused by this as well. Does "no winners" mean "the backstop funder won"? If not, how can there not be a winner?
Thanks – yeah, I agree, and we should have let donors know about this sooner.
The Payout Reports shouldn't affect the Fund Balance, as that number is calculated directly from our accounting system. That said, this means it's subject to some of the vagaries of bookkeeping, which means we ask donors to treat it as an estimate. At the moment we're waiting on a (routine) accounting correction that should be posted once our most recent audit results are finalised, which unfortunately means that the current figure is somewhat inaccurate.
The Payout Report total would have been inaccurate as that's calculated by summing the figures from the published payout reports.
Okay, that makes sense – thanks for explaining.
One other thing: Any chance you or Catherine have an estimate of when we can expect a full write-up on the One for the World grant to be published? I'm curious mostly because it seems like a slightly atypical use of the Global Health and Development Fund (perhaps a better fit for the Meta Fund, from which One for the World received a grant earlier in the year).
Thanks HStencil for flagging this. As Catherine said, the process of publishing reports can take some time, which is why there's been a delay adding these grants to the EA Funds website. However in the interests of transparency I've added placeholder payout reports for both the Fortify Health grant, as well as another recent grant to One for the World which is also waiting on the full report. We'll update these reports as soon as GiveWell has completed their publication process.
Thanks for responding, Catherine and Sam (and also for posting those payout reports on EA Funds). I understand that the process of releasing a comprehensive write-up on each grant may take some time, but to me, it seems better (as policy) to at least let donors know about the existence of new grants within, say, 30 days of their being made than to not disclose them at all for months. I understand there are pitfalls to releasing the information that a grant was made without also explaining the process and justification behind it, but at least as I understan... (read more)
Fund managers are appointed by CEA on the recommendation of the Fund Committee (in the case of the Meta Fund, my understanding is that currently all committee members have input on the decision, with equally-weighted votes, though this is not the case on all Fund teams). My understanding from conversations with members of the Meta Fund team is that the last recruitment round considered candidates from several locations, with an emphasis on trying to find someone from the Bay Area. At least two promising candidates (both based in the Bay) were approached, b
A quick update to say that one of the features that seems to have prompted the initial post – the lack of the ability to manage recurring reported donations – has now been implemented. You can access it from the Recurring Donations tab in the Pledge Dashboard sidebar:
These are all great suggestions William, thanks for providing them. I'll take them into account as we're making future updates to the platform – no promises on a timeframe re current tech capacity constraints unfortunately, but I think they're all very sensible ideas and would constitute significant improvements.
For the last two years we've run a donor lottery through the December Giving Season, drawn in January, and we intend to do this again this year-end. Assuming that preparations go well, we'll aim to have this open by Giving Tuesday.
To add to this, I re-analysed the EA Survey responses on cause areas, restricting to just Giving What We Can Members:
Obviously there's a selection effect where the members who take the survey are more likely to be more involved with EA, but I think it's still instructive that Giving What We Can members are a fairly broad church with respect to cause areas, and that it's reasonable to offer different cause areas to them as a default setting on EA Funds.
Disclosure: I work at CEA, and am the person primarily responsible for both EA Funds and the technical imp
Is there a way to give Algolia additional information from the user's profile so that it can fuzzy search it?
The success of our factored evaluation experiments depends on Mosaic, the core web interface our experimenters use.
The success of our factored evaluation experiments depends on Mosaic, the core web interface our experimenters use.
Is Mosaic an open-source technology that an applicant would be expected to have existing familiarity with, or an in-house piece of software? (The text of the job ad is a little ambiguous.) The term is unfortunately somewhat ungoogleable, due to confusion with the Mosaic web browser.
It has some investigations in progress but hasn't made any grants yet. It was used to back the late-2018 Donor Lottery.
Any update on this? (It has now been 2 years since my original post.)
Hey Sam, any updates?
Re 1, this is less of a worry to me. You're right that this isn't something that SHA256 has been specifically vetted for, but my understanding is that the SHA-2 family of algorithms should have uniformly-distributed outputs. In fact, the NIST beacon values are all just SHA-512 hashes (of a random seed plus the previous beacon's value and some other info), so this method vs the NIST method shouldn't have different properties (although, as you note, we didn't do a specific analysis of this particular set of inputs — noted, and mea culpa).
However, the point r
The NIST Beacon is back online. After consulting a number of people (and notwithstanding that we previously committed to not changing back), we've decided that it would in fact be better to revert to using the NIST beacon. I've edited the post text to reflect this, and emailed all lottery participants.
AFAIK random.org offers to run lotteries for you (for a fee), but all participants still need to trust them to generate the numbers fairly. It's obviously unlikely that there would in fact be any problem here, but we're erring on the side of having something that's easier for an external party to inspect.
The draw should to have the following properties:
This is because, if we generated the number ourselves, or used a private third-party, there's no good guarantees against collusion. Entrants in the lottery could reasonably say '
Agree with the sentiment, but we're most definitely not rolling our own crypto. The method above relies on the public and extremely-widely-vetted SHA256 algorithm. This algorithm has the nice property that even slightly different inputs produce wildly different outputs. Secondly, it should distribute these outputs uniformly across the entire possibility space. This means that it would be useless to bruteforce the prediction, because each of your candidates would have an even chance of ending up basically anywhere.
For example, compare the input strings 1111
Hey Eli – there has definitely been thinking on this, and we've done a shallow investigation of some options. At the moment we're trying to avoid making large structural changes to the way EA Funds is set up that have the potential to increase accounting complexity (and possibly audit compliance complexity too), but this is in the pipeline as something we'd eventually like to make happen, especially as the total holdings get larger.