Senior Director of Growth at Rethink Charity and EA Grants Evaluator at the Centre for Effective Altruism
Hey Brendon, in 2020 Rethink Charity pivoted to provide fiscal sponsorships to select value-aligned projects in EA and adjacent communities. As many might know, we helped kickstart Rethink Priorities with a more in-house FS arrangement. We've just completed our first external FS arrangement with Dao Foods. For you or anyone who has seen this post, please do let me know if you know of any projects who could use this service!
Lauren, I'd like to echo Niel's sentiment here. Concerted efforts at cultivating EA-aligned talent (via training and launching projects) has always been something Rethink Charity has advocated for. Great to see you taking real strides in addressing this. Please reach out if RC and I can be of any help
FYI Rethink Charity and associated projects were also not invited, including Rethink Priorities and LEAN. We were also invited to forums in previous years
It’s great to see more efforts to evaluate and promote top giving opportunities. Rethink Grants seems promising and I’m interested in seeing where it goes.
Hey Eric, we appreciate the kind words and thank you for taking the time to bring some of these things to our attention.
How do donors know if they are fully funded?
Great question - were RG to continue on, the idea was for us to be quite involved in the fundraising process for recommended projects. If Donational were interested in continuing with the CAP, we would likely engage in a joint fundraising effort where we would take special care to keep key funders and the wider public in the loop regarding fundraising milestones and progress. This could even take the form of a public fundraising campaign in certain cases.
Have you seen the write-ups of ImpactMatters?
We have! In fact, Luisa Rodriguez, one of the Rethink Priorities analysts on this report, is a former ImpactMatters research analyst. ImpactMatters was also among the organizations that we drew inspiration from for Our Process.
To address this, one idea would be to put a lot of the details from the main body into an appendix.
This could certainly be helpful. I think a lot more could be done to better highlight key reasoning within future potential evaluations, including detailed notes on criteria that were important in the VOI, for example.
If I’m understanding correctly that Rethink Grants is also doing things to try to make the underlying organizations better, then it might be great to have more details on that.
That’s correct, and now that you mention it, future reports could expand more on all the possible intervention points that RG would consider for improving the overall quality of projects.I cover quite a bit of that in this reply in a different thread. As an example from this report, in the Potential Issues section, we mention pretty large plan changes from presenting the founder with a BOTEC that we came up with based on a handful of parameters that we considered crucial. Having this all mapped out onto one place would certainly be better.
Hey Jonas, apologies about the delay in replying here. Much will depend on whether we move forward with the program based on our own internal assessment of its potential and feedback we received from the community, especially those with an interest in grant making and community building via funding projects.
We loosely outline our remit and purpose in the introduction section and our current plan is to help potentially promising projects that would clearly benefit from the “early-stage planning, facilitating networking opportunities, and other as-needed efforts traditionally subsumed under project incubation” that we want to provide. Projects can often use assistance of this sort, and similar to some VC models, we hope that conducting a thorough and transparent evaluation of their program will be helpful to show others for getting funding traction. A perennial issue for existing grant makers is a lack of projects or research that are prepared to execute for one reason or another, and RG would hope to put time and resources into making a project ready and fundable. This role is meant to compliment the existing landscape.
As we mention in the OP, we do not currently fund projects ourselves - our goal is to help improve and recommend worthy projects to existing funders at this point. Given that many of the methods in this report are widely applicable, RG could also investigate and evaluate projects on behalf of existing grant makers or individual funders in cases where our interests align. In this case, were a potential funder interested in looking into a “shovel-ready” or existing project, we could be contracted assess it more thoroughly.
As for sourcing applications, we mention in the Our Process section that Rethink Grants will begin with an in-network approach to sourcing projects, relying on trusted referrals to help us reach out to promising individuals and organizations. If RG continues to conduct evaluations, we then consider projects on a rolling basis. A project that seems potentially cost-effective, run by a high-quality team, and has room for more funding moves forward through our evaluation process. We decided to look into Donational because it appeared to be a high potential project that satisfied these requirements.
Hey Oli, thanks for taking the time to come up with these points, and going out of your way to say, “...I think evaluations like this are quite important and a core part of what I think of as EA’s value proposition...and would like to see more people trying similar things in the future.” This is exactly the type of attitude toward agency and attempting to do good that I’d like to have encouraged more in EA.Point-by-point, I think Derek covered a lot. I also mention in a comment how I was thinking about this evaluation in terms of a contribution to grant evaluation and the EA project space more broadly.
We might have done better to distill cruxes within our qualitative reasoning, though I do think a fair amount of this is presented in various sections. Agreed that swapping advanced mathematical models for BOTECs is often advisable, but at certain points in the future, I would imagine that evaluators could make good use of methods like these.
Thank you to those who had a look at this report. Our team put a lot into this as you might imagine. I’ve been anticipating some commentary in this evaluation along the lines of “this is far too complex/quantitative for a $40,000 grant recommendation.” We’d agree. We gesture at this in the “The future of Rethink Grants” section at the end of the Executive Summary.
This could have perhaps been communicated better, but my hope is that readers will come to interpret this report, and the methods employed therein, as additional tools to consider when evaluating grants. There may be occasions where evaluators might find it useful to boost their repertoire by using these methods (or something similar) to potentially make better decisions. Project leads may also get some mileage out of how much we’ve put on display here.
There are certain instances where key reasoning (see Team Strength section), or quick deferral to experts, or even a simple back-of-the-envelope (BOTEC) calculation will suffice. But as with charity evaluation, we might agree, there are circumstances where intuition and BOTECs are not enough. An example from this report that Derek mentions, the VOI calculation and CEE lead us to a more nuanced conclusion that funding decent-sized pilot was very much worth doing in our opinion, rather than fully funding it from the outset or passing over this opportunity. Our conclusions from just a BOTEC might have been different.
I think we have good reason to believe that the level of rigor displayed in this evaluation is warranted at times. And when those situations arise, we hope others will reach for this report if they’ve found it useful.
Same for Rethink. Definitely appreciate this post and tried to make the application process swift and yet as informative as possible on both ends
Hey Jonas, RC might be interested in touching base with you about this soon!
I do also think that it's very valuable for some pots of funding to not be very public as there are some bad incentives and restrictions caused by public work.
Yep, I think that's right. We (entities within the community) can improve from historical examples of simply not declaring anything on this front or the reasoning behind it.
E.g., I'm (currently) quite happy currently that EA Grants doesn't have to justify each grant publicly.
+1 though our post-decision feedback could be better in some ways.