Effective Altruism Funds

Do more good with an evidence-based charity portfolio πŸ’‘ πŸ“ˆ

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Thanks for hunting us Kat! We're the founders of the Centre for Effective Altruism, and we're proud to be one of the non-profits in the current Y Combinator (W17) batch. We build evidence-based funds for your charitable giving, helping you maximise the impact your charitable dollars have, it's like Vanguard for charitable giving. Our expert fund managers use data and detailed analysis to find and fund the most effective charities, putting in hundreds of hours of research to find and compare the very best giving opportunities in each area. Our research community has found that the best charities are 100s of times more effective than the average charity, some of the most cost-effective charities can save a child's life for as little as $3,500. Over our lifetime we’ve raised $33M dollars for effective charities including $17M in the past year alone. Our goal for this year is to raise $80M for effective charities and enable individual donors to give with the confidence, research, and impact of a billion dollar foundation. We started this project because we were frustrated with how difficult it was to compare charities based on the amount of good they do, rather than how much they pay their CEO, or how compelling their story is. Will literally wrote the book on Effective Altruism, "Doing Good Better" and has spent most of his career as an Oxford Professor of Philosophy finding the best ways to use your money and your time to do good. I used to be a Pharmacist and spent 3 years doing overseas aid work for organizations like the Red Cross across 20+ different countries. I've got so many great stories about waste and inefficiency in the charity sector to share with you all! We built Effective Altruism funds during YC, as a new way for donors to give to charity. We'd love to hear your feedback, and answer any questions you have about giving effectively, the effective altruism community or what it's like as a non-profit startup.
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@tara_macaulay It's encouraging to hear that YC invests in non-profits. In general, what does the fundraising landscape look like for non-profit tech startups?
@ecwilson @tara_macaulay Yeah, it's pretty cool β€” I think YC, like us, is excited by the idea of the charity sector becoming more competitive and putting the focus on outcomes, rather than just good intentions. Obviously it's easier to scale something with tech solutions (Vote.org is a good example) but it's also important to make sure that your solution is actually addressing the problem at hand. Re funding, I think it really depends on your situation. In general (as with much non-profit financing) it's pretty hard to raise money. We're really lucky that our community believes very strongly in the importance of what we do (because we act as a force multiplier β€” donating to us means we raise more money for other effective organizations), so I think we're in a better position than most. Interestingly, the reverse can also be true from the funders' perspective β€” somewhat paradoxically, the effective altruism community is finding it hard to find/seed new organizations that are likely to be as good as our current top charities.
@ecwilson Hi Eric, we're excited about YC supporting non-profits too! In general, the fundraising landscape for non-profits is totally screwed, and that's part of why we're building EA Funds. Right now, many non-profits seek funding from slow-moving foundations or spend a huge proportion of their time and budget on advertising. Non-profit tech startups who can demonstrate their impact have an easier time, especially with the growing interest in scalable, highly cost-effective charities. The Gates Foundations is explicitly focused on effectiveness, but they usually don't make smaller seed grants. GiveWell and Good Ventures offer smaller, incubation grants for non-profit startups, but most of the funding is coming from smaller, angel-style individual donors. If you're interested in founding an effective non-profit, we'd recommend checking out this list on GiveWell's blog (http://blog.givewell.org/2015/10...). The next step I'd recommend is applying for Y Combinator, we've found their advice incredibly helpful, and even preparing for the interview forced us to really clarify our mission, our vision and how we were planning to scale. YC non-profits get a donation to fund their operating expenses, the same way the for-profits get an investment. We're excited about solving this problem, because right now, there is no correlation between how effective a charity is, and how much money they raise from donors. Historically, the charities which get the most money are the ones which have built the best marketing campaigns, not the ones which have the most impact. To solve this problem, we're building a community of donors who put effectiveness first. We've found that 9 out of 10 donors want their money to go a charity which has a proven, measurable impact, but comparing thousands of charities and reading dozens of research articles takes time and is incredibly difficult. If we pool donations from thousands of donors, promising non-profits can come to us to seek seed funding. Our vision is to make it easier for highly effective, start-up style non-profits to get funded quickly so that they can get back to serving beneficiaries.
This is fantastic!
@katherinekrug Thanks Katherine!
I can't say how glad I am to see this. This is so much more important than what I'm working on. I have a few thoughts. 1. My alternative to EA is the Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at MIT (J-PAL). The main value added in my view with J-PAL is the strength of the methodology. As far as I can see, by relying on GiveWell, EA mainly chooses opportunities based on operational efficiency. The idea that you can save a child's life for $3500 is a powerful statement, but where is that on the site? How did you arrive at that figure? 2. I worry about theory vs. application with philosophers. I don't mean to be offensive, but often great-sounding theory doesn't stand up to data. If the aim is to tell people what is most practical, I want a lot more informaiton about impact, especially longitudinally. The review processes I saw all revolve around interviews, pass-through rates, etc. I'd like to see more collaboration with an organization like J-PAL and/or experiments in an applied context. The two questions I have when donating: Does the charity have the best goal? Do they use my money effectively toward that goal? I feel like J-PAL answers the first one and EA answers the second one. I have to qualify all of the above: I read through the site very quickly. I could easily have missed something. Or a lot of somethings. Again, my feeling is overwhelmingly positive about the effort.
@j_jason_bell Hey Jason, thanks for a very thoughtful comment. We're completely in agreement about J-PAL being an excellent resource! We see them as being pretty foundational to effective altruism's work, by being one of the first organizations to really rigorously test global health/development interventions. GiveWell draws from a lot of JPAL research in their impact evaluations [1] and they've also collaborated on various projects through the Open Philanthropy Project [2]. I should clarify that while our fund managers are currently all drawn from GiveWell/the Open Philanthropy Project, they're managing their respective Funds in a voluntary capacity, and will draw from a range of resources to make their granting decisions. We've chosen to work with them because of their deep knowledge about effective opportunities in their respective cause areas, but they don't have to follow a particular organization's view if they think there are other, more promising opportunities. I wouldn't describe us (or Givewell) as preferencing 'operational efficiency' β€” we've been doing our best to dispel the myth that it's in any way a meaningful metric. Instead, our focus is on high expected value outcomes β€” either rigorously proven interventions, or more experimental interventions that have more uncertainty but that could have a huge payoff if they work. Sorry we didn't cite our source for the figure of $3,500 (our bad) β€” that's from GiveWell too [3]. It's basically the cost to save a statistical life using anti-malarial bednets. So, for a given treatment/control pair, every $3,500 worth of nets distributed to the treatment group results in around one fewer death on average. The figure has bounced around a bit over the years (e.g. their page on LLINs [3] quotes a figure of $3,000), so we go with the higher one to be conservative. On your second point, again, I think we're in pretty strong agreement. We think that the philosophical side of effective altruism is critical, because it frames how we should think about some difficult questions, but it's pretty meaningless unless we take relevant action. Of course, reasonable people can (and do) disagree about which actions make the biggest difference. (Career choice also seems particularly important [4].) Giving to effective charity is just one way to do good, but it's a relatively straightforward way that most people can participate in. Most people in the developed world/global north are in the top 5% of incomes, and ~20x richer than the average global citizen [5], so if we choose the charities we give to wisely and donate more, we can make a big difference over the course of our lives. [1] http://www.givewell.org/internat... [2] http://www.givewell.org/JPAL-IRD... [3] http://www.givewell.org/internat... [4] https://80000hours.org/ [5] https://www.givingwhatwecan.org/...
@samdeere Fantastic reply. Thanks for the info.
This is an amazing concept and its great to see them doing so well!
Sounds like a great idea. What do you define as cost-effective? is it based on $ of overhead, or $ in future government spending saved as a result of the charity's actions?