It’s pretty straightforward: donate to wherever your money can do the most good at the moment. If this month it’s Org A then you donate to Org A, and if next month it’s Org B then you should switch
The problem for me is how do I know which organization is doing the most good in a cause area? And how do I keep tabs on that?
For global health, GiveWell provides all of that, so I defer to them by donating to their discretionary fund every month.
With criminal justice reform and x-risk, the seemingly best deferral option is Open Phil—which is why I mentioned them. They have a grant database for each cause, but I don’t know how to decide which of the orgs they funded would do the most good based off of my small, marginal donation each month.
For example, let’s say I want to donate $100 this month to bio-risk. I look at their grant database (as of this writing) and see 1DaySooner as their most recent grant in 5/2020 for $500k. Does this mean that my $100 would do the most good there, if I were to donate right now? If I look at their largest grant, which is John Hopkins Center for Health Security for $19.5M in 9/2019, would my dollar do the most good there instead vs. 1DaySooner?
Open Phil suggests organizations for individual donors, but they only do that once a year. I’d expect the top organization that is doing the most good in a cause area would change pretty often within a year, but I could be wrong about that.
Hmm, I don’t think you can read into the tea leaves of Open Phil’s donations like that. They will donate to fill funding gaps, a large donation doesn’t mean that ADDITIONAL money will be more or less valuable to that organization. And how recently they donated might be due to how recently they were discovered, or some other unimportant consideration. (But if an org hasn’t received Open Phil money in many years, perhaps they are not effective or funding-constrained anymore.)
Out of all the Open Phil grantees, just try to pick the recent one that seems most important or most neglected.
For criminal justice, I think this is straightforward. These causes are getting a lot of attention from liberals and Black Lives Matter, especially given the current surge in interest. So a charity which is a little less appealing to these people will probably be more neglected these days. Looking at a glance, the American Conservative Union’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform seems like one that will be more neglected—liberals and BLM won’t want to donate to a conservative foundation. I’m not saying this is necessarily the right choice, but it’s an example of how I would think about the matter. Yes it is very hard to fully estimate the cost-effectiveness of an organization, but if you have a good suspicion that other donors are biased in a certain way, you can go in the opposite direction to find the more neglected charities.
If you have no idea which charities might be best, you can always just pick at random, or split your donation, or donate to whichever one you like best for small reasons (e.g. you personally appreciate their research or something like that).