I’m inclined to agree with this post, but...
And… this was just the wrong way to go about it. If you have a million dollars, one of the whole points of being able to donate that much is you can direct it to seed fund early stage projects. If you are an early stage project, you can just fund yourself.
Steelmanning the opposite case:
If you set up a charity, donations to that charity are tax-deductible. If you’re the only person donating to it, the government might consider that a suspicious tax dodge. (I Am Not An Accountant)
Getting funding usually means that senior EAs/domain experts are willing to sign off on your project. People who self-fund projects may not have checked whether this is the case.
It’s common and fully legal in the US for wealthy people to create their own 501(c)(3) private foundations. I don’t think this is an issue.
Even for a 501(c)(3) public charity, a wealthy person should be able to donate enough to support 2⁄3 of its budget without any legal problems, as long as the remaining 1⁄3 fits the IRS criteria of “public support.” And even if that doesn’t work out, it just means the 501(c)(3) may have to turn into a private foundation.
I don’t know what the laws are in other countries.
Fair. I do think the underlying point of “don’t donate all your money to charity right before asking for a bunch of money for your new charity” is still pretty important. If nothing else, it should still mean that you don’t need to pay yourself.
I agree halfway with Raemon, in that I think being able to pay oneself to work on a project is valuable. But I also think it’s important to get strong feedback from others that a project is a good idea before taking it too far, and grant funding is one form of highly reliable feedback. Someone trying to run a project may not know much about the landscape of other independent projects, or how promising their work is by comparison.
It does seem a bit backward to give away money hoping you’ll get others to give it back (and this process has a lot of overhead). A happy medium could be something like “I’ll pay my own living expenses, and I’ll also match every two dollars in grant funding with one dollar of my own”. This lets people be a bit biased toward their own ideas while still getting information from the rest of the EA funding landscape.
Yeah, I think something similar to this is probably best.
I do think it’s often necessary, to get support from others, to initially do some self-funded / volunteer work to demonstrate proof of concept. But it’s probably best to get outside feedback as soon as possible.