Four Organizations EAs Should Fully Fund for 2018

As an EA, I’ve tried to make my mark by earn­ing to give and do­ing enough di­rect work to un­der­stand the or­ga­ni­za­tions I’m giv­ing to and find out­stand­ing giv­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties that are ne­glected by oth­ers. Based on my think­ing, I’m go­ing to be donat­ing to Char­ity Science Health, Re­think Char­ity, the Sen­tience In­sti­tute, and the Wild-An­i­mal Suffer­ing Re­search In­sti­tute and I en­courage other EAs to do so un­til their fund­ing tar­gets are met.

Based on this doc and my think­ing, I am go­ing to be donat­ing $42.5K spread among these groups -- $25K to Char­ity Science Health, $12.5K to Re­think Char­ity, $2.5K to Wild An­i­mal Suffer­ing Re­search, and $2.5K to Sen­tience In­sti­tute. I wish that I could donate more, but I have run out of per­sonal funds to donate for 2017. I hope offer­ing my recom­men­da­tion can make a differ­ence in al­low­ing these groups to raise more money.

Cri­te­ria for Recom­men­da­tion

The crite­ria I used for mak­ing these grants was as fol­lows:

(1) Have clear “room for more fund­ing”
—these or­ga­ni­za­tions are con­strained most by a need for cash and have a clear plan for how they would put that cash to good use through­out 2018.

(2) Have a clear risk of not meet­ing their fund­ing goal—Th­ese or­ga­ni­za­tions may have ex­ist­ing donors, prospects, and a good fundrais­ing strat­egy, but it doesn’t look like a “lock” that they will make their fundrais­ing goal by any means.

(3) Clear a bar of be­ing “im­pact­ful enough” for the EA com­mu­nity to be worth fund­ing—I’m not ar­gu­ing that these or­ga­ni­za­tions are the best use of funds fol­low­ing a thor­ough cause and or­ga­ni­za­tion pri­ori­ti­za­tion anal­y­sis, but that af­ter a good amount of re­flec­tion these or­ga­ni­za­tions rep­re­sent out­stand­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties that I think are bet­ter than the com­mu­nity av­er­age, such that they are clearly “good enough” to pass a “mul­ti­player coun­ter­fac­tual anal­y­sis for de­cid­ing where to donate”.

I’ve used these crite­ria for a fair amount of my past dona­tions and feel that they have led to very im­pact­ful dona­tions—while I think some or­ga­ni­za­tions may be more im­pact­ful per dol­lar over­all, the marginal dona­tion is not as use­ful as they are highly likely to have been able to fundraise it already with much less effort and there is less at risk (e.g., whether a pro­gram hap­pens at all ver­sus whether it is scaled up fur­ther).

Espe­cially with the rise of a large amount of in­sti­tu­tional in­vest­ment from the Open Philan­thropy Pro­ject, I ex­pect in­di­vi­d­ual donors like me to have more im­pact by find­ing and fund­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties that OpenPhil is un­likely to find, likely to pass on for rea­sons I don’t agree with, or too small to be worth fund­ing.

Why Char­ity Science Health?

Char­ity Science Health is a heav­ily re­searched at­tempt by EAs to cre­ate a new GiveWell top char­ity. They use SMS re­minders to help new moth­ers get their new­born chil­dren the cor­rect vac­ci­na­tions at the cor­rect times. Cur­rent ev­i­dence sug­gests this could in­crease vac­ci­na­tion rates by +8.7 to +17.5 per­centage points. They have been a re­cip­i­ent of GiveWell in­cu­ba­tion grants twice now and they may be twice as cost-effec­tive as AMF.

This year, they’re look­ing to run a high-qual­ity ran­dom­ized con­trol­led trial to make sure that their pro­gram works the way they are im­ple­ment­ing it in the ar­eas they are im­ple­ment­ing it. This is an ex­pen­sive un­der­tak­ing, how­ever, and even af­ter fore­cast­ing a lot of in­sti­tu­tional sup­port and other donors, they are still look­ing to raise an ad­di­tional $495,000 USD over the next 2.5 years (or $247,500 over 1 year).

Money donated to Char­ity Science Health to­ward this RCT would ei­ther, if nega­tive, free up a group of tal­ented EAs to move on to the next idea, or, if pos­i­tive, keep CSH on a path to­ward mov­ing mil­lions of dol­lars to a more cost-effec­tive in­ter­ven­tion. I pre­vi­ously es­ti­mated that try­ing to cre­ate a new GiveWell top char­ity could be very im­pact­ful, and re­vis­it­ing that anal­y­sis with up­dated num­bers one year later shows the same con­clu­sion.

CSH seems like a great way to grow GiveWell’s port­fo­lio of top char­i­ties, or at least learn a lot through failure. Already, Joey and Kather­ine at CSH are helping men­tor other groups to do the same, such as For­tify Health and one other group po­ten­tially launch­ing. I’m pretty con­fi­dent these ad­di­tional at­tempts would not have hap­pened had CSH not con­tinued. Based on this, I am go­ing to donate $25,000 to Char­ity Science Health.

You can read more in their main fund­ing doc.

You can donate on­line at their PayPal. If you are mak­ing a dona­tion of $1000 or more or are seek­ing tax de­ductibil­ity out­side the US, please send an email to Peter QC, their op­er­a­tions officer, at pe­terqc@char­i­ty­, and they can provide you with bet­ter dona­tion op­tions that re­duce fees and al­low for tax de­ductibil­ity out­side the US.

Why Re­think Char­ity?

Re­think Char­ity is fundrais­ing for three pro­jects:

Stu­dents for High Im­pact Char­ity (SHIC), a group aiming to teach high school stu­dents about effec­tive al­tru­ism, is rais­ing $115,000 to test their cur­ricu­lum in a work­shop set­ting for 2018. I pre­vi­ously did some anal­y­sis and gave SHIC start-up fund­ing last year, and this year I think they’re on a good track. They’ve now re­vised their strat­egy to fo­cus more on fewer stu­dents, al­low­ing for higher con­trol of the mes­sage and faster feed­back. They’re also fo­cus­ing more on data col­lec­tion, in­clud­ing through a part­ner­ship that will al­low them to track dona­tions made by stu­dents over time. I think their cur­ricu­lum has some re­ally great con­tent and I’m ex­cited to see it de­vel­oped in a clearer man­ner with more data! You can learn more in­for­ma­tion in the SHIC fund­ing doc.

The Lo­cal Effec­tive Altru­ism Net­work (LEAN) is seek­ing $164,500 to co­or­di­nate and sup­port lo­cal EA groups across the world. After work­ing on an im­pact as­sess­ment across the EA Sur­vey and the Lo­cal Groups Sur­vey, LEAN is fo­cus­ing on key ar­eas of sup­port to help lo­cal groups grow, such as cus­tomized ad­vice, writ­ten guides, tech­ni­cal sup­port, and grant­mak­ing for spe­cific pro­jects. LEAN is also work­ing to co­or­di­nate a lot more with CEA on both strat­egy and helping level up in­di­vi­d­ual groups through grant­mak­ing. I’m also ex­cited for LEAN to con­tinue to build the ev­i­dence base for what works and what doesn’t in lo­cal groups. You can learn more in­for­ma­tion in the LEAN fund­ing doc.

Lastly, RC For­ward is look­ing for $90K to fund a straight­for­ward way to al­low Cana­di­ans to make tax de­ductible dona­tions to some of the best char­i­ties. A large amount of that $90K is solely to cover fees to make dona­tions free for Cana­dian donors, en­courag­ing them to donate more. Last year, this pro­ject was run un­der Char­ity Science (though with the same point per­son run­ning it) and was re­stricted to global poverty char­i­ties. It moved over $500K last year, which sug­gests a lot of de­mand is already there and we just need to sup­ply a solu­tion. This year, the pro­ject is now be­ing run as RC For­ward and the list of causes has been ex­panded to in­clude non­hu­man an­i­mals and far fu­ture causes. Learn more in the RC For­ward fund­ing doc.

RC For­ward offers an op­por­tu­nity with a pretty clear benefit over donat­ing to GiveWell top char­i­ties, whereas LEAN and SHIC offer much more spec­u­la­tive but promis­ing ways of grow­ing the EA move­ment. I still think both LEAN and SHIC have a sub­stan­tial risk of not be­ing cost-effec­tive, but I’m far more con­fi­dent that there is suffi­cient an­a­lyt­i­cal work go­ing on now that failure would be de­tected and learned from. Given the amount of in­for­ma­tion they’re gen­er­at­ing, I’m con­fi­dent we’ll all learn some­thing im­por­tant even if ei­ther (or both) pro­jects fail. Based on this, I am go­ing to donate $12,500 to Re­think Char­ity over 2018. This dona­tion will be un­re­stricted for them to al­lo­cate across their pro­jects as they see fit.

Dona­tion in­struc­tions to Re­think Char­ity are available here, or you can con­tact Tee Bar­nett at tee@rtchar­ for more in­for­ma­tion.

Why Wild-An­i­mal Suffer­ing Re­search?

Wild-An­i­mal Suffer­ing Re­search has been work­ing to an­a­lyze wild-an­i­mal suffer­ing as a cause and con­tinue on the path to­ward tractable in­ter­ven­tions. I do not per­son­ally take wild an­i­mal suffer­ing to be an ob­vi­ous is­sue, as I think it is pos­si­ble that ei­ther some wild an­i­mals do not have net nega­tive lives and that some wild an­i­mals do not have suffi­cient moral weight to be worth pri­ori­tiz­ing com­pared to other work to help hu­man and non­hu­man an­i­mals. That be­ing said, I do think work to help wild an­i­mals could end up wildly cost-effec­tive and that this pos­si­bil­ity is worth in­ves­ti­gat­ing. “Wild-An­i­mal Suffer­ing Re­search” is a de­scrip­tively named group that is aiming to do just that, with an ask for $161,205.

Re­search for the past year in­cluded a pro­posal for cre­at­ing “welfare biol­ogy” as a field, out­lin­ing some ini­tial the­ory around mea­sur­ing wild an­i­mal suffer­ing, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion that finds eu­thana­sia of el­derly elephants as un­likely to be promis­ing, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the harms from par­a­site load, an anal­y­sis of the im­pact of pop­u­la­tion con­trol meth­ods on the welfare of ver­te­brates, and the same for in­ver­te­brates.

After read­ing all of their re­search at length and spot check­ing it (e.g., check­ing ran­dom cita­tions to make sure they match the claim be­ing made and ran­domly search­ing my­self to see if I could find any cita­tions that dis­pute a claim made by the pa­per), I find that their work is of good qual­ity. The three staff mem­bers worked part time to only have one full-time equiv­a­lent work over 2017, and the pace of out­put pro­duced looks good given that work amount, es­pe­cially for a new org that also had to fo­cus on set­ting up shop, fundrais­ing, and out­reach. Grow­ing to 3+ FTE to ex­pand re­search is a pri­or­ity for them next year.

Over­all, these re­sults ap­pear to me to be good starts on very difficult prob­lems, though much more work will be needed. I’d par­tic­u­larly like to see much more work ex­plor­ing the ca­pac­ity for an­i­mals to suffer to the best of our knowl­edge (per­haps along the lines of Luke Muelhauser’s work), in­for­ma­tion on the qual­ity of life in the wild for var­i­ous species, and work to iden­tify some po­ten­tial in­ter­ven­tions.

For the next year, Ozy Bren­nan aims to start work on iden­ti­fy­ing tractable wild an­i­mal in­ter­ven­tions, Per­sis Eskan­der aims to start work on as­sess­ing hu­mans’ im­pact on wild an­i­mals, and Ge­or­gia Ray aims to start work to as­sess the ca­pac­ity for wild an­i­mals to suffer. This lines up pretty well with my im­pres­sions for what are valuable things to re­search in this space. Based on this, I am go­ing to donate $2,500 to Wild-An­i­mal Suffer­ing Re­search.

You can read more in their main fund­ing doc.

You can donate on­line through their web­site.

Why Sen­tience In­sti­tute?

Sen­tience In­sti­tute pro­duces re­search to in­form an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy tech­niques. In the past year, they’ve pub­lished a sum­mary of foun­da­tional ques­tions in an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy, a na­tion­ally rep­re­sen­ta­tive sur­vey of Amer­i­can adults on var­i­ous an­i­mal is­sues, a case study on adop­tion of nu­clear power and im­pli­ca­tions for adopt­ing new meat tech­nolo­gies, and a case study on the Bri­tish anti-slav­ery move­ment (with 721 refer­ences!). Ad­di­tion­ally, they are still work­ing on a book manuscript en­ti­tled The End of Fac­tory Farm­ing that aims to de­tail hu­man­ity’s tran­si­tion to an an­i­mal-free food sys­tem and be pub­lished by Bea­con Press in Fall 2018.

Sen­tience In­sti­tute aims to raise $185,000 to sup­port their ex­ist­ing growth through 2018 and make an­other hire (grow­ing to a to­tal of four staff). They aim to pub­lish The End of Fac­tory Farm­ing, which they hope will raise the pro­file of EAA in pub­lic dis­course and shift the an­i­mal-free food move­ment in a more im­pact­ful di­rec­tion, and bet­ter pre­sent Sen­tience In­sti­tute’s re­search. They also aim to ex­pand their re­search agenda to cover case stud­ies such as GMOs, voter turnout, and anti-smok­ing cam­paigns.

Sen­tience In­sti­tute ap­pears com­mit­ted to their re­search agenda, but may con­sider pivot­ing to move­ment-based work such as re­cruit­ing new ad­vo­cates, pro­duc­ing a guide to effec­tive an­i­mal ac­tivism, and cre­at­ing a job board. I think they are also con­sid­er­ing do­ing more pub­lic out­reach based on End of Fac­tory Farm­ing. I feel less ex­cited about this di­rec­tion, but could see it be­ing worth ex­per­i­ment­ing with.

I think that progress in an­i­mal welfare is bot­tle­necked by more fun­da­men­tal-level re­search as to what in­ter­ven­tions are worth pri­ori­tiz­ing, rather than the or­ga­ni­za­tional-level re­search that An­i­mal Char­ity Eval­u­a­tors is most known for (though ACE has re­cently ex­panded their fun­da­men­tal-level re­search work by launch­ing an ex­per­i­men­tal re­search di­vi­sion and greatly ex­pand­ing their re­view of leaflet­ing). I could see re­search from Sen­tience In­sti­tute po­ten­tially helping sur­face con­sid­er­a­tions that help pri­ori­tize bet­ter within the an­i­mal welfare space.

The re­search out­put seems pretty good given the staffing, the work of set­ting up the or­ga­ni­za­tion, and other work­load. After vet­ting, I also find their re­search also seems to be of good qual­ity. I’d be ea­ger for their case study and sur­vey work to con­tinue, to learn more rele­vant in­sights. I’d also be cu­ri­ous for them to do the ex­pert in­ter­views men­tioned in their lower pri­or­ity re­search agenda. Based on this, I am go­ing to donate $2,500 to Sen­tience In­sti­tute.

You can read more in their main fund­ing doc.

You can donate on­line through Effec­tive Altru­ism Funds.

Ap­pendix A: Caveats and Dis­clo­sures for Recommendations

I feel like I have put enough time now into un­der­stand­ing the work in an­i­mal welfare, global poverty, and com­mu­nity build­ing as to make in­formed and rea­son­ably con­fi­dent fund­ing recom­men­da­tions in those spaces, but I am very un­in­formed about or­ga­ni­za­tions work­ing out­side these ar­eas, such as those work­ing on ex­is­ten­tial risk and far fu­ture. My im­pres­sion, how­ever, is that OpenPhil has done a good job filling up the fund­ing gaps in this area and that there are very few or­ga­ni­za­tions that would meet the crite­ria I’m us­ing for these recom­men­da­tions.

Some of these recom­men­da­tions may be bi­ased with me want­ing to see my friends get funded, out­side of con­sid­er­a­tions of im­pact. I have been good friends with many em­ploy­ees and se­nior staff at both Re­think Char­ity and Char­ity Science Health for years. I’m also on the board of Char­ity Science Health. On the other hand, while I know Jacy and Kelly at Sen­tience In­sti­tute, I’m not close friends with them and I barely know the peo­ple at Wild-An­i­mal Suffer­ing Re­search. Also, I have no for­mal re­la­tion­ship with Sen­tience In­sti­tute and while I’m listed on the WASR web­site, all that re­ally means is that I get to re­view some of their pa­pers and make com­ments prior to pub­li­ca­tion.

Ap­pendix B: Why Not Just Donate To EA Funds?

EAs may be tempted to defer to EA Funds rather than donate to these or­ga­ni­za­tions, on the be­lief that if these or­ga­ni­za­tions re­ally are as worth­while as I say they are, they will be funded by the fund man­agers of the rele­vant funds (e.g., Global Poverty Fund fund­ing CSH, the An­i­mal Welfare fund fund­ing Sen­tience In­sti­tute and Wild An­i­mal Suffer­ing Re­search, and the Com­mu­nity Fund fund­ing Re­think Char­ity). I cer­tainly think this is pos­si­ble and hope EA Funds sends money these or­ga­ni­za­tions. I’m writ­ing this post in part be­cause I hope it might help in­fluence EA Funds man­agers, in ad­di­tion to other EA donors.

That be­ing said, I’m con­cerned that the val­ues and views of EA Funds man­agers may not be rep­re­sen­ta­tive of me and I’m hop­ing for more di­ver­sity in how EA dona­tions are made. I’m con­cerned about overly cen­tral­iz­ing de­ci­sion-mak­ing in the hands of a few fund man­agers. Lastly, I’m wor­ried about the lack of trans­parency in EA Funds.

Ul­ti­mately, I’m aiming to have my recom­men­da­tions com­pete in the same mar­ket as EA Funds and you can de­cide who you want to trust more. I hope that oth­ers who have the time may take in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tions into these and other or­ga­ni­za­tions and come to their own fund­ing de­ci­sions.

(Up­date: It looks like Lewis Bol­lard already made grants for his EA Funds recom­men­da­tions in Novem­ber to both Wild An­i­mal Suffer­ing Re­search and Sen­tience In­sti­tute. I’m glad! I made my recom­men­da­tions in­de­pen­dently prior to learn­ing about Lewis’s choices and it’s nice to see we agree there. It looks like even af­ter these grants that both or­ga­ni­za­tions still meet the crite­ria of hav­ing clear room for more fund­ing and a risk of not mak­ing all of their fund­ing goals and I don’t think we could count on EA Funds to fill any more of their fund­ing gaps.)