(Epistemic status: Writing this in a hurry on my way to something else, trying my best to be accurate but I’d love to know if I miss any details. Also, not writing this as a mod or a CEA employee—just doing my best to understand this organization.)
It looks like GivingMultiplier has changed their match structure a bit since I sent out the EA Newsletter, so that’s not the best reference to use.
In any case, your argument has some questionable bits, whether you use the Newsletter’s out-of-date numbers or the GivingMultiplier numbers.
First, the higher a % of the donation is given to an effective charity, the greater the match. If I give 90⁄10 to non-EA/EA, I get $3 in matching funds; if I give 50⁄50, I get $15 in matching funds. This doesn’t change the “indistinguishable from if I gave X” property, but it is a thing that would have been easy to check before posting.
Second, point (b) matters. It seems like a bold assumption to assume that EA charities have reached “market efficiency”—very few donors, even in our community, are paying such close attention to all charities’ total funding that they would rebalance this way on the fly. I work with a donor who gives nearly $1 million to EA orgs each year, sometimes has to make allocation decisions within a few weeks, and has nothing like the time he would need to examine all the EA orgs he cares about and figure out how to contribute to the optimal balance of funding between them. You could argue that some giant, thoughtful funder like Open Philanthropy might balance out the rest of the “market”, but even Open Phil has a limited scope and makes relatively infrequent grants (giving the market plenty of time to become “imbalanced” again).
Thus, if you actually think one of the “EA” choices at GivingMultiplier is more valuable than the rest, it seems very likely that you contribute more to their work by choosing them to be matched. The below is only true if you assume that every charity in the category “Effective_Charity” is equally cost-effective.
GivingMultiplier would give the money to Effective_Charity anyway.
Also, note that GivingMultiplier generally doesn’t decide where unused funding goes—that’s at the discretion of the original donor:
Any matching funds that are unused after 6 months will automatically be donated to the effective charity that you chose.
Finally, GivingMultiplier explains their philosophy pretty clearly on their website. Did you see anything on the site that actually seemed false to you? I read their program as quite simple:
Give people an incentive to think about splitting their donation between “heart” and “head”, by...
Setting up a match such that people who give more, and give more to the effective charity, really are redirecting matching funds to the effective charity of their choice (rather than the others on the list) and the local charity of their choice (rather than whatever local charity future match-ees would have chosen, assuming the matching funds run out at some point).
To quote the site: “Note that most matching funders likely would have donated their amounts to a highly effective charity per default. But they would not have donated to your favorite charity and it’s unlikely that they would have donated to exactly the effective charity that you have chosen.”
I think GiveWell is correct that matching campaigns are often disingenuous. But this one is, by contrast, relatively open and clear about how it works.
If you think they could have been even more clear, or think that most donors will believe something different despite the FAQ, you could say so. But to say that people who use the match “don’t understand what’s going on” is both uncharitable and, as best I can tell, false.
My take on GivingMultiplier: They offer a small but objective benefit to donors who don’t value all charities equally, and also offer the much larger benefit of being a well-designed entry point into effective giving for donors who haven’t thought much about it before—but who, through the website, may discover charities that let them do much more good than they were doing before. It’s not the Platonic ideal of a match that GiveWell is trying to achieve through their podcast advertising, but it’s honest and real.
This doesn’t change the “indistinguishable from if I gave X” property, but it is a thing that would have been easy to check before posting.
I did check. As you said, it doesn’t change the conclusion (it actually makes it worse).
Second, point (b) matters. It seems like a bold assumption to assume that EA charities have reached “market efficiency”
I’m >50% sure that it doesn’t fare better, but maybe. In any case, I specified in my OP that my main objection was (a).
Thus, if you actually think one of the “EA” choices at GivingMultiplier is more valuable than the rest, it seems very likely that you contribute more to their work by choosing them to be matched.
Yep, I did mentioned that in my OP.
Did you see anything on the site that actually seemed false to you?
No, I also mentioned this in OP.
There’s not really a real incentive though. I feel like there’s a motte-and-bailey. The motte is that you get to choose one of the 9 charities, the bailey is that the matching to the local charity is actually meaningful.
and the local charity of their choice
That’s meaningless as I showed in OP.
If you think they could have been even more clear, or think that most donors will believe something different despite the FAQ, you could say so. But to say that people who use the match “don’t understand what’s going on” is both uncharitable and, as best I can tell, false.[...]
I disagree. shrug
I don’t understand what you mean.
Let’s say that GM has $100 in matching funds to distribute. I like Doctors Without Borders and AMF. You prefer March of Dimes and Clean Air Task Force.
I give a $333/$333 split to my charities. That’s a 50⁄50 split, which gets a 15% match from GM, which equates to $100.
If I get there before you, Doctors Without Borders and AMF both get an extra $50.
If you get there before me and do the same split, March of Dimes and CATF get $50.
Those are different states of the world, determined by which of us gets the match.
If neither of us had used the match, GM would have given $100 to the charity chosen by whichever donor was matching us. That’s a third possible state of the world.
If we assume that GM has limited funding, every person who gets a match is theoretically taking funds for their charities, at the expense of someone who would have used those funds for other charities. If this person likes their charities more than most other charities, they are benefiting in some way.
In theory, you could argue that the original matching donor is hurt, because they lose money that would have gone to a charity of their choice—but they chose to fund a match, likely because they wanted to encourage people to think more carefully about funding effective charities and were willing to “pay them” to do so.
What do you think is wrong about this model?
I guess I was working on the assumption that it was rare that people would want to split their donation between local and effective a priori, and my point was that GM wasn’t useful to people that didn’t already want to split their donations in that way before GM’s existence—but maybe this assumption is wrong actually