CEA is Fundraising! (Winter 2016)

The Centre for Effective Altruism has begun its 2016 fundraising round. We’ve put together a document that summarises our activities, impact and mistakes in 2016, and plans for 2017. You can read it here (there’s an option to download it as a PDF file); we’ve also reproduced the executive summary below.

There are a couple of differences between this fundraising round and some previous fundraising rounds. First, we’ve not tried to aggregate all our activities into a “single dollars spent: dollars raised for charity” ratio. Doing so made sense for Giving What We Can, when it was an independent organisation, because the primary metrics for Giving What We Can were money moved and total money pledged. (Though even then it’s still plausible that Giving What We Can’s main impact lay beyond moving money, such as by helping foster the effective altruism community.) CEA currently has several distinct aims: raising money for extremely effective charities is one, but it also aims to grow the effective altruism community, to increase the value of the community to each member, to reduce risks of collapse or fragmentation of the community, to produce and encourage research that advances our understanding of how to do the most good, and to try out new projects that might be extremely high-value. We therefore think it would be misleading to put heavy emphasis on money moved.

Second, our assessment of our room for more funding is much higher than in previous years. This reflects a change of attitude. First, we’ve taken more seriously the implication that, if donating to a meta-charity like CEA is more effective than donating to a first-order charity, then we should be trying to grow CEA’s activities so that there is a greater room for funding among meta-charities. For this reason, we’ve spent more time than in previous years thinking about how we could do a lot more than we’re currently doing without hiring more staff, such as Facebook ad campaigns and regranting to the EA community, including to local groups, EAGx conferences, and other non-CEA EA projects. Second, recently many more people have been emphasising talent gaps rather than funding gaps in EA, to the extent that many people who are earning to give are considering moving to do direct work. This meant that we spent more time figuring out how much we could reasonably grow, even beyond the amount we expect we could raise, so that people could make career decisions based on a good understanding of the room for more funding in CEA (I wrote a little about the risk of overcorrecting on talent/​funding here).

I don’t think it’s currently meaningful to say that CEA is more talent-constrained or funding constrained. We’re always on the lookout for exceptional people to hire, and would be able to do a better job if we had even more exceptional people to work for us, and so in that sense we are talent-constrained. But unless a very large donor steps in, I think it’s unlikely that we’ll reach our aggressive growth target so it’s likely we could still spend additional money well, and in that sense CEA will also be funding-constrained.

Read the full prospectus here: CEA Winter Fundraising Prospectus

Executive Summary

The Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA) helps to grow and maintain the effective altruism movement. Our mission is to:

- create a global community of people who have made helping others a core part of their lives, and who use evidence and scientific reasoning to figure out how to do so as effectively as possible; and

- make the advancement of the wellbeing of all a worldwide intellectual project, doing for the pursuit of good what the Scientific Revolution did for the pursuit of truth.

We have two divisions. The community and outreach division focuses on growing, strengthening, and serving the effective altruism community. The special projects division focuses on improving our understanding of how to do the most good, which includes exploring new applications for effective altruism.

2016 was a year of significant change for CEA. We went from being a collection of largely autonomous teams to a single team under one management structure. Although the internal reorganization is complete, the process of integrating the various projects continues. Our overarching goal for 2017 is to build a strong, focused CEA, which we believe is essential to achieving our long-term mission.

Key projects we intend to pursue in 2017 include the following:

Turn effectivealtruism.org into the landing page for the effective altruism community

Host three Effective Altruism Global conferences

Establish a scalable model for facilitating student and local groups

Launch a multidisciplinary institute at the University of Oxford for the study of effective altruism

Develop advanced quantitative cause prioritization models

Below we provide a detailed review of our activities over the past year and our plans for next year. In summary, we believe the case for supporting CEA based on marginal cost-effectiveness alone is strong. But we also maintain that that is not how CEA should be evaluated.

We believe that effective altruism has the potential to have a transformative impact on how people think about doing good in the world and that CEA is currently best positioned to help effective altruism realize its potential. We estimate that most of CEA’s value in expectation comes from the chance–small as it might be–that it realizes that mission. In other words, funding CEA is a gamble, albeit (because of its marginal cost-effectiveness) a gamble in which the “bad” outcome still looks pretty good.

For 2017, the minimum we’re looking to raise is £2.5 million. We believe we could spend much more than that before hitting strongly diminishing returns: we could spend £5.1 million in our growth scenario and £7.3 million in our stretch growth scenario. In both of these latter two scenarios, we would regrant a significant amount of money to smaller projects in the effective altruism community.