Application Process for the 2019 Charity Entrepreneurship Incubation Program

I wrote the fol­low­ing re­port while in­tern­ing at Char­ity En­trepreneur­ship (CE). My work was su­per­vised and is en­dorsed by Karolina Sarek, CE’s Co-founder and Direc­tor of Re­search.


We at Char­ity En­trepreneur­ship re­cently ran our first for­mal two-month char­ity in­cu­ba­tion pro­gram in Lon­don, which re­sulted in the foun­da­tion of around five coun­ter­fac­tual new char­i­ties.

This post pro­vides a brief overview of the ap­pli­ca­tion pro­cess that we used to se­lect our 13 pro­gram par­ti­ci­pants and its out­comes. The main goal of the ap­pli­ca­tion pro­cess was to iden­tify the can­di­dates most likely to suc­cess­fully found and ex­e­cute one of our recom­mended char­ity ideas. We hope that this post will be use­ful for fu­ture ap­pli­cants and other or­ga­ni­za­tions in the effec­tive al­tru­ism (EA) com­mu­nity.

Recom­men­da­tions for fu­ture applicants

  • Develop and show­case your ded­i­ca­tion to do­ing the most good and your un­der­stand­ing of EA. We have found that mem­bers of the EA com­mu­nity tend to have a com­par­a­tive ad­van­tage in our in­cu­ba­tion pro­gram rel­a­tive to other ap­pli­cants. EA com­mu­nity mem­bers tend to be more mo­ti­vated by so­cial im­pacts and have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of key con­cepts, such as cost-effec­tive­ness rea­son­ing, which are vi­tal to found­ing an im­pact­ful char­ity.

  • What you do not need to have a re­al­is­tic chance of be­ing ac­cepted into the pro­gram: i) an ad­vanced aca­demic de­gree such as a mas­ter’s or PhD; ii) a de­gree from a pres­ti­gious uni­ver­sity; iii) pro­fes­sional ex­pe­rience rele­vant to found­ing a char­ity; or iv) pre-ex­ist­ing strong (pro­fes­sional) ex­per­tise with re­spect to your preferred cause area.

  • If in doubt about your fit, ap­ply. Sev­eral of our suc­cess­ful 2019 pro­gram par­ti­ci­pants thought it was un­likely that we would ac­cept them, or they were ini­tially un­cer­tain about whether they were a good fit for the in­cu­ba­tion pro­gram. Even if you are un­sure of whether char­ity en­trepreneur­ship is the best ca­reer path for you, we recom­mend that you ap­ply to our in­cu­ba­tion pro­gram and con­sider the ap­pli­ca­tion it­self as a test that will provide you with valuable in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing your fit. The ap­pli­ca­tion pro­cess for next year’s in­cu­ba­tion pro­gram will open in late 2019 or early 2020. If you are in­ter­ested in ap­ply­ing, sign up to our mailing list to hear about when the ap­pli­ca­tion opens.​

  • Watch this talk to learn more about which skills and traits we be­lieve to be re­quired and not re­quired for suc­cess­ful char­ity en­trepreneur­ship.

The ap­pli­ca­tion process

Our ap­pli­ca­tion pro­cess had five stages. Th­ese were, in chronolog­i­cal or­der (the time we es­ti­mate each ap­pli­cant spent per stage is in brack­ets), as fol­lows:

  1. Ap­pli­ca­tion form (in­clud­ing a CV and three long-form ques­tions with a max­i­mum of 1,000 char­ac­ters each) (~1 hour)

  2. First in­ter­view (~0.5 hours prepa­ra­tion + ~0.75 hours in­ter­view)

  3. First test task (~5 hours)

  4. Se­cond in­ter­view (~0.5 hours prepa­ra­tion + ~1.5 hours in­ter­view)

  5. Se­cond test task (~3 to 5 hours)

We coded the re­sponses from the ap­pli­ca­tion form and the two in­ter­views nu­mer­i­cally, to the ex­tent that this was pos­si­ble, to avoid sub­jec­tive bi­ases from af­fect­ing the se­lec­tion of can­di­dates.

​The fol­low­ing table shows the cor­re­la­tions be­tween the scores of all ap­pli­ca­tion rounds and be­ing ac­cepted to join the pro­gram. We find that the scores from the two in­ter­views were slightly more highly cor­re­lated with be­ing ac­cepted to the pro­gram than the test task scores (~0.59 vs. ~0.47). The scores of the two in­ter­views were strongly cor­re­lated with each other at 0.62, and the scores of the two test tasks were mod­er­ately cor­re­lated at 0.33. How­ever, the cor­re­la­tion be­tween the in­ter­views and the test tasks was fairly low (~0.2). One plau­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion for this find­ing is that the two in­ter­views and the two test tasks suc­cess­fully se­lected for differ­ent di­men­sions of abil­ity, as was in­tended.


Num­ber and share of applicants

One hun­dred and forty-five peo­ple ap­plied to the in­cu­ba­tion pro­gram. After five ap­pli­ca­tion rounds, we ac­cepted 17 ap­pli­cants, and 13 ap­pli­cants ac­tu­ally par­ti­ci­pated in the pro­gram. Over­all, we were satis­fied with this out­come, and by the end of the pro­cess we were con­fi­dent in the abil­ities of all the ac­cepted can­di­dates.


Char­ity En­trepreneur­ship staff mem­bers spent a to­tal of ap­prox­i­mately 213 hours on the ap­pli­ca­tion pro­cess. The most time-in­ten­sive ap­pli­ca­tion stages for staff mem­bers were the eval­u­a­tion of the writ­ten ap­pli­ca­tions (a to­tal of ~60 hours) and con­duct­ing and eval­u­at­ing the first and sec­ond in­ter­views (a to­tal of ~51 hours and ~68 hours, re­spec­tively).

The to­tal time spent by all 145 ap­pli­cants on the ap­pli­ca­tion pro­cess was ap­prox­i­mately 585 hours. To put this into per­spec­tive, a sin­gle par­ti­ci­pant would spend ap­prox­i­mately 400 hours work­ing on the in­cu­ba­tion pro­gram over the course of two months. The most time-in­ten­sive ap­pli­ca­tion stages for ap­pli­cants were the ap­pli­ca­tion form (a to­tal of ~145 hours), the first test task (a to­tal of ~235 hours), and the sec­ond test task (a to­tal of ~92 hours).

We es­ti­mate that a sin­gle ap­pli­cant who went through all five ap­pli­ca­tion rounds in­vested a to­tal of ap­prox­i­mately 13 hours into the ap­pli­ca­tion pro­cess, while 82% of all ap­pli­cants spent less than around seven hours on the ap­pli­ca­tion pro­cess, and 64% only spent around one hour. Next year, we plan to in­tro­duce changes to the ap­pli­ca­tion pro­cess that will re­duce the time-cost for both the ap­pli­cants and our­selves with­out re­duc­ing the abil­ity of the ap­pli­ca­tion pro­cess to se­lect good can­di­dates.

The applicants

The ap­pli­cants that we ac­cepted into the pro­gram were di­verse with re­spect to their ed­u­ca­tional back­grounds and lev­els of pro­fes­sional ex­pe­rience. Five of the 13 pro­gram par­ti­ci­pants were fe­male, and 12 of them were ei­ther from the US or the UK.

Cofounder preference

Four-fifths of all ap­pli­cants did not have a prefer­ence for a spe­cific cofounder, while the re­main­ing ap­pli­cants ei­ther had ‘some prefer­ence’ or a clear prefer­ence. The shares of those three groups stayed fairly con­stant through­out the ap­pli­ca­tion pro­cess.

Cause area preference

The share of poverty can­di­dates dropped from ~40% to less than 25% over the ap­pli­ca­tion pro­cess. The share of an­i­mal can­di­dates first grew from ~25% to ~40% but then dropped to less than 10%, as two of the ac­cepted an­i­mal can­di­dates re­signed. The share of ap­pli­cants in­ter­ested in ei­ther cause area (‘Both’) in­creased from ~30% to ~60% over the ap­pli­ca­tion pro­cess. Only one can­di­date was ac­cepted into the pro­gram who was not in­ter­ested in ei­ther poverty or an­i­mal welfare and in­stead wanted to work on men­tal health and hap­piness.

Coun­try of res­i­dence

We re­ceived an al­most equal num­ber of ap­pli­ca­tions from the US, the UK, and other EU coun­tries. The share of US ap­pli­cants re­mained sta­ble at around one-fifth through­out the ap­pli­ca­tion pro­cess. In con­trast, the share of UK ap­pli­cants in­creased from one-fifth to more than three-fifths as the share of other EU ap­pli­cants and ap­pli­cants from other coun­tries dropped sub­stan­tially. We were sur­prised to see so few EU ap­pli­cants ad­vance in the ap­pli­ca­tion pro­cess. We did not find a statis­ti­cally sig­nifi­cant differ­ence in perfor­mance across a range of key met­rics be­tween the EU and US/​UK ap­pli­cants. Our hy­poth­e­sis is that this re­sult is partly ex­plained by lan­guage bar­ri­ers and partly by a statis­ti­cal fluke.

Fa­mil­iar­ity with effec­tive al­tru­ism

While the vast ma­jor­ity (88%) of the can­di­dates who were ac­cepted self-re­ported their fa­mil­iar­ity with EA as ei­ther “very high” or “high,” only 46% of all ap­pli­cants de­scribed them­selves this way. Thirty per­cent of ap­pli­cants stated that their fa­mil­iar­ity with EA was “low” or “none,” and none of them were ac­cepted.

Cause area familiarity

Based on self-re­ports, the av­er­age ap­pli­cant’s fa­mil­iar­ity with their preferred cause area was lower than their fa­mil­iar­ity with EA. Seventy-one per­cent of the ap­pli­cants who were ac­cepted self-re­ported their cause area fa­mil­iar­ity as ei­ther “very high” or “high.” Seven­teen per­cent of ap­pli­cants stated that their cause area fa­mil­iar­ity was “low” or “none,” and none of them were ac­cepted.


On the ba­sis of these and other (un­pub­lished) re­sults, we will thor­oughly re­view the de­sign of our ap­pli­ca­tion pro­cess for the in­cu­ba­tion pro­gram be­fore launch­ing next year’s ap­pli­ca­tion pro­cess to see how we can fur­ther im­prove upon it.