Fundraising for the Center for Health Security: My personal plan and open questions

This post may not be worth your time, and may not be worth be­ing a post. My planned dona­tion size is ~150AUD, and I ex­pect to raise some­where be­tween 1000-1750AUD. I wasn’t ini­tially plan­ning to make a post, but am do­ing so quickly in re­la­tion to this ques­tion and due to Claire Za­bel’s 2016 recom­men­da­tion for EAs to talk about dona­tions ear­lier and more.

It seems to me that the John Hop­kins Cen­ter for Health Se­cu­rity is per­haps the best dona­tion op­por­tu­nity for both:

  • ap­peal­ing to non-EAs who want to donate to some­thing COVID-re­lated right now, or in the near future

  • ac­tu­ally be­ing ex­tremely valuable (pri­mar­ily from a longter­mist per­spec­tive), whereas many other COVID-re­lated op­por­tu­ni­ties may be crowded or just per­haps not as cost-effec­tive be­cause the usual EA bar is very, very high

This is based largely on Founders Pledge’s recom­men­da­tion, San­jay/​SoGive’s recom­men­da­tion (which is it­self partly based on FP’s recom­men­da­tion), and Open Phil’s dona­tions.

I there­fore in­tend to start a Face­book fundraiser for CHS (just for my not-very-large net­work), and donate ~150AUD to it to get it started. I’d share it on my per­sonal wall and in my lo­cal EA group’s Face­book page.

This is in­tended pri­mar­ily to lev­er­age the cur­rent in­ter­est in sup­port­ing efforts on COVID/​pan­demic pre­pared­ness, and more spec­u­la­tively to per­haps get peo­ple more last­ingly in­ter­ested in this im­por­tant or­gani­sa­tion and cause area. See be­low for what I plan to write in the fundraiser.

My in­ten­tion in shar­ing this:

  • Po­ten­tially in­spire oth­ers to do similar fundraisers, if this seems a good idea

  • Provide a tem­plate that can be copied, if this seems a good idea

  • Get feed­back on my phras­ings/​tone/​angle

    • Per­haps par­tic­u­larly, should it be shorter? I’ve opted for rel­a­tively long to try to be high-fidelity and plant seeds of last­ing at­ti­tude changes.

  • Get feed­back on whether my over­all logic seems sound. Some ques­tions I feel par­tic­u­larly un­sure of:

    • Should I donate much more? I’ve taken the Giv­ing What We Can Pledge, and plan to donate 2-4k USD this year, so I have more “bud­get” for it. And maybe now is a high lev­er­age time. But it also seems per­haps quite crowded, and I’m still over­all more con­cerned about fu­ture pan­demics (par­tic­u­larly ones in­volv­ing bio­eng­ineer­ing) and AI.

    • Would a differ­ent or­gani­sa­tion be a bet­ter tar­get to fundraise for?

      • One is­sue with CHS for a Face­book fundraiser is sim­ply that it takes mul­ti­ple clicks to donate.

    • Is any COVID-re­lated fundraiser right now play­ing into a gen­eral habit of chas­ing what­ever’s most top­i­cal, re­act­ing rather than pre­vent­ing, “fight­ing the last war”, etc., in a way that’s net-nega­tive over­all?

      • It seems to me that that’s un­likely with the choice of CHS, the an­gle I’ve taken, and my “ex­tra nu­ance” bit (see be­low). In fact, with that “ex­tra nu­ance” bit, it seems pos­si­ble that this is a good non-con­fronta­tional way to help shift that habit in fairly re­cep­tive peo­ple who aren’t (yet!) EAs. But I could be wrong about all that.

    • Would it make sense to wait on this fundraiser (e.g. if Aus­trali­ans will take this more se­ri­ously later, or if peo­ple are likely to feel less fi­nan­cial in­se­cure a month from now than right now)?

  • Get feed­back on what the best plat­form/​app/​ap­proach is for fundrais­ing for things that aren’t reg­istered non­prof­its. See that ques­tion for de­tails, but ba­si­cally I’d have to do a per­sonal fundraiser rather than a reg­u­lar char­i­ta­ble one, if us­ing FB.

Planned fundraiser text

(This is for my per­sonal wall. I’d adapt it for my lo­cal EA group.)

TLDR: I think the John Hop­kins Cen­ter For Health Se­cu­rity is per­haps the best place to donate for COVID-19 and pan­demic pre­pared­ness more gen­er­ally. And right now your dona­tion can be matched 1-for-1, to dou­ble your im­pact (just send a re­ceipt to de­ploy­ments@founder­spledge.com). I’ve donated—will you join me? http://​​www.cen­terforhealth­se­cu­rity.org/​​giving

“Biose­cu­rity and pan­demic pre­pared­ness has, un­til to­day, been a highly ne­glected area, with only a hand­ful of philan­thropists wor­ld­wide mak­ing it a pri­or­ity. By sup­port­ing this cause area both now and in the fu­ture, you can not only help curb the cur­rent pan­demic, but also re­duce the risk of the next one. For the last 15 months, we have recom­mended two or­gani­sa­tions work­ing to re­duce this risk: the Cen­ter for Health Se­cu­rity (CHS) at Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity and the Biose­cu­rity Ini­ti­a­tive at the Cen­ter for In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity and Co­op­er­a­tion at Stan­ford.”—Founders Pledge (https://​​founder­spledge.com/​​sto­ries/​​covid-19-its-not-too-late-to-act)

Key phrase: “For the last 15 months”

This pre­cise pan­demic was a shock. But the risk of pan­demics in gen­eral did not come from nowhere. There’ve been peo­ple work­ing on this, and warn­ing us about it, for decades. (Even my *stu­dents* who came along to my effec­tive al­tru­ism club last year—when I was a teacher—knew about this.) And these peo­ple knew that what­ever pre­cise point a pan­demic hap­pened to hap­pen at, it would then seem shock­ing.

Why do I say this? Be­cause the peo­ple who were ring­ing these alarm bells and build­ing our pre­pared­ness as best they could—de­spite vastly in­suffi­cient staff, fund­ing, and at­ten­tion—are per­haps peo­ple we should di­rect re­sources to now. Both to help with COVID-19, and so we can *pre­vent* the next catas­tro­phe, or *act quickly*, and not play hap­haz­ard catch-up like we’ve trag­i­cally had to with this one.

The John Hop­kins Cen­ter for Health Se­cu­rity is one of the best col­lec­tions of such peo­ple. They’ve been do­ing amaz­ing work in this space for a long time. And whether you know it or not, you’ve very likely re­ceived info about this pan­demic that can ul­ti­mately be traced back to their statis­tics, their re­sources, or their policy recom­men­da­tions.

Founders Pledge recom­mended dona­tions to the CHS 15 months ago, and they recom­mend them again now. CHS is also sup­ported or en­dorsed by var­i­ous other or­gani­sa­tions I trust, such as the Open Philan­thropy Pro­ject and SoGive (https://​​fo­rum.effec­tivealtru­ism.org/​​posts/​​wpaZRoLFJy8Dyn­wQN/​​the-best-places-to-donate-for-covid-19). I’ve per­son­ally donated $150 in this fundraiser, and when my dad wanted a large COVID-19 re­lated dona­tion on his be­half for his birth­day, this was my recom­men­da­tion.

In fact, I be­lieve in them so strongly that I was con­sid­er­ing offer­ing to per­son­ally match a size­able sum of dona­tions, to en­courage oth­ers to con­tribute. But it turns out I don’t have to, as Founders Pledge write:

“We have a donor who is offer­ing $1 for $1 matched fund­ing to pan­demic pre­pared­ness and bio-se­cu­rity up to $350,000, so your im­pact will be even higher. To take ad­van­tage of this op­por­tu­nity, please send a dona­tion re­ceipt to de­ploy­ments@founder­spledge.com

So now is an ex­cel­lent time to con­tribute to this ex­cel­lent or­gani­sa­tion.

(Note: Be­cause the CHS is part of a uni­ver­sity, it’s not a reg­istered non-profit in the usual sense, and thus I can’t set up a Face­book fundraiser where the money goes di­rectly to them. In­stead, this would give me the money, and then I’d donate it, get the money matched, and post re­ceipts in here to con­firm.

If you can han­dle the effort of a few clicks, you could donate di­rectly and thus avoid Face­book’s 1.77% cut, at http://​​www.cen­terforhealth­se­cu­rity.org/​​giv­ing If you do that, please post here or mes­sage me, so I can still feel all good about my­self, which is of course what re­ally mat­ters.)

I’d add this as a post within the fundraiser, or a com­ment on the sta­tus, or something

Some ex­tra nu­ance that you’re very wel­come to skip

On the other hand, I don’t per­son­ally be­lieve the Cen­ter for Health Se­cu­rity is *the sin­gle best* dona­tion op­por­tu­nity in the world (though I gen­uinely think they’re near the top of the list).

And while nat­u­ral pan­demics are an EXTREMELY big deal, and we ab­solutely should’ve done more to pre­pare for them, they’re not alone in the cat­e­gory of “low prob­a­bil­ity but high-stakes risks we should’ve done more to pre­pare for”. Other things in that cat­e­gory in­clude pan­demics in­volv­ing bio­eng­ineer­ing, and ex­treme risks from AI.

And his­tor­i­cally, we’re at least good at “fight­ing the last war”, so we may fi­nally boost our prep for some­thing like coro­n­avirus in fu­ture, and yet not for those other risks; we might mostly wait for those other risks to strike be­fore re­ally notic­ing their se­ri­ous­ness, like we waited for a pan­demic.

There are a LOT of great dona­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties for re­duc­ing ex­is­ten­tial risks worth men­tion­ing. But if I had to pick just one, it might be the Effec­tive Altru­ism Long-Term Fu­ture Fund. I’ve taken the Giv­ing What We Can pledge to donate 10% of my in­come to wher­ever it can do the most good, and that fund is where I’ve mostly donated so far. Info on this fund can be found here: https://​​app.effec­tivealtru­ism.org/​​funds/​​far-fu­ture

I’m also always happy to talk to peo­ple in­di­vi­d­u­ally about dona­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties for do­ing the most good you can.

(Note that the 1000-1750AUD I ex­pect to raise in­cludes both the pro­ceeds from the Face­book fundraiser and the pre­sent for my dad.)

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