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
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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org”
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.)