Cost-Effectiveness of RC Forward

Summary

  • RC For­ward moved $4.4M CAD (~ $3.3M USD) from Cana­dian donors.

  • $430K to $3.7M of dona­tions may have been coun­ter­fac­tu­ally caused by RC For­ward.

  • RC For­ward ap­pears to have in­creased dona­tions by 11% to 500%, with a best guess of 25% to 35%

  • Donat­ing to cover the costs of RC For­ward may lead to 3 to 55 times more go­ing to the char­i­ties that RC For­ward re­grants to than donat­ing di­rectly to those char­i­ties in­stead.

RC For­ward is a dona­tion plat­form through which Cana­di­ans can make tax-ad­van­taged dona­tions to high-im­pact char­i­ties lo­cated in­side and out­side of Canada. We hy­poth­e­sized that pre­vi­ously in­ac­cessible tax in­cen­tives and fee elimi­na­tion offered by this ser­vice would in­crease the dona­tion to­tal and in­di­vi­d­ual gift sizes. This post de­tails a cost-effec­tive­ness anal­y­sis of RC For­ward in 2018 and some rea­sons to limit the weight put onto any spe­cific num­bers.

We find that com­pared to es­ti­mates of how much would have been donated if RC For­ward did not ex­ist, dona­tions ap­pear to have in­creased by 11%-500%, with a best guess of 25-35%. Oper­at­ing with min­i­mal re­sources dur­ing its ex­per­i­men­tal phase, $3 to $55 more may have been donated for each $1 spent, which offers a po­ten­tially large im­pact for fun­ders who cover RC For­ward’s costs. We should be clear that the cost-effec­tive­ness es­ti­mates are gen­er­ally less ro­bust than one ex­pects and are only our ap­prox­i­ma­tions of un­cer­tain quan­ti­ta­tive pa­ram­e­ters, which are po­ten­tially sub­ject to bias and er­ror. Much of the un­cer­tainty is re­flected in the ranges given, but ex­act num­bers should not be taken as high-con­fi­dence pre­cise es­ti­mates of the ac­tual value RC For­ward.

Coun­ter­fac­tual Value

The plat­form out­performed the $1M CAD (~ $770,000 USD) fore­casted to pass through in 2018, mov­ing over $4,447,307 CAD (~ $3.3M USD) to RC For­ward’s list of EA-recom­mended char­i­ties. The cost-effec­tive­ness anal­y­sis de­tailed be­low sug­gests that dona­tions would have been be­tween $740K and $4M if RC For­ward did not ex­ist. Th­ese es­ti­mates place RC For­ward coun­ter­fac­tual value pro­duced at be­tween $430K and $3.7M in 2018, on a bud­get of $67,249.40 This sug­gests that for each dol­lar spent by RC For­ward, an ad­di­tional $6 to $55 made it to EA char­i­ties, with a best guess of ~$13. The best guess es­ti­mate for RC For­ward’s coun­ter­fac­tual im­pact is that ~$870K more was donated, which is a ~25% in­crease from the $3.5M es­ti­mated to have been donated with­out RC For­ward. The fol­low­ing graph illus­trates some es­ti­mates for the dona­tions coun­ter­fac­tu­ally caused by RC For­ward.

We are fairly cer­tain of the coun­ter­fac­tual dona­tion ranges above. How­ever, since two large cryp­tocur­rency dona­tions from a sin­gle donor make up 66% of to­tal dona­tions, ex­clud­ing these un­usual dona­tions may offer a more gen­er­al­is­able in­sight. In this case, EA char­i­ties would have re­ceived dona­tions of be­tween $554K and $1.3M, com­pared to ac­tual dona­tions of $1.5 mil­lion. Thus, the best guess is that ~$400K more was donated, which is a 35% in­crease from the $1.1M es­ti­mated to have been donated with­out RC For­ward. Omit­ting the fees cov­ered for the cryp­tocur­rency dona­tions from the cost, this sug­gests an ad­di­tional $3 to $16 donated for each dol­lar spent by RC For­ward, with a best guess of ~$7.

As one com­par­i­son, the re­sponses to the EA Giv­ing Tues­day Dona­tion Match­ing Ini­ti­a­tive 2018 sur­vey sug­gest that “$85k (12%) of dona­tions may have been coun­ter­fac­tu­ally caused by the ini­ti­a­tive, though this es­ti­mate is highly un­cer­tain”. If we as­sume the $469K in matched dona­tions would not have been made with­out the EA Giv­ing Tues­day ini­ti­a­tive, then it would ap­pear that the in­crease in to­tal raised due to that pro­gram was ac­tu­ally ~88%.

How might cov­er­ing fees of 4% have in­creased dona­tions more than match­ing? Pay­ing to cover the 4% fees is already ‘neu­tral’ with re­gards to the to­tal money go­ing to char­ity even if there is no change in dona­tions. That is be­cause cov­er­ing the 4% fees of other donors means that 4% more of their dona­tion goes to the char­ity. Cover­ing their fees speci­fi­cally is equiv­a­lent to donat­ing 4% di­rectly to the char­ity your­self. If cov­er­ing their fees in­creases to­tal dona­tions by X%, the to­tal in­crease in money go­ing to the char­ity is X%, not X-4%. The RC For­ward figure is far above the 4% in fees cov­ered be­cause our es­ti­mates as­sume donors are in­cen­tivized to in­crease their dona­tion be­yond this 4% and be­cause RC For­ward makes pos­si­ble dona­tions that could not oth­er­wise be made by Cana­di­ans to EA recom­mended char­i­ties.

Cost-Effec­tive­ness Model

This model es­ti­mates a range of how much would have been donated to RC For­ward’s list of EA-recom­mended char­i­ties in a world where RC For­ward didn’t ex­ist. Read­ers are en­couraged to en­gage with the model, make use of the drop­down menus and play with the num­bers for your­self.

Start­ing with the ac­tual amount of dona­tions re­ceived by RC For­ward in a given year, we work back­ward to imag­ine a coun­ter­fac­tual dona­tion amount. For each of these pa­ram­e­ters, we use a pes­simistic, best-guess, and op­ti­mistic es­ti­mate as well as the mean and me­dian es­ti­mates from a num­ber of RC staff, and al­ter the thresh­old for judg­ing who is a “small” or “large” donor. This fol­lows a 2016 ex­am­ple of GiveWell’s cost-effec­tive­ness anal­y­sis (CEA) for New In­cen­tives but has the effect of pro­duc­ing ex­treme re­sults (e.g. com­pound­ing pes­simistic guesses) [1]. Each pa­ram­e­ter is ex­plained in de­tail in the sec­tions be­low. The pa­ram­e­ters in this “fun­nel” are pre­sented here alongside some effect size es­ti­mates (most pes­simistic es­ti­mate, best guess for small donors, best guess for large donors, best guess for cryp­tocur­rency donors, most op­ti­mistic es­ti­mate):

In or­der to cre­ate donor groups, in­di­vi­d­ual dona­tions have been com­bined into an in­di­vi­d­ual donor’s to­tal dona­tion amount. Small donors are more likely than large donors to be dis­suaded from mak­ing dona­tions due to an in­con­ve­nient dona­tion plat­form or fees. Among RC staff sur­veyed, there was not a con­sen­sus about what the thresh­old be­tween these donor groups should be. There­fore, three vari­a­tions of the thresh­old have been in­cluded in the model. Small donors are those donat­ing in to­tal ei­ther: $700 or less (~$60 per month at most), $2,500 or less, or $5,000 or less. Cor­re­spond­ingly, large donors are those donat­ing more than $700, more than $2,500, or more than $5,000. The two cryp­tocur­rency dona­tions are treated as a sep­a­rate group. The thresh­old can be se­lected in a drop­down menu, as well as the in­clu­sion or ex­clu­sion of the cryp­tocur­rency dona­tions.

At the mo­ment, this model does not fac­tor in whether RC For­ward en­couraged in­tra-EA char­ity dona­tion switch­ing (e.g. a donor shift­ing from AMF to MIRI and whether to con­sider this a pos­i­tive or nega­tive over­all). We treat all char­i­ties served by RC For­ward as equal. One could plau­si­bly in­clude a “wor­ld­view” fea­ture where one can se­lect a “long-ter­mist”/​ “near-ter­mist, hu­man-cen­tric”/​ “near-ter­mist, an­i­mal-in­clu­sive” set­ting which can al­ter the pa­ram­e­ters or weigh EA char­i­ties differ­ently.

Ac­tual Dona­tions & Costs

To­tal Donations

To­tal dona­tions moved by RC For­ward across the en­tire time pe­riod were $4,447,307.20 ($4,455,628.59 minus $8,321.39 in credit card fees not cov­ered by RC For­ward). This in­cludes two large cryp­tocur­rency dona­tions from a sin­gle donor: $1,576,358.59 to AMF, and $1,350,000 to MIRI. $487,249.25 came from an ex­ist­ing donor base thanks to Char­ity Science Foun­da­tion of Canada. As these Char­ity Science en­tries were bun­dled to­gether it was difficult to know how many unique donors and dona­tion sizes came via this route. We split the to­tal amount donated via Char­ity Science to mir­ror the dis­tri­bu­tion of small and large donors among the rest of the dona­tions re­ceived, ex­clud­ing cryp­tocur­rency dona­tions.

To­tal Fees Covered

To­tal cross-bor­der fees cov­ered by RC For­ward for 2018 were $18,708.74. The group of or­ga­ni­za­tions that fa­cil­i­tate RC For­ward cross-bor­der dona­tions charge 4% on the first $200,000 of the year across the bor­der and 0.5% on any­thing be­yond that. Th­ese cross-bor­der fees do not ap­ply to AMF, IGN or SCI dona­tions as they are qual­ified donees. Qual­ified donees are or­ga­ni­za­tions that can, un­der the In­come Tax Act, is­sue offi­cial tax re­ceipts for gifts they re­ceive from in­di­vi­d­u­als and cor­po­ra­tions. A reg­istered char­ity can make gifts/​grants only to other qual­ified donees.

Cryp­tocur­rency dona­tions also in­cur a bro­ker­age fee of 1% of the mon­e­tary value of the se­cu­ri­ties, or $250 (whichever is greater) be­fore they reach RC For­ward. The cryp­tocur­rency dona­tion to AMF wasn’t sub­ject to any cross-bor­der fees (other than the bro­ker fee) as AMF has Cana­dian char­i­ta­ble sta­tus. The cryp­tocur­rency dona­tion to MIRI was sub­ject to the 0.5% cross-bor­der fee so it was $6,750 to move it across the bor­der.

Costs of salaries and other expenses

For 2018, costs other than cov­er­ing fees to­taled $48,540.66. This is closely in line with 2018 pro­jec­tions, but the over­all bud­get of $67,249.40 is lower than ex­pected.

Coun­ter­fac­tual Donations

In­cen­tiviz­ing giv­ing through fee cov­er­age and tax deductibility

An RC For­ward doc­u­ment on the value of fee cov­er­age sug­gests:

The range we es­ti­mate for the likely coun­ter­fac­tual in­creases in dona­tions as a re­sult of fee cov­er­age is be­tween 6% (based on the in­fluence of re­mov­ing fees be­ing only slightly greater than the im­pact of mak­ing dona­tions 4% cheaper via tax benefits and slightly greater than our most pes­simistic ex­pert es­ti­mate were it the case that other char­i­ties were also charg­ing equiv­a­lent fees) and 20% which is the up­per limit of most of our ex­pert es­ti­mates, with our best guess be­ing around 10-15% in line with our ex­pert es­ti­mates. How­ever, we as­sign a sig­nifi­cant (though only ~10% prob­a­bil­ity) to the im­pact be­ing sub­stan­tially higher than this, in line with the most op­ti­mistic ex­pert pro­jec­tions (55%).

A meta-anal­y­sis of the in­fluence of the price elas­tic­ity of dona­tions, in terms of how much more donors give when tax breaks make their dona­tion ‘cheaper’ sug­gested that on av­er­age, a 1% re­duc­tion in the cost of char­i­ta­ble giv­ing (i.e., an in­crease in the char­i­ta­ble de­duc­tion) can be ex­pected to provide an in­crease in dona­tions of 1.44%, though note that when out­liers were re­moved this was only 1.11%. If this ap­plied mu­tatis mu­tan­dis to the in­fluence of re­mov­ing trans­ac­tion fees on dona­tions, then cov­er­ing 4% fees would in­crease dona­tions of 4.44-5.76% while also en­sur­ing that all donor money went to the char­i­ties.

For those who are aware of the tax de­ductibil­ity of dona­tions, the sav­ings they make could be in­cluded in the over­all value of RC For­ward. How­ever, this is hard to es­ti­mate since it re­quires guess­ing how many peo­ple would donate any­way to the same or­gani­sa­tion but in a non-de­ductible fash­ion. For the mo­ment this is omit­ted, but fu­ture sur­veys of donors may al­low this to be calcu­lated.

The change from giv­ing to non-EA char­i­ties to EA ones.

What per­cent of dona­tions were go­ing to EA-recom­mended ver­sus non-EA char­i­ties in any case? In other words, what per­cent of the donor mar­ket share is RC For­ward cap­tur­ing? Con­ver­sa­tions with RC staff sug­gest at the mo­ment this is likely to be quite small. GiveWell es­ti­mates it di­rected $149 mil­lion to its recom­mended char­i­ties in 2017. This is less than 1% of the $49 billion re­ceived by the 100 largest char­i­ties in the USA in 2018 sug­gest­ing only a tiny frac­tion of donors are di­vert­ing funds to EA char­i­ties. Sur­pris­ingly, there does not ap­pear to be a re­cent EA source on how much money has been moved to all EA-recom­mended char­i­ties ei­ther in a given year or since the EA move­ment be­gan. In the ab­sence of more pre­cise data from donor sur­veys, we as­sume RC For­ward cap­tured only a small per­cent of Cana­dian donors who were plan­ning to donate to non-EA char­i­ties and then switched be­cause of RC For­ward’s ex­is­tence. Es­ti­mates for this pa­ram­e­ter range from 1% to 46% of small donors and 1% to 18% of large donors switched from a non-EA Cana­dian char­ity to an AMF, GiveDirectly, etc. For the cryp­tocur­rency donor, we guess some­one giv­ing over $1 mil­lion dol­lars to AMF and MIRI is likely well ac­quainted with the EA com­mu­nity and con­vinced by effec­tive­ness ar­gu­ments, so has a ~0% chance to give to a non-EA char­ity. Our best guesses as­sume 95-100% of donors were plan­ning to give to EA char­i­ties any­way.

Fee-Free EA charities

Of those giv­ing to EA char­i­ties, what per­cent would give to qual­ified donees for which a cross-bor­der fee wouldn’t ap­ply? Con­ver­sa­tions with RC staff sug­gest that some donors ap­proached them with spe­cific char­i­ties in mind and then opted to dis­tribute their dona­tion across a range of char­i­ties or to one of the RC Funds, some of which in­clude char­i­ties for which a cross-bor­der fee ap­plies. We looked at what per­cent of RC For­ward dona­tions went to AMF, IGN or SCI [2], which are qual­ified donees and aren’t sub­ject to a cross-bor­der fee, and broke this down by donor group. Th­ese may be con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mates since per­haps more dona­tions would have been made to fee-free char­i­ties with­out RC For­ward en­courag­ing a wider dis­tri­bu­tion. The per­cent of all dona­tions go­ing to these “fee-free” char­i­ties was 38.22%. This is set as the pes­simistic sce­nario. The op­ti­mistic sce­nario is set as only 5% of donors would have given to fee-free char­i­ties. Just over half of the cryp­tocur­rency donor’s con­tri­bu­tions went to fee-free AMF, but the model es­ti­mates the MIRI and AMF dona­tions sep­a­rately. Fee-free per­centages of dona­tions for each of the donor groups are es­ti­mated as fol­lows:

The ad­di­tional donors giv­ing due to RC For­ward plat­form us­abil­ity & outreach

All three of these stud­ies (Niel­sen, 2009; Rals­ton, 2014; we­b­cred­ible) sug­gest a 10% in­crease in dona­tions due to an im­proved user de­sign. We as­sume RC For­ward is on the more user-friendly end of the spec­trum. Given the low qual­ity of these stud­ies, the lower bound is 1% and the up­per bound is 25%.

What per­cent of donors would have given with­out out­reach from RC For­ward? There does not ap­pear to be a ser­vice similar to RC For­ward that Cana­dian donors could avail of in­stead. One read­ing of this is that a high per­centage of dona­tions would sim­ply not have been made at all but for RC For­ward. It may also be in­for­ma­tive to look at how many dona­tions have been made since the ser­vice moved from Char­ity Science to Re­think Char­ity. 11% of all dona­tions came from the ex­ist­ing donor base pro­vided by Char­ity Science. It seems un­likely to think the other 89% of dona­tions are due to RC For­ward out­reach. Es­ti­mates are the low­est and high­est coun­ter­fac­tual es­ti­mates offered by the RC Team (1% and 40% for small donors, 1% and 25% for large donors), with a best guess of 11% mir­ror­ing the Char­ity Science con­tri­bu­tion. RC For­ward them­selves write “we were un­able to at­tend to Cana­dian donors as much as we would have preferred”. How­ever, the value of cor­re­spon­dence with RC For­ward staff may be much higher for cryp­tocur­rency donors since RC For­ward do note

~$2.9m came from a sin­gle donor in the form of two cryp­tocur­rency dona­tions to MIRI (~$1.3m CAD) and AMF (~$1.6m). The lat­ter was only referred by RC For­ward. Though we did not han­dle this dona­tion di­rectly, it is un­likely the dona­tion would have been made oth­er­wise.

How­ever, we are some­what skep­ti­cal that such a donor would ac­tu­ally not have found a way to make a similarly large dona­tion through other means or dona­tion swap­ping.

Those who would have cov­ered fees themselves

This pa­ram­e­ter ad­justs to ac­count for the per­cent of donors who would have paid the cross-bor­der fees them­selves so that the char­ity re­ceived 100% of the dona­tion in any case. This is differ­ent from the in­cen­tive that comes from RC For­ward cov­er­ing the fees. Con­sider two pop­u­la­tions, one who would never donate un­less fees were cov­ered, and an­other who would donate in any case but the amount they donate is con­di­tional on fee cov­er­age. While for the lat­ter there is an amount they would donate if fees were cov­ered and an amount if not, for the former there is only the amount they donate if fees are cov­ered, oth­er­wise they do not donate at all. Fee cov­er­age can both in­crease the num­ber of donors and the size of dona­tions.

Es­ti­mates for this per­centage come from mar­ket­ing blogs (Lake, 2014; Cas­san­dra, 2017; Fluke, 2018). Th­ese sources sug­gest from mar­ket­ing tri­als (not peer-re­viewed or pub­lished in aca­demic jour­nals as far as we can tell) of us­ing opt-out or opt-in op­tions for donors to cover fees, that be­tween 40% and 95% of donors would cover the cost of fees them­selves so 100% of in­tended dona­tion makes it to char­ity. This seems plau­si­ble since it is al­most the in­verse of the 4% to 55% in­crease we ex­pect from fee cov­er­age in­cen­tiviza­tion. This is mod­eled to be even higher (be­tween 90% and 100%) among larger donors for whom the cost of fees is likely not a sig­nifi­cant fi­nan­cial is­sue. Cryp­tocur­rency donors re­ceive lower es­ti­mates for this pa­ram­e­ter (0% to 21%) be­cause these donors likely have a fixed amount they are able to donate and will only spend that amount, ir­re­spec­tive of how much makes it to the char­ity and how much would have been used in fees.

Coun­ter­fac­tual Fees

Once in­cen­tive effects (fee cov­er­age, RC For­ward out­reach, etc) have been re­moved, the fees that would have been charged on the coun­ter­fac­tual dona­tion are calcu­lated. Ac­cord­ing to RC staff, with­out RC For­ward’s ne­go­ti­ated rate (based, among other things, on vol­ume) a donor would be charged a cross-bor­der fee of 12% on small dona­tions and 7% on larger dona­tions. It seems plau­si­ble that very large donors may have found other op­tions to bring the fees down to the 4% rate that RC For­ward has se­cured.

In the case of the cryp­tocur­rency dona­tions, an­other bro­ker would have charged 2% of the trans­ac­tion as their ex­change fee, and the plat­form would have charged 1.8% as their ad­minis­tra­tion fee. Even in the case where RC For­ward ex­ists, cryp­tocur­rency donors pay a 1% bro­ker fee be­fore the money comes to RC For­ward. The AMF dona­tion is un­af­fected since no cross-bor­der fee would have been charged in ei­ther case. The MIRI dona­tion in­curs a 2.8% coun­ter­fac­tual fee.

RC For­ward’s plat­form provider charges a small credit card fee for on­line dona­tions. Depend­ing on the credit card, this is some­where be­tween 2% and 3%. In to­tal, $8,321.39 (~0.19% of re­ceived dona­tions) went to credit card fees. RC For­ward does not cover credit card fees. Th­ese fees were not in­cluded un­til the end of the anal­y­sis be­cause the data did not sep­a­rate these fees by in­di­vi­d­ual donor. A 0.19% de­duc­tion is taken from the to­tal coun­ter­fac­tual dona­tions.

Limitations

The added value from this pro­ject is in­cen­tiviz­ing donors to give more than they oth­er­wise would by sav­ing them money via tax-ad­van­taged dona­tions, re­duced fees, and op­ti­mized pro­cess­ing ar­range­ments. The range of es­ti­mates gen­er­ated by this cost-effec­tive­ness anal­y­sis sug­gests that this has been the case for Cana­dian donors in 2018. How­ever, there are rea­sons to limit the weight put onto this anal­y­sis.

Many of the es­ti­mates could be im­proved by sur­vey­ing donors, es­pe­cially since the high num­ber of anony­mous donors clouds the dis­tri­bu­tion of small ver­sus large donors. Only ~5% of to­tal dona­tions came from named donors. The re­main­der were made by anony­mous donors, which makes calcu­lat­ing the num­ber of unique donors im­pos­si­ble. 66% of dona­tions came via one anony­mous cryp­tocur­rency donor. It is un­clear how many unique donors are in­cluded in the Char­ity Science ex­ist­ing donor base bun­dles, which to­tal $487,249.25 (10.94% of to­tal). This has been miti­gated against a lit­tle by split­ting Char­ity Science dona­tions into buck­ets mir­ror­ing the dis­tri­bu­tion of small and large donors, ex­clud­ing cryp­tocur­rency dona­tions. The re­main­ing anony­mous donors con­tributed $781,948.96 (17.58% of to­tal) and it is im­pos­si­ble to know how many of these 226 were unique donors and how many were the same per­son.

Some of the sources from which es­ti­mate ranges were gath­ered are not gold stan­dard aca­demic stud­ies, and so we could benefit from more re­search in this area. Es­ti­mates for what per­cent of donors would have cov­ered fees them­selves come from on­line ar­ti­cles/​mar­ket­ing blogs, (Lake, 2014; Cas­san­dra, 2017; Fluke, 2018) and we are un­sure how re­li­able they are.Just as in aca­demic ar­ti­cles, it is plau­si­ble to think pub­li­ca­tion bias leads to more blogs about sur­pris­ing and in­ter­est­ing find­ings rather than non-find­ings on the effects of fee cov­er­age.

Since this anal­y­sis cov­ers only one year of RC For­ward’s op­er­a­tions we do not have a good sense of how typ­i­cal the dona­tions are, es­pe­cially with re­gard to the two large cryp­tocur­rency dona­tions.

The wide in­ter­vals re­flect how un­cer­tain we are but model un­cer­tainty can be very high so it is pos­si­ble even small changes in as­sump­tions or omis­sions of cru­cial con­sid­er­a­tions could change es­ti­mates by a large fac­tor. Th­ese er­rors are more likely in less es­tab­lished do­mains, of which this may be one. This gives us rea­son to think that our anal­y­sis has only nar­rowed the range of pos­si­ble val­ues for the coun­ter­fac­tual value of RC For­ward.

Conclusions

There are rea­sons to be­lieve RC For­ward is a highly cost-effec­tive pro­gram. It ap­pears to have cap­i­tal­ized on de­mand in Canada for tax-ad­van­taged dona­tions. Based on the re­sults out­lined here, lev­er­ag­ing the know-how from RC For­ward’s ex­pe­rience so far and repli­cat­ing this model in­ter­na­tion­ally could com­pound its value fur­ther.

Based on the dona­tions that may have been coun­ter­fac­tu­ally caused by the pro­gram, donat­ing to RC For­ward may be be­tween 3 to 55 times more effec­tive than donat­ing di­rectly to the EA char­i­ties which RC For­ward re­grants to, given flat as­sump­tions about rel­a­tive cost-effec­tive­ness of the char­i­ties. RC For­ward’s con­ser­va­tive propo­si­tion was if RC For­ward paid to cover the 4% fees (at least up to a cer­tain limit) and dona­tions in­creased by >4% it would seem to be a net gain. Tak­ing into ac­count not only the im­pact of fee cov­er­age but a wider range of re­lated and knock-on effects of the plat­form RC For­ward ap­pears to have in­creased dona­tions by 11%-500%. Even the lower bounds of the ranges offered here seem to offer added value for those in­ter­ested in cov­er­ing RC For­ward’s costs.

Endnotes

[1]Guessti­mate was not very amenable to these calcu­la­tions be­cause so many of the figures are con­di­tional upon one an­other so the mod­els pro­duce amounts far in ex­cess of ac­tual dona­tions, or even nega­tive amounts. Th­ese figures seemed be­yond the bounds of rea­son­able prior ex­pec­ta­tions.

[2] The two dona­tions to GAIN and the Malaria Con­sor­tium were also in­cluded as they went through GiveWell and were sub­ject to cross bor­der to­tals, but they had no credit card fees as they were given via cheque. The to­tal donated to these char­i­ties was only $585 so it does not have a large im­pact on fi­nal figures. SCI is not tech­ni­cally a Cana­dian char­ity but is a qual­ified donee by virtue of be­ing part of a uni­ver­sity that some Cana­di­ans go to.

References

Cas­san­dra, Adam. 2019.“Will On­line Donors Really Cover Trans­ac­tion Fees?” Lawrence Direct Mar­ket­ing. http://​​lawrencedi­rect.com/​​ldmi-blog/​​168-will-on­line-donors-re­ally-cover-trans­ac­tion-fees.html (May 20, 2019).

Fluke, Allyson. 2018. “40% of Donors Are Ex­tra Gen­er­ous—Here’s Why!” Frontstream. https://​​www.frontstream.com/​​blog/​​donors-pay-the-fee-data (May 20, 2019).

Lake, Howard. 2014. “95% of Donors Cover Char­i­ties’ Trans­ac­tion Costs on Black­baud Heroix.” UK Fundrais­ing. https://​​fundrais­ing.co.uk/​​2014/​​04/​​17/​​95-donors-cover-char­i­ties-trans­ac­tion-costs-black­baud-heroix/​​ (May 20, 2019).

Niel­sen, Jakob. 2009. “Dona­tion Us­abil­ity: In­creas­ing On­line Giv­ing.” Niel­sen Nor­man Group. https://​​www.nngroup.com/​​ar­ti­cles/​​dona­tion-us­abil­ity/​​ (May 20, 2019).

Rals­ton, Dan­ica. 2014. “The Pos­i­tive Im­pact of Good UX on Non-Profits | UX Magaz­ine.” UXMagaz­ine. https://​​ux­mag.com/​​ar­ti­cles/​​the-pos­i­tive-im­pact-of-good-ux-on-non-prof­its (May 20, 2019).

we­b­cred­ible. “Char­i­ties Aid Foun­da­tion.” https://​​www.we­b­cred­ible.com/​​case-stud­ies/​​non-profit/​​char­i­ties-aid-foun­da­tion/​​ (May 20, 2019).

Updates

The fi­nal bul­let point in the sum­mary pre­vi­ously stated “Donat­ing to RC For­ward seems be­tween 3 to 55 times more effec­tive than donat­ing funds di­rectly to the EA char­i­ties which RC For­ward re­grants to”. It was amended, af­ter a helpful com­ment from Dar­ren McKee, to the cur­rent text to clar­ify that it refers to donat­ing to rather than through RC for­ward.

Credits

This es­say is a pro­ject of Re­think Pri­ori­ties. It was writ­ten by Neil Dul­laghan. Thanks to Siob­han Bren­ton, Bax­ter Bul­lock, David Moss, Mar­cus Davis, Peter Hur­ford and Tee Bar­nett for com­ment and Marisa Jur­czyk for data anal­y­sis as­sis­tance. If you like our work, please con­sider sub­scribing to our newslet­ter. You can see all our work to date here.