How has FTX’s collapse impacted EA?

Summary of Findings

It has been almost a year since FTX went bankrupt on November 11, 2022. Some of the ways that has impacted EA have been obvious, like the shuttering of the FTX Foundation, expected to be one of the biggest EA funders. But recent discussions show that the broader impact of the FTX scandal on EA isn’t well understood, and that there is a desire for more empirical evidence on this topic. To that end, I have aggregated a variety of publicly available EA metrics to improve the evidence base. Unfortunately, these wide-ranging perspectives clearly show a broad-based and worrisome deterioration of EA activity in the aftermath of FTX.

Previous attempts to quantify how FTX impacted EA have focused on surveys of members of the EA community, university students, the general public, and university group organizers. These surveys were conducted in the months following FTX’s collapse. Their results have been framed as relatively innocuous by the researchers who conducted the surveys and CEA leadership, as exemplified by how Ben West (interim Managing Director of CEA) introduced a June forum post on this topic:

From the research we have on attitudes toward EA from the EA community, the general public, and university students, it seems that the FTX crash hasn’t, overall, impacted sentiments toward EA very much. This is not to say that FTX has not significantly impacted people in many ways, including mental and emotional health, levels of trust in EA leadership, and increased uncertainty in EA as a movement. (emphasis added)

Other community members interpreted the survey responses of the EA community in a much more negative light, particularly noting the large magnitudes of decreased satisfaction (“0.5-1 points on a 10-point scale … [to] ~7.5/​10”) and the percentage of respondents (30%) saying “they had substantially lost trust in EA public figures or leadership”. This more negative interpretation seems well supported by my analysis of a much more comprehensive, and more up-to-date, set of metrics that measure the behaviors these attitudes motivate.

A clear inflection point is apparent across metrics after FTX collapsed, and subsequently we can observe a persistent, ongoing, and meaningful negative impact on most publicly available EA metrics. These negative impacts are apparent throughout the EA “growth funnel”:

  • Top of the funnel: subscriptions to the EA Newsletter were increasing by ~290/​month prior to FTX and are now contracting by ~150/​month. Traffic to the Intro to EA page on is now at the lowest levels since 2017.

  • Middle of the funnel: assorted EA Forum usage metrics are now plateauing or declining after a long period of rapid growth pre-FTX. Donors/​donations to EA Funds have also been negatively affected; after years of consistent growth, the number of EA Funds donors has been steadily falling post-FTX.

  • Bottom of the funnel: the rate of new GWWC pledges is down ~70% post-FTX, and participation in the In-Depth Virtual Program has slowed meaningfully.

My goal in conducting this analysis is to facilitate a better answer to the question: what has happened to EA in the wake of FTX? I see this as the first of three important questions. These questions need to be addressed sequentially and for that reason, I have intentionally avoided the two subsequent questions. But I hope a better understanding of what has happened will allow the community to address these other questions going forward:

  • Why did FTX impact EA the way it has? (For instance, how can we disentangle the effects of reduced funding being available, disillusionment with EA principles, disillusionment with EA leaders, and other factors? I have included a list of additional data that would facilitate that sort of attribution.)

  • Given what has happened, and why it happened, what should be done next?

These questions are important to answer, but that cannot be done without an accurate understanding of what has happened to date. I hope the evidence I’ve collected will help with that endeavor.

Detailed Findings

Notes on Data Sources and Presentation

Unless otherwise noted, the data presented below comes from CEA’s dashboard and the EA Funds dashboard. Data from CEA’s dashboard was accessed when it had last been updated in mid-September. Immediately prior to publication, I noticed that this dashboard had been updated again on October 9. I don’t believe that additional data changes the overall picture enough to warrant a rewrite to include it, though I do note that the metrics for subscriptions to the EA Newsletter and visits to the Intro page showed some encouraging upticks in September. EA Funds data extends through the end of September.[1]

When charts are presented below, I’ve included a red line to indicate the timing of FTX’s collapse. For monthly data series, I’ve marked November; it’s worth bearing in mind that FTX went bankrupt mid-month on November 11th.

Donation Data

EA Funds: Donation and Donor Data

FTX has had an obvious negative impact on the number of donors giving through EA Funds. Since EA Funds was founded in 2017 it had experienced positive year over year growth in the number of monthly donors every single month (albeit at a slowing rate); this lasted until December 2022, the first full month after FTX’s collapse. 2023 has seen declines relative to 2022 of ~10% at the start of the year deteriorating to ~20% in September. September 2023 had the fewest donors of any month since November 2020.

The 2022 giving season, which immediately followed FTX’s collapse, also illustrates the speed and degree with which the scandal impacted EA Funds donors. Averaging across the five previous years, December had 36% more donors than November. 2022 saw an increase of only 6%; in other words, the FTX scandal essentially eliminated the effect of giving season for this metric.

FTX also appears to have had a material negative impact on the amount of money donated through EA Funds (though this metric is more susceptible to large outlier donations). The EA Funds dashboard shows donation data dating back to 2020. Through the end of September (the last month of full data at time of writing), donations in 2023 were −23% behind 2022, −57% behind 2021 (a particularly strong year), and just 6% ahead of 2020 at the same time of the year.

These figures would look even worse if not for abnormally large September 2023 donations to the EAIF ($432k donated in September vs. a total of $480k raised from January-August) and the LTFF ($875k donated in September vs. a total of $1.3 million from January-August). As of the end of August, 2023 donations were −35% behind 2022, −66% behind 2021, and −12% behind 2020.

Note: October 2023 data in this chart should be ignored, as it only captures a small part of the month’s giving.

Like the number of donors, the amount donated through EA Funds also suffered in the giving season that immediately followed FTX’s collapse. December 2022 donations were 2.6x the average of the previous three months, compared with 5.2x in 2021 and 4.3x in 2020.

GWWC Pledges

Pledge data from Giving What We Can shows a clear and dramatic negative impact from FTX. The rate of new monthly pledges has declined ~-70% from 2023 vs. 2022 (even if one ignores January 2023’s −80% decline vs. January 2022 which might be due to the lack of a 2023 pledge drive.) This slowdown appears to be persistent and ongoing. [2]

EA Newsletter Subscriptions

Prior to FTX, the subscriber base of the EA Newsletter had a long track record of steady growth. Since its collapse, the newsletter has been losing existing subscribers faster than it has been acquiring new ones.

From the start of June 2020 through the start of November 2022, the newsletter steadily gained an average of 289 subscribers per month. Over that period, it only lost subscribers in a single month (just 4 subscribers in November 2020). From the start of December 2022 through the start of September 2023, the newsletter lost an average of 153 subscribers per month. At time of writing, this new trend shows no sign of abating. This data suggests that the FTX collapse has negatively impacted the EA Newsletter by ~440 subscribers per month.

Attitude Data

Survey of EA Community

Several surveys have been conducted to help assess how FTX has impacted EA. Prior to this analysis, these surveys were the most rigorous attempt to measure that impact.

In December 2022, Rethink Priorities (together with CEA) surveyed the EA community. Key findings were:

  • “FTX had decreased satisfaction by 0.5-1 points on a 10-point scale within the EA community… [to] ~7.5/​10”

  • “30% said they had substantially lost trust in EA public figures or leadership”

  • “Around half of the respondents reported that the FTX crisis gave them concerns with EA meta-organizations, the EA community and its norms, and the leaders of EA meta-organizations.”

Another important finding, which I consider woefully under-discussed, is that “a sizable minority (38%) reported that they were less likely to associate with EA due to this crisis.” Half of those respondents agreed or strongly agreed with that statement. I consider this figure alarmingly high, but this finding was not included in the summary of survey results nor a follow-up post about the survey.

There is not a consensus on how to interpret the survey results. An author of the survey believes the evidence “suggests a relatively limited reduction in morale post-FTX.” However, numerous commenters interpreted the data as more dramatic (a view I’m highly sympathetic to).

For example, one commenter observed that “[decreased satisfaction by 0.5-1 points on a 10-point scale is] a big drop! In practice I’ve only ever seen this type of satisfaction scale give results between about 710 through 9.5/​10… so that decline is a real big chunk of the scale’s de facto range.” Another commenter noted that “The headline finding here for me is the HUGE negative response within the EA community, especially the reduction in trust of leaders which will in turn have a roll on effect on our ability to reach out and grow the movement.” [emphasis original].

It’s also worth noting that this survey was conducted before additional negative information came to light (including allegations that EA leaders had been warned about SBF’s behavior, revelations about Owen Cotton-Barrat’s sexual misconduct and how it was handled by the community health team, Nick Bostrom’s apology for an old offensive email that some found extremely underwhelming, and heightened discussion of the Wytham Abbey “castle” purchase). As one EA observed (in March), “I’d expect this to look significantly worse if done in March rather than Dec :(“

Surveys of University Populations and General Public

While the December survey looked to capture how existing EAs felt about the FTX collapse, other surveys looked at whether non-EA populations had acquired a negative view of EA due to FTX. These surveys did not find strong evidence of that dynamic, largely because awareness of EA is quite low (a dynamic which could change going forward via increased attention to FTX):

  • A May 2023 CEA survey of university group organizers found minimal concerns about how the groups are “perceived on campus” and very little concern about FTX specifically.

  • When Rethink surveyed university students (not affiliated with EA) from November 2022 to February 2023, most respondents hadn’t encountered EA before and “only 13233 (5.6%) respondents who had encountered EA found FTX or SBF salient enough to mention when interviewed.”

  • Rethink also ran pre-and-post-FTX (the latter in February-March 2023) surveys in the US general public and found “Awareness of EA remains low, and ~99% of people who were aware of EA did not mention FTX” and “Among those aware of EA, attitudes remain positive and actually maybe increased post-FTX —though they were lower (d = −1.5, with large uncertainty) among those who were additionally aware of FTX.”

Engagement Metrics Web Traffic

It seems clear that FTX has impacted traffic to, though the nature of that impact is somewhat ambiguous. My interpretation is that the FTX scandal dramatically increased traffic to the homepage, but probably (though not definitively) led to a decrease in traffic from people who wanted to learn more about EA.

Traffic to the homepage had been roughly range-bound between 10-20k views/​month from April 2017 to July 2022. At that point, traffic leapt dramatically up to ~50k views in October, presumably due to the media blitz around the release of What We Owe the Future. November, the month of FTX’s bankruptcy, saw views almost double from the already elevated October levels. Since then, traffic has fallen quickly but remains well above the long-term range.

It is difficult (at least with publicly available data) to disentangle how much post-FTX traffic is due to FTX as opposed to WWOTF or other sources. It’s also not obvious if we should interpret post-FTX traffic as a good thing or a bad thing. If people are visiting the site and becoming interested in EA that’s probably good; if people are visiting the site because they want to learn more about how SBF was virtue signaling while committing fraud, that’s presumably bad. As discussed in the Google search interest section, after FTX more of the searches related to EA have negative connotations (e.g. people searching for “effective altruism cult”) which suggests we should be wary of the quality of homepage traffic.

CEA also provides data on traffic to the “intro to EA” page. I think changes in this metric are a reasonable proxy for “changes in traffic we want” (since it captures people trying to learn more about EA). This traffic has been declining steadily since FTX, and the last few months have registered the lowest levels since the data history starts in 2017. This of course suggests that FTX has had a serious negative impact. However, one could also interpret the data as indicating that the post-FTX decline in intro page traffic is actually a continuation of a decline that started in February 2022 and was temporarily interrupted by the release of WWOTF. Clouding this picture further, while we know intro page traffic was lower in June 2022 than in February 2022, unfortunately “data from March-May 2022 is unreliable due to a technical configuration error.”

While I acknowledge the ambiguity around the interpretation of the intro page traffic data, my personal interpretation is that FTX likely had a moderate to severe negative impact. I find it hard to believe that a) the longest (by far) sustained decline in traffic since 2017 and b) a decline to the lowest levels of traffic since 2017, the timing of which both correspond perfectly to FTX’s collapse, are not significantly driven by said collapse.

EA Forum

A variety of EA Forum metrics are available through CEA’s dashboard. FTX appears to have stopped, and possibly reversed, the long, consistent trends of growth these metrics had previously been experiencing.

Generally speaking, these metrics have been climbing rapidly since the data starts (in 2019 or 2020 depending on the metric) and peaked when FTX collapsed. Metrics that include community posts saw an especially high peak (indicating very high forum engagement around the collapse itself) and also show a noticeable early September spike (presumably associated with the controversy around Nonlinear). Since FTX, all these metrics have been on a clear declining trend, and are generally back to similar levels as ~12-16 months ago.

  • Hours of engagement (community, non-community, combined) and Views by Forum users: have been largely steady the last few months (aside from Nonlinear related spike), roughly back at similar levels to April 2022, a clear departure from pre-FTX growth trend.

  • Monthly active logged in users: this metric had been experiencing particularly fast growth prior to FTX (e.g. October 2022 was up 143% vs. October 2021). After FTX, the trend changed from rapid growth to modest decline. The August 2023 reading is essentially unchanged vs. August 2022.

  • Number of Forum posts with 2+ upvotes: This metric (which I consider the least important of these forum metrics by a pretty wide margin) actually peaked in August 2022 (following a large spike in July), prior to the FTX collapse; I suspect this was largely due to the Red Teaming contest. Since then, the metric has declined to approximately April 2022 levels. This could indicate that FTX halted a pre-existing growth trend. However, the summer 2022 spikes conflate the picture, and one could also argue that current values are basically in line with the trend of growth from 2020 and 2021.

Google Search Interest

Since the start of 2022, Google search interest for “Effective Altruism” fluctuated modestly until July, noticeably increased around the release of What We Owe the Future, then quickly returned to roughly the high end of the original range. Search interest then spiked when FTX went bankrupt before quickly fading. Since March 2023, interest has been essentially indistinguishable from the first half of 2022.

This chart shows worldwide Google Trends data for the term “Effective Altruism”.

That said, the proportion of people searching for EA for negative reasons has almost certainly increased post-FTX. This suggests that the number of people searching for EA because they see it as something positive they might want to engage with has very likely declined post-FTX.

The magnitude of this effect is tough to measure, but we can get some indication that it is non-trivial from what Google shows as the “top related queries” for EA. The first 3 months of 2022 (pre-FTX collapse) have 19 of these related queries, only the last of which (“effective altruism criticism”) is clearly negative. Meanwhile, 8 of the 19 top related queries for June 1- September 1 2023 seem to have clear negative implications (e.g. “effective altruism cult”) with half of those directly related to FTX (e.g. “sbf effective altruism” and “caroline ellison”).

EA Global and EA Global X

CEA’s dashboard provides some data about EAG/​EAGX. I find it hard to draw meaningful conclusions about FTX’s impact from this data, but I include it for the sake of completeness.

There are two EAG conferences that could offer comparisons between 2022 (pre-FTX) and 2023 (post-FTX) iterations: EAG London and EAG San Francisco (2022)/​EAG Bay Area (2023). The London conference had increased attendance and “connections” and a roughly unchanged likelihood to recommend in 2023 relative to 2022; the SF/​Bay Area conference saw declines across the board.

I don’t draw much from this data. First of all, since EAGs are highly selective, applicants would be a much more meaningful metric than either Connections or Attendees. (I’ve asked the Events team for data on applications, but received no response). In a possibly encouraging sign, in April 2023 Ben Todd noted that “I’ve also heard that EAG(x) applications didn’t seem affected.” The quantitative data we do have on Connections and Attendees is probably distorted by factors like venue capacity (as venues shifted from 2022 to 2023 in both cases). Also, it might not be appropriate to compare EAG SF 2022 to EAG BA 2023, due to the different (albeit nearby) location, different timing (July 2022 vs. February 2023), and less availability of travel funding.

I think it is even harder to draw firm conclusions about FTX from EAGX data. Berlin is the only location that ran EAGX conferences both pre-and-post FTX. While Connections and Attendance both fell considerably post-FTX, the 2023 conference had a reduced budget and had to limit the conference size. It’s conceivable FTX contributed to the reduced budget, but without confirmation from the organizers that is pure speculation.

Virtual Programs

CEA runs several types of virtual programs, the largest of which are an Intro program and an In-Depth program. FTX appears to have had a negative impact on participation in these programs. Monthly cohorts in 2022 were larger than their 2021 counterparts, but 2023 participation has generally shrunk (often quite significantly) relative to 2022.

[Methodological note: No programs have data for December 2022. I’m not sure why that’s the case, or if FTX’s recent collapse influenced it in any way. In this chart, I compared January 2023 data with the sum of December 2021 and January 2022 data on the assumption that people who would have been in the December 2022 cohort joined the January 2023 cohort instead.]

80k Metrics

In early April 2023, Ben Todd commented that “80k’s metrics seems unaffected so far, and it’s one of the biggest drivers of community growth.” This does seem encouraging, though of course it would be very helpful to have specific (and more up-to-date) data from 80k. While 80k published a thorough review including numerous metrics in March 2023, these metrics only extend through the end of 2022 and are provided on an annual basis, making it impossible to discern how FTX has impacted them.

[Edit: 80k has now shared updated metric numbers. These generally look better than the other metrics I’ve looked at, and don’t appear to show a big impact from FTX.]

University Group Accelerator Program

While CEA provides participation data on UGAP, I don’t believe it is possible to do a pre-and-post-FTX comparison on an apples to apples basis, since CEA decided to narrow UGAP to only new university groups (as discussed in this retrospective).

Additional data that would shed more light on FTX’s impact and its causes

The information above comes from publicly available sources. Other data would allow for a deeper understanding of FTX’s impact and the mechanisms through which it occurred. For instance, an increase in people unsubscribing to the EA Newsletter seems likely to be driven by disillusionment with EA and/​or EA leadership, while a decrease in new subscriptions is more plausibly driven by reduced funding for outreach.

Below, I’ve listed additional data I believe would be particularly useful; I hope those with access to this data will share it with the broader community.

  • To what extent has the net decrease in EA Funds donors been a function of slower acquisition of new donors vs. lower retention of existing donors vs. a combination of the two? Are the donors who aren’t renewing their gifts longtime donors or recent acquisitions?

  • To what extent has the net decrease in EA Newsletter subscribers been a function of slower acquisition of new users vs. faster rate of unsubscribers vs. a combination of the two? Have unsubscribers provided reasons for unsubscribing? Are longtime subscribers or more recent subscribers unsubscribing at a faster rate?

  • Has GWWC seen a decline in pledge adherence in addition to the slowdown in new pledge acquisition discussed above? Have trends for donations through GWWC changed since FTX?

  • Have donations through GiveWell or Animal Charity Evaluators been affected?

  • What are 80k’s key metrics, and how (if at all) have they changed post-FTX?

  • How did FTX’s collapse affect applications to EAG/​EAGX?

  • Now that the new school year has begun, are university group organizers still unconcerned about how they are perceived on campus and FTX’s contribution to that perception?

  • Has EA group creation/​membership been affected by FTX? Is it possible to disentangle the effects of reduced funding from reputational effects?

  • How has FTX impacted EA’s reputation in EA adjacent communities (e.g. the Bay Area technology community)?

  • In the next EA Survey, how do respondents describe changes in their behavior that have resulted from FTX and their motivations for making said changes? What changes in the community do they most want to see and why?

  • Do we have more granular data on the visitors to the homepage that could indicate why they are visiting and how they are engaging?

  • Has the average number of sessions attended by Virtual Program participants (and/​or other engagement metrics for this program) been affected by FTX?

  • What can search analysis/​SEO tools that are more sophisticated than Google Trends (the basis of the Google search section above) tell us about changes in search behavior related to EA?


Across a wide variety of metrics, FTX’s collapse appears to have had a significant negative impact on EA. The metrics that may have been less affected or even unaffected, like 80k’s metrics and EA Global applications, are also the metrics that have the most out of date, most anecdotal, and least quantitative data. Where quantitative time series data is publicly available, there is a clear and consistent negative inflection point when FTX went bankrupt.

The metrics included in this analysis generally relate to people in, or at least on the cusp of, the EA community. Surveys of people outside of EA largely find that those people simply aren’t aware of EA. This lack of awareness has likely mitigated FTX’s negative impact on EA, at least in the short-term.

But I suspect we’re only at the end of the beginning of this saga. As the FTX/​EA connection becomes more salient due to SBF’s trial and upcoming book/​film projects, many more people will become aware of EA and this awareness will come with negative connotations. We’ve seen meaningful changes in behavior post-FTX from people who previously viewed EA in a very positive light. It seems reasonable to believe that people who have no prior attachment to EA and learn about it in the context of a high-profile fraud could have an even more intense reaction.

How has FTX’s collapse impacted EA? According to the data, the impact has been quite bad, and one that we might reasonably expect to get worse going forward. This is an unfortunate state of affairs, but it does us no good to ignore it. Without an understanding of what is happening, it is impossible to formulate a good plan about what to do about it.

Appendix: Meta commentary about data collection and distribution

The process of writing this post has only strengthened my conviction about an issue I’ve previously noted: I believe the community should assign responsibility to, and funding for, one or more people or organizations to conduct and disseminate this sort of high-level analysis of community growth metrics. I honestly find it baffling that measuring the growth of EA and reporting findings back to the community isn’t someone’s explicit job.

This certainly isn’t a novel observation. In 2017, Josh Jacobson noted that even at that time such measurement felt long overdue:

I would have expected one of CEA’s very first activities, years ago when EA Outreach was established, to begin trying to measure subscription to the EA community. Gathering statistics on number of people donating, sizes of donations, number that self-identify as EAs, percentage that become EAs after exposure to different organizations/​media, number of chapters, size of chapters, number that leave EA, etc.

Some progress has been made. I want to acknowledge that two of the most useful data sets for conducting this analysis, dashboards for CEA and EA Funds, are relatively new creations. Their creators deserve credit for making this data publicly available.

However, I find it deeply troubling that CEA leadership does not seem to have incorporated data from those sources into public comments about how FTX’s collapse has impacted EA. This also makes me worry that candidates for CEA’s permanent CEO position, and the hiring committee, might not have an accurate understanding of the current situation. It seems plausible that shifting the current trajectory and restoring community confidence in EA leadership should be at or near the top of the priority list for whoever ends up in that role.

Evidence-based decision making is a defining characteristic of EA (the first words on CEA’s homepage are “Combining empathy with evidence”), but the mere availability of data is not sufficient. Evidence-based decision making requires distributing that data to stakeholders and having those stakeholders use that information to guide their thinking and actions.

It seems obvious to me that numerous stakeholders—including organization leaders, donors of all sizes, group leaders, and entrepreneurs—would all benefit from having an accurate understanding of EA’s growth trajectory. And it seems just as obvious that it would be tremendously inefficient for each of those parties to conduct their own analysis. It would be in everyone’s interest to receive a regular (every 3-6 months?) update from a reliable analyst. This wouldn’t be expensive (it wouldn’t require anything close to a full-time job initially, though the frequency and/​or depth of the analyses could be scaled up if people saw value in doing so). As public goods go, this should be an easy one to provide.

Thanks to a handful of reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.

  1. ^

    While the upticks are definitely encouraging, and could represent “green shoots”, it’s possible they are related to seasonal strength in September associated with the start of the school year. In general, I think year over year percent changes are the best way to look at these sorts of metrics because this approach adjusts for seasonality. I used this year over year approach throughout this analysis when I could easily access raw data in spreadsheet form (e.g. via the EA Funds dashboard which allows data downloads) but not when it would have required significant data entry (e.g. data from the CEA dashboard, which does not have a download functionality).

  2. ^

    Pledge data from January 2022 through March 2023 is sourced from this table. The Wayback Machine provides data for GWWC’s pledges at the end of March 2023, and Giving What We Can’s website (accessed 10/​3/​23) provided an updated figure. I evenly allocated the 131 new pledges acquired during that period across April-September 2023.