This is the first post in the action thread which I hope will be a good model for anyone that would like to try posting in this thread in the future. I hope that the action thread in general will be a good experiment for the EA Forum.
As documented in this article, I estimate GiveWell’s five-year opportunity cost at $4 million. This is a very rough estimate which is dependent on many factors including GiveWell’s true past and future cash balances. GiveWell’s Form 990 makes it pretty clear they can benefit from this recommendation because they are earning a very small amount of interest income per year, even if their cash balances during the year are considerably lower than the year-end balances in Form 990.
I have not received a response from GiveWell staff members I’ve cold emailed in the past, but I have consistently received responses from email@example.com. This makes me think that firstname.lastname@example.org is a good choice.
I believe the detailed documentation of GiveWell’s opportunity cost in this article makes it likely (85%) that GiveWell will respond to this inquiry or a follow-up email within two months. Hopefully they forward the inquiry to the appropriate team members.
I anticipate that the main failure mode of email outreach is that GiveWell indicates they intend to take action but does not do so in a timely manner (within six months), or isn’t transparent regarding cash management improvements they say they’ve made in the past or intend to make in the future. In the latter case, the lack of transparency makes it difficult to determine the effectiveness of GiveWell improvements relative to the best possible interest rate until new Form 990s are released, which will be mid-2022 at the earliest for the 2021 Form 990. As an interest rate reference point, Axos Bank, which I mentioned in my talk earlier this year, is paying a 0.50% rate of interest right now.
I believe that it is difficult to mitigate risks associated with this failure mode without some way to increase GiveWell’s trust in this recommendation or influence/get more time to speak with the appropriate decision makers. To date I have not found someone that can help with this, so I think a cold email is most appropriate in this case.
My email is as follows:
Subject: EA Forum Article About GiveWell
I wanted to share an EA Forum article I recently published about the opportunity costs of GiveWell’s current approach to cash management. A rough estimate puts GiveWell’s opportunity cost at $4 million over the next five years. Excluding deliberation time, I believe it will take under 10 hours for GiveWell to implement the change the article recommends.
It would be great to know if GiveWell has or intends to make changes, as well as the change that was made/how much interest it is currently paying relative to the best business savings accounts. My outreach to GiveWell is being publicly tracked in the action thread of the article, which is an experiment around leveraging the EA Forum to drive institutional behavior change.