CE: Who underrates their likelihood of success. Why applying is worthwhile.

TL;DR: If we don’t find more potential founders we may not be able to launch charities in Tobacco Taxation and Fish Welfare. We’ve extended the deadline to November 10 to our incubation program starting early 2023.

Below we set out why applying is worthwhile.


In our recent ‘Ask Charity Entrepreneurship anything’ post, the question was asked: “What kind of applicant do you think underrates their likelihood of success?” With so many upvotes, we’ve decided to give our response its own post.

“You get so many applicants, it’s not worth applying”

Yes, our application process is competitive and it is true that we get a lot of applicants (~3 thousand). But, and it’s a big but, ~80% of the applications are speculative, from people outside the EA community and don’t even really understand what we do. Of the 300 relevant candidates we receive, maybe 20 or so will make it onto the program. So for the purposes of those reading the EA Forum, (who one would imagine are somewhat or very involved in EA) the likelihood of getting into the later rounds of the application process are actually pretty good.

“The charities you are launching will get started whether I apply or not”

Nope. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. In recent years we have had more charity ideas than we have been able to find founders for. We have been trying to launch a Postpartum charity for a number of years, and ideas such as Exploratory Altruism have rolled over from one cohort to the next. The truth is that for every year a charity doesn’t get founded, that’s a year of its impact gone.

Many EAs don’t realize that they are exactly who we are looking for. Right now we are particularly interested in finding founders who could potentially focus on Tobacco Taxation and Fish Welfare, as it may well be the case that these interventions won’t get off the ground if we don’t find suitable co-founders very soon.

To help mitigate this, we have just extended our application deadline to November 10 and we are appealing to readers here, to think once more about applying, and to spread the word.

“But it pays too little”

It is true that, historically, some CE founders made the decision to take meager salaries but it’s worth clarifying that the charities we launch set their own salaries (CE doesn’t dictate anything). Moreover, in recent years we’ve seen steep improvements in the speed, ease and quantity of funding achieved by our incubatees, so the choice of salaries taken, ranges greatly. Don’t expect to match corporate salaries, but our founders are living fully and comfortably.

(When it comes to financial support during the program, we don’t want financial limitations to stop anyone from starting an organization, so we offer extended stipends to cover living costs, childcare, etc.. Personal financial limitations should never be a reason to not start a charity that could save thousands, if not millions, of lives.)

“But I don’t have the right skills and experience”

Doctors think they lack the commercial skills, business students think they lack the research skills and researchers think they lack the interpersonal skills. The truth is that nobody comes onto the program ready. That’s what the program is for!

Even after the program, the first year of running the new charity is spent learning- piloting and testing, becoming a skillful and capable expert in your chosen intervention.

The Charity Entrepreneurship Incubation Program is far more than just a way to get a new intervention funded. We are not looking to find ready made charity entrepreneurs, we are looking for people with great potential to, overtime, become great founders—we literally wrote the handbook on this!

“I’m not good enough”

Your doubt may be unfounded: At least half of the people who’ve made it through the program all the way to launching and getting funded never thought they would even be accepted, and yet they went on to launch tremendously high-impact charities who have improved the lives of millions of humans and non-human animals.

“I don’t know if I’m a good fit”

It’s really hard to know if you’d be good at something you’ve never done. But after four years of launching high-impact charities, CE is really, really good at knowing what it takes. We know who has the potential to become a founder. Our vetting process has been specifically designed for this, so the best way to explore your fit is to just apply! Even for round one, we provide feedback on your answers (our aim is for the process itself to be useful for all, even if you don’t proceed to the later rounds).

“Shouldn’t I get more experience first? I’m still learning about EA”

Our data shows that a founder who starts now and runs a charity for three years will outperform (at running a charity) someone who does two years work experience in a consultancy and then starts running a charity for a year. In short, start early and learn the most applicable things as you go along. Every year you delay is a year’s worth of impact removed from the world. Because of how neglected the areas that we recommend interventions in are, it is often unlikely that anybody could possibly have relevant experience anyway. How many people do you know who have previous experience in lead elimination, bait fish advocacy work, or how to run educational radio ads in Africa?

We provide very intensive training and sometimes a part of it is unlearning ineffective work habits people have previously picked up in less impact-focused roles.

And for those of you who still consider yourself to be a new EA who couldn’t possibly be ready- if you regularly engage with EA content and are part of the community in any way at all, you could have absolutely incredible potential for impact and we wholeheartedly urge you to apply now, rather than waiting another year or two. Don’t deprive the world of your untapped impact just because you don’t have all the answers yet.

Other factors that don’t have any bearing on your potential as a founder: age, introversion vs extroversion, gender, or location. We build charities in historically marginalized and underserved regions and we favor local applicants. 33% of our program participants are from low or middle income countries (and increasing). Our own team is also diverse: 66% are female, nonbinary or from sexual orientation minorities.

And finally, if you were unsuccessful in the past, we strongly encourage you to do so again. We’ve had numerous participants who didn’t get in on their first application. One tried four times before being successful!

APPLY NOW—Application deadline (extended), November 10.