Announcing new EA Funds management teams

As discussed in the EA Funds update post in August, CEA has been spending time over the last quarter creating a new management structure for several of the EA Funds. We are pleased to have concluded the process and to announce new management teams for the EA Community Fund (now renamed the EA Meta Fund) and the Long-Term Future Fund, as well as the addition of an expert team to the management of the Animal Welfare Fund (which continues to be chaired by Lewis Bollard).

Why teams?

We believe that involving a larger number of individuals in the management of the funds will have a number of benefits:

  1. It should result in a larger amount of total effort going into the sourcing, vetting and decision making for each grant made, which is expected to increase the quality and range of grants.

  2. It should increase the capacity available for publishing more detailed grant write-ups and other supporting content.

  3. The diversity of perspectives represented in funding decisions should increase, as well as the total coverage of the personal networks of the grant makers, allowing grant sourcing to go wider and deeper into the community than with a single fund manager.

  4. It is an opportunity for more individuals to develop grantmaking experience, thus growing the number of people with this skillset available to the community.

New Fund Management Teams:

EA Meta Fund (formerly EA Community Fund)

Chair: Luke Ding

Team: Denise Melchin, Matt Wage, Alex Foster, Tara MacAulay

Advisor: Nick Beckstead

The new management team for this fund have decided to rename the fund to better reflect the kind of grants they envision making. This is not a substantial change from how the fund has been run previously, but one change of scope is that the fund is unlikely to make further grants to local groups. The EA Community Building Grants project, run by CEA, focuses exclusively on funding local groups, and this fund does not expect to be granting to that space. Instead, the fund expects to support projects that are broadly referred to as ‘meta’ initiatives in the EA community, as well as to groups researching priority cause areas. The fund has historically granted most of its money to these types of organizations and has previously made one grant to a local group.

The fund managers expect to write grants to a relatively broad range of organizations in terms of maturity, specifically planning to make some grants to new projects. In this way, there may be some overlap in scope with EA Grants, which is also run by CEA.

The fund will be chaired by Luke Ding, one of the first major donors from the early days of effective altruism. He has spent 50% of his time on EA-related philanthropy over the past 7 years and has donated millions of dollars to EA organizations during this time. Luke’s early donations played an important role in the rapid growth of the Centre for Effective Altruism, 80,000 Hours and Founders Pledge.

Nick Beckstead has agreed to stay on in an advisory capacity, providing continuity to donors and the benefit of his expertise to the new team.

Read more and see bios for the new team on the EA Meta Fund page at EA Funds.

Long-Term Future Fund

Chair: Matt Fallshaw

Team: Helen Toner, Oliver Habryka, Matt Wage, Alex Zhu

Advisors: Nick Beckstead, Jonas Vollmer

The fund will be chaired by Matt Fallshaw, cofounder of Bellroy and founder of Trike Apps. Matt has been involved in growing the EA movement since 2012, helping develop and host the original LessWrong and EA Forum websites, providing regular advice on organizational management and implementation to EA teams, supporting the growth of organizations including CEA, CFAR, and MIRI, and securing some of the early support for other EA projects. Matt currently splits his time between MIRI in Berkeley and his home in Melbourne, Australia.

The fund managers will consider grants to any causes focused on improving the long term future, but expect to favour activities such as research into possible existential risks and their mitigation, and especially work aimed at ensuring that advanced artificial intelligence systems are robust and beneficial.

Nick Beckstead has agreed to stay on in an advisory capacity for this fund also, and is joined by Jonas Vollmer from the EA Foundation in providing further expertise to the team.

Read more and see bios for the new team on the Long-Term Future Fund page at EA Funds.

Animal Welfare Fund

Chair: Lewis Bollard

Team: Jamie Spurgeon, Natalie Cargill, Toni Adleberg

Lewis has opted to use this opportunity to take on an expert team to assist with the management of this fund. He sees three primary benefits to this for the fund’s operation. First, the fund will now draw on a wider range of views and expertise from the animal welfare space, which is especially important given the dominant role that Open Philanthropy Project already plays in the space. Second, the fund will now draw on a deeper resource of time and experience, which will hopefully help identify more unique grant opportunities. Third, the fund will now have the capacity to better monitor the impact of grants to date, which will hopefully result in more learning for the fund managers and lessons that can be shared with the EA community.

The focus will remain on identifying the most cost-effective opportunities to reduce animal suffering over the long run. These opportunities will likely continue to mostly focus on factory farming, but may also support work on animal ethics, wild animal suffering, animal cognition, movement building, or other related fields.

Read more and see bios for the new team on the Animal Welfare Fund page at EA Funds

Global Development Fund

The Global Development Fund, managed by Elie Hassenfeld, will continue to operate with Elie as the sole manager, and will serve as something of a control group to the changes we are making on the other three funds. Should the team-managed funds experiment prove to be successful, Elie will consider putting together a team to work with him on managing this fund from some time in mid-2019.

How we expect this to work

First of all, we ought to note that we see these changes as currently being in a pilot period. Our best guess is that these changes will improve the EA Funds platform and produce good results, including increased donor satisfaction and donation effectiveness, however we will be ready to adjust any aspects which do not work as expected as we move forward.

New granting schedule

All of the funds will now move onto a fixed granting schedule, recommending and paying out grants three times per year—in November, February and June. The exception will be the Global Development Fund which will follow a schedule of granting in December, March and July—in order to be synched with when GiveWell decides on and grants their discretionary funds.

We will revisit the question of whether this granting schedule is optimal after the June/​July 2019 round of grants. We do not expect to reduce it to lower than twice a year after that, and expect to maintain this cadence unless it becomes clear during the pilot that it is sub-optimal.

Collective Decision Making Mechanisms

Teams failing to agree on which grants to make or falling into sub-optimal group dynamics is plausibly the largest risk to this approach, therefore each of the teams has been thinking about how best to formalise their collective decision making process, to minimise any such risks.

Each of the groups has settled on a slightly different approach, and this is another aspect which is part of the experimental nature of this new approach to fund management. As part of the broader review after the June 2019 set of grants, we will work with the teams to see if any of the approaches piloted in this period seem to have performed better or worse, and if there is a clear winner we may wish to standardise the process and have all teams adopt that approach.

Fans of approval voting will be pleased to hear that the Animal Welfare and Long-Term Future teams are considering utilising this in their processes.

How to find out more and decide if you want to donate to the funds

Each of the Funds’ pages have been updated to reflect the new management teams, so please read through those for more information specific to each Fund. ( Long-Term Future /​ Animal Welfare /​ EA Meta )

The new teams will be making their first set of grant recommendations in November and publishing their reasoning to their respective Fund’s page—this will allow donors to get further data on what kinds of grants each group is likely to make and how they reason about the grant making process, so that donors can take this information into account when making their decisions during giving season.

Furthermore, each of the new management teams will also be doing an AMA on the EA Forum before mid-December; the exact dates for these will be announced in the coming weeks.

Finally, for those attending EA Global London this weekend, representatives from the EA Meta Fund and Animal Welfare Fund management teams, as well as CEA, will be available to answer questions during an ‘office hours’ session on Sunday at 1:30pm.

Hopefully you’re as excited as we are about this new phase for EA Funds! We hope these changes will make it an overall better donation platform for the community, and increase the effectiveness of the average donation.