Thanks Jan—looking forward to hearing from you!
Will send you an email :-) you might also be interested in my post here, although it’s only tangentially-related
It might be useful context to some of the comments below to highlight this page on our resource for our volunteers, which encapsulates for me how we talk about EA within OFTW (and how we signpost people to find out more): https://chapters.1fortheworld.org/info/effective-altruism-thinking/ (props to Vaidehi for helping us revise this and make it better this summer)
Hey Vaidehi—I hope you’re well :-)
Just on the factual questions:
~12 - this includes some where the EA group explicitly runs the OFTW content, and some where the two just peacefully coexist. Collaboration is broadly positive but not consistent in method or depth.
Hard to say—I would guess that around 1⁄3 know about nothing except effective giving, 1⁄3 know a bit about EA but are mainly focussed on effective giving and 1⁄3 are very knowledgeable about EA/fully committed EAs themselves.
To pick up two of your risks above:
OFTW chapters are certainly vulnerable to changes in leadership, but this point would seem to apply just as strongly to EA groups on campuses, I think? So I’m not sure that we should expect leadership turnover to have any more or less of a negative effect on OFTW-EA relations that it does on EA-student relations.
In fairness, we don’t teach people those memes, or ever reference them in any of our materials or training (at least not in any of the materials or training that I have reviewed/contributed to). OFTW never mentions ETG and in general we don’t really make claims about what EA cares about or focusses on. You helped us with this page, I recall, which is probably the best summary of how we talk about EA—and it reads to me as very neutral in its phrasing: https://chapters.1fortheworld.org/info/effective-altruism-thinking/
Hi Alex—these are very good points and largely correct, I think—thanks for contributing them. I’ve added some thoughts and mitigations below:
Yes, we definitely do anchor around poverty. I think this can be good ‘scaffolding’ to come into the movement; but sometimes it will anchor people there. It is worth noting, though, that global health and poverty is consistently the most popular cause area in the EA survey, so there are clearly other factors anchoring to this cause area—it’s hard to say how much OFTW counterfactually increases this effect (and whether it counterfactually stops people from progressing beyond global health and poverty). In terms of mitigation for competing with GWWC—we are in close touch with them and both sides are working hard to foster collaboration and avoid competition.
On point 2, our experience so far is that OFTW and EA groups actually coexist very well. I think (without any systematic evidence) some of this may because a lot of EA groups don’t prioritise donations, preferring to focus on things like career advice, and so OFTW chapters can sort of ‘own’ the donation space; sometimes, though, they just find a way to work alongside each other. I’m not sure it follows that we have to ‘compete for altruistically motivated people’ - in fact, I don’t really see any reason why someone couldn’t take the OFTW pledge and then carry on engaging with EA uninterrupted—but I agree that we could compete on this front. A lot seems to depend on OFTW’s approach/message/ask. Maybe a virtue of OFTW is that we really only need people’s attention for a short period to get them to take one action—so we aren’t competing for their sustained attention, in a way that would crowd out EA programming. Indeed, we can actually be a funnel to get them to pay attention to this content—see for example our recent webinar with Toby Ord on x-risk, which attracted ~200 people, many of whom came from OFTW chapters.
Yes, fair. I’d just bear in mind, though, how many EAs were introduced via global health and poverty (again, see the EA survey for how many people came in via poverty-focussed writing from Peter Singer or Will MacAskill) and did ultimately develop/broaden/change their thinking, so again I’m not sure how much counterfactual anchoring there is from OFTW.
I haven’t watched this yet but will shortly—from your brief precis above, this criticism looks like it might apply equally to any pledge/donation org that support health and poverty causes (GWWC, Founder’s Pledge, GiveWell, EA Funds etc.).
This is absolutely true—I actually think it’s a strength of OFTW, as it happens. The reason I don’t worry overly about anchoring people at 1%/distracting from other cause areas is that I actually think most OFTW pledgers were never good candidates to be super engaged with EA in the first place—but those that are end up getting into EA anyway, and we can be a useful first point of contact to make that happen. To be fully transparent, this is basically all from anecdata, but I have met very, very few OFTW pledgers who I (subjectively) think were ever likely to be a GWWC pledger/dedicate their career to AI research. In a perfect world, we would hoover up all the ‘well I might give 1% but I really wouldn’t give 10%’ crowd and not stop any of the ‘I might give 10%/change my career’ crowd. One project to support this is to give more GWWC and other EA content to our members, so that those who were predisposed to give 10% end up doing it anyway (which has happened for a subset of OFTW members in the past, certainly).
Hi Brian—Jack here (ED at OFTW). Thanks for your thoughtful questions and it looks like Sabrina ha answered them really well :-)
Some quick additions:
as Sabrina says, activation is moderate (~2/3). However, our models suggest that we would still provide decent ROI at even 50% activation rates. One advantage that we have is that we process all our donations ourselves and so actually know our activation and retention rates, where a lot of pledge orgs have to estimate them. My reading of our data is that most orgs are extremely optimistic in their assumptions around this.
definitely open to this and some individual chapters have done it already. It’s on the roadmap!
this is where processing our donations is so helpful—we see in real time how donors behave, and so know if people stop their donations. We do ask people who cancel if they have changed cause area but we only get the usual response rates to cancellation surveys (~1%)
we do not currently plan to expand our cause areas, for few reasons. First, and for transparency, GiveWell is one of our main funders and that influences this decision. Second, our founders were very focussed on global health and poverty and so I would want their input before any change. But third, and most importantly—OFTW on average engages a donor for ~10-60 mins before they pledge (and pre-COVID this was sometimes as little as 2 mins when our volunteers were tabling). When you are recruiting people with this level of engagement, message clarity is essential. Using global health and poverty, which is both the most popular EA cause area and the simplest ‘sell’ to someone who isn’t part of EA yet, makes a lot of sense to me in this context. All that being said, this may well evolve over time!
Hi guys—Jack here (Executive Director at OFTW). Sabrina makes some great points here. I would add as well that we need to be mindful of how much the average American is giving to effective charities. You’re right, @Larks, that persuading people to give 1% to effective charities would be odd, if the average person would give 3% to them—but, of course, the average American gives ~0% to effective charities! We have introduced some checkout questions to give us an indication of this ‘counterfactual’ argument (‘how much do you already give (if anything) to GiveWell’s charities?’) and also have some students at Yale researching typical giving trends for graduates to give us a proxy control group.
Hi Naryan—this sounds like great work, well done. One for the World may be able to help you with your 2020 plans (www.1fortheworld.org). We’re a network of people giving 1% of their income to the GiveWell charities and have a couple of chapters in Canada. My email is jack [at] 1fortheworld [dot] org—please do get in touch!
Thanks for your time in raising the points above. To introduce myself, I am the new Executive Director of One for the World. I think you make some very important points and we have taken action to address several of them.
I’m pleased that the thread seems largely to have been resolved positive. However, to respond directly on our own behalf:
We take your point that we could be seen as a marketing investment by GiveWell. I think it slightly understates/misstates our work to suggest that we are a publicity effort or advertising campaign, but I don’t think this is material to your point. Our founders did indeed decide to fundraise for GiveWell’s recommended charities independently when they set up in 2014, although as part of a wider group of charities. We then fully aligned with GiveWell in April 2019 (see blog post here). GiveWell requested that we switch our portfolio to align with their recommendations as part of recommending a grant; we were enthusiastic about making this switch.
While I agree with your points in the main, I think it’s important to note a couple of things. First, while GiveWell does provide ~75% of our funding at present, we are working to diversify our funding, to make sure we can take a balanced view of GiveWell’s work (and as a general risk management strategy). While we consider GiveWell’s research first class at present, as you do, we agree that we need to be able to review this relationship regularly and have backup plans in case we no longer feel comfortable raising only for GiveWell charities or accepting their funding. It’s important to say that GiveWell have in fact encouraged us in this effort, by only granting us 75% of our operating costs for the 2020-21 financial year. They have made it clear to us that a key indicator of success is raising the deficit from elsewhere and that the second year of funding could be withheld if we are unable to do this.
Second, we have tried to be transparent about our financial relationship in several forums, although I completely agree that we need to be better, especially for a casual website visitor. We acknowledged the substantial grant via GiveWell in several blog posts (August 2018 x 2, February 2019, March 2019) and last year’s annual report (let me know if you would like links to these). However, I completely accept your point that this should be consistent across all our content and also highlighted on our charities page—we’re now working to address this, so thanks for the prompting.
Finally, in terms of steps to address this:
we started work last week, after reading your post, on standardising our content to acknowledge the relationship more fully
we have updated our FAQs and About Us pages in particular, and linked to a specific one-pager on our relationship with GiveWell, which I think you have seen
our next annual report (due imminently) is explicit about the relationship
we have added something to our charity pages to highlight this relationship more prominently and fully
Thanks again for your input and your valuable support of GiveWell’s charities. If you would like to discuss anything further, my email is jack[at]1fortheworld[dot]org