The Value of Time Spent Fundraising: Four Examples

In the past, I’ve spent a few times fundraising for EA top charities. Awhile ago, it was suggested as a potential high-impact EA career, with a lot of thought given to “fundraising ratios” based on the amount of money taken in and the amount of money raised. I personally have been curious about these ratios, but rather as a rate of money raised per hour spent, without thinking much about the cost of that hour except to compare it to other opportunities.

I’ve done a moderate amount of fundraising work myself in the past, and I was curious how valuable it was, drawing solely on my own experience. Certainly other people have done fundraising themselves, such as Raising for Effective Giving or Giving What We Can, and I invite them to make their own calculations for how effective their time spent is.

early 2013 to mid 2016: Charity Science Outreach

My first efforts were with helping out Charity Science Outreach (then just called Charity Science). We tried a bunch of different techniques and overall moved $300K with effort equivalent to about six years of full-time work (though I personally did much less than six years of work). If we assume a year of work is roughly 1250 honest time-tracked hours (i.e., subtract out lunch, bathroom breaks, socializing, scrolling through Twitter, checking your email), that’s $40/hr.

As of mid-2016, we’ve since scaled down our activities here and guess that by focusing on the highest leverage stuff, we’d up the rate to $40K-$175K moved with half a year of full-time work. This would be $64/hr to $280/hr, though is significantly less scalable.

Dec 2014: Against Malaria Foundation Birthday Fundraiser

In December 2014, I ran a birthday fundraiser, where I raised $5010.32 for AMF in a 2014 birthday fundraiser with 17 hours of marketing to friends and family (details here). 50% of this was matching funds provided by an anonymous donor who would have donated to AMF anyway. My personal view is that the matching funds were highly motivating for those donating to my campaign, but should not count as part of my impact assessment. This means I raised $2505.16 in 17 hours, or $147.36/hr.

Nowadays my networks are less college students and more technology professionals, so I’d guess that if I were to try this again I could invest 20 hours to fundraise somewhere between $2K and $20K for GiveWell top charities, say with a mean of $5K. This would range between $100/hr to $1000/hr with a mean of $250/hr.

Jan-Mar 2016: Fundraising for .impact

In early 2016, I worked to help then .impact executive director Tom Ash fundraise for .impact’s 2016 budget, since I thought it was a high impact and highly neglected opportunity. We were able to raise $65,000 from various EAs to cover 2016. Subtracting out the $10K that was from my own giving, subtracting out $10K more that I bet would have been donated to us regardless of our efforts, and giving Tom and I both 50-50 credit adds up to suggest my fundraising efforts contributed to roughly $22.5K. Given that I spent about 19 hours total on this fundraising campaign, that puts my work at $1184/hr at first glance.

However, there’s good reason to think the $1184/hr number is, at best, just an upper bound. While all the money raised is likely counterfactual and would not have been donated to .impact without my efforts, it likely would have been donated to another similar EA organization. This is thus an example of funding cannibalism where I merely move donations from one deserving organization to another, rather than create entirely new donations from people who otherwise would not have donated.

Thus, the only true way to assess my work here, then, would be to evaluate where each donor would have given instead and assess how much more effective I think .impact is than that choice (with the possibility of it even being negative!). This would be really difficult to do and likely unreliable.

Notably, .impact is raising money again for 2017 and I'm helping out again with this campaign. I still think .impact is an excellent recipient for EA meta donations and I intend to write about this more in the near future.

Dec 2016: Optimal Memes for Cosmopolitan Teens Virtue Signaling Luxury Lounge

With about 60 minutes of work, I encouraged and helped market the Optimal Memes for Cosmopolitan Teens Virtue Signaling Luxury Lounge which is an exclusive Facebook meme group where you have to donate counterfactually to an EA charity to get into (it’s a long story, don’t bother asking). About $6900 was donated (details available, but only to those who donated) with ACE and AMF getting over half the donations. While I’m still confused about how counterfactual credit is supposed to work, if I assume my efforts were worth 10% of the total, and subtracting out the donation I made myself, that’s $690/hr.

With another 30 minutes of work on the same task, I was able to get an additional $2K donation (not counted in the prior totals) that I feel confident was directly attributable to me. That makes this worth $4K/hr.

Another 60 minutes of work, got about $1800 with maybe 25% credit, which would be $450/hr.




Based on the above examples, it looks like fundraising work can range from $40/hr to $4000/hr. However, $/hr figures can be misleading as many of the best opportunities have steeply diminishing marginal returns and cannot be maintained for long, let alone full-time. Additionally, there can be complex concerns about allocating counterfactual credit correctly and adjusting for funding cannibalism. Lastly, it's hard to project whether these past experiences are generalizable to my own future experiences or the future experiences of others.


Those caveats being said, I do think fundraising rates of $140/hr or higher are available for a few hours for every EA every year, simply by fundraising from your personal network through individual messages. If you're interested in doing this, it’s not too late to start a Seasons Givings fundraising page!




Update 25 Dec: OMfCT section updated with more recent results.

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