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Peter_Hurford comments on Talking about the Giving What We Can Pledge - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 04 January 2017 03:36:04AM 1 point [-]

This is really interesting and I wondered about suggesting something like this as quite high value, especially when targeted personally and non-confrontationally to people new to EA. I wondered whether GWWC was doing this and I'm glad that they are and are getting good results.

I'd be curious to know more about how people to message were selected and how the messages were crafted. This seems harder to reproduce among people like myself who have very few EA friends. 10% of messages converting to pledges is incredible, but potentially so incredible as to be suspicious. 0.667 pledges per hour is a very good hourly rate, much higher (though depending on the value of a pledge) than the hourly rates I found via other kinds of fundraising efforts!

Comment author: Linch 04 January 2017 05:36:59AM 6 points [-]

It might be worth doing a pre-registered experiment of people who have never directly talked to non-GWWC members about GWWC before, or at least not in the last 6 months.

Say we get 10 of such people, and they each message 5-20 of their friends. If our initial models are correct (and I agree with you that from the outside view this looks unusually high), we would expect 5-20 new pledges to come out of this.

Do you happen to be somebody in this category? If so, would you be interested in participating in such an experiment?

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 04 January 2017 06:33:32AM 2 points [-]

It might be worth doing a pre-registered experiment of people who have never directly talked to non-GWWC members about GWWC before, or at least not in the last 6 months.

Good idea.

Do you happen to be somebody in this category? If so, would you be interested in participating in such an experiment?

Yes and yes.

Comment author: rohinmshah  (EA Profile) 05 January 2017 12:02:02AM 0 points [-]

from the outside view this looks unusually high

I would have said this a little over a year ago, but I'm less surprised by it now and I do expect it would replicate. I also expect that it becomes less effective as it scales (I expect the people who currently do it are above average at this, due to selection effects), but not by that much.

This is based on running a local EA group for a year and constantly being surprised by how much easier it is to get a pledge than I thought it would be.

Comment author: Ben_Todd 05 January 2017 05:22:52PM 1 point [-]

One factor is that not all the costs are included, so it's not directly comparable to other fundraising ratios. There is lots of low hanging fruit because GWWC has done so much work in the past to get people interested – it only takes a small amount of extra time to push these people over the edge.

If you added in all the costs, then I'd expect to get back to something like GWWC's regular multiplier of $1:100 (or perhaps a little better because most people have a couple of friends they can persuade unusually easily).

This isn't to dispute the basic point: making the effort to go the last mile with all these people is really worthwhile.

Comment author: hbesceli 04 January 2017 12:14:32PM *  1 point [-]

I'd be curious to know more about how people to message were selected

There weren't any strong guidelines in selecting people just encouraging people to talk to their friends. I chose people to message based on a combination of 1) how interested I thought they'd be (either based on previous conversations about EA or my knowledge of their interests) 2) how close we are, and I'd imagine others used similar heuristics.

and how the messages were crafted.

Here's a message I used that I also put up as an example for others, but there was an emphasis on making the messages personal rather than using a stock message, and so I expect that the type of messages that people sent varied quite a bit.

'Hey, last year i took the 'GWWC pledge' - a commitment to donate 10% of my income to the charities I believe are most effective at improving the world. I'd be really interested in hearing what you think about the idea and whether it's something you'd consider - what do you think? And do you fancy hearing a quick spiel about it? Anyway, what are you up to over New Year’s, when am I going to see you next?'

10% of messages converting to pledges is incredible, but potentially so incredible as to be suspicious.

The success that people have with this probably varies a lot. In particular having spoked to the person about effective altruism before made success a lot more likely. I think there was probably a fairly strong self selection effect, with those who have a lot of potentially interested friends being the people that decided to do the messaging and report their successes, and so I don't think the average GWWC member would be as successful (but probably still enough to make it worth doing).

Also the data from messaging friends seems consistent with the 1/25 message to pledge ratio from GWWC's previous attempts at messaging people - I'd expect messaging friends to be higher than this as the personal connection with the person you're talking about the pledge too seems to be quite an important factor.