TimothyTelleenLawton comments on Donor lottery details - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: TimothyTelleenLawton 20 December 2017 06:34:06PM *  10 points [-]

I’d like to give a quick update on my plans for the 2016 Donation Lottery winnings.

Of the $45,650, I’ve decided to give $21,000 to the Czech Association for Effective Altruism so they can hire one full time staff (or equivalent) for one year to manage the organization. I have not yet transferred that money, nor decided how to allocate the other $24,650.

I decided to support the Czech Association for Effective Altruism because I am impressed with their ability to execute difficult projects, I believe their projects have the potential to make a large positive impact (including via the impact on the chapter members executing them), I believe they will be able to execute substantially more and higher-quality projects with employed leadership than without one, and I believe funding is the limiting factor for the chapter hiring leadership staff.

I became aware of the Czech Association for Effective Altruism (The Chapter) when they hosted 2 CFAR workshops near Prague in October 2017; CFAR hired me to be one of a handful of instructors for those workshops. Some observations and beliefs from spending time with a few of the leaders from the chapter:

  • The Chapter successfully caused there to be CFAR workshops in Europe in 2017 that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. The demand for the workshops was high enough to justify two workshops in rapid succession. Hosting these workshops was one of a few major priorities for The Chapter in 2017.
  • The Chapter handled virtually all of the operations for the two workshops (~10 staff and ~30 participants each workshop), including finding a venue with relatively narrow specifications and providing lodging, food, local transportation, supplies, and instructor support. While there were some hiccups in the operations, it generally went very well, and better than I (and most CFAR staff with whom I discussed it) had expected from a first-time crew. At least one CFAR instructor believed that the operations at the Prague workshops were even better than they are for the typical CFAR workshop in the Bay Area, where they are generally managed by a CFAR employee with support from volunteers.
  • The leaders of The Chapter seem to be observant, thoughtful, self-critical, and dedicated. These attributes make me much more confident that they will be successful, particularly for their ability to observe problems and make adjustments accordingly over time.
  • The Chapter seems less well connected to the global EA movement and possible funders than other equivalently talented EAs with which I’m familiar. I also expect that the global movement would benefit from The Chapter being more influential within it.

Some expectations related to the donation:

  • Much of the success of The Chapter in 2017 seems to be attributable to having a Director that was spending approximately full-time on the chapter (despite very little compensation). The past Director recently left to acquire a paid full-time job, and I expect The Chapter’s effectiveness to drop substantially if they are not able to hire replacement leadership.
  • The Chapter believes that the staff they hire with this donation will be able to lead fundraising efforts to support their own salary and the rest of The Chapter budget for future years.
  • I intend to only make this donation if I can do so legally. The donation process may involve donating the money to another non-profit (with 501(c)3 tax advantaged status) that would in turn consider supporting The Chapter. If not all of the money is passed on to The Chapter, it will reduce the efficiency of the donation. I hope for The Chapter to receive about $20k, since that is what they estimate they need to hire leadership for one year (and they believe other donations can cover their other budgetary needs). I expect I will need to allocate about $21k in order for The Chapter to likely receive $20k.

I’m planning to post audio of my last interview with The Chapter, as well as budgetary and strategic information that The Chapter has shared with me.

Edits: inserted the organization's official name, "Czech Association for Effective Altruism", and corrected bullet formatting.

Comment author: EricHerboso  (EA Profile) 21 December 2017 02:24:21AM 3 points [-]

I'd be interested in learning your general thought process, though probably you should only answer these after you've allocated the entire lottery amount, and only if you feel that it makes sense to answer publicly.

  1. How much time would you say that you invested in determining where to give?
  2. How many advisors did you turn to in order to help think through these decisions? In retrospect, do you think that you took advice from too many different people, not enough, or just the right amount?
  3. Was The Chapter among the first potential causes you thought of?
  4. How many different organizations did you seriously consider? Of these, how many reached the stage where you interviewed them?

The Chapter sounds like an excellent giving opportunity for a gift of this size, since it's directly paying for a position that they would need to maintain their current level of effectiveness. I'm glad to know that my portion of the donor lottery funds are being used in such a positive manner.

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 21 December 2017 04:01:24AM *  1 point [-]

I'm glad to know that my portion of the donor lottery funds are being used in such a positive manner.

I would add, though, that participation doesn't affect the expected payout to any player's recommendations (and in the CEA lottery setup, it doesn't affect the pot size or draw probability). I.e. if other donor lottery players planned to donate their funds to something completely useless, that doesn't make any difference for you (unless hearing that they had made that donation outside the lottery context would have changed your own charity pick).

Comment author: TimothyTelleenLawton 19 January 2018 05:36:33PM 1 point [-]


  • I've posted the audio from my last interview with The Chapter here.
  • I received this update from The Chapter January 10th:
  • we are in the process of signing an agreement with [an organization that has agreed to transfer the funds], should be finished in about a week / then they can accept the transfer (attached)
  • they have a bit nonsense fee structure, so they want 8% of transfers under 25k USD, and 5% over 25k. I asked for a discount, but they decided against it: so it would be actually cheaper if you send us 25 thousand USD, pay 1250 fee and we send you 5120 back (or we can re-send it anywhere you want)
  • we were able to secure additional funding for the gap in "organization" budget sized $3000, so the organization budget is covered no
  • our [draft-for-comments] plan for 2018 is here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NqRum6-kAyl7bUUxjkX-IzVFpZnujy05MbjrUuuVIwg/edit?usp=sharing
  • at least temporarily we split the work into two positions - something like "strategy director" (strategy, public communication, fundraising) and "community directory" (coordination of volunteers, meetups, member onboarding, etc...) with time dotation ca 15h and 30h/week, respectively, and I'm doing the strategy work, while Kristina Nemcova is doing the community part. Timeframe for finding a permanent director is 3 months when Kristina is leaving abroad
Comment author: Milan_Griffes 20 December 2017 09:33:19PM 0 points [-]

Thanks for the update!

The past Director recently left to acquire a paid full-time job, and I expect The Chapter’s effectiveness to drop substantially if they are not able to hire replacement leadership.

Do you know if the chapter is planning to hire back the outgoing director, or hire a different replacement director?

Comment author: TimothyTelleenLawton 24 December 2017 05:31:46PM 0 points [-]

They are not planning to hire the outgoing director as that person has already started a new job in a different city.