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Kerry_Vaughan comments on Introducing the EA Funds - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: jimrandomh 09 February 2017 12:55:03AM *  7 points [-]

What will be these funds' policy on rolling funds over from year to year, if the donations a fund gets exceed the funding gaps the managers are aware of?

(This seems particularly important for funds whose managers are also involved with OpenPhil, given that OpenPhil did not spend its entire budget last year.)

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 09 February 2017 09:30:29PM 4 points [-]

Right now we're trying to give fund managers lots of latitude on what to do with the money. If they think there's an argument for saving the money and donating later we'll allow that (but ask for some communication about why saving the money makes sense).

I'd be interested in whether people would prefer a different policy.

Comment author: jimrandomh 10 February 2017 06:32:02PM 4 points [-]

My concern is that the marginal effect of donating to one of these funds on the amount of money actually reaching charities might be zero. Given that OpenPhil spent below its budget, and these funds are managed by OpenPhil staff, it appears as though these funds put money on the wrong side of a bottleneck. One of the major constraints on OpenPhil's giving has been wanting charities to have diverse sources of funding; this appears to reduce funding diversity, by converting donations from individual small donors into donations from OpenPhil. What reason do donors have to think they aren't just crowding out donations from OpenPhil's main fund?

Comment author: RobBensinger 10 February 2017 07:30:36PM 2 points [-]

The Funds do have some donor diversifying effect, if only because donors can change whether they give to the Fund based on whether they like its recent beneficiaries; though it doesn't capture all the benefits of diversification.

I could imagine this being more useful if the EA Funds are administered by OPP staff in their non-official capacity, and they have more leeway to run risky experiments or fund things that are hard to publicly explain/justify or might not reflect well on OPP. (This would work best if small EA Funds donors were less concerned about 'wasting' their donation than Good Ventures, though, which is maybe unrealistic.)

I haven't thought much about the tradeoffs, but it does seem to me like you could costlessly get more of those advantages if the four funds were each co-run by a pair of people (one from OPP, one from elsewhere) so it's less likely that any one individual or organization will suffer the fallout for controversial choices.

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 10 February 2017 11:28:32PM 3 points [-]

I could imagine this being more useful if the EA Funds are administered by OPP staff in their non-official capacity

I think Nick's administration of the EA Giving DAF is done in his non-official capacity. However, this can only go so far. If one of the fund managers donates to something very controversial that probably still harms OpenPhil even if they were funding the thing as private individuals.

We'll need to have non-OpenPhil staff manage funds in the future to get the full benefits of diversification.

it does seem to me like you could costlessly get more of those advantages if the four funds were each co-run by a pair of people (one from OPP, one from elsewhere) so it's less likely that any one individual or organization will suffer the fallout for controversial choices.

I like this idea. The only potential problem is that the more people you add to the fund, the more they need to reach consensus on where to donate. The need to reach consensus often results in safe options instead of interesting ones.

I'd be very interested in other ideas for how we can make it easier to donate to unusual or controversial options via the fund. Diversification is really critical to the long-term impact of this project.

Comment author: RobBensinger 11 February 2017 12:26:07AM 2 points [-]

I like this idea. The only potential problem is that the more people you add to the fund, the more they need to reach consensus on where to donate.

That's true, though you could also give one individual more authority than the others -- e.g., have the others function as advisers, but give the current manager the last word. This is already presumably going to happen informally, since no one makes their decisions in a vacuum; but formalizing it might diffuse perceived responsibility a bit. It might also encourage diversification a bit.

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 10 February 2017 11:24:00PM 1 point [-]

What reason do donors have to think they aren't just crowding out donations from OpenPhil's main fund?

The idea is that crowding out OpenPhil is likely better than the alternative for a lot of individual EAs. For example, if you were going to donate to AMF, crowding out OpenPhil is better if you buy OpenPhil's belief that their grantmaking is better in expectation than AMF. If you think 1) that your donations are better than crowding out OpenPhi in expectation and 2) that OpenPhil staff serving as fund managers will use the money to crowd out OpenPhil, then it makes sense to not donate via the fund in its MVP configuration.

In the future, we plan to use the funds as a platform that will let a wider variety of people do in-depth charity research and have money to support the charities they find. In the future, I think EA Funds will contribute to a much wider variety of ideas.