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beah comments on A Research Framework to Improve Real-World Giving Behavior - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: beah 04 October 2018 08:59:08PM 1 point [-]

Might there be sweet spots to be found somewhere along the continuum of "quality" of giving (the effectiveness of each dollar given) stopping short of, say, GiveWell recommend charities or even EA approved causes?

Most ordinary people don't give because they generally feel charitable and want to do something, anything, so long as it's charitable. The are compelled to give by an event or a narrative that tugs on them. Most EA instruments don't really do this, of course. At least not in the initial consumer interaction. Say someone was compelled to give by the recent family separation crisis in the US. The cause wouldn't ever land on an EA list but I imagine that within it there are some charities 10x or maybe 100x more effective than others. It would be valuable to help people chose those charities, given that there's essentially a 0% chance that the money in question will be funneled to bed nets or the long term future.

In short, I'm interested in whether there are ways to bring a watered down version of EA to a mass audience, with a net positive effect on effective dollars given.

Comment author: Elityre 08 October 2018 04:36:07PM 4 points [-]

I'm not sure how much having a "watered down" version of EA ideas in the zeitgeist helps because, I don't have a clear sense of how effective most charities are.

If the difference between the median charity and the most impactful charity is 4 orders of magnitude ($1 to the most impactful charities does as much good as $1000 to the the median charity), then even a 100x improvement from the median charity is not very impactful. It's still only 1% as good a donating to the best charity. If that were the case, it's probably more efficient to just aim to get more people to adopt the whole EA mindset.

On the other hand, if the variation is much smaller, it might be the case that a 100x improvement get's you to about half of the impact per dollar of the best charities.

Which world we're living in matters a lot for whether we should invest in this strategy.

That said, promotion of EA principles, like cost effectiveness and EV estimates, separate from the EA brand, seem almost universally good, and extend far beyond people's choice of charities.

Comment author: Jon_Behar 08 October 2018 05:51:56PM 1 point [-]

Definitely agree on the value of spreading basic principles, though I think we also need to focus on some charity-specific themes given that we want to change giving behavior. In addition to the general frameworks you mention, I think it’s valuable to promote “intentional”, “informed”, and “impactful” giving as these are very uncontroversial ideas. And while it’s most valuable when someone buys into all three of those notions in a big way, there’s also value to getting a lot of people to buy in partially. If millions more people see the value of informed giving, incentives will improve and new products will emerge to meet that demand.

FWIW, I think the more accessible approach makes sense even in a world with huge variation in impact across charities. I think you’ll get more money to the “elite” charities if you have a culture where people seek out the best cancer charity they can find, the best local org they can find, etc vs trying “to get more people to adopt the whole EA mindset.”

Comment author: Jon_Behar 04 October 2018 11:35:28PM 2 points [-]

Absolutely! I think getting people to give to “best in class” charities has to be a part of any serious effort to improve giving on a large scale. Many donors are locked into a particular cause but would be open to giving more effectively in the same space. In causes with a lot of money and a big difference between the best charities and “default” charities, that presents a big opportunity. And of course there’s no guarantee EA is getting its cause prioritization right in the first place.

One “softer” framework I like is encouraging donors to be intentional, informed, and impactful when they give. It’s hard for people to disagree with any of these things, and they should all promote better giving on the margins.