Comment author: nalthaus 23 August 2017 08:05:23AM 3 points [-]

Hi Eric, whenever I try to go to the Wiki I get a screen message saying: 403: Forbidden, this page cannot be displayed. I checked the troubleshooting page, but it seems to contain only advice for the person who manages the wiki, not for visitors (file permissions etc.): https://www.hostgator.com/help/article/403-forbidden-or-no-permission-to-access?utm_source=externalerror&utm_medium=hgsuspage&utm_campaign=client403 Do you have any advice? I'm based in Switzerland, both chrome and firefox didn't work (on a mac).

Comment author: Henry_Stanley 17 April 2018 08:13:34PM 0 points [-]
Comment author: Henry_Stanley 17 April 2018 08:13:17PM 0 points [-]
Comment author: Henry_Stanley 09 April 2018 10:35:25AM 1 point [-]

This is awesome - thanks for writing it up. I'm hoping it gets sidebarred or otherwise kept somewhere for future reference, and for future years!

On the subject of doing a tax return: I've been using TaxCalc for the last few years. It's about £30 for a licence but covers all sorts of complex scenarios and is super straightforward - I'd recommend it.

Comment author: Patrick 06 April 2018 03:53:28AM 6 points [-]

I also admit that it isn't "free" to invest the money in bond, in that there's operational overhead involved, but with such a large amount of money held it seems worthwhile.

You said that the funds currently hold $1.1 million and that US Treasury bonds yield 1.7% a year. That's $18,700 a year in foregone revenue. In 80,000 Hours' survey of EA organizations, a new hire was seen as worth something in the neighborhood of a million dollars in forgone donations a year. So it's not surprising to me that the donations are held in cash—I could easily see the overhead of investing exceeding the potential returns.

Similarly, it's not surprising that the funds are slow to be disbursed. If each fund manager's time is valued at millions or tens of millions of dollars a year, the discount rate on the donations held in a fund isn't an overwhelming consideration.

But that raises the question, why create the funds in the first place? Someone at CEA would be best qualified to answer that. But I don't expect a timely answer, as their communication style tends (in my experience and in that of others on this forum) toward reticence and delay. (I suspect this is due to their placing higher priority on other projects rather than due to a desire to keep information private.)

If I were to speculate, I'd say that the CEA sees the funds as an experiment, and that they'll be abandoned if they don't eventually significantly more in donations. But it seems likely that they'll invest some more effort before giving up.

Comment author: Henry_Stanley 06 April 2018 10:15:44PM 0 points [-]

If each fund manager's time is valued at millions or tens of millions of dollars a year, the discount rate on the donations held in a fund isn't an overwhelming consideration. But that raises the question, why create the funds in the first place?

Quite so. They seem to be stuck in a place where there's enough money there for it to be wasteful to let it just sit around, but not enough for it to be worthwhile for the fund managers to make regular disbursements.

Comment author: Patrick 06 April 2018 03:53:28AM 6 points [-]

I also admit that it isn't "free" to invest the money in bond, in that there's operational overhead involved, but with such a large amount of money held it seems worthwhile.

You said that the funds currently hold $1.1 million and that US Treasury bonds yield 1.7% a year. That's $18,700 a year in foregone revenue. In 80,000 Hours' survey of EA organizations, a new hire was seen as worth something in the neighborhood of a million dollars in forgone donations a year. So it's not surprising to me that the donations are held in cash—I could easily see the overhead of investing exceeding the potential returns.

Similarly, it's not surprising that the funds are slow to be disbursed. If each fund manager's time is valued at millions or tens of millions of dollars a year, the discount rate on the donations held in a fund isn't an overwhelming consideration.

But that raises the question, why create the funds in the first place? Someone at CEA would be best qualified to answer that. But I don't expect a timely answer, as their communication style tends (in my experience and in that of others on this forum) toward reticence and delay. (I suspect this is due to their placing higher priority on other projects rather than due to a desire to keep information private.)

If I were to speculate, I'd say that the CEA sees the funds as an experiment, and that they'll be abandoned if they don't eventually significantly more in donations. But it seems likely that they'll invest some more effort before giving up.

Comment author: Henry_Stanley 06 April 2018 10:14:38PM 1 point [-]

US Treasury bonds yield 1.7% a year. That's $18,700 a year in foregone revenue

That's the annualized return on 3-month bonds, a short-term, zero-risk investment. Setting up such an investment would be trivial (and could surely be outsourced).

At the other extreme, you have the Wellcome Trust which holds Henry Wellcome's endowment; their investments have yielded an average of 14% per year since 1986. And those returns compound, too. As a result, they've been able to give away much larger disbursements than if they'd simply held the money in cash.

Comment author: Benito 05 April 2018 12:52:10AM *  4 points [-]

Note: EA is totally a trust network - I don't think the funds are trying to be anything like GiveWell, who you're supposed to trust based on the publicly-verifiable rigour of their research. EA funds is much more toward the side of the spectrum of "have you personally seen CEA make good decisions in this area" or "do you specifically trust one of the re-granters". Which is fine, trust is how tightly-knit teams and communities often get made. But if you gave to it thinking "this will look like if I give to Oxfam, and will have the same accountability structure" then you'll correctly be surprised to find out it works significantly via personal connections.

The same way you'd only fund a startup if you knew them and how they worked, you should probably only fund EA funds for similar reasons - and if the startup tried to make its business plan such that anyone would have reason to fund it, the business plan probably wouldn't be very good. I think that EA should continue to be a trust-based network, and so on the margin I guess people should give less to EA funds rather than EA funds make grants that are more defensible.

Comment author: Henry_Stanley 05 April 2018 12:19:55PM *  3 points [-]

I don't think the funds are trying to be anything like GiveWell

I disagree – the funds are definitely positioned as more risky than e.g. GiveWell, but nothing like as risky as you're making out. Take the Global Health and Development Fund:

Why might you choose not to donate to this fund?

Donors with a very low risk tolerance may choose to avoid this fund because the fund is empowered to take risks at the organizational level by funding unproven, but promising new charities.

Reading that, I would come away thinking that donations from that fund ought to be rigorous in a (mostly) publicly-verifiable way (more than just a conversation someone had with someone).

Comment author: MarekDuda 04 April 2018 06:42:02PM 18 points [-]

Hello, speaking in my capacity as the person responsible for EA Funds at CEA:

Many of the things Henry points out seem valid, and we are working on addressing these and improving the Funds in a number ways. We are building a Funds ‘dashboard’ to show balances in near real time, looking into the best ways of not holding the balances in cash, and thinking about other ways to get more value out of the platform.

We expect to publish a post with more detail on our approach in the next couple of weeks. Feel free to reach out to me personally if you wish to discuss or provide input on the process.

Comment author: Henry_Stanley 04 April 2018 09:47:41PM 2 points [-]

Awesome. Looking forward to seeing where EA Funds ends up!

35

How to improve EA Funds

[Note: I've written about EA Funds before , but I believe there's enough new here to merit a separate post – and it comes as lots of Brits are deciding where to donate before the UK tax year ends.] I think EA Funds is an awesome idea – delegate the... Read More
Comment author: Alex_Barry 01 April 2018 03:00:57PM *  8 points [-]

I think I agree with the comments on this post that job postings on the EA forum are not ideal, since if all the different orgs did it they would significantly clutter the forum.

The existing "Effective Altruism Job Postings" Facebook group and possibly the 80k job board should fulfill this purpose.

Comment author: Henry_Stanley 01 April 2018 04:19:18PM *  7 points [-]

How about a shameless plug for EA Work Club? 😇

This role is also listed there – http://www.eawork.club/jobs/87

Comment author: Arepo 11 February 2018 09:38:21PM 4 points [-]

Huh, that seems like a missed opportunity. I know very little about investing, but aren't there short-term investments with modest returns that would have a one-off setup cost for the fund, such that all future money could go into them fairly easily?

Comment author: Henry_Stanley 31 March 2018 03:39:26PM 0 points [-]

I would have thought so. Putting them into government and corporate bonds is very safe, and would at least prevent the value in the funds from being eroded by inflation.

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