Comment author: mhpage 17 December 2015 09:18:29PM 1 point [-]

I'm curious as a descriptive matter whether people have been downvoting due to disagreement or something else. Why, for example, do so many fundraising announcements get downvotes? I'm not certain we need a must-comment policy, but the mere fact that I don't know what a downvote means certainly impacts its signalling value.

Comment author: impala 17 December 2015 09:28:21PM *  2 points [-]

Speaking solely for myself, I've down voted fundraising announcements when I felt people were asking for money inappropriately, without a good, straightforward case for why I shouldn't give to AMF instead (to take the example I currently give to). I try not to down vote solely because I disagree with someone.

Comment author: Gleb_T  (EA Profile) 12 December 2015 05:00:00PM 1 point [-]

I appreciate your perspective, but I think there's a lot of space for charity entrepreneurship. See my response to Lila above, and let me know your thoughts :-)

Comment author: impala 15 December 2015 02:11:37PM -1 points [-]

I'd enjoy reading your reasons for this in a top-level forum post. I expect others would do, and there are certainly plenty who think like you do who could participate in a comment thread discussion of this, which your post could trigger.

Comment author: impala 15 December 2015 02:09:52PM 1 point [-]

What evidence would you (or the other involved in outreach via mass readership articles) cite for it working, besides the Facebook comment you mentioned?

Comment author: Sebastian_Farquhar 11 December 2015 11:49:41AM 3 points [-]

You can find the detailed calculations here.

I agree that if you'd asked me five years ago what one could expect in a fundraising ratio I would have been surprised by estimates like 100:1. Most charitable fundraising is in the ballpark of 10:1. Nevertheless, the folks at GWWC are very methodical about gathering huge amounts of data and processing it carefully and transparently. If you have any specific suggestions for the methodology I'd be very open to exploring them.

Comment author: impala 15 December 2015 02:02:23PM 2 points [-]

Thank you, my top two suggestions would be:

  • Break down which activities have led to which members in as much detail as possible.

  • Justify the "Counter-factual donation rate" more deeply. Use a graduate volunteer's time to dig into it and present multiple explorations of it, some of which don't rely on people's subjective estimates of it when asked by GWWC at the time they're pledging to it. Include some in-depth exploration of the counter-factual rate for a few members.

Comment author: Bernadette_Young 11 December 2015 10:50:32AM 3 points [-]

The GWWC fundraising prospectus sets out in quite extensive detail the observations and assumptions that underlie the figures, as well as providing the spreadsheets to let you explore how your own probability estimates would change them.

What further information do you think should be included?

Comment author: impala 11 December 2015 10:44:18PM 0 points [-]

I'll give my own answer when I get time but the questions at http://effective-altruism.com/ea/ql/giving_what_we_can_needs_your_help_this_christmas/ look like a decent start.

Comment author: Owen_Cotton-Barratt 11 December 2015 02:54:21PM 7 points [-]

And prima facie it's implausibly profitable.

This statement is interesting, because it suggests at least some of the disagreement is about priors/reference classes. My prior for the ratio achievable was really quite broad. It sounds like you had a much tighter prior, which would decrease the extent to which you want to update on evidence.

I don't know whether that disagreement is resolvable, but here are some of the thoughts that inform my prior:

  • You talk about 'profitable', which suggests businesses as a reference class. I agree that that kind of ratio is implausible for businesses, but I think that's a function of competition -- if it were available, someone would have been doing it already and got rich as a result. Monopolists can get much more profitable than non-monopolists. I think there are quite a lot of analogies with a business, so it's not ridiculous to consider them as a reference class, but I also think we understand the basic mechanism which stops them getting too profitable and it doesn't apply here, so we should not weigh this that strongly.

  • A closer reference class seems to be fundraising for charities. The institute of fundraising estimates median returns for different kind of fundraising activity to vary between around 1.5:1 and around 30:1, depending on the activity (link). The ratio for campaigns to encourage committed giving to the charity running the campaign is around 6:1. Note that these numbers are sustained despite what is probably some competition between charities (I'm mildly surprised by this).

  • The activity that GWWC is engaging in is not fundraising for itself, but encouraging people to give (and give effectively). Compared to charities fundraising for themselves, there is less competition, and the approach is also more novel: both of these could support more of the low-hanging fruit still being available. Moreover it may be easier to persuade people to give when there is no obvious conflict-of-interest of the charity receiving funds being the same as the people trying to persuade you.

Comment author: impala 11 December 2015 10:42:35PM 2 points [-]

Thanks, this is helpful (though as you predict not by itself not enough to resolve the issue). Fundraising seems a good reference class - not too broad (like 'all businesses' would be) and not too narrow. One comment/question, at least for now:

The activity that GWWC is engaging in is not fundraising for itself, but encouraging people to give (and give effectively). Compared to charities fundraising for themselves, there is less competition, and the approach is also more novel: both of these could support more of the low-hanging fruit still being available. Moreover it may be easier to persuade people to give when there is no obvious conflict-of-interest of the charity receiving funds being the same as the people trying to persuade you.

This seems the main reason that could account for your fundraising being so much more profitable than normal. The lack of conflict of interest could help, and I've read Charity Science use the same argument somewhere. But it has very limited strength, there are many independent people who fundraise for charities they're passionate about, and it's hard to see why it'd drive up fundraising profitability that much. That would take a novel approach in an enviroment of low hanging fruit (because low competetition). What exactly is GWWC's approach of this sort? I'm still not clear what you will do with the staff time our money buys to churn out a hundred dollars per dollar.

Comment author: Ben_Todd 11 December 2015 07:26:45PM *  6 points [-]

Hi Denise,

Our 2015 total spending (including central splits and everything) is going to be about 215k. Our 2016 budget, including hiring a coach, is about 250k.

The prospectus shows 174k for 2015, but this doesn't include our share of central services. Adding that gets you to about 215k. (I apologise for this confusing presentation).

The prospectus shows 192k for 2016. However that doesn't include a 10% contingency, which I always aim to fundraise (though we usually don't spend it). And it doesn't include hiring a coach, which is another 39k. Adding both of those gets you to about 250k.

So the increase is actually only 16%, not 40%.

I was wrong about the 40% increase because when I did the quick calculation there I hadn't included all of the costs of doing YC last summer (moving to the Bay Area, which were covered by the grant we got from YC). This drives down the 2016 growth rate, but drives up the 2015 growth rate.

Overall, here's 80k's total historical spending (including all costs and central splits assigned to 80k):

All figures are in pounds, to 3sf. Annual growth rates shown in brackets. 2015 and 2016 figures are estimates.

2012: 23100

2013: 124000 (436%)

2014: 119000 (-4%)

2015: 215000 (80%)

2016: 250000 (16%) (including hiring a coach)

Edit: Our most recent public figures are here: https://80000hours.org/2015/07/80000-hours-finance-report-april-2015-2/ But don't include the 2016 budget.

Comment author: impala 11 December 2015 10:34:48PM 3 points [-]

Amid many critical comments I should give props for going above and beyond the original request by clearly presenting this historical data.

Comment author: Lila 11 December 2015 09:15:23PM 2 points [-]

I still agree with most of this comment as a general trend I've noticed in EA... but I don't think this was the right context for it. It feels too much like punching down, since Gleb is a relatively new EA and clearly means well, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Gleb, please continue with EA and don't get discouraged. Lord knows I was an idiot as a new EA.

Comment author: impala 11 December 2015 10:30:53PM -2 points [-]

Yeh, your comment was correct and needed, but where it's truly needed at punching up (which here obviously means calling out MIRI, CFAR and CEA). That's what I try to do. Otherwise newer and smaller "orgs" like Gleb's get criticized for being redundant and CEA gets a free pass for being one of the first movers and then claiming the EA movement that sprung up as its fiefdom and pass to limitless funding. Leave Gleb alone and fight the real battles.

Oh and good on you for being less of an insensitive (but truth telling!) ahole than you often are. ;-)

Comment author: Sebastian_Farquhar 10 December 2015 04:15:15PM 7 points [-]

It's a good question, and one that we ask ourselves a lot. If we thought we were worse than AMF and that wasn't likely to change, we would close up shop. I am fairly confident that we produce more value than AMF, partly because our activities raise more for AMF than they take away. However, I think it's right to be uncertain about this and Owen makes some good points.

In addition, I think most of the value of CEA's activities comes from long term potential of our projects and EA as a whole - as Ben discusses here.

Our positive effect on AMF is clearest at Giving What We Can which has a return of roughly 100:1 in high-value donations (counterfactually adjusted and time-discounted, but not all to AMF). Even if you assume that not a single member of GWWC gives another penny ever, the ratio is still 5:1. It is unclear if the marginal return on a donation to GWWC is higher or lower than the average return. It would be higher if we thought that GWWC could still realise increasing economies of scale. It would be lower if we thought most of the value comes from the idea itself and not execution on it. I tend to think marginal funds are more effective than average funds, but I'm very uncertain. A fuller discussion is here (http://effective-altruism.com/ea/ql/giving_what_we_can_needs_your_help_this_christmas/)

At 80k, the metrics are less directly comparable. At the last review we estimated it cost £1,670 to achieve a significant plan change (and these costs have been coming down every review cycle, indicating we are getting more cost-effective). It's unclear how much each plan change is worth - but it seems very likely that getting someone to earn-to-give or move to do valuable direct work will be worth far more than £1,670 to AMF even within one year.

GPP impact is extremely hard to estimate because idea change and policy-work are chaotic and complex. In order to get a lower bound, we can focus on just one policy that we advocated which was successfully implemented - increasing the research budget for treatment and vaccines for malaria, TB, and NTDs and pandemic prevention by £2.5bn over 5 years. If our calculations are correct this move was worth $1.5bn-$30bn in donations to AMF. Even if we are only responsible for a very small part of this, it isn't hard to imagine our 2015 budget outperformed a donation to AMF. (See discussion here http://globalprioritiesproject.org/2015/12/new-uk-aid-strategy-prioritising-research-and-crisis-response/)

EA Outreach is probably hardest to compare directly against AMF-type charities because much of our estimate of its value depends on the fact that we think effective altruism and its ideas have huge upside potential. Any attempt to calculate the direct impact within the first year of its running in terms of money to AMF would short-change the value of the work.

Because most of the money that goes to CEA has a huge counterfactual positive impact on funding for AMF, I'm quite confident in recommending giving to CEA.

With respect to your question about growth in costs - I think Owen has some good thoughts here. It seems, however, that the unit costs of CEA outputs are stable or decreasing so the growth in costs represents expanding outputs rather than decreasing marginal returns.

Comment author: impala 11 December 2015 12:26:34AM 5 points [-]

Our positive effect on AMF is clearest at Giving What We Can which has a return of roughly 100:1 in high-value donations (counterfactually adjusted and time-discounted, but not all to AMF). Even if you assume that not a single member of GWWC gives another penny ever, the ratio is still 5:1.

That's precisely what's at issue. For one I don't find it all convincing, having talked with people who have been experienced with the organisation. And prima facie it's implausibly profitable. So it needs more justification than the prospectus gives.

Comment author: impala 27 November 2015 07:47:15PM 1 point [-]

This is catty, but has anyone else noticed how many of some CEA members' blog posts and Facebook updates are about how we should keep giving to and growing metacharities like CEA?

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