2015 donations

GiveWell: $6,000
I needed to use up company matching quickly before quitting and GiveWell is never a bad choice.
Raising for Effective Giving: $5,000
I am generally fairly skeptical of fundraising charities, especially fundraising charities targeting EAs.  Their mechanisms for evaluating effectiveness seem pretty weak (e.g. Giving What We Can counting donations pledged to be made in 40 years by people who have never donated once).*  That doesn’t mean they’re ineffective or can’t become effective, but I didn’t sign up for this movement to throw money and hope it was at the right place.

REG is different. First, they started with an extremely specific mission: convincing poker players to pledge small portions of their winnings to effective charities. This is a group that was donating minimally before, and is much more susceptible to quantitative arguments than the general population.  They count only money already donated, not pledges. And their plans for expansion seem similarly crafted for very specific niches.  (More or less the same model for fantasy football, microtransactions in video games).  The money raised goes to charities I like

Tostan: $5000
Continuing education courses in small African villages teaching things like literacy, numeracy, cell phone usage, basic medical info, human rights… a lot of different stuff, basically. That makes them hard to measure, and they turned down GiveWell when they tried. But! They did share their data with someone at the Gates Foundation, who found them extremely effective, and I trust his judgement. My focus isn’t “who is producing the highest numbers right now”, it’s “who has the best system for improving themselves and is aimed at the right thing.” Tostan’s classes grew out of requests from the community, so it some ways this is the continuing ed version of GiveDirectly.

That said, I’m working on getting numbers from them. There’s a few different charities I’ve given money to that called me to thank me and ask for my input on their long term plans. My response is usually “but I gave you the money on the assumption you were better at curing poverty than me”, but this year I’m hoping to leverage it into getting them to talk to one of the evaluator charities.** It is not my only plan for accomplishing this, but it seemed worth a shot. And I’d like to offer that as an argument for donating to charities that do things uniquely right while falling down in other ways: once they’re paying attention to you you can nudge them to do better.


*This was uncomfortable to write given that I have friends that work at fundraising charities, but I think they will understand that that is why I had to publish it.

**Specifically Giving What We Can, whose wildly optimistic numbers could theoretically be part of the puzzle that gets Tostan to publish more public data.  I’m also trying to get Treehouse to talk to Impact Matters, on the strength of last year’s donation.