Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Where Best to Give

Probably everyone reading this (myself included!) ought to donate more to effective charities.  But, as non-experts in the field, most of us shouldn't try to pick directly which charity (or charities) to support.  We're obviously not qualified to do that. Instead, we should pick which experts we trust to defer to.  Fortunately, there are now easily-recognizable experts in the field, which makes it easier than ever before for the rest of us to know where best to donate.

In short: most people should simply donate to GiveWell's Maximum Impact Fund, for a traditionally-focused "safe bet" that they can feel confident about.

But if you're the paradoxical sort who would like to do even better than "maximum" impact, and you trust Effective Altruist organizations, I would instead recommend donating through EA Funds.  You can divide your donation between four fund areas (each of which has its own specialist grant managers for disbursing the funds to where, within their remit, they are most needed):

The first is roughly equivalent to GiveWell's Maximum Impact Fund.  The second focuses on farm animal welfare, which is comparatively neglected yet surprisingly tractable, yielding significantly higher short-term expected value.  The third has astronomically higher expected value, though much greater uncertainty.  The fourth has high expected value through serving as a kind of philanthropic "compounding interest" investment, growing the EA community and securing more future donations for all other effective causes.

I personally would most highly recommend the third and fourth of these, though all are clearly extremely worthwhile -- I don't think you can really go wrong with any of them. (I tend to split my donations between all four, as a kind of "hedge" that's more emotionally than rationally motivated.)

Finally, for cause-specific recommendations (e.g. criminal justice reform, or aid to refugees), you can check out these great suggestions from the Open Philanthropy staff.  But I always encourage people to view their cause-specific giving as supplemental, not a substitute for the core philanthropic goal of promoting the overall good as effectively as possible.


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