Giving What We Can carries out reviews of its progress and plans every six months. This post describes what we are working on over the current period, the first half of 2014. It is a summary of our full 6 month plan. Having successfully improved the journey to membership over the previous period, we’re now concentrating on how to increase the number of people starting out on it. We’re doing that by testing various approaches developed following research over the last period. These include individual outreach on social media, a variety of events and a new website with a clearer pathway through it towards taking action.
Giving What We Can is working towards a world without extreme poverty. We’re doing that by inspiring donations to the organisations which are most effective in helping those in the developing world. Our key metric is our number of members, each of whom have pledged at least 10% of their lifetime income to the most effective charities. Over the first half of this year, we aimed to get 90 new members, which would take us to 497 members. That’s the same number as we gained over the second half of 2013, and about double the number of new members for each of the two previous periods. This target stems from two facts: Many of the people who joined over the last period were people who heard about us earlier, but we didn’t have a chance to follow-up with until Ben joined us on Community. On the other hand, we will be trying out new ways to interest people in effective giving.
Over the past year, our experience has been that the most promising strategy for increasing membership is to engage people personally, and provide a gradual pathway for people to join. Two possible ways to provide this are by running events, and by engaging people on social media. Both these allow for a more personal interaction and better follow-up than the mass media approach we had previously been using. Over the second half of 2013 we did market research, we tried reaching out individually to various groups on Facebook and via email and we tested whether we were able to run a few different types of events.
Following up on what we learned on the individual outreach side, we are engaging with the groups which seemed the most promising. By doing this over a more prolonged period, we hope to gather enough data to know how effective this is as a way of getting people involved. With regard to events, joint events seemed promising based on our running events with both YTFN and Global Hand, so we would like to run more of those. They also allow us to learn from groups who have more experience running events. Events at workplaces also seem promising, since they are convenient for young professionals who are typically very busy.
We have just launched our new website. It aims to be clearer to navigate, and to lead more directly to people getting involved and ultimately joining. We will be testing three immediate action points for the website, since we don’t yet know which of these would be popular: Try Giving, personal dashboards (which allow people to track their donations), and donating to the Giving What We Can Trust.
Over the last period, we talked to people who had already done Try Giving. Their impressions were positive, and most of those whose Try Giving period ended signed up again or joined. Therefore, we are promoting it to a great extent on the website (https://www.givingwhatwecan.org/get-involved/join-us). We aim to have 85 people sign up to Try Giving by the end of June.
The dashboards, called My Giving, are launching with the new site, so we will be testing them in this period. They provide a way for people to set themselves a giving goal and track their impact. We will test them as a good way for members and Try Givers to track their giving, and also advertise it directly as a way for people new to effective giving to engage with us.
In this period, we’re organising two exciting events – our annual Weekend Away, and the Effective Altruism conference Good Done Right. This will be the third year the Centre for Effective Altruism holds a weekend away. Over the last two years it has been predominantly team members and volunteers from Giving What We Can, 80,000 Hours and The Life You Can Save who came. This year we will encourage Giving What We Can members to come too, since it’s such a good opportunity for people to get to know others interested in effective giving.
Good Done Right is the first interdisciplinary conference on Effective Altruism, and is a great opportunity to get Effective Altruism recognised in academia. Speakers include Derek Parfit, arguably the most significant moral philosopher of the 20th Century, Rachel Glennerster who runs the Abdul Jameel Poverty Action Lab and Larissa MacFacquhar, a journalist for the New Yorker who has a book forthcoming on extreme morality. Following the conference, selected lectures will be published as a book by Oxford University Press.
The first half of 2013 is an exciting time of trying out different approaches – social media outreach, events and different pathways to membership through the website. Our aim is to find out which are the best ways to reach out to people and to encourage them to donate long-term to the most effective charities.
Between 1990 and 2010 the world succeeded in halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty. Eradicating extreme poverty is going to be still more difficult. But those of us in the developed world are in the fortunate position of having great resources at our disposal. By committing ourselves to sustained giving, and by using evidence to determine which charities to support, we really can have a significant impact on the lives of others.