Giving What We Can carries out reviews of its progress and plans every six months. This post and the following describe the results of our most recent round of these. In the second half of 2013 we focused in large part on improving our pathway from interest to membership. That focus seemed to pay off with the rate of new members joining almost doubling from the first to the second half of 2013.
Giving What We Can's vision is a world without extreme poverty. We aim to contribute to that vision becoming a reality 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, where each of our members have pledged at least 10% of their lifetime income to the most effective charities. Over this period we aimed to get 60 new members, increasing our average member growth from 8 to 10 per month. In fact, we gained over 80 new members, which increased our donations pledged to the most effective charities by $30million.
The last six months have seen many exciting developments. We moved into new offices at the University of Oxford. We share these with our parent organisation, the Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA) and our sister organisation 80,000 Hours. We also now work next to Oxford researchers working on big challenges faced by our world - the Future of Humanity Institute and Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics. Our ideas were introduced to high-level policy makers: our President, Toby Ord, visited No. 10 Downing Street on multiple occasions to advise on a range of policies for achieving good. Twenty interns joined us for a fortnight in September, producing among other things valuable research and a video for our home page. We improved our model for getting new members, resulting in a large increase in member growth. Below I explain how we achieved this. Over the first six months of 2013, we seemed to find that our strategy of getting a brief message about Giving What We Can to a very large number of people was not as effective as we had hoped in encouraging people to actually pledge. Therefore, in the year from summer 2013 to summer 2014 we are trialling an approach we hope to be more promising - of providing a personal and gradual pathway to joining. This begins with someone learning about effective giving and Giving What We Can through either an event, or through social media. We hope that people will then visit the website or show interest in a way that we can individually follow up on - providing their email address or engaging with our social media content. Over the second half of 2013, we focused on researching good ways to implement these various stages, and building capacity for them. Our market research indicated that social media is very important to our target audience (young professionals), and also that they are happy to attend events. Over this period, we tried a range of different kinds of events - Giving Games, talks and joint events with other organisations. Joint events appeared promising, since they are a good way to increase the size of the audience. We also tested a range of different kinds of social media posts, and have produced a range of online content, from posts to videos. The aim of this is to increase levels of engagement with our content, so that we can reach out to individuals to chat to them individually about effective giving. The next step for many people will be to visit our website. The website needs to have a straightforward path through it to taking action. It also needs to be informative but clear, and to make sure that we are presented as the kind of community people would like to be a part of. To achieve that, we have been making a new website. Over this period, we did the design and wrote the copy for new website, and began the coding. In order to allow people a more gradual way of getting involved, we believed that emphasising Try Out Giving to a greater extent would be effective. Try Out Giving allows people to challenge themselves to donate a percentage they choose for a period of time they choose. We were concerned, however, that this might result in people donating less than 10%, when they would otherwise have been willing to pledge 10%. Therefore, we talked to the people who had taken part in TOG so far. The majority expressed an interest in renewing their commitment when it ran out, and some took the 10% pledge. This indicates that people see TOG as a good way to work up to joining Giving What We Can fully. Our market research among young professionals indicated that people are unlikely to immediately take a 10% pledge, and that having an interim stage would work better. We worked to improve the joining process in a number of ways. We increased the number of ways of joining, by making an online form, and trialling people joining by phone (the latter turned out not to be popular). We tested out different amounts of follow up for people who had shown interest but not actually joined. We were surprised by how much follow up people appreciated, and how little of an imposition reminders were seen as. Improving this process made a big impact on our member growth. We presented our review to the Trustees of the Centre for Effective Altruism, and to our Advisory Board. Summaries of their comments can be found here and here. Both were very pleased with the progress over the period, and feel that it shows that the focus on membership seems to be an effective strategy. The review period is a good time to reflect on the impact that we can collectively have. $30million pledged to the most effective charities, the increase in pledged donations over this period, can help people in the developing world a really amazing amount. Donated to AMF, that would save around 10,000 lives. Rather than having their lives tragically cut short, each of those 10,000 people can go on to lead full and prosperous lives. It's truly remarkable that we are in a position to help others so much. You can also read our six month plan and the six month review in full.