Recommended fund

Longtermism Fund

Longtermism Fund

The Longtermism Fund directs funding to highly effective organisations working to safeguard the long-term future of humanity. These organisations generally work to reduce the global catastrophic and existential risks that face humanity, though the fund also supports work that improves, promotes, and implements longtermist ideas. These grants are decided by expert grantmakers at Longview Philanthropy, with input from the research team at Giving What We Can.

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What is longtermism?

Longtermism is the idea that making sure the long-term future goes well is a key moral priority of our time. The ideas are covered extensively in What We Owe The Future by Giving What We Can’s co-founder, Will MacAskill. You can also learn more about this idea and find further resources in our page on safeguarding the long-term future.

What kind of work does the Longtermism Fund support?

The fund supports work that:

The Longtermism Fund aims to be a strong donation option for a wide range of donors interested in longtermism. The fund focuses on organisations that:

  • Have a compelling and transparent case in favour of their cost effectiveness that most donors interested in longtermism will understand; and/or
  • May benefit from being funded by a large number of donors (rather than one specific organisation or donor) — for example, organisations promoting longtermist ideas to the broader public may be more effective if they have been democratically funded.

There are other funders supporting longtermist work in this space, such as Open Philanthropy and the FTX Future Fund. The Longtermism Fund is managed by Longview Philanthropy, which works closely with these other organisations, and is well positioned to coordinate with them to efficiently direct funding to the most cost-effective organisations. See our FAQ for more information on why you would donate to this fund given there are other organisations funding similar work. Giving What We Can and Longview do not take any fees for managing the fund.

Organisations this fund is likely to support

The fund will make grants approximately once each quarter, and is aiming to make its first round of grants in October 2022. But to give donors a sense of the work they’d likely support, here are some examples of organisations that the fund would likely support if grants were dispersed today:

  • The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security (CHS) — CHS is an independent research organisation working to improve organisations, systems, and tools used to prevent and respond to public health crises, including pandemics.
  • Council on Strategic Risks (CSR) — CSR analyses and addresses core systemic risks to security. In its nuclear weapons policy work, CSR focuses on identifying nuclear systems and policies with the greatest potential to cause escalation into nuclear war (for example, nuclear-armed cruise missiles) and seeks to address them by working with key decision-makers.
  • Center for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence (CHAI) — CHAI is a research organisation aiming to shift the development of AI away from potentially dangerous systems we could lose control over, and towards provably safe systems that act in accordance with human interests even as they become increasingly powerful.
  • Centre for the Governance of AI (GovAI) — GovAI is a policy research organisation that aims to build “a global research community, dedicated to helping humanity navigate the transition to a world with advanced AI.”

Why donate to the Longtermism Fund?

We think there are three main reasons to support this fund:

  1. You want to reduce the chance of catastrophic and existential risks, thereby safeguarding the long-term future of humanity.
  2. The fund is managed by expert grantmakers, informed by years of research, who can help maximise the impact of your donation.
  3. By supporting a fund, not only are you donating as part of a community, but it’s also highly efficient: grantmakers can coordinate with organisations to ensure they receive the funding they can effectively use.

Why safeguard the long-term future?

Making sure future generations flourish may be the key moral priority of our time: there are far more people who could live in the future than have ever lived — but only if we give them the chance to live at all. If you think these future people matter, then choosing to support organisations that could give them that chance may be the most impactful decision you ever make. This idea is associated with longtermism, and is covered in depth in What We Owe The Future, written by Giving What We Can’s co-founder, Will MacAskill.

The immediate risks to our future may be so large that addressing them could still be one of the most cost-effective ways of improving the world, even if we only consider how they affect people alive today. Giving What We Can’s other co-founder, Toby Ord, estimates in his book, The Precipice, that there is a 1-in-6 chance of an existential catastrophe within the next century. For example, with recent developments in biotechnology, the risk of engineering a pathogen sufficiently lethal and contagious to end civilisation has increased.

If we are living through a time as dangerous as Toby Ord suggests, then this means that one of these existential catastrophes could be among the most likely causes of death to you and most people you know. Depending on how large you think these risks are, and how much you think the kind of work this fund supports might reduce them, you may conclude that donating to the Longtermism Fund is among the best ways you can have an impact on people alive today. If you care about the potentially vast number of future people, your impact could be difficult to comprehend.

Why use expert grantmakers to inform where your money goes?

Working out how to improve the long-term future in the most cost-effective ways is not an easy task. Longview Philanthropy works free of charge to help donors have as much impact as possible. They have received substantial praise from other reputable grantmakers, philanthropists, and researchers:

  • Holden Karnofsky (co-CEO of Open Philanthropy and co-founder of GiveWell): “Where you put your money as a philanthropist matters, and Longview Philanthropy is excellent at helping donors accomplish as much good as possible with their giving.”
  • Justin Rockefeller (philanthropist and Rockefeller Brothers Fund trustee): “Longview Philanthropy has directly and significantly influenced my giving, and I couldn’t possibly recommend them more highly to other donors.”
  • Will MacAskill (co-founder of Giving What We Can and associate professor at the University of Oxford): “Longview Philanthropy is the best resource in the world if you want to do the most good with your giving.”
  • See more testimonials from Toby Ord and Max Tegmark, among others.

Longview’s advice is extremely in demand, and in order to make the best use of their time, they have generally only worked with high-net-worth individuals giving at least $1 million USD per year. By donating to the Longtermism Fund, you can use this expertise to inform your donation, free of charge.

If you’re interested in learning more about Longview, we recommend our recent video with one of the fund managers: Longview’s co-CEO, Simran Dhaliwal.

Why donate through a fund, rather than by yourself?

Funds make it easier to ensure that effective organisations receive the funding they need, when they need it. Donating through an expert-led fund is often a much more effective way to support a cause than donating individually — even if you and the fund support the same organisations.

This is because individual donors aren’t able to easily coordinate with each other, nor the organisations they support. Whereas if they donate together through a fund, the fund manager can:

  • Learn how much funding the organisation needs.
  • Provide funding when the organisation needs it.
  • Monitor how that funding is used.
  • Work with and incentivise organisations to be even more impactful.

As a result, donors might prefer funds because their money can often be allocated more efficiently and effectively.

But organisations also often benefit from the fund model. This is because:

  • Funds can provide a consistent and reliable stream of funding for effective organisations to carry out their work, whereas relying on individual donations can often be a challenge.
  • Fund managers are able to provide support in addition to funding. They often give advice and share key connections that can help the organisation succeed.

In general, because a fund manager can spend more time investigating and supporting organisations than individual donors, funds are often a highly cost-effective donation option.

A final advantage of donating through a fund — and donating generally — is that you become part of a community. By supporting the Longtermism Fund, you’re donating with others who also care about safeguarding the long-term future. Your support shows politicians, policymakers, and other decision-makers that there’s public interest in recognising the importance of future generations. If you take action, it’s more likely they will too.

Why might you not donate to the Longtermism Fund?

We want donors to make decisions that best align with their values. With that in mind, there are several reasons you might choose not to donate to this fund.

You don’t find longtermism convincing, and generally don’t think reducing existential and catastrophic risks is cost effective

You might instead want to donate to other cause areas if you don’t find longtermism compelling, and don’t think reducing existential and catastrophic risks is the best way of improving people’s lives today. You might think this because:

  • You don’t think the future is especially valuable. You may be sceptical about how good the future is going to be. Perhaps you don’t think future people matter. Or perhaps you think they do, but you just doubt that the future will actually be very good. While some of the work this fund will support will aim to more broadly improve the future (rather than just reduce the risk of the risk of extinction), the fund managers of the Longtermism Fund take the view that the future is well worth preserving, and they will use that view to support their decisions about which organisations to fund. See here for more discussion.
  • It’s too speculative. It’s extremely difficult to determine how effective an organisation is at reducing existential and catastrophic risks. Compared to cause areas like global health and development, where there are interventions with large-scale studies highlighting their cost-effectiveness, work on reducing catastrophic and existential risks is more difficult to evaluate. Further discussion of this objection, and some responses, is on our page about safeguarding the long-term future You can also see 80,000 Hours’ discussion of the closely related objection that safeguarding the long-term future is not tractable.
  • You are less concerned about the existential and catastrophic risks longtermists tend to focus on. This fund will primarily focus on reducing risks from engineered pandemics, misaligned artificial intelligence, and nuclear security. You may think other areas, such as climate change, should be prioritised instead. For a greater discussion of why the fund focuses on these risks in particular, we recommend Toby Ord’s book The Precipice, and readers may also be interested in our research report on whether climate change is the world’s biggest problem.

You think you can find more cost-effective ways to donate on your own

While we think most people will likely do more good by relying on experts, there are certainly cases where people can do more good if they choose where to donate themselves. Here are some examples:

  • You have unique access to or knowledge of even better donation opportunities. There are some donation opportunities this fund cannot support, even if the fund managers thought they were extremely cost effective. For example, this fund cannot support political campaigns, and you might think that the best donation opportunity is to fund the political campaign of someone who you think will be highly effective if they were elected. Similarly, this fund aims to support organisations with values that are broadly understandable to donors interested in longtermism, but you may have local knowledge of hard-to-find or hard-to-explain donation opportunities that are even more cost effective. For those interested in using their networks and local knowledge to help them support especially cost-effective donation opportunities, we suggest reading Benjamin Todd’s discussion here.
  • You may think the best available donation opportunities are controversial or generally hard to explain. This fund generally supports work in longtermism that is broadly understandable by the public. If donation opportunities require a high degree of context in specific areas, we think they are better off being funded by donors with that context. If that’s you, then you may have more impact by donating independently, or through a fund that takes a less conservative approach like the Long-Term Future Fund.
  • You disagree with the fund managers about which work is best. For example, you may not think that the organisations listed above (which are indicative of the kind of work this fund is likely to support) are among the most cost-effective ways to support the long-term future.

You prefer donating to causes with more room for funding

Longtermism is a relatively new movement, but it’s been growing quickly — and the amount of funding available has grown particularly quickly. This doesn’t mean that additional funding doesn’t have value, as discussed in this report written by Giving What We Can’s researcher, Michael Townsend. However, some donors may prefer areas that have more room for funding (such as global health and development).

Fund managers

The fund’s grantmaking will be informed by all of Longview’s work, and therefore everyone in their team plays a role. The fund managers are:

  • Kit Harris — Longtermist Grants Officer at Longview Philanthropy
  • Simran Dhaliwal— Co-CEO of Longview Philanthropy
  • Tyler John— Global Priorities Research Programme Officer at Longview Philanthropy
  • Carl Robichaud— Nuclear Weapons Policy Programme Officer at Longview Philanthropy

Donate to the Longtermism Fund

FAQ

How are grants decided?

Longview Philanthropy aims to fund the most cost-effective organisations that fit within the fund’s mandate. Longview’s evaluation of cost effectiveness is informed by its past and ongoing work trying to find the most impactful longtermist organisations, as well as the work of other funders, such as Open Philanthropy and the FTX Future Fund.

Often, this will involve making grants to organisations where Longview’s team are especially involved (for example, having provided early funding, conducted thorough evaluations, or helped found the organisation). In other cases, Longview’s judgement of cost-effectiveness will be based on its judgement of evaluations done by other funders.

The size of the grants will be determined based on the resources given to the Longtermism Fund and the overall funding needs of the organisations being considered.

What’s the difference between the Longtermism Fund and the Long-Term Future Fund?

We think the Long-Term Future Fund is an excellent donation opportunity for donors with a lot of context on effective altruism and longtermism, but being accessible or legible to the broader public is not integral to the fund’s grantmaking — intentionally so. Instead, the Long-Term Future Fund has primarily worked within the niche of providing small to medium grants to individuals or early organisations. Often, this involves supporting researchers early in their careers, or highly targeted outreach efforts promoting longtermism. While we think this is extremely impactful, we expect many donors (especially those who are newer to the longtermist community) will prefer to support larger organisations whose work requires less context to understand. This fund aims to support those donors.

Given there are other organisations funding longtermist work, why should I donate to this fund?

We think, from a longtermist perspective, the value of additional donations is still significant, even after taking into account the amount of funding currently available. And we think this fund is an excellent way to make sure your donation goes to an organisation that has been evaluated by experts as a cost-effective way to improve the long-term future.

Yet, other donors funding similar work can have important implications for how valuable additional donations are — this is discussed more in the next question.

Will the Longtermism Fund’s grants cause other donors to give less to the same organisations?

In many cases, major funders will react to Longtermism Fund grants by making smaller donations to the recipient organisations. These funders will then have resources freed up for supporting other longtermist projects, which we see as a good thing. However, if your values differ from these other funders, then you may disagree.

We suggest looking through Open Philanthropy’s longtermist grants, and FTX Future Funds’ past grants, to inform whether your values are in fact aligned with other funders supporting longtermist work. You can also see some of the organisations Longview Philanthropy has supported in the past, but it is worth noting that many of their grant recommendations are not public.

Is the Longtermism Fund accepting funding applications?

Not at this stage. This is something we intend to review within the first year of the fund.

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