Advocating for effective altruism

Maybe you support a variety of our high-priority cause areas. Or maybe you're especially passionate about research, outreach, or changing societal norms surrounding charity. If that's the case, you might want to support the growth of the effective altruism movement.

What is effective altruism?

Effective altruism is the use of evidence and reason to figure out how to best contribute to helping others, and taking action on that basis. Giving What We Can is part of this movement, aiming to create a culture where people are inspired to donate to the world's most effective charities.

Why is advocating for effective altruism important?

Advocating for effective altruism could have an impact that extends beyond a single donation. For example, if you support an organisation doing charity evaluations to find the best evidence-based interventions, the impact of your donation does not end when the evaluations are finished. After those evaluations are published, they can keep influencing thousands of other donations. Other charities might read the evaluations and learn from them, improving their own programmes as a result. In the end, we think advocating for effective altruism is important because of its large scale (though this can be difficult to predict).

Effective altruism is relatively new and small, and we think it is a neglected way of approaching how we can make a difference. Donations to support effective altruism will be used with the aim of doing as much good as possible. In cases where the organisation has already received the funding it needs, many effective altruist organisations will choose not to hold excess resources. For example, GiveWell and Animal Charity Evaluators donate unneeded money in their budgets towards effective charities that need it more.

Supporting projects and organisations in effective altruism is quite tractable. There is significant online discussion (for example, on the EA Forum) about current projects and funding needs. There are many effective altruism "meta-charities" that conduct research or charity evaluations in order to increase the effectiveness of the movement. You could support these meta-charities directly (listed below), or ask them about other ways to help build the movement.

Examples of advocating for effective altruism

We've provided research reports into four causes advocating for effective altruism that we think are especially promising.

Community building for effective altruism

The effective altruism movement is relatively young, but has already had a significant impact. By supporting community building, you could help increase the number of people who are dedicated to doing as much good as possible. Donating to this area might help organisers run a fellowship that formally introduces people to the ideas of effective altruism, or give a university group the funding needed to run an event that helps students plan their careers so they can have more social impact.

Learn more about community building for effective altruism.

Conducting and communicating effective altruist research

Working out how to do as much good as possible is extremely difficult. There are so many things we don't know (like "How can we best address climate change?" or "Which animals have the capacity to suffer?") that it can be hard to know where to start. Organisations conducting research into these questions (and communicating what they learn) can help others do good more effectively. For example, 80,000 Hours investigates which careers have the highest social impact, and their work has been read by over 8 million people and changed at least 1,000 careers.

Learn more about conducting and communicating effective altruist research.

Promoting effective giving

One of the best ways of doing good, which almost anyone from a high-income country can do in some form, is donating to effective charities. Promoting effective giving involves both funding research that investigates which charities have the most impact, and advocacy for those charities. It's part of what we do at Giving What We Can: we aim to inspire others to donate effectively, and communicate research that helps people on their effective giving journey. But we're not the only organisation in this space. For example, GiveWell spends tens of thousands of research hours each year investigating which charities save or improve the most lives per dollar. By supporting this work, you're helping find and fund the world's most effective charities.

Learn more about effective giving.

Global priorities research

There are so many problems in the world that it can be hard to know which ones to work on. Global priorities research works on answering questions that can inform how we, as a global community, should be prioritising our resources. This can involve identifying previously unknown cause areas, or deciding which cause areas ought to receive more attention.

Learn more about global priorities research.

Why might you not prioritise advocating for effective altruism?

You might believe you can do more good by directly supporting the causes effective altruists focus on. Indeed, for effective altruism to be successful, at least some (if not most) of its resources must go towards doing good directly.

While we think this is a strong consideration, it is not necessarily decisive. We think you should consider your support "at the margin," which means thinking about what an additional donation can accomplish. For example, if you are donating $100, you should be looking for the charity where that $100 will do the most good. It's perfectly consistent to think that all of it should go towards meta-charities, even if you also think it would be a mistake if all effective altruism's resources went to such charities. The idea is that you're only choosing where your donation goes.

Charities and funds advocating for effective altruism

We generally recommend giving via a fund (here’s why). Our top-rated fund for advocating for effective altruism is the Effective Altruism Infrastructure Fund.

You can also donate to the following charities advocating for effective altruism:

And of course, here at Giving What We Can, we work to build the effective altruism movement by inspiring donations to the most effective organisations. You can donate to us here.

Other resources

To learn more about building the effective altruism movement, we recommend the following resources:

Our research

This page was written by Michael Townsend.

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