Outreach/education related to effective giving or effective altruism

Maybe you support a variety of our high-priority cause areas. Maybe you're persuaded by the multiplier argument for meta-charities in effective giving. Or maybe you think changing societal norms surrounding doing good is especially promising. If that's the case, you might want to support outreach/education related to effective giving and/or effective altruism.

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. (See What is effective altruism?)

What is effective giving?

Effective giving is using evidence and reason to inform your donation decisions, ensuring that you identify and donate it to the places where you can have the biggest impact. (See Effective Giving 101). While effective giving and effective altruism are related, they aren't the same. You can consider yourself an "effective altruist" without prioritising effective giving (perhaps you choose to focus on making a difference through your career instead, for example) and you can give effectively without considering yourself an "effective altruist."

  • Increasing the reach of both effective altruism and effective giving concepts 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. As such, we think that spreading the reach of concepts related to effective altruism and effective giving is important because of its large scale (though this can be difficult to predict).

  • Both effective altruism and effective giving are relatively new and small, and we think these are neglected ways of approaching how we can make a difference.

We think it's likely that if more people knew about the principles of effective altruism and effective giving, we could collectively make greater progress on global problems — through an increased focus on impact, evidence, and reason during both individual and organisational decision making.

  • Supporting projects and organisations in effective altruism seems quite tractable.

There are many effective altruism "meta-charities" working on a variety of approaches, and some of these have published clear evidence of their impact (e.g. Effektiv Spenden). There is significant online discussion (for example, on the EA Forum) about current projects and funding needs.

  • You think that your money will be used well

Organisations that value effective altruism and/or effective giving operate with the aim of doing as much good as possible; in cases where the organisation has already received the funding it needs, many 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.

You might believe you can do more good by supporting direct work on global problems rather than supporting organisations aiming to get more people to support direct work on global problems. Indeed, for effective altruism to be successful, at least some (if not most) of its resources must go towards making progress on these problems.

That said, we think the Founders Pledge report on multiplier organisations, as well as our own impact evaluation (which found that the average dollar spent on Giving What We Can operations likely moved about $30 to high-impact causes) are good indicators that outreach/education organisations are worth considering. This is part of what convinced us to add an option for donors to support our work directly at checkout; previously, we were reluctant to do this even though we knew we could use the funds to accomplish our ambitious goals.

Additionally, we think it's important to consider 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. This isn't the same as making a judgment about where everyone's resources should be allocated; you are only choosing your own donation. Thus, even if you feel strongly (as we do) that the bulk of money raised through effective giving/effective altruism should go directly towards making progress on global problems, It's perfectly consistent to think that your $100 would be best spent on a meta-charity (which would -- provided the meta-charity was performing well -- lead to more money going towards these high-impact causes overall).

Still, we think it's perfectly reasonable to decide not to support meta-charities and instead donate to direct work. This comes down to how much you trust that meta charities are indeed identifying new ways to do good or moving more money to high-impact causes and how well they are doing so.

Examples of effective altruism outreach/education

We've written more on 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.

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.

Examples of effective giving outreach/education

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. Engaging in effective giving outreach/education involves funding research that investigates which charities have the most impact, and also trying to increase donations to those charities.

Effective giving outreach/education is a big part of what we do at Giving What We Can: we aim to inspire others to donate effectively, and we also communicate research that helps people on their effective giving journey. But we're not the only organisation in this space. For example, GiveWell spends 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.

In general, we can think of effective giving outreach/education as encompassing three distinct activities. (Note that many organisations, including Giving What We Can, engage in more than one of these key components!)

  1. Identifying and communicating effective giving opportunities, as done by impact-focused grantmakers and charity evaluators.
  2. Fundraising for these giving opportunities, as done by fundraising organisations, effective giving infrastructure, and charity evaluators.
  3. Raising awareness about effective giving principles through education (such as our giving guides) and outreach (such as through newsletters, social media, or ad campaigns).

Below, we've listed some examples of the types of organisations engaging in one or more of the activities above:

Charity evaluators/grantmakers in the effective giving space

  • Charity evaluators focused on effective giving use high-quality evidence, reasoning, and rigorous analysis to produce recommendations on the most effective charities to donate to.
  • Grantmakers focused on effective giving identify impactful opportunities and support them by distributing funds.

Note that some of the organisations above are both evaluators and grantmakers; however, they are particularly good examples for the category we placed them in.

Fundraising organisations

  • Fundraising organisations encourage more people to give to highly effective charities, maximising the potential impact of their donations. These can be targeted to a specific community of people, such as athletes, or more broadly, to the general public.

Outreach/education organisations

We previously included a fund working on this cause area on our list of charity and fund recommendations, but have recently updated our recommendations list to reflect the results of our recent evaluators project and haven't looked into this cause area yet. As such, we don't currently include programs related to effective giving/effective altruism outreach and education on our recommendations list. Donors interested in supporting work in this area can find several promising donation opportunities on our donation platform.

Other resources

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