Blog post

Giving What We Can in the new year

5 min read
8 Jan 2013

The end of 2012 was a busy time for Giving What We Can - we ran our first sixth-monthly review process. This involved presenting a progress report and a plan for the future to our advisory committee (composed of GWWC members from a variety of backgrounds) and to the trustees. Following on from that, I'd like to share with you a bit about our plans for the upcoming months, and the advisory committee's feedback. We've already described our research plans, so I'll be concentrating on other areas. If you'd like to see more detailed versions of our plans, retrospective review, and advisors' assessment, please get in touch.

GWWC is a community of people who care deeply about helping those in the developing world as much as possible. Therefore, GWWC's ultimate aim is to make sure that as much money as possible is given to the most cost-effective charities we can find. Our plan for the coming year has attempted to specify the ways in which we intend to do this in broad outline, as well as describe more precise plans for the next few months.

In fulfilling our ultimate aims, we have two key sub-goals:

1. To provide a complete resource for those seeking to help people in the developing world as much as possible …

  • … by providing high-quality information about poverty, and the most cost-effective ways of alleviating it, through our website, lectures, and publications.
  • … by creating a supportive community of givers.
  • … by providing a fast and reliable means of donating to the best poverty-related charities.

2. To get more people using this resource in guiding their giving …

  • … by increasing the number of members in gwwc, the number of chapters, the amount of money pledged, and the amount moved.
  • … by raising awareness of effective giving amongst the general public, governments, and NGOs.

We also want to support other organisations focussed on effective giving and effective altruism. This includes our sister organisations, 80,000 Hours and The Life You Can Save, as well as other organisations, like GiveWell and A Path That's Clear.

Providing a comprehensive resource:

  • The research team will continue to provide high quality information on charitable interventions and methodology, which we'll regularly share on the blog and the main website. We'll initiate a members' survey, to find out what information our members would most like to see on the website, and in what form. We will also be asking about how they first got involved, and any obstacles they faced, so that we can help others overcome similar problems.
  • Our web team is working on updating the members' forum. When the new forum is up and running, the research team will use it as their primary place for sharing drafts and discussing projects. As well as being handy for the research team, this will allow members to read about what we're working on, give comments, and suggest topics.
  • We recently polled our members to see whether they would be interested in GWWC running a donor advised fund, and since they were, we are currently looking at how to set one up. This will allow people to donate regularly and indefinitely to the same fund, which will then pay out to whichever charity is currently considered to be the most cost-effective. For busy people, we hope this would be useful because they wouldn't have to regularly check to see if our recommended charities have changed. It will also make it easier for people to leave money in their will to whichever charities are in future the most cost-effective.

Encouraging use of that resource:

  • GWWC is still in the fairly early stages of trying to find the best ways to spread the message of effective giving. So in the coming months we'll be doing some "market research", to try to find out how best to interest people in the idea. We'll also be studying the paths readers take through the website and working out in more detail which pages interest people, and lead to them reading on. That information will help us to improve the website such that more of the people who find it stay to learn more. For example, the charity quotations page gets a large number of hits from Google searches, and therefore we'll be experimenting with different ways to make it more engaging, and make it clear where to navigate to from there. Teams from Oxford Student Consultants will help us with this research.
  • The communications team has been working on using social media to make people aware of how much good they could do. For example, producing interesting infographics, which can be easily shared with others on Twitter and Facebook.
  • GWWC chapters, meanwhile, will be trying out different kinds of events. They will monitor how well each event works, and what resources can be provided centrally in order to help other Chapters run such an event.

Advice from the Advisory Committee:

The advisors felt that GWWC was growing rapidly, and that the 6 month plan contained a rather ambitious number of activities. They worried that having too many projects might mean losing sight of our overall goals. To avoid these dangers, we'll concentrate on prioritising carefully between activities, and working out how each of our actions links with our goals.

GWWC's roots lie in the University of Oxford, and, as such, many of our members are students, and many of our chapters are student chapters. The advisors were concerned about that leading to too much emphasis being placed on appealing to students. To address this, we will be concentrating on ensuring that we provide adequate and appropriate support for our non-student chapters, and to all our members.

The advisors discussed the relation between GWWC and similar organisations such as GiveWell. They questioned where GWWC would position itself relative to such organisations, in order to avoid duplication of work, and to do as much good as possible. This is a difficult question, which we are still in the process of answering. In research we're planning to focus to a greater degree on methodological considerations in the coming months, since that's where our comparative advantage lies. In a couple of months we will reassess whether this seems to be the best approach. We'll continue to think carefully about the best ways to work alongside other organisations, to make sure we're helping each other rather than competing.

In all our activities, we'll aim to monitor progress and to find out to what extent particular activities increase the amount of money going to the best charities. We're keen to keep evolving, and trying to do as much good as we can. If you'd like to help us in this endeavour, whether for a couple of hours a week, or full-time, we'd love to hear from you.