EA Funds are a way of giving effectively within specific cause areas. When you donate to a fund, you specify the cause area, and pool your donation with many like-minded donors. Cause area experts then decide how to best allocate the pooled donations to the most promising giving opportunities they can find.
Using EA Funds involves three basic steps:
- Choose how to split your donation across our four funds: Global Health and Development, Animal Welfare, Long-Term Future, and Effective Altruism Community Building.
- Make a single donation to CEA’s EA Funds which we split across the four funds as per your chosen allocation. You get a single tax receipt.
- The fund managers use their expertise in the field to find the highest-impact charities to support.
We currently offer four funds. Details about each fund and the considerations for and against donating to each fund are providxed below.
This fund will support organizations that work on improving and saving the lives of some of the poorest people in the world.
Global health and development is a highly tractable area; there's strong evidence that even small donations here can have a huge impact on improving people’s lives and preventing premature deaths.
The problem is also very large in scale. Just over 900 million people globally lived under the international poverty line of $1.95/day (in 2011 prices), based on the latest available data from 2012. The UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation estimates that about 16,000 children under the age of 5 die each day from preventable causes associated with extreme poverty.
While a large number of organizations work on helping those in extreme poverty, the scale of the problem means there are still many outstanding giving opportunities with room for more funding.
GiveWell – which fund manager Elie Hassenfeld co-founded – recommends charities in the global health and development space that are evidence-backed, thoroughly vetted, and underfunded. Their recommended interventions include: providing bednets to prevent deaths from malaria, providing pills to help treat cases of parasitic worm infections, and direct cash transfers to poor individuals to allow them to purchase whatever they believe will help them most.
Elie might also use this fund to support new organizations that seem promising, or other organizations in this area that he believes may be better in expectation that GiveWell's top charities but do not meet GiveWell's criteria for a top-charity recommendation.
For example, Good Ventures granted $200,000 to Charity Science: Health to support the first year of its work setting up a charity to send SMS immunization reminders. This fund could allow small donors to band together to create a large enough donation to fund other new charities in the same way. If no such opportunities are available, the fund would likely grant to GiveWell top charities.
Even if your current focus is global health and development, you might choose not to donate to this fund if you have strong preferences between improving lives and saving lives. GiveWell’s current recommended charities focus on both of these areas, so it’s unlikely this fund would focus solely on either improving lives or saving lives.
Donors with a very low risk tolerance may choose to avoid this fund because the fund is empowered to take risks at the organizational level by funding unproven, but promising new charities. Donors who want high levels of certainty that their donation will directly translate into good (even if their donation is lower value in expectation) should give to the GiveWell top charities that have the highest likelihood of having significant impact (the Against Malaria Foundation and GiveDirectly) instead of donating to the fund.
Donors with very high levels of risk tolerance might choose not to donate to the fund because they believe donating elsewhere would be better in expectation. Interventions in global health and development are generally tractable and have strong evidence to support them. These interventions might be less neglected or have less upside than other, less proven interventions. Therefore supporting global health and development might have lower expected impact than supporting these areas.
You might choose not to support this fund if you believe that shaping the trajectory of the long-term future is of overwhelming importance, and that global poverty interventions are not the best mechanism for shaping the future. Specifically, you might not support the fund if you believe some version of the following from Nick Beckstead’s PhD dissertation:
The importance of the far future: From a global perspective, what matters most (in expectation) is that we do what is best (in expectation) for the general trajectory along which our descendants develop over the coming millions of years or longer.
You might choose not to support the fund if you think donations to organizations working in effective altruism community building will produce more money for highly effective global health and development charities than the money they receive. Historically, this seems to have been true for Giving What We Can, Charity Science, and Raising For Effective Giving among others.
This fund will be heavily influenced by the research done by GiveWell. You might choose not to support the fund if you aren't familiar with GiveWell's work or if you don't have a high level of trust in their research. You can learn more about GiveWell's research here.
Finally, you might choose to donate elsewhere because you feel that while there is still room for more funding in top global health and development interventions, other areas are more neglected.
This fund will support charities that the fund manager believes may be better in expectation than those recommended by GiveWell, a charity evaluator focused on outstandingly effective giving opportunities. For example, by pooling the funds of many individual donors, the fund could support new, but very promising global health charities in getting off the ground (e.g. Charity Science Health or No Lean Season). These organizations may not be able to meet GiveWell’s rigorous evaluation criteria at the moment, but may be able to meet the criteria in the future. If no such options are available, the fund will likely donate to GiveWell for granting. This means we think there is a strong likelihood that the fund will be at least as good as donating in accordance with GiveWell’s recommendations, but could be better in expectation.
Why is Elie participating? Why doesn't he just recommend that people give to GiveWell or its top charities?
To date, Good Ventures has fully funded GiveWell's Incubation Grants, and Elie expects that Good Ventures will continue to be the primary funder of this type of opportunity in the future. Thus, until GiveWell finds opportunities that surpass Good Ventures' appetite, donations to this fund are most likely to either (a) displace Good Ventures funding of Incubation Grant-type opportunities (and cause it to go to GiveWell's top charities) or (b) go directly to GiveWell's top charities.
Nonetheless, donating to this fund is valuable because it helps demonstrate to GiveWell that there is donor demand for higher-risk, higher-reward global health and development giving opportunities.
Elie welcomes donations to this fund from people who are familiar with his work at GiveWell and share his priorities. To the extent that donors feel confident about Elie's judgment in this domain, they should expect giving to this fund to accomplish at least as much good as giving to GiveWell or its top charities. However, Elie does not believe there is a strong public case for trusting his personal recommendations over GiveWell's. Therefore, his default recommendation to donors who want to support the global health and development interventions with the most robust evidence base is to give to GiveWell's top charities.
This fund will support organizations that work on improving the wellbeing of nonhuman animals, especially farmed animals.
Animal Welfare is an area that is hugely important due to its scale and neglectedness.
Roughly 60B terrestrial farm animals are raised and slaughtered globally, in addition to roughly 80B farmed fish. Many experts now agree that some or all species of animals are very likely conscious and capable of feeling pain. Many of the current practices within animal agriculture are likely to cause extreme suffering over the course of many animals’ lives.
Speciesism – assigning different inherent values, rights, or considerations to individuals based on species membership – may bias us to value animals less than they might deserve. Although the overall field of animal welfare receives a large volume of donations, most of that money goes to the comparatively few animals in shelters, laboratories, etc. Relatively little funding goes to addressing the impacts of industrial agriculture on animal welfare. These factors make this area particularly neglected.
This fund is most likely to support interventions that are tractable and have the potential to achieve large-scale reductions in farm animal suffering. This is likely to include corporate and policy advocacy, research and promotion of plant-based and cultured animal product replacements, and awareness-raising and movement building. It may also include advocacy to individuals to reduce animal product consumption, and other approaches, where there is evidence of efficacy and scale.
For example, the Open Philanthropy Project, where Animal Welfare Fund Manager Lewis Bollard leads the farm animal welfare strategy, has previously funded corporate campaigns run by both Mercy for Animals and The Humane League (both also top charities supported by Animal Charity Evaluators) to eliminate battery cages and to reduce the suffering of broiler chickens.
If you're interested in animal welfare, you might still choose not to donate to this fund because of empirical or value based disagreements with the fund manager about the best way to help animals. Many of Lewis’ initial grants through the Open Philanthropy Project (detailed in his bio on this page) have focused on reforming the agricultural industry to reduce animal suffering. You might believe that it is morally wrong to endorse reforms to a cruel system regardless of the consequences, in which case this fund’s focus on reducing suffering as cost-effectively as possible may not be a good match for your moral worldview. You might also believe that it is feasible to reduce animal suffering in this way, but that this approach is less valuable in expectation than activities like vegan outreach or financing meat substitutes. Note that the Fund Manager's future recommendations may differ from his past recommendations, and this fund may also support vegan outreach or the development of animal product substitutes.
Risk-averse donors might choose not to focus on animal welfare because the evidence base for the most effective interventions is not yet as strong as in areas like global health and development.
Donors concerned about influencing the long-term future might choose not to focus on animal welfare in order to support organizations working on the long-term future instead. In particular, influencing the future might be more important, because a positive long-term future could significantly improve animal welfare, in addition to its other benefits.
Finally, donors should carefully evaluate the level of trust they have in the Open Philanthropy Project (Open Phil) before donating to the Animal Welfare Fund. The fund manager works at Open Phil and is therefore likely to be heavily influenced by their work and general approach. Additionally, there is some chance the fund will intentionally or unintentionally trade off against grants that would have been made by the Open Phil. If this happens, the impact of donations to this fund will be equivalent to the impact of the last dollar donated by Open Phil. Donors who think they will be able to have more impact than the last dollar donated by Open Phil may want to consider alternative donation options for this reason.
ACE recommends charities based on their performance on their seven criteria. The fund manager is not affiliated with ACE, and has his own views about which organizations are most effective. For example, Lewis’s initial grants at Open Philanthropy Project focused on corporate cage-free reforms, which are not the sole focus of ACE’s recommendations.
In addition, the fund manager may choose to support high-value organisations that might not qualify as an ACE top charity. For example, the fund could support newer but still promising organizations with less evidence to support them or organizations with smaller funding gaps than ACE’s top charities. If the fund manager believes that ACE’s top charities are best in expectation, the fund could be donated in accordance with ACE’s recommendations.
This fund will support organizations that work on improving long-term outcomes for humanity. Grants will likely go to organizations that seek to reduce global catastrophic risks, especially those relating to advanced artificial intelligence.
We believe that ongoing economic, social, and technological progress will likely lead to an extraordinarily bright future. At the same time, as the world becomes more interconnected, the magnitude and implications of the worst-case scenarios may be rising. Governments and corporations aren’t necessarily incentivized to focus on preparing for potentially globally disruptive events, so we’re seeking opportunities to help civilization become more robust.
Read more: Open Philanthropy Project
The Fund Manager has previously supported a wide variety of organizations such as the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, Future of Life Institute and the Center for Applied Rationality.
These organizations vary in their strategies for improving the long-term future but are likely to include activities such as research into possible existential risks and their mitigation, and priorities for robust and beneficial artificial intelligence.
One specific examples is the fund manager’s donation to help set up the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, a research organization at the University of Cambridge that studies existential risks and how to mitigate them.
Those focused on the long-term future might choose not to donate to the Long-Term Future Fund for at least four reasons:
First, donors who prefer to support established organizations. The fund manager has a track record of funding newer organizations and this trend is likely to continue, provided that promising opportunities continue to exist.
Second, donors who are pessimistic about the room for more funding available in the area. The Open Philanthropy Project has made global catastrophic risk reduction a major focus area and may fund many of the opportunities that the fund manager would find promising. The fund manager has noted that “with Open Phil as a funder in this space it has been harder to find opportunities that are as promising and neglected as we were able to find previously.”
Thirdly, donors who are skeptical that artificial intelligence constitutes a significant global catastrophic risk. While the Long-Term Future Fund is in principle open to funding organizations that seek to reduce any type of global catastrophic risk—including risks from extreme climate change, nuclear war, and pandemics—the fund manager is likely to prioritize organizations working on risks posed by artificial intelligence, at least in the short-term.
Finally, donors with certain views about the kinds of futures we ought to aim for. They might favor interventions which make humanity more likely to have a future, through activities like reducing existential risks. Others might prefer activities which reduce the likelihood that future beings experience suffering. Finally, donors might prefer activities which focus on increasing the likelihood that we achieve extremely positive futures. Donors with strong views in these areas should consider directly supporting organizations that work to achieve the desired outcomes.
Donors might choose not to prioritize the entire area of improving the long-term future – and therefore not support the Long-Term Future Fund – for at least two reasons:
First, donors might conclude that improving the long-term future is not sufficiently tractable to be worth supporting. It is essentially impossible to know whether actions taken now will actually improve the long-term future. To gain feedback on their work, organizations must rely on proxy measures like public support for relevant ideas or making progress on relevant research questions. Unfortunately, however, there is no robust way of knowing whether succeeding on the proxy measure will cause an improvement to the long-term future.
Second, donors may think that future or possible beings do not matter morally, or matter less than beings who currently exist. For example, one might hold a version of the Person-Affecting View. According to this view, "an act can only be bad if it is bad for someone, so that there is no moral obligation to create people nor moral good in creating people." (Parfit (1991), p. 114) There are different views on what counts as “extra” people, but some options include people that do not presently exist (Presentism) and people that will never actually exist (Actualism). (For a review of these arguments as it concerns the long-term future, see chapters 4 and 5 of Nick Beckstead's PhD dissertation). While donors holding such views may consider supporting other problem areas, it is also plausible that reducing global catastrophic risks can have high expected returns on more conventional, short-term metrics, such as expected number of lives saved.
Finally, donors should carefully evaluate the level of trust they have in the Open Philanthropy Project (Open Phil) before donating to the Long-Term Future Fund. The fund manager works at Open Phil and is therefore likely to be heavily influenced by their work and general approach. Additionally, there is some chance the fund will intentionally or unintentionally trade off against grants that would have been made by the Open Phil. If this happens, the impact of donations to this fund will be equivalent to the impact of the last dollar donated by Open Phil. Donors who think they will be able to have more impact than the last dollar donated by Open Phil may want to consider alternative donation options for this reason.
Why donate to this fund instead of directly to organizations working on improving the long-term future?
To make an effective donation, individual donors must spend significant time answering questions about which interventions are most likely to make progress in this area, which organizations are most effectively executing these interventions, and which organizations have funding gaps that are unlikely to be filled from elsewhere.
For areas such as global health and development or animal welfare, donors can get guidance from charity evaluators like GiveWell or Animal Charity Evaluators. No such organizations exist in improving the long-term future.
Finding promising opportunities in this area is therefore especially challenging for individual donors. The Fund Manager has a strong network in this area which he can use to identify and evaluate new opportunities. In particular, he has a track record of being an early funder of promising opportunities like CSER and FLI. These opportunities are very hard for individual donors to find without first building strong networks in the space.
This fund will support organizations which increase the amount and quality of money, talent, and ideas available to tackling the world’s biggest problems. It is anticipated that the fund will go to support activities in the effective altruism community, broadly construed.
Disclosure: Fund manager Nick Beckstead is a trustee of the Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA). CEA works to build the effective altruism community, and as such is a potential recipient of donations to this fund.
This fund supports building and strengthening the capabilities of people and organizations trying to do good in a cause-neutral, outcome-oriented way — that is, the effective altruism community (broadly construed). When successful, such investments yield a flexible multiplier on the next most high-priority cause and allow us to build up resources which will hopefully be flexible enough to support the causes and opportunities that are later found to be the most promising. Donors should keep in mind that the multiplier can be somewhat delayed and that funding successes in object-level areas can also yield multipliers of their own.
Building the community of people working on effective causes is especially important for those who expect their opinions about the highest-priority areas to change a great deal. If the effective altruism community grows, that growth builds up general capabilities to take the best opportunities as they are discovered. It seems uncrowded, because it’s a new cause and there appear to be good opportunities available. It seems tractable because there are definite advocacy opportunities which have worked in the past and whose success can be measured. Examples include: encouraging people to join Giving What We Can or take the Founders Pledge. More direct evidence for effectiveness comes from the strong success to date of many of the projects in the area, like GiveWell.
Moreover, in the recent past, investing in promoting effective altruism has resulted in significantly more resources being invested in the highest-priority areas than would have occurred through direct donations. For instance, for every US $1 invested in Giving What We Can, at least $6 have been moved to high-priority interventions. Donors should note that the marginal return on funds is less clear for many of these opportunities, with some factors pointing to a higher number and some factors pointing to a lower number. Additionally, the area may be important because it’s a brand new area where there is much to learn, and we expect further work to have high value of information.
In Nick's Fund Manager bio on this page, you can see a list of organizations the current Fund Manager has previously supported, which include a wide variety of organizations such as the Center for Applied Rationality, Charity Entrepreneurship and the Centre for Effective Altruism.
These organizations vary in their strategies for movement building but are likely to support activities such as effective altruism conferences like EA Global, providing information and training to the effective altruism community, and encouraging more people to donate effectively.
For example, this fund could be granted to an organization like 80,000 Hours to use at their discretion or fund a specific project such as the grant that went to setting up the Oxford Prioritisation Project.
Those focused on movement building might choose not to donate to the Movement Building Fund for at least four reasons:
First, if donors prefer donations to established organizations over donations to emerging organizations, then this fund might not meet these preferences. The fund manager has a track record of funding newer organizations, and this trend is likely to continue as long as promising opportunities continue to exist.
Second, supporters of movement building might choose not to donate through the Movement Building Fund if they are pessimistic about the room for more funding available in the movement building space. The Open Philanthropy Project recently announced that it would start considering grants in effective altruism and that this effort would be lead by Nick Beckstead, the Movement Building Fund manager. Nick has noted that following Open Philanthropy's involvement in this area, there are now fewer promising but neglected donation opportunities here. (Source)
third, even donors focusing on movement building might choose not to donate to this fund if they are concerned about conflicts of interest. While we think the fund manager has a history of making fair and impartial decisions, the fund manager is a trustee of the Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA), and CEA is a potential recipient of donations from the fund. This conflict may warrant investigating the space independently instead of donating through the Movement Building Fund.
Finally, donors should carefully evaluate the level of trust they have in the Open Philanthropy Project (Open Phil) before donating to the Effective Altruism Community Fund. The fund manager works at Open Phil and is therefore likely to be heavily influenced by their work and general approach. Additionally, there is some chance the fund will intentionally or unintentionally trade off against grants that would have been made by the Open Phil. If this happens, the impact of donations to this fund will be equivalent to the impact of the last dollar donated by Open Phil. Donors who think they will be able to have more impact than the last dollar donated by Open Phil may want to consider alternative donation options for this reason.
Donors might choose not to prioritize movement building as a general area – and therefore not to support the Movement Build Fund – for at least two reasons:
First, movement building organizations are generally riskier than supporting effective charities directly. This is because each step between the intervention used by a movement building organization and the ground-level impact increases the probability that the intervention is ineffective. For example, Giving What We Can uses donations to encourage people to take its pledge which, in turn, results in donations to effective charities. This could fail if 1) Giving What We Can cannot turn money into additional pledges, or 2) additional pledges don’t result in more money donated to effective charities. Donors with lower risk tolerance may choose to support effective charities directly as a result.
Second, donors may choose not to support the Movement Building Fund if they do not wish to indirectly support all of the problem areas that the EA community is likely to support. This includes areas like Global Health and Development, Animal Welfare, Long-Term Future, and any future problem areas that the community deems effective to address. For example, Dylan Matthews criticized the EA community in 2015 for being overly self-promoting and overly concerned about risks from advanced artificial intelligence (one response to this criticism here). Those with strong views about which problem areas they do not wish to support might avoid movement building as a result.
To make an effective donation, individual donors must spend significant time answering questions like: Which interventions are most likely to make progress in this area? Which organizations are most effectively executing those interventions? Do those organizations have funding gaps that are unlikely to be filled from elsewhere?
In areas such as Global Health and Development or Animal Welfare, donors can get guidance from charity evaluators like GiveWell or Animal Charity Evaluators. No such evaluators exist in movement building.
Finding promising opportunities in this area is therefore especially challenging for individual donors. The Fund Manager can use his strong network in the effective altruism community to identify and evaluate new opportunities. In particular, he has a track record of being an early funder of promising opportunities like Charity Entrepreneurship and Founders Pledge. These opportunities are very hard for individual donors to find without first building strong networks in the space.
This fund will support organizations that work on improving and saving the lives of some of the poorest people in the world.
This fund will support organizations that work on improving the wellbeing of nonhuman animals, especially farmed animals.
This fund will support organizations that work on improving long-term outcomes for humanity.