Below is the monthly report for August in which we will re-highlight some key findings discussed in board meetings from the past 6 months.
Switch from board meetings to reports
The first noticeable change would be the switch back to monthly reports due to the fact that monthly board meetings took a lot more staff time compared to having one staff member write the report. It is also advantageous for the interested individuals following our work to see our monthly reports online.
Money moved update
Below are some basic estimates for money moved on a monthly basis. This does not take into account counterfactuals, nor does it include money which we moved that did not go directly through our bank account.
The reason April/May was higher than other months was due to our Living on Less peer-to-peer campaign. We expect to raise considerably more over the later half of the year due to more individuals donating closer to the end of the tax year and more of our time going towards direct fundraising vs. fundraising research.
Growing our team
An area we have had a lot of success in recently has been expanding the Charity Science team. So far, we have trial hired five individuals and interned one. We have learned much about the process of hiring (expect an upcoming post on this topic). The additional staff have allowed Charity Science to progress much faster and for us to try out different areas of fundraising more than otherwise possible. Our newest full-time hire, Kieran Greig, has consistently surprised us with his skill level and ability to learn efficiently and apply higher-level concepts. It is also worth noting that we have had some great volunteers periodically throughout the year, which helped us to complete work at a faster pace. We also have two other employees who are new, one of which has already started and another who will be starting soon.
Growing our funding
We have applied to EA Ventures and received a recommendation of being a strong charity to fund. We hope their funding will allow us to continue to grow our team (from 3 to 6 staff) and budget (from 50k to 100k).
We are now accepting donations and pledges for our 2016 funding needs. Our needs will be in the ballpark of $100,000. We will need new donors to help fill this funding gap.
Effective Altruism Global (EAG)
The Charity Science team gave a presentation at the recent EAG event and met many individuals who were able to offer advice, funding or feedback on our activities. One particularly insightful individual was Jeffrey Brown, from GIF and DIV, who was able to help us expand on the broader picture of effective charities..
We were also able to meet and talk with many members of the GiveWell team. The conversations we had, some of which were with the founders, have changed the ideas we have on how to run Charity Science (e.g. how quickly to expand) and the value we place on different aspects (e.g. value of an external review). Both concepts are elaborated further below.
Regarding the EAG conference, we were somewhat concerned about the focus areas as we found that it felt tilted more towards certain causes over others. This Vox article does a good job explaining some of our concerns.
Changing our board structure
We have decided upon a restructuring of our legal/advisory board. Ideally, we want Charity Science to be able to have a larger advisory board without the legal responsibility or time commitment of being part of the “legal board”. In the future, we plan on moving to a smaller legal board and a larger advisory board. We feel this will allow the best of both worlds in terms of being able to connect into a larger pool of advice without being slowed down by legal board decisions.
Valuing staff time
Another change we are working on is valuing staff time more. After having some conversations at EAG and with the GiveWell staff, I came to the realization that there are few people deliberately working to start effective charities as a way to give the most efficient aid. Many individuals I talked to expressed concerns that Charity Science should be more ambitious and focused on scaling. They also voiced concerns that we spent too much time trying to save money or keeping our ratios high, instead of also prioritizing absolute money moved. This realization has played into several spending decisions (e.g. the value and cost of doing an external review or the costs of spending time hiring staff vs outsourcing).
External vs internal review
Unfortunately, the two most promising individuals we contacted for an external review both no longer have the time to conduct it. It was suggested to us by GiveWell staff that an internal review might be quicker and be more in depth. They pointed out that it’s very hard to get somebody to volunteer their time, and thus not be biased by compensation, who will be able to put in sufficient amounts of time. We are leaning towards deprioritizing this project till after this Christmas.
Update on fundraising experiments
We made reports and used cluster thinking to pick promising areas.
Recently, we did shallow reviews on 20+ areas of fundraising and would like to elaborate on why we picked the three we did to experiment with. We used our staff and board members’ views as well as some soft judgement calls to finalize our fundraising choices.
Legacy giving has the highest average fundraising ratio of any measured fundraising technique - 22:1. It is currently not easy for individuals who want to support GiveWell charities in their wills, but we could set up a system that would make it fairly quick and easy to do so. We have already done research in the area for our will-writing guide and had some interest from other groups regarding coordination on this project.
Raising for Effective Giving (REG) has previously had major success in this area. Affiliate groups are universally recommended by fundraising experts. The Effective Altruism (EA) network could give a new niche organization a large initial member base. Many individuals expressed interest in specific niches and/or general workplace information content in order to allow them have a better explanation of effective charity.
Currently, we have a Google grant that gives us free online ads to test. If successfully managed, they will increase the amount from $10,000 to $40,000 a month. Similar organizations (e.g. GiveWell) have gotten promising enough returns to try to get further grants. We wanted to experiment with a donor acquisition strategy which targets individuals we have not met before, and online ads could sync well with gaining more attention for our new niche websites. If this method works well it could be an incredibly scalable strategy.
Overall, we think these areas are very promising, we expect to have some success, and most of all, we will definitely learn a lot.
This report has noted the key updates which occurred in the last few months. We will be writing to expand on some of the specific conclusions in the future.
This is a blog that details our month to month organizational progress as well as the more technical ideas we have. The RSS feed is just for this content, not for normal blog content.