Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

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Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by tc101 »

I have been thinking a lot about how best to donate to charities. I am reading about the effective altruism movement. Here are a few extracts from useful web sites.

From the givewell.org web site:

"Charities that demonstrably change lives are the exception, not the rule. Why? Fundraisers often rely on social connections or emotional pleas, and almost never make fact-based demonstrations of programs' effectiveness. This means that lots of charities raise money and run programs without ever demonstrating that their programs actually work. Why should charities have to demonstrate that their programs work?

Experts, governments and foundations have tried (and often failed) for decades to solve many of the same problems charities are working on today. This means that many charities may not be accomplishing anything at all.

It's common for charities to make big promises, and in most cases they can't deliver. But after researching hundreds of charities and the programs they carry out, we've found a few that can truly demonstrate impact. With these charities, your donation can make a real difference. "

From the effectivealtruism.org web site:

"Most of us want to make a difference. We see suffering, injustice and death, and are moved to do something about them. But working out what that ‘something’ is, let alone actually doing it, can be a difficult and disheartening challenge.

Effective altruism is a response to this challenge. It is a research field which uses high-quality evidence and careful reasoning to work out how to help others as much as possible. It is also a community of people taking these answers seriously, by focusing their efforts on the most promising solutions to the world's most pressing problems."
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by TheTimeLord »

Sounds very woke. I don't disagree many charities are ineffective or spend way too much on fund raising but how in the world do they know what I think is the world's most pressing problems or that those problems are my priority?
by focusing their efforts on the most promising solutions to the world's most pressing problems.
There is a saying in animal rescue that I think applies to how I feel.
“Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.”
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by redstar »

TheTimeLord wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 10:31 am Sounds very woke. I don't disagree many charities are ineffective or spend way too much on fund raising but how in the world do they know what I think is the world's most pressing problems or that those problems are my priority?
by focusing their efforts on the most promising solutions to the world's most pressing problems.
There is a saying in animal rescue that I think applies to how I feel.
“Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.”
Essentially there’s different branches/priorities of EA: human welfare, animal welfare, global existential risk, etc. Different people value these more or less. For example I care a lot more about human suffering than animal suffering, whereas my wife cares more about animals than I do. Regardless of what you find important, the EA movement has similar methodological goals: instead of looking at just charity overhead, they want to know how much “good” each dollar can do. And there’s different models for these, but they publish their research and cost effectiveness models. I would say if you care about humans, look at GiveWell’s research and their recommendations. If you care about animals, take a look at Animal Charity Evaluators.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by Chicken Little »

Disrupting charity?
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by TheTimeLord »

redstar wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 10:48 am
TheTimeLord wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 10:31 am Sounds very woke. I don't disagree many charities are ineffective or spend way too much on fund raising but how in the world do they know what I think is the world's most pressing problems or that those problems are my priority?
by focusing their efforts on the most promising solutions to the world's most pressing problems.
There is a saying in animal rescue that I think applies to how I feel.
“Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.”
Essentially there’s different branches/priorities of EA: human welfare, animal welfare, global existential risk, etc. Different people value these more or less. For example I care a lot more about human suffering than animal suffering, whereas my wife cares more about animals than I do. Regardless of what you find important, the EA movement has similar methodological goals: instead of looking at just charity overhead, they want to know how much “good” each dollar can do. And there’s different models for these, but they publish their research and cost effectiveness models. I would say if you care about humans, look at GiveWell’s research and their recommendations. If you care about animals, take a look at Animal Charity Evaluators.
I know some folks in this industry, and yes it is an industry, and have asked them for their feedback on the topic.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by redstar »

The best intro book on the topic might be Doing Good Better by William MacAskill, who coined the term I believe. It goes through some examples, showing how your dollar can go farther by looking at global purchasing power and how effectiveness of charities matters a lot.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by JoMoney »

What is the question?
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by tc101 »

Disrupting charity?
I don't understand. Please say more.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

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What is the question?
No direct question. Curious about other people's knowledge of and thoughts about effective altruism.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by humblecoder »

TheTimeLord wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 10:31 am Sounds very woke. I don't disagree many charities are ineffective or spend way too much on fund raising but how in the world do they know what I think is the world's most pressing problems or that those problems are my priority?
by focusing their efforts on the most promising solutions to the world's most pressing problems.
There is a saying in animal rescue that I think applies to how I feel.
“Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.”
Disclaimer: I know nothing about Effective Altruism (note the caps)

With that out of the way, I partially agree with you. If you ask 100 people what the world's most pressing problem is, you'll get 100 different answers. Everybody has their own priorities on what they consider pressing.

I think the point that the OP is trying to make is not about looking at what % of your donation goes to overhead (the standard way of evaluating charities), but it is about looking at, for each dollar the charity spends on their core mission, how effective is their method at combating whatever problem it is that they are trying to solve.

For instance, you bring up animal rescue. If your goal is improving the welfare of dogs, a charity can take multiple approaches to this:

1. They could foster dogs from the local municipal shelter while seeking a forever home for these dogs.
2. They could build a larger shelter and provide ongoing funding so that the dogs don't have to be put down due to lack of space/resources.
3. They could focus on providing spays and neuters at no costs in order to keep the unwanted dog population down.
4. etc

Which one of these approaches has the greatest impact on your goal of maximizing the welfare of dogs? I don't know. However, as a potential donor, wouldn't it nice to know which of these approaches had the most impact on animal welfare per dollar? As BH's we analyze and overanalyze our own finances, so this is just extending that concept into the realm of charitable giving. :happy
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by tc101 »

I don't disagree many charities are ineffective or spend way too much on fund raising but how in the world do they know what I think is the world's most pressing problems or that those problems are my priority?
redstar answered this very well in his next post. I can't add much to what he said.

I am unsure about what I think is the world's most pressing problem, but when I decide I would like to be able to donate most effectively to solve that problem. The people in the effectivealtruism and givewell web sites are doing the best analysis of charities that I have seen anywhere.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by TheTimeLord »

humblecoder wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 11:15 am
TheTimeLord wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 10:31 am Sounds very woke. I don't disagree many charities are ineffective or spend way too much on fund raising but how in the world do they know what I think is the world's most pressing problems or that those problems are my priority?
by focusing their efforts on the most promising solutions to the world's most pressing problems.
There is a saying in animal rescue that I think applies to how I feel.
“Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.”
Disclaimer: I know nothing about Effective Altruism (note the caps)

With that out of the way, I partially agree with you. If you ask 100 people what the world's most pressing problem is, you'll get 100 different answers. Everybody has their own priorities on what they consider pressing.

I think the point that the OP is trying to make is not about looking at what % of your donation goes to overhead (the standard way of evaluating charities), but it is about looking at, for each dollar the charity spends on their core mission, how effective is their method at combating whatever problem it is that they are trying to solve.

For instance, you bring up animal rescue. If your goal is improving the welfare of dogs, a charity can take multiple approaches to this:

1. They could foster dogs from the local municipal shelter while seeking a forever home for these dogs.
2. They could build a larger shelter and provide ongoing funding so that the dogs don't have to be put down due to lack of space/resources.
3. They could focus on providing spays and neuters at no costs in order to keep the unwanted dog population down.
4. etc

Which one of these approaches has the greatest impact on your goal of maximizing the welfare of dogs? I don't know. However, as a potential donor, wouldn't it nice to know which of these approaches had the most impact on animal welfare per dollar? As BH's we analyze and overanalyze our own finances, so this is just extending that concept into the realm of charitable giving. :happy
I think the problem is how you define most impact. Take Animal Rescue for example. They often take in animals only to discover they are sick or have issues requiring much greater resources than planned. I would assume with a greatest impact model you would euthanize those animals using the rational you can help more healthy animals with your resources that way. Yet I know no one in Animal Rescue who would see it that way as they see animals as individuals. I guess what I am trying to say is letting other people tell you by their measures what is most important and most impactful is not an attractive proposition for me.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by TheTimeLord »

tc101 wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 11:17 am
I don't disagree many charities are ineffective or spend way too much on fund raising but how in the world do they know what I think is the world's most pressing problems or that those problems are my priority?
redstar answered this very well in his next post. I can't add much to what he said.

I am unsure about what I think is the world's most pressing problem, but when I decide I would like to be able to donate most effectively to solve that problem. The people in the effectivealtruism and givewell web sites are doing the best analysis of charities that I have seen anywhere.
The problem from my perspective in deciding what is most effective is your have to define what you see as the most effective outcome. So even if their research is top notch, in my mind I am not sure we would agree on the desired outcome or definition of effective. Obviously it is easier to define the most effective or desirable outcome with some causes than others.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by wolf359 »

I look up measurements of how much the charity is spending on fundraising and administrative overhead rather than directly on its mission. Then I pick the charity based on which mission I feel is currently the most important.

Right now, I am focusing on charities that are foodbanks. We are fortunate in that the current economy is providing for us, but COVID has hit others very hard. The food lines from the Great Depression are back. They're just not in your immediate (well-off) neighborhood. Just visit your local food bank or google them and you'll see them.

My pre-COVID favorite was the Red Cross, due to their work with blood drives and disaster relief.

I did use effectiveness measures when originally selecting charities. Those trying to solve problems, like funding businesses, building clean water projects, or providing education, were very difficult to measure. I ended up settling on just meeting immediate needs for now. I don't need to measure that.

Please note that the last tax cut made it less likely that people will itemize, and itemizing is the way to claim a charitable contribution. However, the CARES Act earlier in the year allows you to deduct up to $300 in charitable contributions even if you don't itemize (that's only for 2020.) There's a tax incentive to donate at least a little this year.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by frugalprof »

Peter Singer has a good summary of this movement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Diuv3XZQXyc

It's a utilitarian approach to charity. I prefer to give to local organizations that I know well.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by humblecoder »

TheTimeLord wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 11:22 am I think the problem is how you define most impact. Take Animal Rescue for example. They often take in animals only to discover they are sick or have issues requiring much greater resources than planned. I would assume with a greatest impact model you would euthanize those animals using the rational you can help more healthy animals with your resources that way. Yet I know no one in Animal Rescue who would see it that way as they see animals as individuals. I guess what I am trying to say is letting other people tell you by their measures what is most important and most impactful is not an attractive proposition for me.
I just kept it generic when I said "improving the welfare of dogs", but you could come up with your own definition of what the goal of your charitable giving is. I would agree with you that the goal should include some caveat regarding not euthanizing any animals. Feel free to wordsmith that goal however you want in order to avoid a page long debate on semantics! :happy

My main point is that, given some charitable goal (however you define it) wouldn't it be nice to know what approach gives you the biggest bang for the buck?
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by tc101 »

I think the point that the OP is trying to make is not about looking at what % of your donation goes to overhead (the standard way of evaluating charities), but it is about looking at, for each dollar the charity spends on their core mission, how effective is their method at combating whatever problem it is that they are trying to solve.
Exactly
Which one of these approaches has the greatest impact on your goal of maximizing the welfare of dogs? I don't know. However, as a potential donor, wouldn't it nice to know which of these approaches had the most impact on animal welfare per dollar? As BH's we analyze and overanalyze our own finances, so this is just extending that concept into the realm of charitable giving.
That is the point.

And concerning the dog suffering issue, the most effective thing might be an education campaign encouraging pet owners to neuter their dogs.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by snackdog »

The idea of just sending checks to large organizations (often with massive advertising budgets) claiming to do anything nationally or internationally seems ridiculous. These are often shown to be ineffective organizations rife with waste if not outright corruption.

Select the charities you personally know the best. This means they are probably local and you are directly involved with them already and can see exactly what good they produce. You should either be helping people directly yourself or no more than one hop away if you make a donation (i.e. the person/org receiving from you is redistributing it locally).
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by Ray_McKigney »

I want to give to charities that reduce the most amount of suffering.

These aren't necessarily going to be local charities or charities that I currently know well. In fact, they're almost certainly not.

While I support https://www.givewell.org, I'm also not going to tell anyone else what they should or shouldn't do with their charitable giving.
Last edited by Ray_McKigney on Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

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The idea of just sending checks to large organizations (often with massive advertising budgets) claiming to do anything nationally or internationally seems ridiculous. These are often shown to be ineffective organizations rife with waste if not outright corruption.

Select the charities you personally know the best. This means they are probably local and you are directly involved with them already and can see exactly what good they produce.
Several people have said that. I don't know. I'm thinking about it.

I don't know much about local charities. They could be just as corrupt and wasteful as the big international charities. The only local charities I have had anything to do with are refugee resettlement groups from when I was volunteering to teach refugees English. I was not aware of any corruption in the groups, but they did seem pretty disorganized and wasteful. The people working there probably had good intentions, but they didn't seem to work as hard or as smart as people working in for profit organizations. That may be the nature of non-profits in general, or maybe just those particular groups I was working with.

If you have in depth knowledge of a good local group, that may be the best way to donate, but most people don't have that knowledge. A local group could be just as wasteful and corrupt as a big international group.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by getthatmarshmallow »

TheTimeLord wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 10:31 am Sounds very woke. I don't disagree many charities are ineffective or spend way too much on fund raising but how in the world do they know what I think is the world's most pressing problems or that those problems are my priority?
by focusing their efforts on the most promising solutions to the world's most pressing problems.
There is a saying in animal rescue that I think applies to how I feel.
“Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.”

They predate "woke", and their methodology is roughly "maximize quality adjusted life years." The idea is that some charitable giving has bigger effects - your dollar buys more good often due to downstream effects. For example, suppose you could give money to provide more books in schools overseas or to prevent intestinal worms. As it turns out, curing worms means less school missed, and better educational outcomes, and better economic effects, so if your aim is to improve people's lives, your money is best directed towards deworming programs.

Or to take the dog example: one might discover that funding dog training services reduces the number of dogs placed in shelters, and that doing that is cheaper than funding rehoming services or expanding no kill shelters.

Givewell does that analysis of what's more effective. One can donate to them or directly to the agencies that score well. It is based on Singer's work on poverty (hence the focus on the developing world) and to the "giving what we can" movement out of Oxford.

Very Bogleheadish, IMO, at least with respect to efficiency.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

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getthatmarshmallow wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:05 pm
TheTimeLord wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 10:31 am Sounds very woke. I don't disagree many charities are ineffective or spend way too much on fund raising but how in the world do they know what I think is the world's most pressing problems or that those problems are my priority?
by focusing their efforts on the most promising solutions to the world's most pressing problems.
There is a saying in animal rescue that I think applies to how I feel.
“Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.”

They predate "woke", and their methodology is roughly "maximize quality adjusted life years." The idea is that some charitable giving has bigger effects - your dollar buys more good often due to downstream effects. For example, suppose you could give money to provide more books in schools overseas or to prevent intestinal worms. As it turns out, curing worms means less school missed, and better educational outcomes, and better economic effects, so if your aim is to improve people's lives, your money is best directed towards deworming programs.

Or to take the dog example: one might discover that funding dog training services reduces the number of dogs placed in shelters, and that doing that is cheaper than funding rehoming services or expanding no kill shelters.

Givewell does that analysis of what's more effective. One can donate to them or directly to the agencies that score well. It is based on Singer's work on poverty (hence the focus on the developing world) and to the "giving what we can" movement out of Oxford.

Very Bogleheadish, IMO, at least with respect to efficiency.
The question is what is the improvement here versus Guidestar or CharityNavigator?
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by getthatmarshmallow »

TheTimeLord wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:07 pm
getthatmarshmallow wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:05 pm
TheTimeLord wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 10:31 am Sounds very woke. I don't disagree many charities are ineffective or spend way too much on fund raising but how in the world do they know what I think is the world's most pressing problems or that those problems are my priority?
by focusing their efforts on the most promising solutions to the world's most pressing problems.
There is a saying in animal rescue that I think applies to how I feel.
“Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.”

They predate "woke", and their methodology is roughly "maximize quality adjusted life years." The idea is that some charitable giving has bigger effects - your dollar buys more good often due to downstream effects. For example, suppose you could give money to provide more books in schools overseas or to prevent intestinal worms. As it turns out, curing worms means less school missed, and better educational outcomes, and better economic effects, so if your aim is to improve people's lives, your money is best directed towards deworming programs.

Or to take the dog example: one might discover that funding dog training services reduces the number of dogs placed in shelters, and that doing that is cheaper than funding rehoming services or expanding no kill shelters.

Givewell does that analysis of what's more effective. One can donate to them or directly to the agencies that score well. It is based on Singer's work on poverty (hence the focus on the developing world) and to the "giving what we can" movement out of Oxford.

Very Bogleheadish, IMO, at least with respect to efficiency.
The question is what is the improvement here versus Guidestar or CharityNavigator?
As far as I know Guidestar and Charity navigator focus mostly on "does the money go to the cause it promotes, minimizing overhead" and not "is the cause itself the best use of dollars." To expand the analogy, if Poodle Retirement Community Mansions spends 99.5% of it's funds on poodle mansions, it will score well on Charity Navigator. It will not score well according to Givewell because the aim of poodle mansions is inferior in terms of quality-adjusted life years to interventions like malaria nets and vaccinations. Givewell also includes overhead efficiency, but they have a distinct philosophical position, too.

So if your aim is to find the most efficient poodle mansions charity, you'd probably want Charity Navigator. If your aim is "do the most good with the money I have to donate and I don't know what to support" Givewell and Effective Altruism-type organizations are going to suggest where you might donate.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by Ray_McKigney »

It doesn't take much curiosity and effort to answer that for Charity Navigator:

"...our system does not currently evaluate the quality of the programs and services a charity provides..."

https://www.charitynavigator.org/index. ... oBu5JMrKEJ
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by TheTimeLord »

getthatmarshmallow wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:22 pm
TheTimeLord wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:07 pm
getthatmarshmallow wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:05 pm
TheTimeLord wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 10:31 am Sounds very woke. I don't disagree many charities are ineffective or spend way too much on fund raising but how in the world do they know what I think is the world's most pressing problems or that those problems are my priority?
by focusing their efforts on the most promising solutions to the world's most pressing problems.
There is a saying in animal rescue that I think applies to how I feel.
“Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.”

They predate "woke", and their methodology is roughly "maximize quality adjusted life years." The idea is that some charitable giving has bigger effects - your dollar buys more good often due to downstream effects. For example, suppose you could give money to provide more books in schools overseas or to prevent intestinal worms. As it turns out, curing worms means less school missed, and better educational outcomes, and better economic effects, so if your aim is to improve people's lives, your money is best directed towards deworming programs.

Or to take the dog example: one might discover that funding dog training services reduces the number of dogs placed in shelters, and that doing that is cheaper than funding rehoming services or expanding no kill shelters.

Givewell does that analysis of what's more effective. One can donate to them or directly to the agencies that score well. It is based on Singer's work on poverty (hence the focus on the developing world) and to the "giving what we can" movement out of Oxford.

Very Bogleheadish, IMO, at least with respect to efficiency.
The question is what is the improvement here versus Guidestar or CharityNavigator?
As far as I know Guidestar and Charity navigator focus mostly on "does the money go to the cause it promotes, minimizing overhead" and not "is the cause itself the best use of dollars." To expand the analogy, if Poodle Retirement Community Mansions spends 99.5% of it's funds on poodle mansions, it will score well on Charity Navigator. It will not score well according to Givewell because the aim of poodle mansions is inferior in terms of quality-adjusted life years to interventions like malaria nets and vaccinations. Givewell also includes overhead efficiency, but they have a distinct philosophical position, too.

So if your aim is to find the most efficient poodle mansions charity, you'd probably want Charity Navigator. If your aim is "do the most good with the money I have to donate and I don't know what to support" Givewell and Effective Altruism-type organizations are going to suggest where you might donate.
So we are in agreement.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by Afty »

I like the Effective Altruism movement. I like the focus on experimental research and outcomes. One of my favorite charities, GiveDirectly, just gives money to very poor people with no strings attached. I like the optimism of it, the idea that people will choose for themselves where to best direct their dollars. It's also very efficient since they don't have to vet applications or check up on recipients. The research backs this up.

I'm also not an automaton and have some charities I want to support for personal reasons. So I direct about 50% of my giving to effective-altruism-type charities, and the other 50% to charities I simply wish to support.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by getthatmarshmallow »

TheTimeLord wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:28 pm
getthatmarshmallow wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:22 pm
TheTimeLord wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:07 pm
getthatmarshmallow wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:05 pm
TheTimeLord wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 10:31 am Sounds very woke. I don't disagree many charities are ineffective or spend way too much on fund raising but how in the world do they know what I think is the world's most pressing problems or that those problems are my priority?



There is a saying in animal rescue that I think applies to how I feel.
“Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.”

They predate "woke", and their methodology is roughly "maximize quality adjusted life years." The idea is that some charitable giving has bigger effects - your dollar buys more good often due to downstream effects. For example, suppose you could give money to provide more books in schools overseas or to prevent intestinal worms. As it turns out, curing worms means less school missed, and better educational outcomes, and better economic effects, so if your aim is to improve people's lives, your money is best directed towards deworming programs.

Or to take the dog example: one might discover that funding dog training services reduces the number of dogs placed in shelters, and that doing that is cheaper than funding rehoming services or expanding no kill shelters.

Givewell does that analysis of what's more effective. One can donate to them or directly to the agencies that score well. It is based on Singer's work on poverty (hence the focus on the developing world) and to the "giving what we can" movement out of Oxford.

Very Bogleheadish, IMO, at least with respect to efficiency.
The question is what is the improvement here versus Guidestar or CharityNavigator?
As far as I know Guidestar and Charity navigator focus mostly on "does the money go to the cause it promotes, minimizing overhead" and not "is the cause itself the best use of dollars." To expand the analogy, if Poodle Retirement Community Mansions spends 99.5% of it's funds on poodle mansions, it will score well on Charity Navigator. It will not score well according to Givewell because the aim of poodle mansions is inferior in terms of quality-adjusted life years to interventions like malaria nets and vaccinations. Givewell also includes overhead efficiency, but they have a distinct philosophical position, too.

So if your aim is to find the most efficient poodle mansions charity, you'd probably want Charity Navigator. If your aim is "do the most good with the money I have to donate and I don't know what to support" Givewell and Effective Altruism-type organizations are going to suggest where you might donate.
So we are in agreement.
If you're agreeing with the highlighted section, yes.

What I like about their approach is the focus on research -- it's not immediately obvious that deworming a four-year-old means that not only does that kid have a better chance of finishing school, but that their older sister doesn't drop out and their dad earns more that year -- and the conclusions that can be drawn from it.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by MishkaWorries »

Strange. Give Well really pushes reduces malaria as a huge improvement in people's lives.

But none of their listed charities use DDT to prevent malaria. The proper application of DDT in doors prevents about 90% of malaria transmission with no risk to humans or the environment.

So they are not so evidence based or cost conscious.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by RyeBourbon »

tc101 wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:00 pm
The idea of just sending checks to large organizations (often with massive advertising budgets) claiming to do anything nationally or internationally seems ridiculous. These are often shown to be ineffective organizations rife with waste if not outright corruption.

Select the charities you personally know the best. This means they are probably local and you are directly involved with them already and can see exactly what good they produce.
Several people have said that. I don't know. I'm thinking about it.

I don't know much about local charities. They could be just as corrupt and wasteful as the big international charities. The only local charities I have had anything to do with are refugee resettlement groups from when I was volunteering to teach refugees English. I was not aware of any corruption in the groups, but they did seem pretty disorganized and wasteful. The people working there probably had good intentions, but they didn't seem to work as hard or as smart as people working in for profit organizations. That may be the nature of non-profits in general, or maybe just those particular groups I was working with.

If you have in depth knowledge of a good local group, that may be the best way to donate, but most people don't have that knowledge. A local group could be just as wasteful and corrupt as a big international group.
I like to donate cash to local food banks. You can check their effectiveness using Charity Navigator.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

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Give Well really pushes reduces malaria as a huge improvement in people's lives.

But none of their listed charities use DDT to prevent malaria.
Are you sure about that? Where did you get that info?

I thought some of the nets were treated with insecticide. Is there something newer and better than DDT that they are using?
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by RyeBourbon »

MishkaWorries wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:44 pm Strange. Give Well really pushes reduces malaria as a huge improvement in people's lives.

But none of their listed charities use DDT to prevent malaria. The proper application of DDT in doors prevents about 90% of malaria transmission with no risk to humans or the environment.

So they are not so evidence based or cost conscious.
The application of DDT as insecticide is one of the most beneficial inventions of the 20th century.
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For people interested in animal welfare, Animal Charity Evaluators does fact based analysis of animal welfare charities using techniques similar to givewell.

https://animalcharityevaluators.org/don ... charities/
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by Nyarlathotep »

TheTimeLord wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:07 pm The question is what is the improvement here versus Guidestar or CharityNavigator?
The difference between GiveWell.org and something like CharityNavigator goes like this.

CharityNavigator would tell you that a charity near and dear to your heart, such as the Make A Wish Foundation, gets a 72% rating in terms of how much of the money you donate actually goes to giving sick/dying children their special wish. So if, for example, you donate $4,000 to Make A Wish, about $3,000 of that will go to children, while the rest goes to salaries, marketing, and other operational overhead.

GiveWell, on the other hand, identifies the most cost-effective charities in the world based on extensive research into their financials and other metrics. They identify and support charities such as Against Malaria, which provide low-cost bed nets to families in malaria-prone regions. If you donated $4,000 to Against Malaria, you will likely actually save the life of one or two children who otherwise would have been bitten by malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

So, even though the Make A Wish foundation might be more "relatable" to you and make you feel more warm and fuzzy, the hard, cold facts are that it is FAR less efficient at reducing human suffering than the Against Malaria foundation. Against Malaria actually saves lives, whereas Make A Wish brings a day of happiness to dying children, but (obviously) doesn't prevent their death.

It's up to you whether to donate to charities based on empathy, location, and mission (e.g., "I feel bad for impoverished and homeless people in my city, so I want to donate to the local food bank") versus donating to charities that maximize the good your money will do on a per-dollar basis (e.g. "I want my money to save the most lives possible and/or reduce as much suffering as possible, regardless of who the people are or where they live.")
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by scout1 »

I think the EA philosophy sounds reasonable but in practice it's too complicated to be worthwhile. Just because money is spent on advertising or goes to the foundation CEO, it doesn't mean it's wasted for the same reason businesses spend tons of money on CEOs and advertising, even if they could be more profitable in the next quarter if they didn't.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by KlangFool »

OP,


It is very simple.

I had faced hunger. I do not think anyone should go hungry in our community. I donate to our local food bank. As to whether it can make a difference, I have no idea. But, a starving person is definitely has a real problem. And, if the starving person does not survive, he/she has no future.


Why overcomplicate a simple question?


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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by MishkaWorries »

tc101 wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:49 pm
Give Well really pushes reduces malaria as a huge improvement in people's lives.

But none of their listed charities use DDT to prevent malaria.
Are you sure about that? Where did you get that info?

I thought some of the nets were treated with insecticide. Is there something newer and better than DDT that they are using?
The evil, politically motivated stoppage of the safe use of DDT has lead to the death and misery of millions and millions of poor people the world over. The WHO has been trying to get DDT used again for years.

"15 SEPTEMBER 2006 | WASHINGTON, D.C. - Nearly thirty years after phasing out the widespread use of indoor spraying with DDT and other insecticides to control malaria, the World Health Organization (WHO) today announced that this intervention will once again play a major role in its efforts to fight the disease. WHO is now recommending the use of indoor residual spraying (IRS) not only in epidemic areas but also in areas with constant and high malaria transmission, including throughout Africa.

“The scientific and programmatic evidence clearly supports this reassessment,” said Dr Anarfi Asamoa-Baah, WHO Assistant Director-General for HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria. "Indoor residual spraying is useful to quickly reduce the number of infections caused by malaria-carrying mosquitoes. IRS has proven to be just as cost effective as other malaria prevention measures, and DDT presents no health risk when used properly.”

WHO actively promoted indoor residual spraying for malaria control until the early 1980s when increased health and environmental concerns surrounding DDT caused the organization to stop promoting its use and to focus instead on other means of prevention. Extensive research and testing has since demonstrated that well-managed indoor residual spraying programmes using DDT pose no harm to wildlife or to humans.

"We must take a position based on the science and the data," said Dr Arata Kochi, Director of WHO’s Global Malaria Programme. “One of the best tools we have against malaria is indoor residual house spraying. Of the dozen insecticides WHO has approved as safe for house spraying, the most effective is DDT.”"
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by NewMoneyMustBeSmart »

For those open to investigating the thesis, Sam Harris's podcast https://samharris.org/podcasts/228-doing-good/ with William MacAskill is quite pleasant to listen to and made a lot of sense to me.

The aim of Givewell, as I perceive it, is not to tell you what to do. It is to provide quantitative data for you to use in making a decision.

One of the things it discusses is that if your goal is to save lives, malaria nets tend to have the best bang for the buck.

As I pondered this, I arbitrarily decided I wanted to give 1/3 each local, USA, and exUSA. I want to have the best/most impact I can.

While the joy of dropping off presents for a poor family is substantial, donating to a woman's shelter or donating to malaria nets may do the most good.
December 14, 2020

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with William MacAskill about how to do the most good in the world. They discuss the “effective altruism” movement, choosing causes to support, the apparent tension between wealth and altruism, how best to think about generosity over the course of one’s lifetime, and other topics.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by NewMoneyMustBeSmart »

scout1 wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:59 pm I think the EA philosophy sounds reasonable but in practice it's too complicated to be worthwhile. Just because money is spent on advertising or goes to the foundation CEO, it doesn't mean it's wasted for the same reason businesses spend tons of money on CEOs and advertising, even if they could be more profitable in the next quarter if they didn't.
One interesting point in Harris's podcast is a discussion of executive pay.

Consider a contrived arbitrary dichotomy:

A. Charity with $100M donations per year achieves X efficiency with a CEO making $100k

B. Charity with $100M donations per year achieves Y (where Y>X) efficiency with a CEO making $1M

If the CEO affects change that is more positive than their comp, should they not earn it? There's an interesting discussion that if we ask all of our do-gooders to be paupers, we may not get the best skills or leadership.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by TheTimeLord »

Nyarlathotep wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:58 pm
TheTimeLord wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:07 pm The question is what is the improvement here versus Guidestar or CharityNavigator?
The difference between GiveWell.org and something like CharityNavigator goes like this.

CharityNavigator would tell you that a charity near and dear to your heart, such as the Make A Wish Foundation, gets a 72% rating in terms of how much of the money you donate actually goes to giving sick/dying children their special wish. So if, for example, you donate $4,000 to Make A Wish, about $3,000 of that will go to children, while the rest goes to salaries, marketing, and other operational overhead.

GiveWell, on the other hand, identifies the most cost-effective charities in the world based on extensive research into their financials and other metrics. They identify and support charities such as Against Malaria, which provide low-cost bed nets to families in malaria-prone regions. If you donated $4,000 to Against Malaria, you will likely actually save the life of one or two children who otherwise would have been bitten by malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

So, even though the Make A Wish foundation might be more "relatable" to you and make you feel more warm and fuzzy, the hard, cold facts are that it is FAR less efficient at reducing human suffering than the Against Malaria foundation. Against Malaria actually saves lives, whereas Make A Wish brings a day of happiness to dying children, but (obviously) doesn't prevent their death.

It's up to you whether to donate to charities based on empathy, location, and mission (e.g., "I feel bad for impoverished and homeless people in my city, so I want to donate to the local food bank") versus donating to charities that maximize the good your money will do on a per-dollar basis (e.g. "I want my money to save the most lives possible and/or reduce as much suffering as possible, regardless of who the people are or where they live.")
I don't find your case very compelling. I think people have causes that are meaningful to them for personal reasons and trying to replace that with the notion of doing the best, most efficient for the world as a whole minimizes the individual and their values.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

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This thread is now in the Personal Consumer Issues forum (how you spend your money and your time).
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

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TheTimeLord wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 11:22 am I guess what I am trying to say is letting other people tell you by their measures what is most important and most impactful is not an attractive proposition for me.
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I use the High Impact Charity Guide https://www.impact.upenn.edu/toolkits/h ... ing-guide/
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by humblecoder »

TheTimeLord wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 1:49 pm
Nyarlathotep wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:58 pm
TheTimeLord wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:07 pm The question is what is the improvement here versus Guidestar or CharityNavigator?
The difference between GiveWell.org and something like CharityNavigator goes like this.

CharityNavigator would tell you that a charity near and dear to your heart, such as the Make A Wish Foundation, gets a 72% rating in terms of how much of the money you donate actually goes to giving sick/dying children their special wish. So if, for example, you donate $4,000 to Make A Wish, about $3,000 of that will go to children, while the rest goes to salaries, marketing, and other operational overhead.

GiveWell, on the other hand, identifies the most cost-effective charities in the world based on extensive research into their financials and other metrics. They identify and support charities such as Against Malaria, which provide low-cost bed nets to families in malaria-prone regions. If you donated $4,000 to Against Malaria, you will likely actually save the life of one or two children who otherwise would have been bitten by malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

So, even though the Make A Wish foundation might be more "relatable" to you and make you feel more warm and fuzzy, the hard, cold facts are that it is FAR less efficient at reducing human suffering than the Against Malaria foundation. Against Malaria actually saves lives, whereas Make A Wish brings a day of happiness to dying children, but (obviously) doesn't prevent their death.

It's up to you whether to donate to charities based on empathy, location, and mission (e.g., "I feel bad for impoverished and homeless people in my city, so I want to donate to the local food bank") versus donating to charities that maximize the good your money will do on a per-dollar basis (e.g. "I want my money to save the most lives possible and/or reduce as much suffering as possible, regardless of who the people are or where they live.")
I don't find your case very compelling. I think people have causes that are meaningful to them for personal reasons and trying to replace that with the notion of doing the best, most efficient for the world as a whole minimizes the individual and their values.
Timelord:

You asked a reasonable question regarding the difference between GiveWell and CharityNavigator. Nyarlathotep posted an equally reasonable explanation of the difference. He/she also concluded by saying that it is up to you as far as which charity you donate to based upon your own personal criteria - again a reasonable statement and something it sounds like you are in violent agreement with based upon your response. So I am wondering if you are inventing an argument where there is none to be had.

In other words, it's the holiday season. Have a drink together. And of course, donate generously to whatever cause you wish based upon whatever criteria you wish! :beer :beer :beer
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by Atilla »

Select a charity where the management has no interest in prolonging the problem because it would result in job loss. Problem disappears and you are no longer needed.

This rules out government and probably most charities with a paid staff as a focus of effective altruism.
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I don't find your case very compelling. I think people have causes that are meaningful to them for personal reasons and trying to replace that with the notion of doing the best, most efficient for the world as a whole minimizes the individual and their values.
I think that's fine. All kinds of people have all kinds of different approaches and they all do good.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

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In other words, it's the holiday season. Have a drink together. And of course, donate generously to whatever cause you wish based upon whatever criteria you wish! :beer :beer :beer
+1
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by Afty »

KlangFool wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 1:05 pm OP,


It is very simple.

I had faced hunger. I do not think anyone should go hungry in our community. I donate to our local food bank. As to whether it can make a difference, I have no idea. But, a starving person is definitely has a real problem. And, if the starving person does not survive, he/she has no future.


Why overcomplicate a simple question?


KlangFool
Agreed that hunger is a serious problem that causes misery, disease, and even death to millions (billions?) of people. But looking at it through an Effective Altruism lens, let's say you have $100 to donate to reduce hunger. Would that $100 do more good to your local food bank or to people in Africa living in extreme poverty?

I'm not saying it's bad to donate to your local food bank - I donate to ours. Just trying to give a sense of what Effective Altruism means.
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by KlangFool »

Afty wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 2:32 pm
KlangFool wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 1:05 pm OP,


It is very simple.

I had faced hunger. I do not think anyone should go hungry in our community. I donate to our local food bank. As to whether it can make a difference, I have no idea. But, a starving person is definitely has a real problem. And, if the starving person does not survive, he/she has no future.


Why overcomplicate a simple question?


KlangFool
Agreed that hunger is a serious problem that causes misery, disease, and even death to millions (billions?) of people. But looking at it through an Effective Altruism lens, let's say you have $100 to donate to reduce hunger. Would that $100 do more good to your local food bank or to people in Africa living in extreme poverty?
Afty,


I live in my local community. If I cannot stop hunger in my own local community, I should not be so arrogant and naive to think that I can stop hunger in Africa. We have hunger in the USA.


My ancestor faced 800+ famines across 800+ years. External help would not solve that problem.


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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

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But none of their listed charities use DDT to prevent malaria. The proper application of DDT in doors prevents about 90% of malaria transmission with no risk to humans or the environment.

So they are not so evidence based or cost conscious.
I read over your next detailed post about DDT to prevent malaria, and then read the wikipedia article about it

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indoor_residual_spraying

There are some difficulties with using it which you can read about in the wikipedia article, but basically I agree with most of what you wrote.

The thing I question is that none of the listed malaria charities are using DDT. What makes you think this is so?
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Re: Effective Altruism. Using the fact based approach to selecting charities.

Post by bertilak »

I use a two-step process:
  1. Identify charities that support causes I believe in. Google, word of mouth, etc..
  2. Look them up on https://www.charitynavigator.org/ to see how they are rated.
There are other similar places to look up charities but I like that one.
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