Mati's 2020 donation recommendations (now with a 2021 update)

Google Doc | Author: Mati Roy | Created: 2019-11-15 | Published: 2020-12-08 | Updated: 2020-12-08 (also with a 2021-11-16 update) | Comments: EA Forum | Time: 1h20 for the 2021-11-16 update

Related: Mati's 2019 meta-level recommendations on donating

2021-11-16 Notes:

Tl;dr: If you're like "I don't want to read your post, but I want to donate to a charity for altruistic purposes now, just tell me where", then I suggest the Long-Term Future Fund.

The following is my recomendation for small donors (3-5 digits USD donations).

In this post, I don't really bother backing up my recommenations very much because the rabbit holes are very deep, and the best explanations would depend on where you're at in your thinking. So for justifications on them, please ask me. You can also see some of my general recommended readings which are good introductions to those topics. I can also likely make good recommendations within your paradigm, so feel free to discuss this with me.

Other use of time

Just as a quick note: Focusing on earning money might not be the best use of your time: other careers might be higher impact — check out 80,000 Hours; they have written a lot on high-impact careers.

Use of money

When thinking about “where should I donate?”, we might think “which charity should I give to for altruistic reasons?”. But there are other ways to use money for altruistic purposes and there are other reasons to donate money.

For altruistic reasons For other reasons
Donating money
Other use of money

In this article, I want to focus on donations for altruistic reasons, but here are quick points on the other 3 sections:

Saving money

In order of increasing saving requirements:

  1. Do you still have debts?
  2. Do you have enough money to deal with an emergency?
  3. Have you filled your tax-free savings account?
  4. Do you want to reach financial independence?

Check out Two Fun Tools from the MMM Software Department.

Using money for other reasons

If you care about life extension:

2021-11-16 Note:

If you care about reducing your suffering:

Exchanging money for time

If you’re working directly on a priority issue, consider outsourcing mundane tasks to have more time/energy for your work. Contact me for help with this.

Other (added on 2021-11-16)

Depending on your comparentive advantages, funding a startup or investing in your education might be the most valuable.

Donating money for other reasons

If at least one of those conditions is true:

In order, I recommend donating to:

  1. Alcor’s Readiness And Procedure Innovation Deployment (“RAPID”)
  2. the Brain Preservation Foundation’s Aspirational Neuroscience Prize

Note: I actually recommend keeping the money as I might soon create a cryonics Patreon page, but I’m not sure whether I’m allowed to say this :)

2021-11-16 update:

I now recommend keeping your money to fund a future biopreservation project.

If you want to help existing humans and have a suffering-focus ethic, then I would focus on minimizing the probability of experiencing hellish worlds, so I would look into researching the implication of modal immortality, legalizing medical aid in dying in your contry, and malign superintelligence forecasting (for the latter, I would suggest asking Ozzie).

How to decide where to donate money for altruistic values?

I recommend reading When should you use lotteries? before donating money, especially if you’re planning to dedicate less than 25% of your life to altruistic causes.

If you haven’t spent at least a couple hundred hours reading about effective altruism at a high level, ie. moral philosophy, moral economics, comparing cause areas, etc., then I recommend saving that money to donate later as I think you will likely find ways to donate money that are many times more effective (I’m open to betting on that). Even if that means you end up spending 50% of your altruistic time budget on reading, and only 50% of earning-to-give, I still think it’s worth it.

Here are some of my reading recommendations on effective altruism. I also recommend reading about Donating now vs later (very roughly listed in order of importance).

You could save the money in your personal account or in your personal Donor-Advised Fund. The former has the advantage of being able to donate to entities other than charities. The latter has the advantage of tax-deduction, and especially of not paying tax on interests from investments. Assuming 8% interest rate, and a 25% investment tax, this would mean doing 47x instead of 18x over 50 years — over 300 years, it would mean ~10G-x instead of ~40M-x: a difference of 250x. Also check out 10 Reasons (+2) Donor-Advised Funds Are Awesome Giving Tools.

If you know people that share your values, and whom you trust their epistemology, and that have researched this question, you can ask them for / check out their recommendations. This might include looking at what prioritisation researchers recommend (ex.: Effective Altruism, Global Priorities Project, Future of Humanity Institute). But there’s part of the research that needs to be done by you to even be able to identify those people (ex.: by reading this post). Plus, it’s hard to be able to directly differentiate someone 5 steps further the deliberation ladder than you from someone 10 steps further. Note: I have ideas for systems to make that easier, and others have worked on this, but it’s a hard problem.

If you have more than 1M CAD to give away, you can receive personal guidance by the organisation Effective Giving. If you have more than 1B USD, I recommend reaching out to the Open Philanthropy Project. If you have a company and want to give part of your profit, I recommend reaching out to Founders Pledge.

For reference, here’s a list of Charity Evaluators, Funds, and more.

Where to donate money for altruistic values?

Founders Pledge is working on a Long-term investment fund that would give money in the future. See their case for investing to give later. I would recommend reaching out to Sjir to ask zir how money-constraint that project is. Note: I don’t know what value system the fund will espouse exactly.

Effective Altruism has a few very large donors, so it seems to me like the cause areas and organizations in which they are interested are pretty well funded. I would therefore recommend the following types of donation opportunities:

Otherwise, I would invest partly in a Donor-Advised Fund and partly in a personal account (see previous section for why).

Other places that I think are good, in order of recommendation: Effective Altruism Infrastructure Fund, Long-Term Future (X-risk in practice), The Center on Long-Term Risk’s S-risk Fund (note: the priority between the last two funds probably depends on your values). Those funds, really, are just a way to delegate the decision to people I think are in a good position to make it.

I also think prizes are underexploited. If there’s a research problem you want to help solve, and ideally that has a success condition that can easily be determined, consider creating / funding a prize. It creates an economic incentive for solving the problem, and doesn’t require donors to themselves try to figure out what approaches and teams are most likely to succeed. I would notably like to see a prize for improving certificates of impact.

2021-11-16 Notes:

While big organizations are usually well-funded (and I don’t just mean that by definition ^^) , donating will still be useful, and it might be meaningful and motivating for you, and be a good way to promote a rational approach to altruism to your peers, as donating money is a strong / costly signal of caring. If you subscribe to this line of thinking, then I would suggest donating to the Future of Humanity Institute.

How to leverage your donation?

See: Notes for Canadian donors

If you’re a large donor, and not in Canada, you should probably make your own research to see how you can maximize your donations per dollar donated in your country.

Tax credits and deductions

If your preferred charity isn’t tax-deductible in your country, consider trading your donation with someone in another country. See how on EA Hub’s Donation Swap page.

Cause-agnostic donation match

Look out for donation matches that are not specific to a charity. There are often some during December; notably: Facebook (see: Giving Tuesday) and PayPal. 2021-11-16 Note: They are often promoted on