Four Perspectives on Small Donors in EA| 393 words
Various grantmakers in effective altruism possess billions of dollars and have dozens of full-time staff for evaluating grants. In such an ecosystem, donors with tens of thousands of dollars to donate each year seem like they don’t have much to contribute. Here are four plausible donation strategies:
- Funge with large donors by donating to the same organizations.
- Strategy: donate to organizations that the large donors donate to.
- This will often be equivalent to donating to large donors but might serve a valuable role in making various organizations less dependent on large donors. Although, if you think that the large donors are strictly better than you at evaluating grants, you might be best off giving to the large donors.
- Try to create new large donors to take advantage of scale economies
- Strategy: donate to the donor lottery.
- If you think that large donors are efficient, then you have to ask why they haven’t given a large grant to someone to make a new large grantmaking organization.
- Take advantage of local knowledge.
- Strategy: give grants you privileged reason to believe are good. Example: personal grants for career changes to people you know.
- Can be coupled with (2) to make it slightly more advantaged. That is, you might think that one person giving one million worth of local grants is better than 100 people giving 10k worth of local grants, so you might want to donor lottery until you’re at a million, then start giving grants.
- Make grants large donors cannot make.
- Strategy: give grants that cannot be made by large grantmaking bodies, such as political donations.
- Example: The best $5,800 I’ve ever donated (to pandemic prevention).
I think (4) is best, followed by using (2) to do (3) at slightly larger scales as described in 3.2. I mostly don’t think the arguments for (1) being a good strategy are very strong because it seems like someone with only 10k to donate should be able to destroy someone with a billion dollars in terms of value generated per dollar (relative to their own values/beliefs). (This suggests that a good use of a billion dollars is to give a thousand people that share beliefs/values with the organization a million dollars each. This obviously would make it harder to find cost-effective local grants.)