Building a nonprofit from the ground up is a lot of work. It can be difficult to know what tools and services are tried-and-true vs. a waste of your valuable time. We’ve asked a few of our incubated charities for their honest opinions about our favorites and come up with a list that should get you off the ground.
2021 was the third year that we at Charity Entrepreneurship held our annual Incubation Program. Interest in the program was very high, with over 2000 applications submitted. 27 participants representing 16 countries graduated from the 2-month intensive training program, including teams that will start new organizations, individuals that are being hired by high-impact organizations, regional groups that will conduct research under our mentorship, and a foundation that will focus on providing grants to high-impact interventions.
We are delighted to announce the launch of five new charities and want to thank our funders: EA Funds, Open Philanthropy, and the CE Seed Network (a group of high-impact professionals) for their generous donations, which totaled to $537,000 in grants offered to the charities this year.
It's highly valuable for an organization to clearly and transparently specify its cause area preferences, and although Charity Entrepreneurship has written considerably about our process of intervention selection, we have not done so for our cause area selection process.
👋 Goodbye post-its and task lists in Google Sheets. A task management app can help you take your charity startup to the next level.
The importance of an excellent charity pitch cannot be overstated. It’s crucial for communicating your charity idea to stakeholders (eg., a donor, potential partner, politician, mentor, etc.), and could be the difference between getting a pivotal donation or coming away empty-handed. The gravity of pitches is appreciated in the for-profit entrepreneurship world, and should be taken just as seriously by charity entrepreneurs. This article will focus on 1-3 minute pitches.
This year our Incubation Program attracted over 2,000 applications. We are very grateful to all the applicants for their interest and time. We accepted 30 participants representing 17 countries. We have 21 participants in our core program, 6 individuals who will do region-specific research under our mentorship, and 3 who have just started their own high-impact startups/foundations. You can meet them through our video:
A huge thank you to our volunteers Taylor Jones and Laura Tresch for producing the video.
JOIN INCUBATION PROGRAM IN 2022
Each year, Charity Entrepreneurship gets several thousand applications for its annual incubation program. Other than the simple logistical fact of not being able to incubate that number of people, we think it's fairly uncommon for someone to be a great fit for the CE program and for founding a charity in general. Overall we are very interested in charities that have the potential to be among the most evidence-based and cost-effective in their field, and encourage founders to set this as their goal.
Unfortunately, giving personal feedback to every candidate is not viable for an organization of our size. So we wanted to write up some of the most common reasons that we have to turn down candidates, at the earlier and in the final stages of the application process.
Please note that our process changes every year based on correlations of different steps of the process and questions with the eventual charities that get founded. However, certain trends have been consistent for at least three years.
The majority of candidates who do not make it further in our process are held back by one of the following factors (roughly in order of what percentage of applicants they rule out):
Among the top 50 or so candidates who do not get in to the program, the most common reasons are (in no specific order):
Majority of candidates
Own idea being weaker than top recommendations
Out of the ~20 people we let into the program yearly, around two come in with their own ideas. This means it's about ten times harder to get into the program when you’re sold on your own idea above our top recommendations. Applying with your own idea, you only have one page to convince our evaluation team that this idea is worth us doing deeper research on. We would expect to see things like an estimated cost-effectiveness, a sense of the evidence, and why this idea is the best way to accomplish your goal.
Our program is not structured the same way as a standard grant program. There are many funders looking to support specific ideas. If your main goal of applying to the program is to get a seed grant for a pre-existing idea, we can almost guarantee there are easier ways to obtain that funding. If you think your idea is strong enough to be a field leader, we recommend following this process.
Limiting experience running independent projects
Starting a charity is hard. You’ll need to build up some skills before being ready to run a bigger project like launching your own organization. Have you led a small-scale project? Can you organize yourself to get personal projects done?
We are typically much more excited about candidates who have done something entrepreneurial in the past. The definition of this is pretty broad – it could be taking an online course, writing up some research for the EA Forum, or running your own blog. Showing you can motivate yourself to get something done without a formal job or education system on your back can really boost even an otherwise unremarkable CV.
Weak test tasks
We weight test tasks highly and find them to pretty consistently predict who does well in the program. Can you do a solid job on a test task given limited time? A large number of test tasks look like they could have been done in 30 minutes; others look like the product of deep thought and consideration.
It’s extremely rare for us to let into the program a candidate whose test tasks are weak. Practicing doing tasks in a limited amount of time can be a great way to get better at this sort of work.
A lot of the candidates who get far in our process have some degree of flexibility about what ideas they are interested in. If you commit to a single area you will have to be one of the strongest few candidates in that space; if you’re open to a wider range there might be a less competitive pool. This also opens up more options for co-founder pairing.
Flexibility about ideas isn’t the only type of flexibility. If you have limited time available for the program, you will need to demonstrate impressively strong traits to trade off. It’s rare that we accept someone who has much less than full time availability during the program, and those who participate part-time often find it hard to keep up with the workload. This is part of why we provide a stipend for the two months of the program.
At a certain point, everyone in the applicant pool is talented, can do a decent test task, and has a good understanding of what charity entrepreneurship might entail. For a number of candidates who get far in our process, the difference between them and a candidate who gets in can simply be a question of competitive advantage. Some competitive advantages could be:
Often we have to choose between candidates at a similar level, but one is limited by complicating factors. Something like a strong preference to work in a certain geography can limit the number of charity ideas a candidate could be a good fit for. Very few factors are dealbreakers for founding a charity, but they can make enough of a difference to weaken an application compared to similar candidates. We have accepted candidates with this kind of limitation in the past but they are a smaller group than those with few complicating factors.
Interpersonal skills are important for basically any job, and this is particularly true of charity entrepreneurship. You will need to build a very deep relationship with your co-founder, and if the range of people you can work with is very small this can limit your ability to find a good match. Signs that a candidate is more difficult to work with or negative references can be enough to eliminate a candidate from the final group.
Charity entrepreneurship as a top choice
The Incubation Program is highly competitive. If you get in, there are likely other jobs you could succeed at that are more stable, prestigious, and better paid. Charity entrepreneurship as a career path has to be among if not your top choice. If you want another job but are settling for founding your own charity you will not have the staying power to make it a success.
Generally we recommend that people err on the side of applying. Many people have said that going through the application process gave them a better sense of what founding a charity would be like and sometimes people have been surprised that they were a good fit. It’s easy for people who do not have a sense of what factors can really strengthen an application (e.g. running an EA chapter, student society, writing a blog and organizing a conference is actual, real-world entrepreneurial experience). For people who are surprised they didn’t get into the program, we hope this writeup will provide some more information as to why that might be the case.
Everyone is welcome to apply to the program in multiple years. And of course, you can also start a charity outside of our incubation program! CE is dedicated to publishing as many resources to help you in this regard as possible, including our handbook, How to Launch a High-Impact Nonprofit, which will be released in a new edition later this year.
We often tell the tale of the gritty founder: the one who persisted in the face of incredible hardship. Grit comes up in a number of books and is consistently mentioned as a core trait for great entrepreneurs. You might say the proselytizers of grit have exemplified the trait in their consistency of its use.
Arthur felt the smoke first; it stung his eyes and filled his lungs. As he turned the corner the sight of the house on fire lit up the night. He could see bright flames through the windows and black smoke billowing from cracks in the walls. Hearing a scream from inside the house, Arthur did not think. No one else was around and he knew he had to help.
There are many ways to use entrepreneurship to make the world a better place. Our organization Charity Entrepreneurship focuses on the founding of new charities. But why charities and not social ventures or for-profit ventures? In this post, we explain some of the differences between these areas, why we focus on charities, and what to consider when assessing your personal fit for each of the options.
The founders of CE have been involved with effective altruism, global poverty and animal issues since 2013, and have helped launch numerous projects. In this post, you’ll learn a bit more about our past and how Charity Entrepreneurship was born.
When you are wheeled into a hospital with a broken arm, you place your trust in multiple people and establishments. You trust that the nurses are giving you the right medication to prepare you, and that the doctor will make the right call on how to fix your arm. And yet you personally know relatively little about the specific treatments that are going to be applied.
We defer to people all the time on different issues, whether it’s the doctor at a hospital, the weatherman for the forecast, or the baker who tells us the bread is fresh. Even in our domains of expertise many judgment calls are made by others, and we have to trust or distrust their data.
Knowing who to trust is both a difficult and important skill. Trust the wrong person, and they can fill your head with wrong information. But trust no one, and you have to fix every broken bone yourself. So how can we determine who to trust – who is credible and who is not?
There are four key ways to determine whether a source or person is worth putting your trust in. In descending order of how good an indicator it is, you can:
We recently hosted an online event, “Impactful opportunities around and adjacent to charity entrepreneurship”. In this short talk and Q&A session, we covered topics like:
Charity Entrepreneurship recently organized an online chat about early-stage hiring for new nonprofit start-ups. Our discussion ranged from initial reflections on whether or not to hire, all the way through to best practices for management and remote working. For every aspect of early-stage hiring, here are the top tips from our entrepreneur attendees.
1. Why Charity Entrepreneurship Is Researching Animals
The CE team generally believes that animals are conscious and morally relevant agents. Given the numbers of animals involved in animal agriculture and other animal-use endeavors, this makes it a high scale and high importance issue.
2. Why Charity Entrepreneurship Is Researching Mental Health and Happiness
On broad considerations of scale and neglectedness, it is shocking to see how little government funding is spent in this area relative to the size of the problem. Self-harm, mental, neurological, and substance use disorders account for 12% of the global burden of disease when measured in DALYs. But in 2016, the median government spending on mental healthcare was as little as 2.4% of all healthcare spending.
3. Why Charity Entrepreneurship is Researching Family Planning
According to the United Nations Population Division, in 2019, 190 million women worldwide reported that although they did not want to become pregnant, nor are they using any method of contraception. This gap represents ten percent of all women of reproductive age worldwide, and is referred to as the unmet need for family planning.
4. Why Charity Entrepreneurship is Researching EA Meta
EA meta has always been an area we have been excited about and think holds promise (after all, CE is a meta charity). In the past we have not focused on meta areas for a few reasons. One of the most important is that we wanted to confirm the impact of the CE model in more measurable areas such as global health and animal advocacy. After two formal programs we are now sufficiently confident in the model to expand to more meta charities.
5. All Health Reports 2020
Our in-depth health reports cover five recommended ideas and nine more considered but not recommended ideas. Health policy, family planning, and mental health are all included.
6. All Animal Reports 2020
Our in-depth animal reports cover three current top recommended ideas and sixty-four related reports. These include reports on target animals, countries, asks, and approaches.
Where to next? The CE Handbook: A How-to for Charity Entrepreneurs
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1. What traits make a great charity entrepreneur?
We talk about some key personality traits and skills we think are necessary for a successful charity entrepreneur. The good news is, your personality is dynamic. Use this list as a starting point to cultivate certain traits and build your skills.
2. Why founding charities could be the best thing you could do
Historically, some of the highest impact individuals in the EA movement and across the globe have been people who founded effective charities. The Esther Duflos and Rob Mathers of the world have saved a life for every day they’ve lived. Could you follow in their footsteps?
3. Charity Entrepreneurship Impacts on Your Future Ability to Do Good
By founding a new charity, you can positively affect your and your team’s future ability to do good, as well as influence the nonprofit sector as a whole. We consider this collection of benefits to be the indirect impact of charity entrepreneurship as a career. This post discusses the impact of charity entrepreneurship on your future ability to do good.
4. Four Reasons Why You Should Consider Charity Entrepreneurship Besides Impact
It’s not a coincidence that many benefits of becoming a charity entrepreneur are related to impact. Yet the advantages of starting your effective non-profit go beyond impact. As a founder, you will grow in various ways. Find out more about four other advantages of charity entrepreneurship.
5. Should I Start a Charity Now or Later?
Is now the right time? Am I experienced enough? These are two major questions for many potential charity entrepreneurs. Here’s our take.
Where to next? Cause areas: An overview
1. Why charity entrepreneurship is one of the highest-impact things you can do.
Video and transcript of a talk by Charity Entrepreneurship's Director, Joey Savoie, discussing why charity entrepreneurship is one of the highest-impact things you can do. He also explains what Charity Entrepreneurship can do to help you start an effective nonprofit.
2. Saving a life every day
Few people have saved someone's life. Those who have, say it’s a profound and surreal experience to know that a person would not be alive if not for your actions. Few jobs give the opportunity to affect someone's life so drastically.
3. Introducing Charity Entrepreneurship: an Incubation and Research Program for New Charities
How do we get more great charities started? There’s a good case that charity entrepreneurship is a high impact career, but it seems not many effective nonprofits are started. Part of the reason is that it’s intimidatingly hard. The CE Incubation Program is designed to make this difficult journey as easy as possible.
4. Why Charity Entrepreneurship? From Program participants.
Charity Entrepreneurship’s Incubation Program receives thousands of applicants; of these, we carefully select the top dozen or so. What led them to join the program? Learn more about past incubatees through this video and bios.
5. The Curriculum of Charity Entrepreneurship's 2020 Incubation Program
A focus on co-founder pairing and usable outputs for your charity – these are the tenets Charity Entrepreneurship’s Incubation Program for high-impact NGOs is built on. Our accelerated program allows participants to hit the ground running with their charity start-up after only two months.
Where to next? Is Charity Entrepreneurship right for me?
For 2021 we currently recommend three meta ideas: exploratory altruism, earning to give +, and EA training. A deeper report on each of these will be released in the coming months; this post only intends to give a sense of what the final ideas will look like for applicants to the Incubation Program. The ideas build on extensive interviews with EAs as well as CE’s own research.
Charity Entrepreneurship (CE) is researching EA meta as one of four cause areas in which we plan to launch charities in 2021. EA meta has always been an area we have been excited about and think holds promise (after all, CE is a meta charity). Historically we have not focused on meta areas for a few reasons. One of the most important is that we wanted to confirm the impact of the CE model in more measurable areas such as global health and animal advocacy. After two formal programs we are now sufficiently confident in the model to expand to more meta charities. We were also impressed by the progress and traction that Animal Advocacy Careers made in their first year. Founded based on our research into animal interventions, this organization works at a more meta level than other charities we have incubated.
In this document, I summarize the results of 40 interviews conducted with EA experts. These interviews constitute part of CE’s research into potentially effective new charities that could be founded in 2021 to improve the EA movement as a whole.
What are the most impactful interventions within a particular region? In locations that get less international attention or with fewer effectiveness-minded charities, region-specific research to lay the groundwork for new nonprofits may be one of the most impactful things we can work on. Such research offers the dual benefit of providing a place for donations for funders who are only interested or able to fund in a given location, and of creating entrepreneurial career opportunities that those based in the region would have a competitive advantage for. Ultimately, this regional approach will connect local entrepreneurs to the funding and resources they need to create the future top charities of their home country.
“How are they doing?”, is a question I get asked frequently these days. In 2019 Charity Entrepreneurship incubated six new charities. This built on our own experience founding Charity Science Health and providing support to Fortify Health – both of which received GiveWell incubation grants. Based on this shared experience, here are five lessons learned by our charity entrepreneurs.
The fundraising pitch went well, and thirty days later, you shout in excitement as a six-figure number pops up on your e-banking app. But don’t get too pumped. Now begins the quest of spending your resources diligently. Here are a few key guidelines to consider:
Hundreds of ideas researched, thousands of applications considered, and a two-month intensive Incubation Program culminated in five new charities being founded. Each of these charities has the potential to have a large impact on the world and to become one of the most cost-effective in their field.
We’re delighted to announce the five new charities who have just launched through our 2020 Incubation Program:
Not yet another article about remote work…! At Charity Entrepreneurship, many team members are eager to go back to our London office when the current situation allows. We miss the funny conversations between tasks, the shared lunches, and the common game nights. At the same time, we have found that remote work is feasible and a necessity for many charity entrepreneurs.
New Incentives, for example, has operated as a remote organization for years, both internationally with founders spread out over different countries, and in Nigeria with no offices. While not all organizations might go as far, several 2019 incubatees have also moved to remote operations to some degree, for instance, Fish Welfare Initiative and Suvita.
We’re proud to announce our 2020 Top Charity Ideas!
Each year Charity Entrepreneurship identifies highly effective interventions in chosen cause areas. Our Incubation Program gives participants the skills they need to start high-impact nonprofits based on our top intervention recommendations.
Our 2020 research period focused on four cause areas: mental health, animal advocacy, family planning, and health & development policy. We began with several hundred ideas in each cause area. Progressive stages of our extensive research process whittled down to eight recommended ideas.
Eighty-hour reports linked below illustrate how we came to recommend this year’s top interventions. We also provide Incubation Program participants with implementation reports, which provide specific recommendations to map a path forward for a new charity.
Our 2020 top recommendations are as follows (in no particular order):