The first donation a charity gets is often the most important one
There are many fantastic charitable projects that are too young or too small for the majority of funders to consider. Or that require not only funding but also more engaged forms of mentorship to start an impactful organization. This year, Charity Entrepreneurship received a truly massive number of applications: over 3,000, with many of these applications strong enough - with support - to potentially start a charity that could lead in its field. We have decided to start a fund for early-stage seed grants to support these new organizations.
The Charity Entrepreneurship (CE) Incubation Program has historically been run in person, which made it challenging to share information with a broader audience. However, this year, in part due to Covid-19, we will run the program online. The program will be split into two online training courses focused on the two broad elements required for successful charity founding:
This article outlines some simple tips for how to answer questions you have about your program. These tips will hopefully be useful regardless of what stage you are at with your intervention. Most of my experience comes from running surveys in India with J-PAL and Charity Science Health.
When you found a charity, problems are inevitably going to come up. It could be that a donor you were counting on does not fund the project, a key employee leaves the job, or a government agency requires a document you have never heard of. Underneath the shiny website and carefully branded social media pages, most organizations have a consistent stream of diverse and novel problems. A big part of being a well-rounded and talented charity founder is the ability to solve these novel problems effectively. Hundreds of skills and heuristics can lead to better problem-solving: this article covers five of them.
What to do when a problem is detected:
“100% of participants in CE’s incubation program are excellent managers.” That’s the impression one could get reviewing surveys on participants’ preferences for the two-month program. Usually, nobody thinks that we should put an emphasis on management in our courses. To be fair, there are many good resources on managing people out there. Moreover, many participants have managed staff before.
Yet management is likely one of these skills for which people overestimate their own abilities.
Not too far off the famous experiment from the 1980s according to which 8 out of 10 drivers consider themselves above average. I definitely don’t fall under the illusion that I am a better driver than average (one friend avoids getting into a car with me after a road trip in Ireland… in my defense, they drive in the left lane). But, heck, I have definitely also overestimated my management skills in the past and still learn on a daily basis.
Here are some of the lessons on management we’ve learned at Charity Entrepreneurship – at times naturally, occasionally the hard way.
You are an experienced entrepreneur, charity professional, or researcher with a passion for impact: consider becoming a mentor at Charity Entrepreneurship!
Charity Entrepreneurship co-founded Charity Science Health in 2016, and helped launch Suvita through our 2019 Incubation Program. Today we’re proud to announce that the two organizations are joining forces to form a COVID-19 response team, in collaboration with Dr. Sebastian Bauhoff of Harvard and his research team.
When I first encountered the concept of Effective Altruism, the whole thing was very abstract. We all want to do the most good, but to someone from the outside, the specifics of what exactly is being done within the movement can be a little opaque.
Now, a few months into working at Charity Entrepreneurship, I still wouldn’t claim to fully understand effective altruism as a movement -- but I’ve decided to write up some things I have seen, to help others get a glimpse of the particular people and the culture of the organization that I work with. Other effective altruist organizations have also written documents describing their work culture, contributing to transparency in the movement. I think that this perspective is especially helpful for people who are applying to work at effective altruist organizations. My hope is that readers of this article could get a sense of whether working at Charity Entrepreneurship could be a good fit for them.
Slatestarcodex had an interesting post regarding the equal application of rigor in philosophy. This principle can be applied in a practical sense to effective altruist interventions as well.
The art of task management can seem elusive, with monk-like adherents following complex sets of belief systems to arrive at the holy grail of maximum productivity. While advanced users of task management and productivity techniques might indeed beat the average entrepreneur by far, the Pareto principle applies here as well: 20% of effort may give you 80% of the benefits. Pareto Productivity presents simple task management guidelines that go a long way. So feel free to cancel your 21-day productivity retreat and return the fancy sleep tracking ring. This will get you covered in much less than one Pomodoro slot.
Charity entrepreneurship in many ways is a less stable career than a traditional job. Charities in their early days will have limited runways (often under six months). At any point, results could come in showing that an intervention is not worth continuing. On the other hand, value drift is an important consideration. Losing motivation to achieve altruistic impact happens more quickly than one would expect (see Empirical Data on Value Drift and Concrete Ways to Reduce Value Drift). Hence, it is better to donate more to effective causes now than to accumulate a large safety buffer that you might spend ineffectively in the case of value drift. So a question arises: how much personal runway or savings should someone have when becoming a charity entrepreneur?
Charity Entrepreneurship is part of the Effective Altruism movement. If you’re going through our incubation program, it’s likely that your potential donors, employees, partner organizations, and other stakeholders come from the effective altruism community.
While the basic premise of effective altruism seems simple, the set of ideas considered “common knowledge” among people heavily involved in effective altruism can be quite complicated. In some ways, we might conceptualize effective altruism as a field of study - it has a few frequently cited influential thinkers, a set of widely read canonical works, an internal jargon, and several diverging schools of thought. If you’re new to effective altruism, becoming well-versed in this contextual knowledge will help you communicate with other people in the movement more easily.
A “stakeholder” is anyone who has an interest in your non-profit. Some typical stakeholders you might encounter include:
How you interact with stakeholders depends on what type of role they play in your theory of change - in other words, how important they are in achieving your outcome.
We have written previously about the expected value of founding an impactful charity in direct terms, considering the largest and most direct impacts such as lives saved. However, these impacts are far from the only ones. Founding a new charity can impact your future ability to do good, your team's ability, and the charitable movement as a whole. We consider this collection of benefits the non-direct impact of charity entrepreneurship as a career. This post is about the impact of charity entrepreneurship on your team's ability to do good.
For the safety of participants and to support the effort to contain COVID-19, Charity Entrepreneurship has decided to hold our 2020 Incubation Program remotely (as an online program) from June 29 to August 28. We’ve also extended the deadline for applications till April 21.
Founding a new organization has a wide range of effects on the charitable sector as a whole. If a charity is good, it can raise standards in a field, spread or stabilize key concepts, build the EA movement, or encourage the allocation of more resources to an area. There are hundreds of effects that a new charity can have on the sector as a whole, both positive and negative. This post covers a few of the most important positive ones.
Charity Entrepreneurship is a research and training program that incubates multiple high-impact charities annually. Founded in June 2018 by Joey Savoie and myself, Karolina Sarek, it builds on our experience in research and direct work on global health, animal advocacy, and other causes, including founding and incubating two GiveWell-incubated charities, Charity Science Health and Fortify Health. In this post, I summarize the results of the research we conducted in 2019 and our plans for 2020.
From a starting point of 188 ideas, we selected the top 24 for further research through an idea sort. This Idea Prioritization Report is the second stage of our research process, and ranks the 24 ideas from most to least promising. Now the top 7 ideas will move to the next stage: 80-hour reports, which we will release in the coming weeks.