The GiveWell Blog

Suggestions for individual donors from Open Philanthropy Project staff

The Open Philanthropy Project looks for outstanding giving opportunities, but its target audience is large institutional donors – unlike GiveWell’s top charities work, which targets individual donors. Some individuals have expressed interest in hearing whether there are any organizations we’ve come across, in our work on the Open Philanthropy Project, that they might consider donating to.

For this post, I polled the Open Philanthropy Project team and asked whether there are any organizations they think are reasonably strong options for individual donors, based on their Open Philanthropy Project work. The recommendations are listed below, along with some brief reasoning and information about how to donate.

Some caveats to these recommendations:

  • These are reasonably strong options in causes of interest, and shouldn’t be taken as outright recommendations (i.e., it isn’t necessarily the case that the recommender thinks they’re the best option available across all causes). For example, Alexander suggests two groups in causes he’s worked on, but he personally gave to top charities this year (as did I).
  • In many cases, we find a funding gap we’d like to fill, and then we recommend filling the entire funding gap with a single grant. That doesn’t leave much scope for making a recommendation to individuals. The cases listed below, then, are the cases where, for one reason or another, we haven’t decided to recommend filling an organization’s full funding gap, and we believe it could make use of fairly arbitrary amounts of donations from individuals. (These tend to be larger organizations.)
  • In the cases below, we don’t yet have a public writeup making the case for these organizations. Unlike with GiveWell top charities, we don’t prioritize having writeups completed by the holiday season. As a result, our explanations for why these are strong giving opportunities are very brief and informal, and we don’t expect individuals to put weight on them unless they trust the judgment of the person making the recommendation.

Summary of the recommendations:

If you decide to support one of these organizations based on our recommendations, please let us know.

Criminal Justice Reform – recommendations by Chloe Cockburn

Alliance for Safety and Justice

What is it? The Alliance for Safety and Justice is a new national organization that aims to reduce incarceration and racial disparities in incarceration in states across the country, and replace mass incarceration with new safety priorities that prioritize prevention and protect low-income communities of color. ASJ aims to build on the successful strategies of Californians for Safety and Justice and its sister organization, Vote Safe, the 501c4 that launched and ran the successful Proposition 47 campaign in 2014. Californians for Safety and Justice’s leadership, Ms. Lenore Anderson and Mr. Robert Rooks, are launching Alliance for Safety and Justice, to take the best of what they’ve achieved in California and support other state advocates in winning substantial reductions in state incarceration. Alliance for Safety and Justice will aim to build durable capacity in partner states for sentencing reform; develop a national networking center of gravity to strengthen reform efforts in as many states as possible across the country; and popularize new safety priorities through crime survivor organizing and strategic communications. Note that ASJ does not yet have a public website.

Why I recommend it: We have new and unprecedented national attention to justice reform, yet we have seen only slight decreases in incarceration in the states (CA and NY aside, and racial disparities and spending are still extreme). The failure to convert attention to wins is due in part to the very limited capacity at the state level to get durable wins – most states don’t have an organization on the ground focused on reducing incarceration at all, let alone one with the capacity to successfully win and sustain reforms. There is almost no civic engagement capacity built on this issue, there are limited mainstream partnerships, and limited political influence (no organized candidate and campaign influencers). ASJ is an ambitious, large-scale effort to address exactly these problems, with the best possible leadership for the job. Lenore’s and Robert’s work on the successful California Proposition 47 campaign was impressive.

Why we haven’t fully funded it: ASJ is seeking to raise upwards of $10 million in the coming year, and the Open Philanthropy Project is limiting the amount we grant on criminal justice reform for the time being as we get to know the space better. I have recommended a grant of $1.75 million from Open Philanthropy along with a $250,000 individual gift from Cari Tuna. If it weren’t for limits to our grantmaking on criminal justice reform, I would have recommended $5 million, and even then I’d want to leave room for other donors. In addition, I think having a diversified donor base would be good for ASJ, so at this point $X from an individual probably helps them more than an additional $X from us.

Writeup forthcoming? Yes

How to donate: Click here, choose “Californians for Safety and Justice” from the drop-down, and put “Alliance for Safety and Justice” in the field following “I want my donation to be dedicated:”

Bronx Freedom Fund

What is it? The Bronx Freedom Fund posts bail for people charged with low-level offenses in the Bronx who can’t afford to pay and who would otherwise be forced to await trial in jail. Bronx defendants who qualify for the Fund can have their bail posted with no contribution from them and spend that time before trial home with their families. Defendants released pretrial are far more likely to have positive resolutions to their cases (those who can’t post bond often end up pleading guilty just to get out of jail), so the benefits include not only less incarceration, but also fewer convictions. The Bronx Freedom Fund discusses the impact of its work here.

Why I recommend it: This is an excellent option for individuals looking to immediately impact incarceration in a relatively concrete and linear way. The Bronx Freedom Fund keeps approximately 150 people out of jail per year with about $90,000 out at a time in bails posted. They could do more with more, including expanding their assistance to other boroughs. The Fund provides an unusually cost-effective model: when defendants make all of their court appearances, bail is returned which means the vast majority (the Fund has a 97% appearance rate) of dollars donated revolves to help multiple cases and lives. The Bronx Freedom Fund also provides assistance to other cities working to start up bail funds. Finally, the benefits aren’t just immediate – the Bronx Freedom Fund has helped lay the groundwork for systemic bail reform, since the high reappearance rates for people released through the Fund demonstrate that money bail, which provides freedom only to those who can afford it, is not necessary to ensure court appearance.

Why we haven’t fully funded it: So far I have prioritized other grants, which I think are a more pressing use of our funds and less of a fit for other donors. I think the Bronx Freedom Fund is an excellent choice, though if I had to choose between it and ASJ, I’d choose ASJ.

Writeup forthcoming? No

How to donate: donate here.

Farm Animal Welfare – recommendations by Lewis Bollard

The Humane League

What is it? The Humane League seeks to reduce the suffering of the billions of farm animals confined, mutilated, and inhumanely slaughtered around the world. It has three main programs: institutional cage-free and meat reduction campaigns, online ads to raise awareness of farm animal suffering, and grassroots organizing to build a national movement.

Why I recommend it: As a lean organization that achieves a large amount on a small budget, The Humane League is a good bet for a small donor. I’m impressed by its pragmatic approach: it seems genuinely interested in sparing the most animals from the most suffering per dollar spent. Its corporate cage-free campaigns seem to be particularly cost-effective — generating pledges that will spare millions of hens from extreme confinement for small sums spent — and it’s our priority to support these, though I think the other activities are valuable as well. I believe The Humane League has played an important role in the successful campaigns to date and is positioned to play a major role in more going forward, and can use additional funding productively.

Why we haven’t fully funded it: We’re currently working toward a decision on a grant, but the decision hasn’t been made yet. If we did recommend a grant, it would be to meet THL’s needs for corporate campaigns (what we consider its most effective activities), not its full organization-wide funding gap.

Writeup forthcoming? Yes

How to donate: via Network for Good

The Humane Society of the United States Farm Animal Protection campaign

What is it? The Farm Animal Protection campaign of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) drives corporate farm animal welfare reforms, institutional meat reduction pledges, and increased public attention to farm animal suffering. It also conducts undercover investigations, lobbies for state laws and federal regulations to protect farm animals, and campaigns for ballot measures to outlaw the cruelest confinement systems in factory farming. (Disclosure: I previously worked at HSUS, and am friends with the leaders of the Farm Animal Protection campaign.)

Why I recommend it: The HSUS Farm Animal Protection campaign has been the key player in driving major animal welfare pledges from U.S. corporate giants. In particular, it has helped secure pledges from over 100 corporations — from Aramark to Dunkin’ Donuts — to ditch gestation crates, battery cages for hens, or both. These reforms have already reduced the suffering of millions of animals, and are on track to reduce the suffering of millions more. Its Meatless Monday campaigns and undercover investigations are raising awareness of factory farming and reducing the number of animals forced to endure it.

Why we haven’t fully funded it: We’re currently working toward a decision on a grant, but the decision hasn’t been made yet. If we did recommend a grant, it would be to meet HSUS’s needs for corporate campaigns (what we consider its most effective activities), not its full funding gap

Writeup forthcoming? Yes

How to donate: you can donate online here.

Other policy causes – recommendations by Alexander Berger

Center for Global Development

What is it? The Center for Global Development (CGD) is a think tank based in Washington, D.C. that conducts research on and promotes improvements to rich-world policies that affect the global poor.

Why I recommend it: I see CGD as the leading US think tank focused on global development and as being unusually well-aligned with GiveWell’s values around the importance of evidence-based policy and cost-effectiveness (as well as the obvious overlap in being concerned about how actions of the global rich can be better channeled to improve the lot of the global poor). Several times during its 15-year history, CGD seems to have a played a causal role in decisions affecting billions of dollars directed towards the global poor, though it is of course very difficult to trace the impact of those decisions through to improved humanitarian outcomes. Despite its apparently strong track record, CGD has less unrestricted support than it would like (<25% currently vs ~1/3 ideally), and its communications and (especially) policy teams seem very small relative to other think tanks.

Why we haven’t fully funded it: We’re planning to recommend a 3-year grant of $1M/year, which would close much but not all of the gap between CGD’s current level of unrestricted funding and where they would like to be. This amount is a bit arbitrary: CGD told us that the most unrestricted funding that it would ideally like to receive from a single source is $2M/year, its current largest unrestricted funder is the Hewlett Foundation, at $1.2M/year, and we asked for projections about how they would spend $200K, $500K, or $1M more per year. With general operating support for a mature institution like CGD, we don’t see a particularly obvious point of declining returns, though it is likely that at some point it would begin to save resources for the indefinite future rather than spending more reasonably soon. However, in the long run, we would guess that CGD benefits from having a diverse base of donors, and we would prefer not to provide so much support that CGD might become reliant on us.

Writeup forthcoming? Yes, hopefully within a few weeks. We’ve also made a previous unrestricted grant to CGD and a grant to support CGD’s migration work.

How to donate: Donate here.

Center for Popular Democracy’s Fed Up Campaign

What is it? The Center for Popular Democracy, a progressive national advocacy group that works with community groups across the country, is running a campaign (“Fed Up”) that aims to encourage more expansionary monetary policy and greater transparency and public engagement in the governance of the Federal Reserve (“the Fed”).

Why I recommend it: I see three basic reasons to support the campaign’s goals:

  • I think the Fed is probably going to raise interest rates more than it should. I see the disagreement here as stemming largely from values differences: the Fed currently tends to weigh a point of inflation about the same as a point of unemployment, and I think a humanitarian perspective would weigh the latter more heavily. This may be partially because the Fed is currently more likely to be blamed if inflation moves too high than if unemployment remains higher than necessary or inflation stays below target longer than necessary.
  • It is quite likely that there will be another recession that returns interest rates to the zero lower bound in the next few years, and having an active group pushing the Fed to do more at that point may lead to a more balanced set of political pressures acting on the Fed and give them the political space to do (proportionally) more than they were able to in the Great Recession.
  • The campaign’s procedural goals around increasing the transparency and accountability of the Fed, and particularly of the regional Federal Reserve Banks, strike me as worthwhile, though I have no idea how to estimate their humanitarian value.

And while the Federal Reserve is, appropriately, fairly insulated from outside pressure, the campaign has had surprising success during its first ~18 months in drawing press attention and access to policymakers. Overall, I see this as a substantially more complicated and risky case than the vast majority of grants we make, and I readily recognize that I could be mistaken.

Why we haven’t fully funded it: We think the humanitarian stakes of monetary policy decisions are very high, and that many more funders would be engaged if the stakes were more widely understood, so part of our goal is to create a field of actors in this area that other funders could eventually support. To increase the incentives for other funders to engage, we’re planning to match contributions to the campaign during the next year, up to $1M.

Writeup: A February 2015 grant writeup is here; we’re planning another writeup in the next couple months.

How to donate: Donate here.

Nuclear Arms as Global Catastrophic Risk – recommendation by Nick Beckstead

Ploughshares Fund

What is it? Ploughshares Fund is a public operating foundation that “seeks to reduce and eventually eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons.” Since the U.S. and Russia possess 95% of the world’s nuclear arsenal, Ploughshares Fund has a Washington policy focus. Its annual budget is around $8 million; about $5.5 million is spent on grants, with over $1 million for its own programmatic activity. The organization’s advocacy focuses on global nuclear arms control treaties (including defending existing ones), influencing U.S. nuclear posture, limiting expenditures on nuclear weapons systems, and promoting nuclear arms control champions in the U.S. House and Senate. Ploughshares Fund provides grants for groups and individuals to produce expert reports, articles, op-eds, town hall meetings, briefings for Congress and other advocacy tools.

In addition to ongoing efforts to stop a new nuclear arms race, Ploughshares Fund most recently received attention for its advocacy work on the Iran nuclear deal. It believes its “Iran Campaign” helped create the “political space” required to resolve the nuclear impasse with Iran by convening and funding a network of 85 organizations and 200 experts and advocates. Ploughshares stated to us that this network furnished government officials with expert analysis, produced first-hand reporting on the status of negotiations, provided rapid response fact checks, and mobilized U.S. public support for the final nuclear agreement. For more, see recent articles in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
Currently, Ploughshares Fund is focused on U.S. policy toward Iran and limiting additional expenditures on the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal.

Why I recommend it: Advocacy work – in contrast with policy analysis or demonstration projects – appears relatively neglected in the nuclear weapons policy world. I have a limited understanding of the organizations that work on nuclear weapons policy advocacy issues, but Ploughshares Fund seems like a good bet in that area because:

  • Ploughshares Fund is the largest funder in the field focused on advocacy.
  • Ploughshares Fund is seeking additional funding.
  • We found Ploughshares Fund helpful when we spoke to their President and Executive Director in order to get an overview of the field.
  • They are the main grantee of the Skoll Global Threats Fund, which is the other major foundation in this space that is focused on advocacy.

Nuclear weapons policy work abroad is arguably more neglected than such work in the U.S., but I have too limited understanding of work going on outside of the U.S. to recommend any individual organization.

Why we haven’t fully funded it: We haven’t taken the time to investigate how Ploughshares Fund would use additional funding, and nuclear arms risk isn’t a focus of ours for the time being: we have prioritized biosecurity and pandemic preparedness and potential risks from advanced artificial intelligence more highly.

Writeup forthcoming? No

How to donate: Donate here.

Biosecurity and pandemic preparedness as Global Catastrophic Risk – recommendation by Howie Lempel

UPMC Center for Health Security

What is it? The UPMC Center for Health Security is a think tank that works to protect people’s health from epidemics (caused by natural pathogens or by accidents or deliberate misuse of biotechnology) and other disasters. Their work includes researching these threats and designing policy to address them, informing decisionmakers, and developing the biosecurity community by connecting experts in science, medicine, public health, law, social science, national security, and other fields. Much of this work is targeted toward mitigating potential global catastrophic risks although a substantial portion of it is also targeted toward smaller threats. A few examples of recent work by UPMC scholars that I am aware of are:

  • A Delphi Study that analyzed the biosecurity community’s collective judgment about threats from bioweapons.
  • Several publications ( 1, 2, 3) related to the current U.S. policy debate on how the federal government should evaluate the risks of funding certain types of “gain of function” research (research that might increase the transmissibility or pathogenicity of influenza, SARS, or MERS).
  • A discussion paper on mitigating risks related to developments in synthetic biology.
  • The Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative, which builds the biosecurity community by identifying, developing, and providing networking opportunities to potential new leaders in the space.
  • Many examples of lending their expertise by speaking and testifying at hearings and meetings.
  • The Center is running a multilateral strategic dialogue on strengthening biosecurity for Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the US, which works to improve prevention and response to deliberate biothreats, epidemic response, and biosafety.

Why I recommend it:

We have identified biosecurity and pandemic preparedness as an area receiving relatively significant attention from the public sector but fairly little philanthropic funding. In this situation we believe that think tanks and advocacy groups may have particularly high impact by influencing and improving the use of government funds through policy research and development, acting as an independent source of accountability, and having the flexibility to work on long-run and/or politically controversial issues.

I do not know every organization working in the field but I perceive the UPMC Center for Health Security to be the most influential think tank working on health security issues and to be generally well-respected in the field. They seem to be the go-to source of expertise for many health security issues and are one of a small handful of organizations that combine expertise in science, medicine, public health, and security. I have heard particularly positive reviews of their Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative, which is one of the only institutions I’m aware of that provides multidisciplinary networking and development opportunities for the biosecurity field.

Why we haven’t fully funded it: We haven’t taken the time to investigate the UPMC Center for Health Security’s track record in detail or how the organization would use additional funding. We’re currently prioritizing hiring over grantmaking when it comes to biosecurity.

Writeup forthcoming? No

How to donate:Write a check to UPMC Center for Health Security and send it to their address at: UPMC Center for Health Security, 621 East Pratt Street, Suite 210, Baltimore, Maryland 21202. The Center also requests that you include a simple explanation of why you decided to contribute.


  • Avi Norowitz on December 23, 2015 at 6:22 pm said:

    This is informative. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jamie Cassidy on December 30, 2015 at 6:04 am said:

    I have some concerns about the OPP donating to and recommending the Fed Up campaign.
    Overall I think your underlying argument as to why the Fed should be more dovish at the margin is well grounded. However, one thing I think you may have under-weighted is the extreme humanitarian cost to very high or hyper inflation. Because this is the case it makes sense that monetary policy should always be more hawkish than if this outside risk weren’t so destructive. This leads to a situation where a central bank, following optimal monetary policy, will always be open to criticism that it should be more dovish at the margin.
    I agree with the your concerns about transparency and accountability, but I would worry that any changes to improve these which inadvertently compromise independence would be very damaging.

    More concerning though I think is the decision choice of that particular organization. While I agree that Fed Up’s procedural goals seem more sensible than the stated central mission, the stated central mission is still very relevant. It seems pretty clear to me that this campaign is poorly thought out and dangerously populist/reactionary. I have no doubt that if this campaign were successful it would do a lot of damage to monetary stability at high humanitarian cost.
    My guess is that you feel that they are very unlikely to succeed in these goals fully and therefore that your marginal donation will do good, due to the shared interests that you have, even though you don’t agree with their central mission. This seems like a very dangerous precedent.

  • Alexander on December 31, 2015 at 1:52 pm said:

    Jamie – thanks for the comments. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I don’t think we’ve underweighted the humanitarian costs of very high inflation – I think very high inflation is very costly, but I don’t know of any reason we should believe that very high inflation is more costly than very high unemployment (i.e., that x% inflation is worse than (x+y)% unemployment where y is the difference between the inflation target and the NAIRU). Also, I think the probability of hyperinflation in the U.S. (especially at the conventional 50% per month definition) is negligible in the medium term.

    The most common argument I’ve seen for why central bankers should err hawkish is not that high inflation is worse than similarly high unemployment but rather that inflationary processes are accelerating and forward-looking while unemployment isn’t, and accordingly that maintaining the expectation of “low” inflation (by having a hawkish central banker) makes actually achieving low inflation much easier (including in terms of the level of foregone output required). The point is not that a point of inflation at the high end is worse than unemployment, but rather that keeping inflation low in one period prevents it from getting even higher in the next, in a way that does not apply to unemployment. This insight is often traced back to Kydland and Prescott’s famous 1977 paper (e.g. by Bernanke, here). I’d make three arguments in reply:

    • In today’s environment of well-anchored expectations, it’s not clear to me how much the Kydland-Prescott insight binds. If anything, expectations seem to risk falling below target, and our recent experience struggling to generate inflation at the “zero lower bound” suggests that generating inflation in a weak economy is much harder than slowing it down when the economy is growing too quickly. The basic Kydland and Prescott insight doesn’t take the risk of the ZLB on board.
    • I think we should give some credence to Yellen’s skepticism that inflationary mechanisms are as forward-looking as Kydland-Prescott assumes (see footnotes 28 and 29 to this speech), and accordingly we should be less worried about inflation shooting upwards than they imply. A pretty standard accelerationist Phillips curve model would suggest that you could go a couple years with unemployment a couple points below NAIRU before inflation rose by 2 points. (See citations in footnote 36 here.)
    • I don’t think it’s particularly clear by what benchmark “hawkishness” should be assessed in a global environment with real interest rates much lower than they had been historically. I think it’s quite possible that the last several years of monetary policy have been hawkish in the sense that the real interest rates have been higher than the natural rate (see figures 5 and 10).

    To your broader point: I strongly disagree that the campaign is “poorly thought out.” I agree that I wouldn’t vote to legislate all of their goals, but I nevertheless think that having them involved is very useful. I’d argue by analogy: Larry Summers recently wrote a reply to a Bernie Sanders oped in the NYT about the Fed and financial regulation. I agree with nearly all of Summers’ points but I still think it was good that Sanders wrote the oped and that it got Summers to respond (in agreement on some points and disagreement on others). In general, there have been well-organized and vocal populists on the other side of monetary policy issues for a long time, and I’m quite skeptical that ceding the field of that form of engagement to them is an optimal approach. This Vox piece does a nice job describing how I see the political economy here.

  • Jamie Cassidy on January 1, 2016 at 11:38 am said:

    Hi Alexander,
    On my first point, what I was trying to say (though I appreciate I didn’t do a very good job) is that while I basically agreed with your assessment that a lean towards more dovish behaviour makes sense, we have to make sure we are accounting for the bigger picture too.
    At all times a central bank’s primary goal must be price stability. Therefore as well as assessing the marginal impacts on inflation and employment of each decision, one must also consider any impacts to price stability. The major risk to price stability to my mind is higher than desirable inflation, which is the cause of both high inflation and most cases of high unemployment in recent history. Since most of these recent cases of high unemployment have tended to occur during recessionary periods caused directly due to corrections in asset pricing in the aftermath of periods of overpricing or ‘bubbles’, rather than by deflation or overly hawkish behaviour by central banks. Therefore, when taking in the big picture impacts, the correct conclusion tends to be more hawkish than if we were to look purely at the marginal impacts of employment vs inflation for any given decision.
    I was just trying to point out in general that since your analysis seemed very focused on the marginal impacts, you may be undervaluing the impacts on price stability. Though these impacts may be small, given the importance of price stability, they may change the correct decision at the margins.

    On your observations regarding the ZLB and the difficulties in generating inflation recently, I would point to the fact that there was actually a very sharp recovery in inflation during the 2nd half of 2009. Since then inflation has been impacted negatively by several externalities; the European debt crisis, the slowdown in China and the oil price war. These have led to a higher dollar exchange rate and much lower commodity and oil prices, which have had a huge impact on US inflation.
    Therefore I think it’s very difficult to make assessments on how easy or difficult it has been for the FED to control inflation, because to do so we would need to adjust for these external impacts.

    On the central point of the Fed Up campaign. It seems to me from the pictures and reading the mission statement that the main motivation behind this campaign is being caused by the related issues of rising income inequality and stagnant real median wages. These are very serious issues and ones to which I would very much support corrective action.
    However, they are very much political issues and require structural changes, for example better funding of state education through more progressive taxation. This is just an example of one possible solution which you can agree or disagree with, but the point is that looking to your central bank to fix inequality seems like a badly misguided strategy.
    The very first line of the campaign’s agenda for the Fed reads ‘The Federal Reserve should publicly commit to building an economy with genuine full employment..’. The Fed is a central bank, it’s job is to provide counter-cyclical monetary policy to help with price stability and perhaps at the margins to consider labour under-utilization as a corollary, but it’s definitely not up to central banks to be ‘building an economy’ for any reason.
    I feel like I could go through this line by line. The 2nd line; ‘This means promising to keep interest rates low until the economy has reached full speed’. This might not be wholly crazy, but it’s not an argument against hiking now. The Fed could raise rates 3 times over the next year and they would still not only be low, they’d be around the same level they were at the bottom the previous interest rate cycle.
    Much of the site is dominated by objectives and suggestions of how to achieve them. However, there is very little of substance to conclude that their suggestions would actually be successful in achieving these objectives, not to mention an analysis of the potentially harmful side effects these suggestions would have if implemented.

  • Colin Rust on January 3, 2016 at 12:55 pm said:

    Jamie Cassidy, you express the view that:

    At all times a central bank?s primary goal must be price stability.

    You’re entitled to your preferences as to what central banks should do of course, but that’s in conflict with e.g. the mission of the US Federal Reserve:

    The Federal Reserve sets the nation’s monetary policy to
    promote the objectives of maximum employment, stable prices,
    and moderate long-term interest rates.

          (Also, a more minor point, but how do you define “price stability”? Normally I think it is defined as synonymous with “low inflation”. But you seem to mean something somewhat different in mind or else e.g. this is a tautology: “The major risk to price stability to my mind is higher than desirable inflation…”)

        • Alexander on January 4, 2016 at 1:58 pm said:

          Jamie – I agree with Colin that the Fed’s mandate includes attending to the real side of the economy (and that it’s appropriate for that to be the case). You seem to be arguing that we shouldn’t hand over the reigns of monetary policy to the Fed Up campaign, and I strongly agree, but I don’t see any risk of that happening while I see a great risk that the Fed hits the ZLB again and under-reacts again, and I think the existence of the Fed Up campaign could be quite helpful in shifting the window of political possibility for the Fed to do what it wants to be able to do in that case (again, I’d suggest this Vox post). More generally, I think it’s a mistake to evaluate the Fed Up campaign – or any popular campaign – based on the outcomes that would occur if their messages were literally enacted into policy: the goal of their messages are much more to motivate their members and attract press coverage than to be a template for what will actually happen (or to convince you).

        • Martin Randall on January 5, 2016 at 6:34 am said:

          Thank you! Just what I was waiting for!

        • Martin Randall on January 8, 2016 at 8:49 pm said:

          1. Have you done any rough calculations on the cost-effectiveness of the Bronx Freedom Fund?
          Its own figures show it taking $2 to avoid one day of unjust imprisonment – so $2,800 for four years of freedom. How would GiveWell rate that compared to $2,800 for a child’s life via AMF, or a $2,800 one-time wealth transfer via GiveDirectly?

          2. Have you looked at evaluating HSUS-FAP or THL as potential GiveWell top charities? Do you feel that it’s non-corporate campaigns are less efficient than money transfers in terms of relieving suffering? Or is this a deliberate decision to leave such analysis to Animal Charity Evaluators?

          3. In general, it seems to me that “US policy” charities are particularly good fits for individual donors, because of the increased lobbying power that comes with claiming “grass roots” support of many small donors/members. This is often claimed to be behind the outsize power of the NRA, for example. What’s the reasoning behind OPP focusing on institutional donors?

        • Jamie Cassidy on January 9, 2016 at 2:36 am said:

          Colin, as I understand it the inclusion of an employment metric in the data is to ensure the FED’s board doesn’t end up at a high unemployment, low inflation, moderate interest rate equilibrium and find itself powerless to act under its mandate. Personally I think that price stability (which I define as both low inflation and moderate asset price growth) should be given priority in the mission over the other 2.
          Alexander, I read the VOX piece, for me the writer is perhaps reading too much in to what Bernanke didn’t say. I’m not necessarily against NGDP targeting, but I think it’s hard to argue it would be a lot better than what we have currently, and the potential risks involved in changing so dramatically are not warranted while the current system is working reasonably well.
          On the Fed Up campaign, perhaps they are deliberately sensationalizing for impact, if so I dislike their approach. In general I would go back to my original point; I’m uncomfortable supporting people who’s central goals you disagree with, because you estimate by doing so you will achieve a favourable marginal outcome, but if you are happy with the decision fair enough.

          A couple of other general points;
          On the ZLB point, again I think you should to consider the externalities (lower oil, stronger dollar) before you conclude that the FED’s actions, and range of possible actions, have been inadequate at dealing with lower than desirable inflation or employment.
          One way to highlight this more clearly is to look at core inflation, which is less impacted (but not immune from) external impacts. It did dip below 1% for about a year but otherwise it looks on this metric like the FED’s actions were able to cause a recovery back to the desired range quite quickly.
          Right now unemployment is below it’s long term average, cyclical employment is around 1% and falling, wage inflation is 2.5%, core inflation is 2%, meanwhile interest rates are very near their lowest ever level. The external impacts keeping the headline inflation number low are real, but not forward looking. Overall I think there is a lot out there to make even dovish observers feel it might be time to move rates from ‘exceptionally low’ to ‘low’ or ‘below average’.

        • Holden on January 15, 2016 at 8:30 pm said:

          Martin: we haven’t analyzed the cost-effectiveness of these organizations compared to GiveWell top charities, and we don’t plan to. We don’t have the same level of knowledge of these organizations, and we think the case for them needs to rely much more on trusting the judgment of Open Philanthropy Project staff. Our “top charities” work focuses on charities whose case relies more on known and verifiable facts. We serve a niche audience with a relatively small number of major individual donors accounting for a large amount of money, so we haven’t put a lot of weight on the value of demonstrating “grass roots” support.

        • Colin Rust on January 18, 2016 at 4:55 pm said:

          Holden, to amplify Martin‘s third point, it is often argued (as far as I can tell correctly) that the power of organizations like the NRA and AARP in influencing US policy flows not just from the money they raise, but also from the large numbers of supporters they mobilize to contact their representatives in Congress on their issues.

          You raise a fair point that most of the money you raise comes from a relatively small number of donors. But money is not the only lever. E.g. a blog post urging people to write their representative to support Bill XXX might be something to consider as a complementary approach to influencing policy.

        • Holden on January 19, 2016 at 6:50 pm said:

          When it comes to the Open Philanthropy Project’s policy work, we’re open to activities like this and rely on the staff working on a given issue to tell us when e.g. a blog post would be helpful. However, I don’t see this as a good fit for the traditional audience and approach of GiveWell.

        • Colin Rust on January 19, 2016 at 7:58 pm said:

          Holden, agreed, I’m pretty sure Martin was talking about — and certainly I was talking about — OPP’s work on influencing US policy, not GiveWell’s traditional work.

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