One-on-Ones

Compared to other activities in the EA community, new and current members of EA groups see immense value in private meetings with group organisers. We call these in-person meetings one-on-ones.

We outline the benefits of one-on-ones and reasons why they may or may not be relevant to your group. We also collect practical tips from the community and other additional resources on this page.

In general, one-on-ones are useful for:

  • Welcoming new members (intro one-on-ones)

  • Guiding current members (mentor one-on-ones)

  • Discussing career options (career one-on-ones)

  • Discussing donation opportunities (donation one-on-ones)

  • Sharing information about EA topics

  • Responding to questions and concerns

  • Building relationships between community members

Should you host one-on-ones?

A group can only host so many different types of activities. Every group’s member-base varies, as does its leaders’ strengths and weaknesses. Your emphasis on one-on-ones may differ depending on these factors.

Your group may benefit more from one-on-ones if many members are:

  • New to EA and eager to learn more about the community and its cause areas

  • Struggling to attend events or engage with each other, whether because of busy schedules, living too far away, or other reasons

  • Seeking guidance on specific topics such as skill-building, productivity, volunteering opportunities, and career decisions

  • Working on EA-related projects and would like feedback

One-on-ones may be less important than other activities if leading members:

  • Find one-on-ones socially challenging. Making others feel welcome is critical, especially when speaking with newer members. An uncomfortable experience may deter them from getting more involved

  • Have insufficient knowledge about effective altruism. Organisers should be able to answer common questions with ease

  • Lack the capacity to run both one-on-ones and different types of events

Introductory and Mentor One-on-Ones

Before you start introductory one-on-ones, read the EA Hub pages on communicating about effective altruism. They provide a few good ways to explain EA and highlight common questions and concerns. Also, familiarise yourself with the EA Hub pages about learning about effective altruism. You can refer group members to the resources and organisations there if needed. ******

Resources

  • EA Oxford produced a Guide to Successful Community 1-1s that details the entire process of introductory one-on-ones and mentor one-on-ones, from finding leads to following up.

Career One-on-Ones

EA offers a unique perspective on individuals’ career paths. Career one-on-ones provide a platform to discuss career aspirations and consider EA-aligned options. You may also conduct these discussions in small-group settings.

If done correctly, advising group members to take high-impact career paths has enormous potential upsides. But suggesting unsuitable career choices may also cause harm. Seek advice if you’re unsure whether you are ready to conduct career one-on-ones.

Resources

Donation One-on-Ones

Donation one-on-ones involve chatting to a prospective donor about where they could donate.

A large part of EA is donating more and increasing the effectiveness of donations. We can help each other make better decisions, and we can help each other take action and follow through.

We suggest offering donation one-on-ones when you are very familiar with the activities of the major charity evaluators and EA funds, and ideally have spent time carefully choosing donation opportunities for yourself.

Donation choices are often very personal, so it is best to only suggest a donation one-on-one after a donor has expressed an interest in getting some advice on where to donate.

How the conversation will proceed will depend on how much the person has already decided about their donation.

  • Have they chosen a broad or narrow cause area already?

  • Are they looking to donate to a charity with strong evidence of some impact, or are they happy to take a risk with their donation for a small chance of a higher impact?

  • What personal benefits are they looking for when donating (e.g. tax credits, warm fuzzy feelings, communicating to others about their donation)?

  • Do they have any other restrictions on their donations (e.g. if they are choosing a charity on behalf of their whole family, or for a group to run a fundraiser)?

We recommend reading this guide from Raising for Effective Giving on choosing a charity before conducting donation 1:1s.

Suggestions

  • Aim to understand the potential donor and support them as best you can by actively listening and reserving your opinions unless you are asked about them. It is better to bring up examples, stories, and tools. Listen empathically.

  • Start by finding out why they are wanting to donate, and whether they have fixed goals for what their donation does. This could include goals for improving the world, and for their own personal goals.

  • Briefly discussing the donor’s past donations and strategies/processes along with the insights that came from it.

  • For newer donors: suggest starting small and making things easy with commitment devices (such as written promises for very small goals & check-ins)

  • For older donors: depending on the situation, aim to do better than they have in the past by working more efficiently or by delving deeper into EA concepts, e.g. cause prioritisation, insofar as this delving makes a concrete difference in decision making and changes one’s beliefs.

  • Ask if they are interested in considering a variety of causes, whether they’ve gone through a process of cause prioritisation before, or whether they already have a cause in mind. If they are open to a wide variety of cause areas ask them about their values and vision for a better world (Founders Pledge’s Value Discovery Approach), and the level of risk they are willing to take in order to help narrow down which cause areas they might find compelling. Then introduce some concepts of cause prioritisation, for example, Scale, Neglectedness and Tractability, and some common EA cause areas (some readings on cause prioritisation).

  • If they already have a cause area in mind, and are not interested in changing, we suggest you help them donate most effectively in that cause area. You are unlikely to change someone’s mind in one conversation, and by pushing other causes you could lose the opportunity to make their donation more effective. You may be able to still introduce those people to other cause areas through other EA group activities.

  • For many donors is it better to aim to “do good better” rather than spending a lot of time optimising to “do the most good” by seeking to help the donor choose an excellent charity, rather than trying to find the very best one.

  • Take notes, recording:

    • Reasoning and criteria for decisions so that this can be built on

    • Suggestions for links to send

  • If the donor is willing, set up a plan of action and a scheduled time to review future decisions

  • Follow up shortly after the meeting with an email containing suggested readings. Readings could include:

    • General EA content, if the donor is new to EA and interested in an overview

    • Links to research and recommendations from charity evaluators

  • A few weeks later (or at an agreed-upon time), get in touch to ask how they got on with making their decision.

Tips

One-on-ones can seem strange to some newcomers depending on how you frame them, so it's important to be conscientious about how you communicate about them. Here is some advice about conducting one-on-ones in a professional yet welcoming way.

Tips to relieve awkwardness:

  • When you first bring up the option of having a one-on-one, let people know this is a regular activity your group does – make it obvious that you aren’t asking them on a date!

  • Use casual, but specific phrases like “grabbing a coffee and chatting about X”.

  • Meet in a public space such as a cafe or park.

Timing

  • Schedule a meeting as soon as possible after someone expresses interest

  • Thirty minutes is a suitable length for a session, though it doesn't hurt to budget extra time, especially for career or donation 1:1s.

  • Check-in with people the day before a one-on-one to confirm their availability. If you are planning on presenting an introductory seminar, personal interactions are a perfect time to extend an invitation

  • At the start of the meeting, find out how much time each of you has to talk. Don’t run overtime

During the meeting

  • Balance the conversation. Spend as much time listening as you do speaking. Listening can be harder in a discussion about EA when you are the resident expert. To encourage the other person to talk more, use questions from EA Oxford’s guide, or EA Cambridge’s question list

  • Consider getting food or drinks. People are more likely to commit to a conversation when there is food on the table

  • Keep in mind how much exposure the other person has had to EA ideas. Explain acronyms and jargon that would otherwise go over their head

  • Pay attention to their willingness to change their mind when presented with compelling arguments or evidence and act accordingly. Avoid unnecessary tension. Tobias Pulver writes more

  • Gauge their depth of knowledge and extent of thinking about doing good. Asking people what motivates them to care about particular cause areas is a smart way

  • Take notes as you go about resources you want to send them afterwards.

  • When the meeting ends, recap the discussion and list the resources you intend to send them.

Afterwards

Send a follow-up email with a personalised list of reading recommendations.

Matching with other members

Buddy System for New Members

To make new members feel more welcome, you can match them witha more experienced member who is responsible for helping them feeling more included into your group. Here is an example of how Brown EA implemented their buddy system. For more questions about the buddy system, feel free to ask Emma Abele from Brown EA.

Donut

Donut is a tool integrated in Slack that pairs people on a regular basis via direct messages. For this, you create a new channel in Slack and enable Donut. You can then invite people to join the channel and Donut will start making introduction between people in the channel, encouraging them to meet personally or via video chat.

Additional Resources