Tips on Talking About Money in EA Groups
Written by Catherine Low from CEA's Community Health Team
The increased funding available for EA inspired projects is fantastic for our ability to tackle problems in the world. However, this influx of money is causing some problems, some of which might be reduced through thoughtful communication about funding opportunities.
Problems we have seen
Some people have pretended to be more interested in EA or longtermism than they actually are to increase their chances of funding, and this is likely to increase. This has caused loss of community trust, increased vetting requirements, and a potential erosion of epistemic norms in the community.
Some spending can appear manipulative, self-serving, or just not very altruistic if the path to impact is not clear. This has put some people off engaging more.
Messages getting garbled as they are passed on to others. E.g. Information shared about travel funding for conferences resulted in some people getting the impression of EA as “the group that will send you on holiday for free”.
Advice for group organisers
You can and should communicate to community members that funding is available for many projects that have a high expected value, and that many high-impact careers pay well.
Explain why your group chooses to spend money when the spending could seem odd.
E.g. “this book has inspired some people to make a really large positive impact, so we think on average we get more impact by buying books to distribute than by directly donating that money.”
Be targeted with communications about funding opportunities when practical. E.g.
Consider waiting until people have demonstrated significant interest in EA
Encourage specific members to apply for suitable opportunities
Communicate that any money you or your group receives comes with responsibility. E.g.
“I feel grateful to get this travel grant, as it will allow me to meet with people who can help me <have specific impact>.”
“Our group can use our funds on X if we think it could significantly <improve the event/save organiser time>”
If people ask, be straightforward about where the money is coming from. This can include:
The name and goal of the funding organisation
Major contributors to the funding organisation (e.g. CEA and EA Funds receive funding from a large number of donors, including some wealthy philanthropists such as Dustin Moskovitz and Cari Tuna).
Here are some tips on spending group funding from the common group expenses guidelines.
Some reading about the current funding situation and challenges
EA and the current funding situation - William MacAskill
How I Recommend University Groups Approach the Funding Situation - Sabrina Chwalek
Free-spending EA might be a big problem for optics and epistemics - George Rosenfeld
The biggest risk of free-spending EA is not optics or epistemics, but grift - Ben Kuhn