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Funding Constraints for EA Orgs

July 26th, 2017
giving  [html]

How much better is time than money? While I do think currently in EA it's generally better to use your time than earn to give, the ratio matters a lot. One way to express this is, for each person there's a (very hard to estimate) number: the donation amount that would have the same expected impact as if they did direct work. For example, someone who would be ok at direct work might have a threshold around $50k/y, while someone who's really good might have one around $500k/y. [1]

The relative value of money vs talent depends on what current options are for turning more money into work. For EA organizations, one way to get at it is to look at how they currently trade off between them. For example, imagine each organization has a guideline for its staff in the form of "be willing to spend $X to save yourself 1hr". I'm very curious where organizations would put this division.

Similarly, we could try and figure out how many people there are who would be a good fit for EA organizations, but aren't willing to work at current salary levels. My impression is salary ("I'm pretty altrusistic, but I'm not altruistic enough to do the equivalent of donating 75%") is currently a common reason for going into earning to give.

We could also look at things organizations currently hire EAs for, but that could be contracted out or done by non-EA employees. To take a probably too extreme example, could EA Global be run by non-EA professional conference organizers? Speaker selection, say, would still need to be handled by people familiar with the community, but most of the work of planning and running a conference is probably pretty transferable.

Where EA organizations currently are getting work done externally, my impression is the orgs lean towards cheaper options that take longer, require more staff time, or have other downsides. In general, you can pay more for better and faster work.

As I wrote last week, I think there's still a lot of room for EA organizations to adjust to more abundant funding, and as this happens we'll keep seeing more ways to turn money into things we care about.


[1] And someone who's really bad at direct work might have a threshold well less than $0; it's much easier to cause damage with bad direct work than by being bad at earning to give.

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