Who I donate to

Expensive virtue signalling

August 21, 2019 — March 5, 2024

Figure 1

1 Why this list

Some public goods I long for can best be achieved by outsourcing, i.e. I give someone else money to achieve them for us all. That is what charitable donation is. I mention my specific donations here because

  1. I believe in normalising donating in general as part of a healthy society. This is a contingent stance; many of the causes I donate to have the goal of reducing the need for charitable donation, which I think is better than relying upon affluent guilt.

  2. I hope that by highlighting the causes I donate to, I will encourage others to donate to them, so the publicity is useful leverage.

  3. For my own reference, I want a centralised list of who I am donating to so that I can stop my donations if I decide the recipient is no longer the best place to send my money.

  4. Maybe you will have better ideas than I about whom I should donate to, and will engage constructively on that topic to improve my strategy.

  5. I hope that you will think I am a nice person for giving money to strangers.

    1. Maybe if donating to saving the planet becomes the new conspicuous consumption, then not only will I look like a nice guy, I’ll even have a liveable planet to look fancy on, and living people in front of whom to look like a nice guy.

Good. Let’s make it rain.

Figure 2

Listing organisations here should not be taken as my personal endorsement of any individual tactical decision made by any of the organisations or individuals mention, nor my blanket support of all positions they may adopt. It does indicate that I feel that giving them money nets out as good on average.

Unlike, say, classic, marginalist-style, Effective Altruist organisations donor lists, there is little emphasis here on, e.g. mosquito nets. I am more interested in moon-shots and hail-mary punts and other high-variance strategies, which the Open Philanthropy people bill as hits-based Giving, whereas the default EA strategy is low-variance.

I am interested especially in organisations which aim to change the system to enable us humans to solve problems for ourselves, i.e. disruptive changers. That is, I mostly give money to lobbyists, builders of capacity, and builders of tools. This is, IMO, a higher-risk, higher-expected-reward strategy than (important, useful) concrete certainties like mosquito nets, and also, TBH, one that I more directly benefit from personally. Enlightened mutual interest is kind of my whole thing though. Further, we are at a point in human history where high-risk high-reward is pretty much the only wise strategy. Hail-mary bets all the way.

As a side order, I give money to some creators whose work I enjoy. This amount of money is somewhat smaller than the donations to political activity, and also I get various benefits out of it (ad-free versions of the podcast etc) so I am not sure that it counts; but I would still consume their content if I did not donate, so let us count that also.

For reference, my current donation level is 4% 3% of my income. I decreased it recently because my employer CSIRO has cut real wages. Unless there is a truly exceptional burning emergency or matching funding from a donor, I attempt to give my donations as regular recurring payments, to provide budgeting certainty to both the organisation and to myself. Also, organisations that need to raise funding by alarmism learn some unhealthy habits around crying wolf.

2 Money donations

The next few are about confidentiality-respecting and/or open source computing infrastructure.

Various creators on Patreon I can’t work out how to link to en masse:

3 Time donations

In principle I would volunteer to help good causes too using my specialised skills, i.e. data science and statistics and all that.

  • Progtech, the Progressive Tech network. I attempted to volunteer teaching data-science-for-campaigning for these folks, but they never allocated me any shifts. I suspect they are more of a software-development mutual aid thing than a data-science-focussed program.
  • your NGO here?

If your cause is righteous, you are welcome to pitch for a slice of my volunteer time. Send me a short paragraph making a case for what it will help (I tend to favour climate- and conflict-risk mitigation causes) and why you think it will be a high-leverage use of my time towards that goal.

I do not have time to pitch to you about whether data science is useful at all. Organisations that are not yet considering that for themselves are too far back along the on-ramp to the 21st century.

4 Incoming