Hi all, 

A while back I posted on here asking if there were any other pro athlete aspiring EAs. The response (while not including other pro athletes) was amazing, and the conversations and contacts that manifested from this forum were myriad. Thank you deeply for being such an awesome community! 

Now I am very pleased to say that High Impact Athletes has launched. 

We are an EA aligned non-profit run by pro athletes. HIA aims to channel donations to the most effective, evidence-based charities in the world in the areas of Global Health & Poverty and Environmental Impact. We will harness the wealth, fame, and social influence of professional athletes to bring as many new people in to the effective altruism framework as possible and create the biggest possible snowball of donations to the places where they can do the most good. 
You can poke around on the website to learn more at https://highimpactathletes.com/ 

Feedback is welcomed, and even more welcome is a follow on any of the socials. I'm terrible at social media and could use all the help I can get to build an audience.

Instagram: high.impact.athletes
Twitter: HIAorg
Facebook: @HIAorg

On that note, if anyone is interested in helping out with the social media side of things or knows anyone who would be please do get in touch either on here or at marcus@highimpactathletes.com

Thank you once again, you're all awesome. 

Cheers, Marcus Daniell

Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since:

 Hi Marcus, congratulations on the launch of HIA! It looks like you've sourced some of your climate recommendations from us (Founders Pledge). This is great and we're excited for you to use our research, of course! It's worth noting that our 3 current climate recommendations are CATF, Carbon 180, and TerraPraxis. I just want to make sure you're using our most up-to-date research rather than the old report, which is a bit out of date now.

Please do reach out if you have any questions about this, or any of our other recommendations! If you'd like to speak more about how we think about pledging, including thresholds, escalating pledges, etc., I also might be able to help with that.

This is really cool! Thanks for doing this :)

Is there a particular reason the charity areas are 'Global Health and Poverty' and 'Environmental Impact' rather than including any more explicit mention of animal welfare? (For people reading this - the environmental charities include the Good Food Institute and the Humane League along with four climate-focussed charities.)

By the way EA Funds now includes the Founders Pledge climate fund which I think is a bit more straightforward than the animal welfare argument

Hi Alex, thanks for your comments! I'll reply to each. I'm aiming to cast the net as widely as possible within the athlete community. To me this means mixing the novel (effective altruism) with the known. I think it is also valid to say that the animal welfare charities represented have a large impact on the environment. 

Some of the wording on the 'Take the Pledge' section seems a little bit off (to me at least!). Eg. saying a 1-10% pledge will 'likely have zero noticeable impact on your standard of living' seems misleading, and could give off the impression that the pledge is only for the very wealthy (for whom the statement is more likely to be true). I'm also not sure about the 'Saintly' categorisation of the highest giving level (10%). It could come across as a bit smug or saviour-ish. I'm not sure about the tradeoffs here though and obviously you have much more context than me.

Maybe you've done this already, but it could be good to ask Luke from GWWC for advice on tone here.

I would argue that most people reading the website are very wealthy - living in a western country almost inevitably qualifies you as very wealthy. For the main target audience - successful professional athletes - a 10% pledge would not change quality of life one whit. 

This is a huge discussion, so sorry for the very quick comment. Very happy about the idea of the project in general!

I'm pretty unsure that pledges around 1% are a good idea, especially among people who are already wealthy. In the US, people donate 2% of their income on average (and more altruistic people presumably start higher), and so getting someone to pledge 1% could easily reduce how much they give in total. (Since after they take the pledge, they might feel they've done their bit, and reduce informal donations.)

I think it's important to set the default to be significantly ahead of where people are already likely to be at, so at least 5%. (This approach in the charity sector is also less neglected. People are used to be asking to make small commitments. What's new about EA is that we're really serious about giving; and this is a big part of how we appeal to people . And I so I think you can raise more money with the big giving approach e.g. GWWC has raised a lot more than TLYCS.)

Among a wealthy group, I'd make 10% the default, and then clarify that people can give less as an alternative. (Added: I also wouldn't want to anchor people on the 3.7% average figure - better to have some case studies of people giving 10% and make that the anchor.)

Based on my experience of getting people to take the GWWC 10% pledge – and through 80k I've helped to convince 300+ people to do that – you'll raise a lot more money by starting by making a bigger ask and then reducing if they don't want to do it.

I'd also suggest having a 'stretch' option that's well above 10% to help expanding the notion of seem possible. This is the role played by GWWC's further pledge – even though not many people take it, it's still useful to have because it makes the 10% pledge seem comparatively easy (this is a classic sales technique).

Many wealthy people have already heard of Bill Gates' giving pledge, which is 50%, so I don't think much higher figures even sound that off putting to people these days.

That said, if you don't have any initial members who have made the higher commitments, you might not be able to add it at the start.

Relatedly, I wouldn't call 10% 'saintly', because as you say, you don't think it involves any sacrifice at all among this group, and therefore is not especially saintly.

In sum, I'd go for a schema more like GWWC (which has one of the best track records for raising money via this kind of means):

  • 10% is the default
  • Something like 5% for one year 'try out giving'
  • Some kind of higher stretch option (maybe 30%, 50% or all above a cap)

(Added: or copying Founder's Pledge more could also work - more detail below.)

Thanks Ben, great comment. 

Do you think this approach works across the board?  In my personal experience athletes are quite self-centred and asking for anything for free is a shock to them. So far, bringing up a percentage pledge has scared the vast majority of the athletes I've spoken to, despite giving myself as an example of someone for whom it works and feels good. Most have shied away from a percentage, asking to donate a discreet amount and maybe come in at a 1% pledge next year or the year after. 

Perhaps this response is only typical for tennis players who have to earn their livings through winning matches, which is never a certainty, rather than being paid a salary like in most team sports. I haven't yet spoken to any team athletes about HIA. 

Also, I see the point about 'saintly' and have changed it. Thanks!

Hi Marcus,

I don't have any experience with athletes, though I'd be surprised if they were unusually self-centred compared to other rich people.

Donating a % of winnings above a threshold might be better if income volatility is the worry. That's the approach Founder's Pledge and REG both use, which are also very relevant examples. (Note that FP started out with IIRC 2% as their default but now they don't have a specific percentage and try to suggest the idea of donating much more initially.) I could imagine a pitch like "if you win X big competition, how about giving 30% of that?"

We do know that the EA pitch has worked best on finance, quanty and techy people so far, and it might be hard to extend.

One other thing I'd say is that when we've done outreach for GWWC, we're always letting interested people come to us, rather than going out and pitching to people. I expect if I tried to pitch giving 10% to a randomly selected friend I wouldn't get far. Instead we'd do something like host a talk about charity, or have a media article, or get introductions to people - so we were always working with a group who have preselected themselves into being pitched.

Though, I think David Golberg has had a lot of success with a more proactive approach at FP among tech entrepreneurs, so it's possible, though I think even there he'd mostly screen people for interest in charity, or get warm introductions.

Most have shied away from a percentage, asking to donate a discreet amount and maybe come in at a 1% pledge next year or the year after. 

I am imagining this conversation:

Marcus: you should donate 1% of your income

Athlete: I don't want to commit to a percentage. How about a fixed dollar value for this year, and maybe a percentage later?

Marcus: Sounds good. How much you you make?

Athlete: I make $500k a year.

Marcus: How about donating 10k then? That's a nice round number. 

Agreed, and actually Americans donate closer to 4% of pretax income.

Hey Marcus, good job on taking the initiative!

I think we should keep in mind that if someone (an athlete in this example) was donating 5% to an average charity, and then was prompted by the pledge to merely give  2%, the difference in impact between charities might be enough to offset that.
Edit: I also endorse the option of giving more than 10%, it doesn't seem to have many downsides, and the benefits were highlighted by Benjamin.

It looks like all the founders, advisory team, and athletes are white or white-passing. I guess you're already aware of this as something to consider, but it seems worth flagging (particularly given the use of 'Saintly' for those donating 10% :/).

Some discussion of why this might matter here: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/YCPc4qTSoyuj54ZZK/why-and-how-to-make-progress-on-diversity-and-inclusion-in

Edit: In fact, while I think appearing all-white and implicitly describing some of your athletes as 'Saintly' are both acceptable PR risks, having the combination of them both is pretty worrying and I'd personally be in favour of changing it.

Edited to address downvotes: Obviously, it is not bad in itself that the team if the team is all white, and I'm not implying that any deliberate filtering for white people has gone on. I just think it's something to be aware of - both for PR reasons (avoiding look like white saviours) and for more substantive reasons (eg. building a movement and sub-movements that can draw on a range of experiences)

Also, I would love to have a wide variety of athletes represented by HIA. As it's still very new I'm focusing outreach on those I have personal relationships with, which means tennis, which is predominantly white in the professional space at this point in time. I'm hoping that over time I can get in touch with a more diverse range of athletes from many different sports. 

Yep! I assumed this kind of thing was the case (and obviously was just flagging it as something to be aware of, not trying to finger-wag)

Hi Alex, I want to voice my support both for you raising this in the first place and for the gentle, nonconfrontational way in which you did so. This was a good example of "calling in" a well-intentioned colleague, in my opinion.

More generally, as a founder of several initiatives myself I've come to believe that prioritizing diversity, especially racial diversity, in the early stages of growth is quite important for projects that have an outward-facing mission and wide potential audience such as Marcus's. The reason it's more important than people often give it credit for is that the composition of a founding team has follow-on effects for who else it recruits, what networks it builds initial strength in, and even in some cases how it makes decisions about what programming to prioritize. Once those choices are made and the initial history of the organization is written, it becomes much harder (though not impossible) to "diversify" authentically after the fact.

Of course I don't recommend sacrificing things like team cohesion or effectiveness for the sake of demographic diversity, but if that is a real tradeoff that a founder faces in practice, it is nearly always an indication the founder just hasn't bothered to put much time or effort into cultivating a diverse professional network. Again, for some kinds of work it might not be that important. For fundraising and visibility among a diverse worldwide community of athletes, it's essential.

Of course I don't recommend sacrificing things like team cohesion or effectiveness for the sake of demographic diversity, but if that is a real tradeoff that a founder faces in practice,

It is generally really surprising if adding an additional constraint to a project does not make it harder to optimize for a specific goal. So of course those trade off against each other in practice. I hope we can preserve the specific meaning of words like this on the EA Forum. 

This doesn't mean it isn't worth optimizing for as well, but of course optimizing for demographic diversity will trade off some against effectiveness and team cohesion, and I want us to at least recognize that.

I don't think anyone's suggesting optimizing for demographic diversity. I'm advocating for satisficing, which is a much weaker constraint. And while I understand the mathematical argument that you're making, in practice I reject the premise that including demographic diversity in one's recruitment calculus will always harm team effectiveness (even if only a little bit). If it spurs a founder to widen their search, broaden their network, and consider more options than they would have otherwise, in some cases it could result in increased effectiveness vs. the counterfactual.

Sure, the same basic argument applies to satisficing (which is just a limited form of optimizing, so it really doesn't change my argument). I find the assertion that this would not trade off at all against effectiveness  highly dubious. 

I think it's pretty reasonable to argue that the impact would be small, but saying that it is non-existent just seems really unlikely to me. It implies that if the funder was completely aware of the same information, but just wouldn't treat it as a strict target to meet, they would not be able to make any better tradeoffs favoring effectiveness in any practical situation. 

in practice I reject the premise that including demographic diversity in one's recruitment calculus will always harm team effectiveness

Maybe this is what you meant, but of course it will not always harm team effectiveness, the same way as playing the lottery will not always lose you money. On expectation it sure seems like it will though, if only a little.

It's been a while, but I wanted to come back to this since it seemed like the nuance I was trying to convey with my last comment wasn't coming through.

You're correct, of course, that any time you elevate a consideration up the priority chain, it will necessarily result in deprioritizing something else. What I was trying to say is that team effectiveness, whether we define it as the ease with which the team works together or as the overall impact they're able to collectively create, does not have to be the victim of that tradeoff. Specifically, I can think of two ways in which diversity could be prioritized by trading off against other considerations besides effectiveness:

  1. Time. For a founder or founders without a very diverse network, assembling a more diverse team that's as good or better than a non-diverse team will likely require additional calendar time and effort. Perhaps the project is a very time-sensitive one that hinges on getting up and running quickly, and putting in that effort doesn't make sense. But in a lot of cases, it might -- plus then they have a more diverse network for anything else they might need it for later.
  2. Personal involvement. In some cases, founders might be so excited about an idea that they overestimate their personal fit for bringing it to fruition. Depending on the specifics of the project, it might be better for it to be led forward by someone who does have a diverse network they can bring to bear right away. This is potentially quite relevant, for example, in situations where most of the intended beneficiaries of the product or service have backgrounds that are very unlike the founder's.

It's easy (for me, at least) to imagine situations in which making either of these tradeoffs would be net neutral or positive to team effectiveness in expectation. As I mentioned, though, this will depend on a lot on the goals and target audience of the initiative.

Huh, I am very surprised that you expect that there is just unused time lying around for founders that would not alternatively be used for improving the organization. My sense is that any time spent on doing this would pretty directly trade off against the time used to drive the core organizational objective forward. Though of course this might not literally hold for all founders (some founders might find additional pockets of motivation that they find they cannot use on anything related to their organizational priorities, but could use it for diversity-related recruiting), but I would expect it holds for the vast majority of founders at some rate. 

Separately, I am even more surprised that you think a founder will so frequently overestimate their personal fit that it is better for them to hand off the project to someone else! I've literally never seen this go well, ever, even for considerations that strike me as much much more strongly related to the success of a project, and any founder making this choice would seem to be making a terrible mistake to me. 

But again, the question here is not whether diversity is important. If the project were to just succeed better if they gave the project to someone else they should choose whoever else would be best suited to them. Their diverse network would be one consideration here, but it would be a consideration in-service of seeing the project succeed. I don't see how optimizing for diversity would not somehow trade off against the person you would hand off the project to. If you have one person with slightly more diverse network but overall very low competence, and another person with a slightly less diverse network but being overall much more competent and established than you are, you should very likely choose the person who is much more competent. 

The same argument as I made above applies to this tradeoff of who to hand it off to, applies to all other organizational tradeoffs, and both of these domains strike me as domains where the argument for them trading off directly against organizational success strike me as particularly strong!

I think the core of our disagreement here stems from the fact that you are treating diversity considerations and meeting the objectives of the organization as separate, e.g.:

My sense is that any time spent on doing this would pretty directly trade off against the time used to drive the core organizational objective forward. 

Throughout this thread, I've been trying to make the point that time spent on doing this sometimes IS time to drive the core organizational objective forward, and in such cases a statement like yours makes no more sense than saying that spending time finding investors for your project or developing technical infrastructure for it is time that detracts from organizational objectives. I'll give you an example from my own past to illustrate the point. Many years ago, I embarked on a project to expand what had been a successful personal blog into a more formal think tank. I recruited the initial team from a set of trusted colleagues I'd previously worked with, all of whom happened to be white. This subsequently became a significant liability for our work when the field we were working in became increasingly focused on racial justice. This was because:

  • My own life experiences and biases led me to underestimate the degree to which my colleagues cared about racial justice and fail to see certain ways in which it was relevant to our core mission, which in turn led me to make different choices about what we covered and prioritized than I would have if the team had been more diverse from the beginning.
  • It was difficult to publish content that would carry credibility on that topic without including perspectives from people of color, and simultaneously difficult to recruit highly qualified candidates of color to our team because we were seen (correctly) as a predominantly white institution. Overcoming those barriers required a ton of time and emotional energy on the part of me and everyone on the team, but without it, we wouldn't have been able to create what ended up being probably the most impactful and enduring content we ever produced.

It's not just me: I've seen the story above unfold over and over again with dozens of other organizations that I've had nothing to do with. E.g., social sector consulting firms whose entire business model is now upside down because for a long time they were a collection of white people getting paid to be the "brains" behind  strategies to address issues in communities of color, and now foundations and other clients would prefer to pay people who have directly experienced those issues to develop those strategies. In both their case and mine, it would have been so much easier to just attend to this from the beginning rather than let it play out and clean up the mess later on, and more than likely it would have improved the quality of the products and services that we were able to offer our constituencies.

I'm going to make this my last comment because I find this format rather difficult to engage in, so in closing I'll just say that my only agenda here is to help people in this community, which I care about a lot, avoid the mistakes that I made. Your argument is that founders don't have spare time to think about diversity, but most founders are going to have to spend time thinking about diversity at some point in an organization's life if it gets big and high-profile enough, and if the intention from the beginning is for an organization to get big and high-profile, then it makes sense to think about diversity from the beginning too.

Yep, I agree that for some organizations, optimizing for effectiveness will at certain times also mean that it's right to optimize at least partially for diversity as an instrumental goal. I think that is true. If you set it yourself as a bottom-line for your organization, as a terminal goal that has to be achieved independently of the specific problems you face, it will of course trade off against your other goals. But it will not necessarily do so if you just uncover it as part of optimizing for your other goals, as a useful instrumental/intermediary goal, and it can of course be useful advice to make people aware of that.

I disagree that it would be good advice for most organizations to follow, but I think we've reached the part where I no longer have definite takes, but more guesses and hunches and models with large inferential distance, such that it isn't obviously worth going into. 

Thanks! I appreciate it :)

It makes me feel anxious to get a lot of downvotes with no explanation so I really appreciate your comment.

Just to clarify when you say "if that is a real tradeoff that a founder faces in practice, it is nearly always an indication the founder just hasn't bothered to put much time or effort into cultivating a diverse professional network" I think I agree, but that this isn't always something the founder could have predicted ahead of time, and the founder isn't necessarily to blame. I think it can be very easy to 'accidentally' end up with a fairly homogeneous network eg. because your profession or university is homogenous. Sounds like Marcus is in this category himself (if tennis is mainly white, and his network is mainly tennis players).

Oh sure, and I didn't mean to imply otherwise. Lots of people have homogeneous networks through no fault of their own. But if that's the case for you and you're trying to do something for which having a diverse network would be helpful, then it's something you need to budget time and energy towards just as it would be the case for ensuring strong organizational infrastructure, funding, etc. So that's why I thought it was really valuable for you to point that out to Marcus, who seems to be getting an otherwise very promising project off the ground. :)

Re: the downvotes, I wish I could just say not to let them bother you, but the truth is they make me anxious too. Unfortunately there are a handful of EA Forum users who routinely strong-downvote posts and comments that have any whiff of a social/racial justice message.

From my perspective this is more just a complicated and controversial topic where people disagree a lot. You both framed your comments in a way that doesn’t acknowledge that reasonable people may disagree, which might make it more disagreeable for people with different perspectives. And critical feedback might be sparse because it’s so time and energy consuming to hash it out. I think it might be a bit uncharitable to think the people who downvoted are just social/racial justice detectors, no? And I agree, I also wish this wouldn’t make anyone feel anxious (and I definitely would feel anxious, too, even responding here and only implying that I disagree with you feels scary to me).

Hi there, I want to start by saying I certainly don't want anyone here to feel scared to engage in constructive dialogue! And I agree that we should leave room to disagree reasonably with each other in our comments.

With that said, I'm honestly not sure why you feel that Alex and I didn't do that. Quoting from Alex's comment: "it seems worth flagging"; "some discussion of why this might matter"; "I just think it's something to be aware of." Quoting from mine: "I want to voice my support"; "in my opinion"; "I've come to believe"; "of course I don't recommend [extreme version of my view]." Is there something else you would have liked to see?

I don't think this is the right thread for a broader back-and-forth about downvoting behavior for reasons I elaborate on below, so I'll just note for the record that I did not make any claim about the motivations of the downvoters, only an observation about the patterns I've seen over a long period of time (not just in this thread).

The final thing I'll say is that while I think the topic of team selection and diversity is quite important for entrepreneurs in general, I don't wish to see it overshadow the other good conversations about High Impact Athletes that are taking place on this page. For that reason, I've strong-upvoted some of the other top-level comments so that they'll rank higher and hopefully be seen first.

This is a good point and not one I'd thought of before. Thank you. 

Re 'saintly', it is intended as a joke. Do you think it's more offensive than funny? Or not worth the risk? 

Re diversity, I can't help that I'm the founder and I'm white, but having a more diverse advisory board sounds good. Do you have any ideas as to who would be good advisors for this sort of thing? Important to note that all the advisors are completely pro bono. 

Changed! Thanks for the input

Sanjay has a lot of experience on the advisory/trustee side of charities. I'd recommend sending him a PM if you haven't already.

I don't find anything wrong at all with 'saintly' personally, and took it as a joke. But I could imagine someone taking it the wrong way. Maybe I'd see what others on the forum think

Upside seems low, downside seems pretty high.

Agree with alexrjl

That's awesome, good work! :)

This seems like a really awesome project, and I'm pleasantly surprised by the number of athletes featured! Thanks a lot to Marcus for making this, and I'm excited to see where it goes :)


V excited to see this. One other initiative to be aware of is Juan Mata's Common Goal, which encourages footballers to pledge 1% of their salary.

I've thought about getting in touch with them and seeing if they wanted to partner up somehow. From what I can see they don't have any alignment with EA, so perhaps I could try and move the needle a bit towards that. 

Very nice project!  I'm really looking forward to seeing which athletes take the pledge.
Congrats and best of luck! 

I have a small question: I was surprised to see Atmosfair listed as a recommended charity.
They definitely do a good job in the offsetting field, but they are 100x less effective than other charities included like Clean Air Task Force, Coalition for Rainforest Nations or even other unlisted charities like CoolEarth.

I'm curious to learn more about why you decided to include them anyway?

This is a fair point and one I'm not completely firm on myself.

The main reason for including Atmosfair and Burn are because in my experience pro athletes (particularly tennis players who fly almost every week) are particularly aware of their carbon footprint. Carbon offsetting is a relatively easy sell for this audience. 

Dan Stein at Giving Green has done research on carbon offsetting's impact, and specifically efficient cook stoves. https://www.givinggreen.earth/post/fuel-efficient-cookstoves 
I recommend BURN, as well as Atmosfair's cookstove program on HIA. 

I'm curious, where do you get the 100x less effective figure from? 

I understand what you mean. Carbon offsetting is something many people is already familiar with and also tangible (direct action).  Indirect actions like developing new technologies, including advanced nuclear, or lobbying to influence political solutions,  might be the most effective way, but it is less compelling to many people. 

I used to offset my carbon footprint as well until recently. It took some time for me to absorb the facts and act consequently. However, I still find the top charities currently recommended by Founders Pledge kind of abstract and "unsexy".
These adjectives might not be considered relevant for advanced effective altruists, but I think the emotional component should not be neglected. This is especially important when talking to other people about it. 
It is only my own experience and intuition, but the current top charities do not make one feel excited about it and eventually many will not donate anything, while if other charities that perform direct action are mentioned, it could be more compelling. 

The compromise I found is CoolEarth. Protecting forests is tangible (direct action) and people generally like the concept of protecting forests and can grasp it instantly. In addition, according to the studies available (see below - unfortunately, I do know of any more updated versions) we are talking about the same order of magnitude when comparing it to the top charities.
Therefore, when talking to other people, I usually start talking about CoolEarth and only in cases where I see they are interested in getting deeper I will talk about the other options.

Regarding the 100x effectiveness:
* Clean Air Task Force: $0.10-$1/tonne of CO2e. Source: Founders Pledge report 2018
* Coalition for Rainforest Nations: $0.02 - $0.72/tonne of CO2e. Source: Founders Pledge report 2018
* CoolEarth: $0.18-$0.71/tonne of CO2e. Source: GWWC report 2016 (Note: for this figure, both directly and indirectly protected areas are counted)

I find this topic very interesting and would love to hear other opinions and arguments :)

Offsets are at least 15x worse than high impact charity on climate, I recently re-did the numbers on this and even on very conservative assumptions came out with the most effective work of CATF at something like 10 cents/t (https://youtu.be/TCretlmREXk?t=773). This is their best work and certainly they will not always be that cost effective so we can multiply it by 10 to get to USD1 but the best offsets are probably at USD 15 or so (the analysis on BURN by Giving Green mentions that they don't expect 1 offset to really express 1 t).

So whenever you include offsets in a portfolio of options alongside high impact options, maybe because they are more tangible, one needs to ask "how much more money does this crowd in?" compared to "how much does this crowd out from high impact options? " Because the impact differential is so large it can quite easily be the case that even a moderate dilution, say a 10% reduction in giving to high impact, leads to a net negative outcome because the additional crowding in of money is not sufficently large.

Apart from that offsets and the surrounding logic of compensation can possibly be quite bad for popularizing the goal of impact maximization, the idea of offsettting is incredibly unambitious compared to what we inspire people to strive for.

For those reasons I think offsets should have no place in a high impact portfolio.

Addendum: I guess one should always take the precise cost effectiveness estimates with a grain of salt, but it is easy to see from basic principles that offsets cannot be cost effective because offsets are always about direct interventions, whereas the world as a whole is spending hundreds of billions on climate and this is spending that can be affected by advocacy.

For offsets to be anywhere near the best advocacy charities, such as CATF and Carbon180, it would need to be true that there is almost nothing that can be done to improve societal resource allocation on climate.

This is deeply implausible because it is one of the most striking facts about climate how poor societal resource allocation is, leaving vast rooms for impact for charities that move the needle so that government budgets are spent more in line with global decarbonization priorities.

I discuss this in a lot more detail in our new report on implications of Biden win for high impact philanthropy: https://founderspledge.com/stories/the-implications-of-bidens-victory-for-impact-focused-climate-philanthropy

Addendum 2: Just to be clear 15x differential is not my best guess, but a very conservative guess biased towards finding offsets good. My best guess would be more in the range of high-impact charity focused on accelerating neglected technologies through advocacy is 100x-1000x better, but I know that this sometimes seems like a sales pitch or implausibly large, so the goal of my post was to give a bit more of the mechanics / underlying reasons and a very conservative estimate.

I would also add that we have revised our view on CfRN so that we don't think these numbers to be the case anymore, though those revisions were for reasons that do not affect the logic on the differential to expect (it is because of a different view on what they were advocating for, not on more pessimism on the potential of advocacy more generally).

Johannes and I have debated this at length before, but I'd like to make a plug for the utility of providing recommendations for offsets, as we do at Giving Green. I agree with Johannes that offsets are likely much less effective in the fight against climate change than donations targeting systemic change, such as moving policy or technology. (Though I'm less confident about putting any numbers on this difference, which feels like an exercise in extreme guesswork.)  

That being said, I do think that providing recommendations in the offset space is likely to result in less GHGs emitted. Johannes expressed worry about diverting donations from effective charities to offsets, but in my opinion that's not a large concern. People who are thinking closely about effectiveness of donations will easily read the suggestions by orgs like Founder's Pledge and Giving Green, pushing them toward more systemic donation options.  

But that being said, there is a huge market for certainty, which is why these offsets exist.  When we make recommendations on offsets, we generally shouldn't be thinking about individuals who are choosing between different charities.  Individuals are a tiny fraction of the offset market (~3% of the voluntary market, and 0% of the compliance market)- all the action is from corporations (voluntary market and carbon-priced markets like California), countries (at least under Kyoto, still unclear what role offsets will play in Paris). The offset market was >300 million in 2019, and is poised to grow: see the growing list of companies who made carbon-neutral commitments in the past few year. These companies are never going to donate to teh Clean Air Task Force. They want certainty, and their purchases can be made WAY more effective by improving the offset market. THere is tons of social value here.  

Now, back to HIA. Despite my belief that making offset recommendations has social benefit, HIA is targeted at athletes, who should have no requirement to enter the offset market. I do think HIA could improve its climate recommendations by trying actively to push athletes away from the offset market toward more effective charities. But given that offsets are likely to be attractive to people for various reasons, I feel like offering them offset options is likely to crowd in money rather than divert from more effective charities. But agreed this is an empirical question that is tough to answer

But if HIA is going to offer a recommendation for offsets, I would encourage you guys to use the recommendations at Giving Green. In my opinion, the options at Atmosfair have not been properly vetted, though I don't think this is the forum to pick apart their recommendations.  

Finally, at the risk of going down a rabbit hole, one more point. There are a lot of parallels to this offset debate within international development/global health, an area in which EA is much more developed. Within EA communities, most people are quite comfortable with the recommendations from GiveWell, which are all direct-delivery of health services, and therefore things that can be measured with a high level of certainty. (Like offsets!) So why don't big international development agencies (World Bank, etc) concentrate only on directly delivery of health services? It's not because they are just stupid. It's because they think they can have more bang for their buck investing in systemic changes that can't be well-quantified with an RCT (like institution-building, macroeconomic stability, infrastructure, etc). Kinda like...funding charities that work on climate policy. So I would find it curious if the final consensus from EAs on global health is all about certainty, but in environment it is firmly for less-certain policy interventions. My argument would be that there is a clear place for both. 

What is your view on CoolEarth? It is not an advocacy charity but the cost per ton was in past reports similar to the advocacy ones (even if those are conservative estimates).

I liked the approach ' "how much more money does this crowd in?" compared to "how much does this crowd out from high impact options? " ', but in this case, the difference is not as big as with offsetting, so I am not sure what would be the outcome.

Also, is there any report or article where you explain in more details the revision of your view on CfRN?

I haven't looked into CoolEarth myself, but I think the standard view is that the analysis on the extreme cost effectiveness of this was faulty, based on very optimistic assumptions that are unlikely to be true (indirect protection of forests etc, I believe you could find posts on this searching the Forum) . 

We will discuss our findings on REDD in our upcoming report (Q1/21). I discuss it a bit here (last question): 

[comment deleted]3

I see you mention that HIA's recommendations are based on a suffering-focused perspective. It's great that you're clear about where you're coming from/what you're optimising for. To explore the ethical perspective of HIA further - what is HIA's position on longtermism?

(I'm not saying you should mention your take on longtermism on the website.)

We all have different beliefs and intuitions about the world, including about how other people see the world. 

Compared to the rest of us, Marcus has a strong comparative advantage in both a) having an intuition for what messages work for professional athletes and would be easier for them to relate to, and more importantly, b) access to a network to test different messages.

I would personally be excited if, rather than for us to debate at length of what will or won't be appealing for a hypothetical audience, for Marcus to just go out and experiment with different messages with the actual audience that he has.

The results may or may not surprise us.


People tend to inside-view slightly too hard, so I'd expect the experience of the FP/GWWC team working with high net worth people, and TLYCS working with celebrities, to be extremely valuable even if none of the HNW/celebs are sportspeople. 

Also, at least some of the potential massive impact of HIA (and one of the reasons I'm most excited about it) is the huge platform Athletes have. That means that there wre two considerations when messaging to athletes: what message is most appealing to them, and what message is most appealing to a general audience once relayed by them. I would not be surprised if the best course of action was one which got slightly fewer athletes on board, but those athletes felt able to articulate a clear, positive message, which got a wider audience very excited about effective giving.

I agree that debating on the EAF with randoms like us isn't a productive way of Marcus fine-tuning his messaging (even if we might be able to make some forecasts), but I'm excited to see that there's some sort of collaboration with TLYCS, and I think talking to them, REG, GWWC, and FP would be a much better path than experimenting alone.

Was this meant as a reply to my comment or a reply to Ben's comment?

I was just asking what the position was and made explicit I wasn't suggesting Marcus change the website.

Threading etiquette is confusing! It was unclear to me whether the right person to respond to was Ben, Marcus, or you. So I went for the most top-level comment that seemed reasonable. 

In retrospect I should have just commented on the post directly. 

See below about casting the net - being an athlete myself and knowing many personally I think longtermism is too much of a stretch conceptually for most athletes at this point. 

I think if you focus on climate change and pandemics, it can actually seem really mainstream (especially now!).

Just don't mention AI :)

I think it would be really cool if you added a section on 'catastrophic risks' and used the recommended charities from Founder's Pledge – they have examples in pandemic prevention and climate risks - at least as an experiment.

Having spoken to Marcus about his goals, I ended up developing 3 questions about the future of HIA for Metaculus. It would be great to have some EAF users come and post predictions and reasoning on them!

How much money will have been donated by HIA athletes by the end of 2021?

What fraction of athletes who take the HIA pledge before the end of 2021 will maintain it through the end of 2024?

How many athletes with HIA pledges will there be at the end of 2021?

Thanks a lot for doing this, I'm really happy about it. The website looks great and I love the testimonials, they are very inspiring to me and I imagine to other athletes, too. 

I imagine that this project could potentially get a lot of sudden attention within the sports community in the coming months. I wonder if you or others think this is plausible and how important it is to prepare for this, e.g. by quickly developing the capacity to manage this well, and by being especially careful to avoid any potentially offputting initial impressions.

Thanks for your work -- this looks awesome! In case you haven't, may be worth talking to  similar  groups based on profession like Founders Pledge and Raising for Effective Giving about their experience.

They've both been super helpful, particularly REG!

This motivates an interesting quantitative project for the EA/sports fan/student nexus:

Data-driven Fermi/Monte-Carlo estimates of

  • The expected value and distribution of lifetime income of an athlete by sport, at each point in their career and rating

    • I expect/recall there is already some work on this that might be applicable ... also having to do with the literature on 'superstars'?
  • Something something, likely amount donated by such an athlete

Consider using actual sporting events/games/matches as a way to get people involved?

I dm'd this to you, but posting it here because others in the community may have thoughts

...To followers of Qureshi or profiled-likely followers:

I’m facing off against Lindstedt next week at Wimbledon.

Q-heads: As you know, my favorite charity is AMF, because it saves children’s lives more effectively than any other.

Click here to commit: ‘if Qureshi wins, I’ll give $25 to AMF’.* I want to know how many fans sign up for this. I’ll put 100% out there on the court to win, for me, for you, and for the kids.

*Leave your payment information; the money will only be taken out after I defeat Rob and he runs home to his mommy with his tail between his legs

You may want to get in touch with Momentum giving app (Ari Kagan, Nick Fitz) on this.

Ryan Carey suggests that athletes could have an impact by giving EA presentations to high schoolers.

Praise, recommendations for advisers & feedback

This seems very promising, I like the web design and you seem to already have a good number of pro athletes on board. Great work!

1) Advisers
Have you been in touch with Luke Freeman from Giving What We Can? Maybe he has some more pro athletes in his GWWC network, and as he's working full-time on this he might have good advice for setting up a pledge network. Other good sources of advice could be Founders Pledge, One for the World and Effective Giving (focussed on wealthy people). 

2) You listed animal welfare charities under "environmental impact" - I see why, but lots of people might also intrinsically care about saving animals - would it make sense to have an extra "animal welfare" section?

3) In the sign-up form the pledge options range from 1% to 10%. People are biased to choose something in the middle, so you might inspire larger donations if you also include 15%, 20%, 30% and maybe a "haven't yet decided" field (then you could offer to have a call and help them decide). 

All the best for your work!

Curated and popular this week
Relevant opportunities