Errata (July 16 2023) Since the original publication, I’ve made substantial improvements to the data in the post. The full account of changes are detailed in this post. The total funding tracked in the data increased to $290M (from $245M) and the main updates are:
I’ve been reflecting on the role of funding in the EA movement & community over time. Specifically I wanted to improve common knowledge around funding flows in the EA movement building space. It seems that many people may not be aware of it.
Funders (and the main organizations they have supported) have shaped the EA community in many ways - the rate & speed at which EA has grown (example), the people that are attracted and given access to opportunities, and the culture and norms the community embodies and the overall ecosystem.
I share some preliminary results from research I’ve conducted looking at the historical flow of data to movement building sources. I wanted to share what I have so far for the strategy fortnight to get conversation started. I think there is enough information here to understand the general pattern of funding flows. If you want to play around with the data, here is my (raw, messy) spreadsheet.
- July 16 2023 - I made substantial changes to the data, which are cataloged in a new post (to be posted soon)
- June 24 2023 - Added in 2012 donations from Jeff & Julia and updated relevant graphs & tables
- June 25 2o23 - After a conversation with a donor, I realised I have significantly undercounted the number of individual donors (especially in the earlier years) and have changed the estimates of "other donors" in the relevant sections. Donation data from 2012-2016 is likely off by an order of magnitude during this period.
Data for 2023 is year-to-date as of June 17 2023.
Total funding 2012-2023 by known sources
According to known funding sources, ~$290M have been granted to EA movement building efforts since 2012. I estimate the real number is between $300-400M.
The Open Philanthropy EA Community Growth (Longtermism) team (OP LT) has directed ~55% ($159M) of known movement building funding (incl. ~4.1% or $12M to the EAIF) since 2016. Note that OP launched an EA Community Growth program for Global Health and Wellbeing in 2022, which started making grants in 2023. Their budget is significantly smaller (currently ~$10M per year) and they currently prioritize effective giving organizations.
The unlabeled dark blue segment is “other donors”
Funders of EA Groups from 2015-2022
This text of this section has not been changed since the original publication. The chart has been updated to allow for consistent color-coding.
See discussion below for description of the "CEA - imputed" category. Note that I’ve primarily estimated paid organizer time, not general groups expenses.
EA groups are an important movement building project. The Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA) has had an outsized influence on EA groups for much of the history of the EA movement. Until May 2021, CEA was the primary funder of part- and full-time work on EA groups. In May 2021, CEA narrowed its scope to certain university & city/national groups, and the EA Infrastructure Fund (EAIF) started making grants to non-target groups. In 2022, OP LT took over most university groups funding from both CEA (in April) and EAIF (in August). Until 2021 most of CEA’s funding has come from OP LT, so its EA groups funding can be seen as an OP LT regrant.
Breakdown of funding by source and time (known sources)
Data in this section has been significantly changed from the original.
Before 2016, there was very limited funding available for meta projects and almost no support from institutional funders. Most organizations active during this period were funded by individual earning-to-givers and major donors or volunteer-run, not all of which is captured in the numbers. Here’s a view of funding from 2012-2016:
No donations from Jaan Tallinn during this period were via SFF as it didn’t exist yet. There is a $10K donation from OP to a UC Berkeley group in 2015 that is not visible in the main chart. “Other donors” includes mostly individual donors and some small foundations. OP Other includes grants from Good Ventures (before OP was founded, hence the OP - Other categorization) to GiveWell (discounted by 30%).
Quick details on active funders during this period:
- Individual Donors: A number of (U)HNW & earning-to-give donors, many of whom are still active today, such as Jaan Tallinn, Luke Ding, Matt Wage and Jeff Kaufman & Julia Wise. Donation data from a few Jane Street donors is missing for this period.
- Good Ventures (categorized as OP - Other since Good Ventures is Dustin Moscovitz and Cari Tuna’s foundation, which OP makes its official grants recommendations to) funded GiveWell during this period.
- EA Giving Group: In 2013, Nick Beckstead and a large anonymous donor started a fund (the EA Giving Group) to which multiple individual donors also contributed. This appeared to have been active from 2013 to Dec 2016, and made grants to community building and longtermist organizations. Grantees include 80,000 Hours, Charity Science, Founders Pledge, CEA (specifically EA Outreach & local groups regranting), LEAN and CFAR. I estimate that the EA Giving Group disbursed something like $10-300K in grants.
- EA Ventures (Feb 2015 - 2016): EA Ventures was a project of CEA that was launched but there seems to be limited information on if any grants were disbursed. It was closed in 2016.
Open Philanthropy did not fund organizations focused explicitly on promoting effective altruism until Sep 2016. Holden Karnofsky announced that OP would now be considering grants into EA community building, led by Nick Beckstead. This was a part-time role. OP’s first significant grants were to SPARC ($.3M, 2016), CFAR ($1M, 2016), Founders’ Pledge ($1M, 2016).
As can be observed from the information, Nick Beckstead was a key grantmaker during this period. He joined CEA UK (Effective Ventures UK) as a trustee in 2014.
2023 data is public data available as of June 17 2023. Only movement-building related LTFF grants are included.
As can be seen in the graph, OP LT has driven most of the growth in funding in the last 8 years (with the exception of FTX Future Fund in 2022). During 2017 & 2018, funding increased by 1.7x and then 2x - primarily driven by OP making follow-up grants to organizations they had previously funded.
As I understand it, Claire Zabel took over leading OP LT from Nick Beckstead during this 2019 as she is listed as the primary investigator on most grants, and continues to lead the OP LT team. Claire Zabel became a trustee of CEA UK (now EV UK) in 2019.
Funding stayed relatively constant between 2018 and 2019, with a moderate increase (1.4x) in 2020. In 2020, the OP LT team ran the Open Phil EA/LT survey which appears to have informed their grantmaking strategy in future years (e.g. more focus on student outreach).
In 2018, Longview Philanthropy also began recommending grants to several individual donors, these grants are grouped under “other donors”
In 2019, Jaan Tallinn started the Survival & Flourishing Fund, and made grants of $2.5M (a 1.7x increase from 2018).
The EAIF was spun off in 2020 along with the rest of the EA Funds, and was low activity during this period. The fund made only one grant during 2020. In 2021, OP 2.7x’ed their spending to $26M. In March 2021, the LTFF appointed a new chair (Asya Bergal), who joined OP LT in April 2021.
There was moderate increase in donations from other funders as well. The Survival & Flourishing Fund increased activity, with grants from Jaan Tallinn increasing to $5M. The EAIF appointed new fund managers and grantmaking activity increased. Note that most EAIF and LTFF fund managers worked at organizations where OP grants accounted for a significant (>70%) proportion of those organization’s budgets. Multiple CEA staff members advise both funds. In May 2021, EAIF started to evaluate non-target EA groups for funds and made $141K in grants in 2021 (~10% of CEA’s 2020 EA CBG program).
The jump in funding from 2021 to 2022 is due to the launch of the Future Fund, which granted over $40M in grants in 2022 and an increase in OP LT funding (they talk about increasing grantmaking in this update). Note that many grants made through the Future Fund could be subject to clawbacks, so many organizations are choosing not to spend those funds and instead keep them in reserve and not spend them. Note also that the presence of the Future Fund likely also caused other funders to increase their grantmaking more and potentially lower their bar for funding. Funding from the EAIF almost tripled in 2022 to $11M (9% of the 2022), likely enabled by an $8.4M grant from OP. The EAIF chair (Max Daniel) joined OP LT in November 2022.
As of now, there is incomplete data for 2023, although I’d expect funding to be less (½ to ⅔ of 2022 numbers). One notable change is that OP launched the EACG Global Health and Wellbeing program, and they currently have a much smaller budget . Most (90+%) of their grants to date have gone towards effective giving organizations. In April 2023 a member of OP LT (Eli Rose) joined the Effective Ventures (EV) US board, as well as Zach Robinson (previously Chief of Staff OP, who joined as the CEO of EV US in Fall 2022).
Here’s the graph of funding for all the years:
Funders of EA groups (2015-2022)
This text of this section has not been changed since the original publication. The chart has been updated to allow for consistent color-coding.
Let’s look at EA groups (uni, local, & regional/national groups) funding in a bit more detail. In 2022, EA groups funding account for $13.5M of the total $122M in movement building funding, but EA groups have historically played an important role in furthering peoples engagement with the movement.The following graph shows the change in funding to EA groups over time:
In 2017, CEA launched several new regranting initiatives (OP was the primary funder of CEA at this point) - the EAIF & EA Grants in 2017, and the EA Community Building Grants (CBG) program in 2018. EA Grants disbursed $170K to community building efforts in 2017.
CEA launched EA Funds in 2017 with Nick Beckstead (OP) running the LTFF and EAIF funds, mentioning that EAIF would be able to fund CEA and that Nick was a trustee of CEA. They chose grantmakers at OP / GiveWell to manage the funds because they felt that 1) they were good evaluators 2) these grantmakers had the best information available about OP’s grants, and therefore remaining funding gaps. In July 2018, Nick Beckstead stepped down and 5 new fund managers for each fund were appointed in October.
CEA also launched it’s Community Building Grants (CBG) program in 2018 with 1 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff in charge of the program. CEA noted that much historic groups support “provided by CEA, Rethink Charity [previously .impact], EAF [EA Foundation, German EA national group] and others has focused on either seeding local groups or providing a small amount of support to a large number of different groups.” The goal of the CBG was “making some of the most promising local groups even better.” In 2018, they disbursed $623K in funds (~10-15 FTE). There were limited sources of other community building funding at the time. CEA declined to provide the breakdown of funding that went to the CBG program for 2019, 2021 & 2022 so those numbers are imputed at $1M, 2.5M and 2M respectively) (see spreadsheet for rationale). In 2020 they reported spending $1.32M on the CB grants program.
The jump in OP funding in 2022 is explained by CEA discontinuing its focus university groups program in April 2022 and handing it over to Open Philanthropy. I think OP funded more university organizer fellowships ($3M in 2022, vs an estimated ~$500K-2M by CEA in 2021).
The increase in EAIF funding is likely due to the change in scope to include non-target EA groups in 2021, as well as increased funding. Note that in 2022, 83.5% ($8.4M) of EAIF funding and 39% ($2.9M) of LTFF funding came from OP LT (see more on EAIF funding in the appendix).
As far as I’m aware, there are only a few EA groups (at least 4, very likely less than 10) that have received funding from private or individual donors. I would estimate over since 2015, there may have been $150K-500K in such funding granted by other donors.
Thanks to Openbook.fyi for making this research project more efficient and Luke D, Arjun, Amber, Cristina & Dion and several community builders and donors who spoke to me.
Breakdown of EA Infrastructure Fund (EAIF) funding sources
After OP, the largest grantmaker in the local / regional EA groups funding space is the EAIF. Here’s what I could find of their funding sources since EAIF first launched:
Data for 2023 is year-to-date as of June 17 2023- I would expect a similar breakdown of direct donations / other institutional donors / OP LT compared to 2022 by the end of 2023. I have requested for a more complete breakdown of funds from EA Funds, but don’t expect it to change the overall trends observed here.
I’ve tracked about $12.4M from 2017-2022 in donations, while total grants EAIF disbursed during this period were $16.5M, so about $4M of donation data is missing. I expect that the difference of $4M will be made up in direct or individual donations which would bring the breakdown of funding to 41% individuals and 59% OP Longtermist.
- Direct donations appear to be made of large donations from a few individual donors. Of the $2.4M of funding between 2017-2021, $1.9M (~79%) came from just 3 donors - Jaan Tallinn ($699K), Jeff Kaufman and Julia Wise ($620K), and another anonymous donor ($600K). I would expect there to be 1-2 other similar donors.
- During 2017-2018, It seems unlikely that OP LT made grants to the EAIF since Nick Beckstead was the grantmaker OP LT and was fund manager of EAIF (OP LT grants are made to CEA and do not disambiguate which programs they funded). I also think it’s fairly unlikely (with lower credence) that they made grants in 2019 and 2020.
- Other institutional donors are recorded in 2022 for $52,000 in donations.
I have requested for a more complete breakdown of funds from EA Funds, but don’t expect it to change the overall trends observed here dramatically.
Breakdown of Funding Table
|Year||Others||OP Other||OP LT||OP GH&W||LTFF||JT +SFF||FTX FF||EAIF||EA AWF||Total|