John Salter

Founder @ Overcome
1468 karmaJoined Working (0-5 years)www.overcome.org.uk


Founder of Overcome, an EA-aligned mental health charity


I think there's a ton of obvious things that people neglect because they're not glamorous enough:

1. Unofficially beta-test new EA stuff e.g. if someone announces something new, use it and give helpful feedback regularly
2. Volunteer to do boring stuff for impactful organisations e.g. admin
3. Deeply fact-check popular EA forum posts
4. Be a good friend to people doing things you think are awesome
5. Investigate EA aligned charities on the ground, check that they are being honest in their reporting
6. Openly criticise grifters who people fear to speak out against for fear of reprisal 
7.  Stay up-to-date on the needs of different people and orgs, and connect people who need connecting

In generally, looking for the most anxiety provoking, boring, and lowest social status work is a good way of finding impactful opportunities. 

1. Get a pilot up and running NOW, even if it's extremely small. 

You will cringe at this suggestion, and think that it's impossible to test your vision without a budget. Everyone does this at first, before realizing that it's extremely difficult to stand out from the crowd without one. For you, maybe this is a single class delivered in a communal area. 30 students attending regularly, demonstrating a good rate of progress, is a really compelling piece of evidence that you can run a school. 

- Do you have the resilience and organisation skills it takes to independently run a project?
- Will people actually use it?
- Can you keep your staff?
- Can you cost-effectively produce results? 

It can compelling prove the above, whilst having a ton of other benefits.

2. YOU need to be talking to funders NOW

Don't fall into the trap of trying to read their minds. Get conversations with them. Get their take on your idea. Ask what their biggest concerns would be. Go address them. Repeat. Build relationships with them and get feedback on your grant proposals before submitting them.

As the founder, its YOUR job to raise money. Don't delegate it. It'll take forever to get them to understand your organisation well enough, they won't be as sufficiently motivated to perform, and you won't learn. This is going to be a long-term battle that you face every year. You need to build the network, skills & knowledge to do it well. 

3. Be lean AF

The best way to have money is not to spend it. Both you and your charity may go without funding for months or years. Spend what little money you have, as a person and as a charity, very slowly. The longer you've been actively serving users, the easier fundraising gets. It's about surviving until that point.

4. Funders will stalk your website, LinkedIn, and social media if they can

As much as possible, make sure that they all tell the same story as your grant application - especially the facts and figures. 

5. When writing your proposals, focus on clarity and concreteness above all else

Bear the curse-of-knowledge in mind when writing. Never submit anything without first verifying other people can understand it clearly. Write as though you're trying to inform, not persuade. 

- Avoid abstractions 
- State exact values ("few" -> "four", "lots" -> "nine", "soon" -> "by the 15th March 2024")
- Avoid adjectives and qualifiers. Nobody cares about your opinions.
- Use language that paints a clear, unambiguous image to the readers mind

OLD:  mean student satisfaction ratings have increased greatly increased since programs began and we believe it's quite reasonable to extrapolate due to our other student-engagement enhancements underway and thus forecast an even greater increase by the end of the year" 

NEW: When students were asked to rate their lessons out of 10, the average response was 5. Now, just three months later, the average is 7/10. Our goal is to hit 9/10 by 2025 by [X,Y,Z].

Good luck!

I think schlep blindness is everywhere in EA. I think the work activities of the average EA suspiciously align with activities nerds enjoy and very few roles strike me as antithetical. This makes me suspicious that a lot of EA activity is justified by motivated reasoning, as EAs are massive nerds.

It'd be very kind of an otherwise callous universe to make the most impactful activities things that we'd naturally enjoy to do.

"Doing a naive calculation: 6.7 / 4.3 = 1.56 (+56%)."

Perhaps I rate things differently to most survey respondents, but for me anything less than 5/10 is net suffering and not worth living for its own sake.

Consider the difference between "saving" 10 people who will live 1/10 lives (maybe, people being tortured in a north Korean jail) and one person who will love a 10/10 life

Using Kialo for debates rather than the Forum would go a long way. It's hard to get off the ground because it's attractiveness to use is roughly proportional to the number of EAs using it, and at present, the number of EAs using it is zero.


Is there anything we can do to help? 


1. Anyone you'd like an introduction to?
2. Any roles you're having a hard time filling?
3. If you had 100 Oxford graduates dying to help you, what tasks might you give them?


5. Any videos you'd like to make, that help people in non-western countries, that aren't quite commercially viable enough? How larger donation would push them over the line?
6. What would you do if you had additional $100k to spend on global poverty videos? 


7.  What are the biggest challenges you're facing right now and what are your plans for tackling them?
8. Got any issues that a very skilled volunteer (e.g. professional with 5+ years experience) could help with?
9. Do you have any big unanswered questions that meaningfully affect your philanthropy?

This post is an impressive feat of honesty and humility

Can you tell us about how strongly changes in gender equality predict changes in measures of human wellbeing?

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