I haven’t been doing terribly well at my Giving What We Can pledge recently. This was largely for tactical reasons: for the last couple of years I’ve been getting paid via a limited company and the associated novel accountancy requirements made me a bit leery of giving away large chunks of money I might actually have to give to the government. Anyway, I’ve corrected that now: I gave £50k to the Effective Altruism Funds, split between the Animal Welfare and Long Term Future funds.

A couple of things have changed since last time I gave some money, which I thought I should write down.

Giving more

I’m lucky enough to have started earning more recently. My plan has always been to try and exceed the pledge amount (10%) by ramping up the proportion that I gave as I earned more.

I previously planned to do this incrementally: I would give 10% of the first X, 20% of the next Y, etc. However, I now think this is unnecessarily fiddly. Instead, I’m planning to increase the total proportion of my lifetime income that I’ve given. This is easier to think about and communicate about, and I find it pleasing to think of “topping up” my past self’s donations to bring them up to a higher rate.

My last donation brings me up to nearly 20%, which I’m happy about. I’m going to experiment with increasing it and see if I can reach 30% in the medium term.

More epistemic humility

I’m a lot less plugged-in to the effective altruism community than I used to be. I used to think that I had at least some advantage in picking “weird” or lesser-known giving opportunities, and thus it was worth me making active choices in this regard.

I no longer think this is true. The Effective Altruism Funds are run by people I trust to have better-informed judgement than myself, and their track record of giving includes several of the organizations I would otherwise have been inclined to give to (including Charity Entrepreneurship and Wild Animal Initiative).

So I’ve decided to just give to the Funds this time around.

Shift of cause focus

I’ve previously donated to fairly “meta” causes (particularly new organizations), but kept a foot on the ground with at least some donations to global health and poverty. This time I’m donating to the far future and animal welfare. What changed?

Regarding meta activities, I think the Funds are doing a good job of funding new organizations and individuals doing novel things. So I don’t feel the need to correct the “balance” of meta versus non-meta funding by donating to more specifically meta causes.

Regarding global health and poverty, I think what actually matters to me is making sure that I’m doing something that has present (or near-present) value, not merely future value. Animal welfare fits that bill, and additionally I think it is significantly more neglected than global health and poverty, especially since the latter continues to be one of the most attractive areas for newcomers to effective altruism.

Regarding the far future, I’ve become increasingly convinced that from an impersonal perspective, this is the thing that we should be most concerned with. I find this challenging from an intuitive point of view, but that’s part of why I continue to have some present-focussed giving!