This is the first quarterly report about money moved by REG, which we intend to create transparency about where exactly REG donations went. Such a report will regularly be published within a few weeks after every quarterly REG donation period.
From July 1st to September 30th, REG members gave an overall amount of $37,873.
$22,618 (59.7%) of the donated amount were restricted by the donors to specific charities. Chart 1 shows the specified target of the restricted donations.
40.3% of the donated amount were donated unrestrictedly, totaling $15,255. Half of the unrestricted donations go to a direct charity and the other half to meta-charities (see below). In the first official REG donation period (Q3 2014), $7,628 from unrestricted donations were allocated to GiveDirectly and the Center for Applied Rationality (CFAR) each. Chart 2 shows the complete distribution of donations.
GiveDirectly is a current top rated nonprofit by leading charity evaluator GiveWell. GiveDirectly has introduced a simple, modern approach to giving: They take money from donors and give it to the poor with no strings attached. This can be done because modern payments technology has drastically cut the costs of sending money securely and electronically to the extreme poor. At the same time, rigorous new research has shown that the poor are effective at putting money to work to improve their lives, with documented positive impacts on a wide range of outcomes including nutrition, health, education, earnings, and even hours worked. An independent, randomized controlled trial of GiveDirectly’s impact showed that transfers have large, positive and sustainable impacts across a wide range of outcomes, while the evidence does not support many of the negative stereotypes that people often hold of the poor, e.g. that they simply spend their money on booze, or stop working. Furthermore, the study was pre-announced to ensure that negative results could not be suppressed, demonstrating GiveDirectly’s commitment to rigorous and transparent self-evaluation. On top of the impact of the cash transfers themselves, the radical approach also makes GiveDirectly “part of a shift in thinking about how best to use aid to help the poorest” (The Economist), which in itself has a lot of additional potential upsides for the whole field of poverty reduction.
CFAR and GBS Switzerland were being discussed the most for the choice of meta-charity. GBS Switzerland is the foundation for altruism and rationality, whose members – including Swiss poker players – launched the REG project idea and are working on kick-starting additional REG-type projects. The main reason we support the Center for Applied Rationality (CFAR) is their work in the area of improving individual and ultimately societal decision-making: Improving the general quality of our decisions has the potential to lead to structural improvements whose long-term positive impact would be huge. In a sense, rationality improvement tackles the root of all human problems. With better education and a growing community of rational altruists, humanity will be better able and more likely to identify and fix the most important problems and future threats. We ended up picking CFAR over GBS Switzerland because the latter will be part of the split for an upcoming charity tournament and we expect it to receive enough funding in the coming months via REG and Swiss donors, while the former currently has significant room for more funding.
The REG board plans to allocate unrestricted donations roughly according to the following rule:
- 50% go to a charity recommended by GiveWell
- 50% go to meta-charities
The basic idea of donating “meta” is trying to create many additional donors. This strategy often moves much more money to effective charities than the strategy of donating all the money directly.
The meta-charities will be chosen from the list of REG-supported meta-charities, taking into account their expected impact and room for more funding. As collective REG donations grow bigger, we expect to split donations among several meta-charities because of constraints regarding the room for more funding of these charities. As with GiveWell-recommended charities (which are updated every year in December), the list of recommended meta-charities may change over time according to the best estimates of the REG board.
Note: Due to a currency conversion issue and an error in donation tracking, some of the numbers were slightly off in the original report. They have now been adjusted. The changes were:
The overall amount in Q3 2014 was $37,873, not $36,902. Restricted donations made up for $22,618 of the total amount, not $21,619. $15,255, not $15,283 were donated unrestrictedly. Finally, both CFAR and GiveDirectly received $7,628 from unrestricted donations, not $6,829.