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Scope and Limitations of EA Funds

Purpose

This document aims to clarify the regranting scope of each of the four EA Funds, as well as provide general limitations that affect all existing Funds (and any potential future Funds). Some reasons for this are:

  • To give all relevant decision-makers clarity over which kinds of grants may be made by EA Funds
  • To clarify to other grantmaking bodies which kinds of grants each Fund will not make, so that they are not inadvertently ‘crowded out’ of spaces that EA Funds is not covering
  • To set clear expectations to donors about the kind of grants that their money will be used to make
  • To create consistency in the presentation of each Fund’s scope, so that donors can more easily compare them

The wording has generally been left intentionally broad. Partly this is because:

  • It’s difficult to fully encapsulate everything that Fund management team members may deliberate on in advance, and decision-makers will likely need to use their best judgement
  • Having too-prescriptive rules could lead to grant applicants (intentionally or unintentionally) modifying their applications to game the system by conforming to what they expect Fund managers will be more likely to recommend grants to, rather than applying for the thing that they actually care about.

Intention

The Scope and Limitations sections are intended to be binding on their respective Funds, and provide a guide to grantmakers and grant approvers (i.e. CEA’s Board/Trustees) about the kinds of recommendations that will be approved. They are intended to broadly capture the entirety of each Fund’s scope, but by their nature will be non-exhaustive, and decision-makers may still decide that a grant is not in scope for reasons that are similar to but not directly addressed by this document (in such cases, this document should be updated to reflect the principle behind such a decision). This is a statement of aims, not a legal document, and the final decision on grant approvals always lies with CEA.

The Expected Recipients section is intended to elaborate further on these principles, and set donor expectations about the kinds of grantmaking that can be expected from each Fund. They are intended to be persuasive, but non-binding, such that if a Fund’s management team decides that a grant fulfils the Scope/Limitations, and the spirit of the Expected Recipients section, they may recommend the grant.

Inevitably, some grant recommendations will be ambiguous with respect to the scope of the Fund making them. CEA remains the final arbiter of whether to make a grant, and therefore CEA (in the first instance Sam Deere as project manager of the EA Funds, with the approval of CEA’s Executive Director, with final decision-making by CEA’s board of trustees) will make final calls about whether grants fall into scope. When making a determination for grants that are more ambiguous with respect to scope, CEA will endeavor to take into account factors such as:

  • The rationale given by the recommending team for the grant
  • The level of support across the entirety of the Fund management team
  • The level of support for the project (or projects in the same reference class) held by respected senior members of the effective altruism community

Fund management teams may publish recommendations they make, even if they are not ultimately approved (assuming representatives of the project in question are amenable to publication in such circumstances).

Fund Scope and Limitations

General Scope / Limitations

Scope

Funds will make grants to projects – either organizations or individuals – that:

  • Are the most effective use of money within the Fund’s remit (based on the best judgement of the Fund management team members within the limitations of their ability to assess grants in a timely fashion, and considering counterfactual uses of the money and marginal effectiveness)

  • Aim to improve the world by:

  • Directly addressing a problem

  • Support research or evidence-gathering that will make a problem easier to address in future

  • Supporting education or skill-building for promising individuals where there is a clear case that such skills are likely to be used to make direct contributions to an important problem in the future

  • Raise additional funds that will be used to directly solve a problem

  • Advocate or raise awareness of a problem

Limitations

Final approval of all grants is subject to CEA review. The following is an illustrative but non-exhaustive list of reasons that a grant may not be approved:

  • Are outside the scope of the Fund or do not substantially address the Fund’s aims
  • Would support a (largely) irreversible and/or unilateralist action in some important or sensitive area, unless there is clear and widespread consensus among subject matter experts that the action would be net-positive
  • A consensus exists amongst key stakeholders that the grant would negatively impact the EA Community (on net, and in expectation)
  • Could be reasonably seen to be promoting violence, bigotry, racism, or other forms of hatred, or where grant recipients have publicly expressed support for such views
  • Are illegal or could reasonably be expected to commit illegal acts in the process of executing their plans
  • Where persons or organizations responsible for the project have demonstrated (or could reasonably be construed to have demonstrated) negligence, consistent poor judgement, financial mismanagement, violations of duty of care, or other serious misconduct
  • Could reasonably be construed to be wholly or primarily to the benefit of the project operator, or that otherwise do not create wider public benefits
  • Directly support political parties or candidates
  • Are in conflict with any other EA Funds policy (e.g. Conflict of Interest policy)
  • Are in conflict with any legal obligations that EA Funds, or its parent organization (the Centre for Effective Altruism) are bound by

Elevated approval requirements

Where a grant is determined to be ambiguous with respect to scope, or otherwise could reasonably be viewed to carry potential downside risks, approval may require additional scrutiny. The level of additional verification that is reasonable will vary from grant to grant, but the following general principles illustrate how this might be resolved:

  • More members of a Fund management team should be supportive of the grant (rather than just a single supportive member)
  • Members of the Fund management team who are not closely personally connected to the grant recipient should be supportive of the grant
  • In particularly controversial cases, advisors (external to both the Fund management team and CEA) who have expertise in the subject should support the grant

Global Development Fund

Scope

The Global Health and Development Fund makes grants that aim to improve the health or economic empowerment of people around the world as effectively as possible.

Expected recipients

The Global Health and Development Fund will recommend grants that aim to improve the lives of people, typically in the poorest regions of the world where the need for economic empowerment and healthcare interventions is greatest. This will be achieved by supporting projects that:

  • Directly provide healthcare, or preventive measures that will improve health, wellbeing, or life expectancy
  • Directly improve economic conditions or income
  • Build capacity in government or social systems such as healthcare systems, policymaking, or education, or conduct research that will be useful for building such capacity
  • Conduct research that will assist practitioners in delivering such projects more effectively

Animal Welfare Fund

Scope

The Animal Welfare Fund recommends grants aimed at improving the wellbeing of nonhuman animals, as effectively as possible.

Expected recipients

The Animal Welfare Fund will recommend grants that aim to improve the wellbeing of nonhuman animals. The Fund is likely to predominantly support welfare improvements for farmed animals, but is open to supporting projects affecting nonhuman animals in other contexts if such projects are deemed comparaby effective. This will be achieved by supporting projects that:

  • Directly improve the wellbeing or reduce the suffering of nonhuman animals
  • Campaign or advocate to improve the living conditions of nonhuman animals, for example those living on factory farms
  • Conduct research that will assist practitioners to deliver interventions that improve nonhuman animal welfare more effectively
  • Conduct research into nonhuman animal ethics, animal sentience, or other topics that increase our understanding of the extent or likelihood of nonhuman animals being moral patients or agents

Long-Term Future Fund

Scope

The Long-Term Future Fund recommends grants that aim to positively influence the long-term trajectory of civilization by

  • Addressing global catastrophic risks, especially those from advanced artificial intelligence and potential risks from advanced artificial intelligence and pandemics
  • Promoting, implementing, and advocating for longtermist ideas
  • Otherwise increasing the likelihood that future generations will flourish
Expected recipients

The Fund has a broad remit to make grants that promote, implement and advocate for longtermist ideas. Many of our grants focus on addressing potential risks from advanced artificial intelligence and pandemics. However, we welcome applications related to long-term institutional reform, other global catastrophic risks (e.g., nuclear conflict), or advocacy or infrastructure for longtermist projects. We intend to support:

  • Projects that directly contribute to reducing existential risks through technical research, policy analysis, advocacy, and/or demonstration projects
  • Training for researchers or practitioners who work to mitigate existential risks, or help with relevant recruitment efforts, or infrastructure for people working on longtermist projects
  • Promoting long-term thinking

Effective Altruism Infrastructure Fund

Scope

The Effective Altruism Infrastructure Fund recommends grants that aim to improve the work of projects using principles of effective altruism, by increasing their access to talent, capital, and knowledge.

Expected recipients

The Effective Altruism Infrastructure Fund recommends grants that aim to improve the work of projects using principles of effective altruism, by increasing their access to talent, capital, and knowledge. This includes projects that help provide intellectual infrastructure for the effective altruism community, running events, disseminating information, and supporting local gatherings of people interested in effective altruism. This will be achieved by supporting projects that:

  • Directly increase the number of people who are exposed to principles of effective altruism, 
  • Develop, refine or present principles of effective altruism
  • Support the recruitment of talented people who can use their skills to make progress on important problems
  • Aim to build a global community of people who use principles of effective altruism as a core part of their decision-making process when deciding how they can have a positive impact on the world
  • Conduct research into prioritizing between or within different cause areas
  • Improve community health by promoting healthy norms for interaction and discourse, or assist in resolving grievances