Update: how many extra donations have we caused?

One way 80,000 Hours has an impact is by increasing the amount our users donate to high-impact charities. As part of our annual review, we did a quick update to the figures from our last review. The process we used wasn’t as thorough as we would have liked, but provides some encouraging evidence of our impact.

What we did

We identified the largest donors we know of who (i) have made significant plan changes according to our definition and (ii) say they intend to earn to give.

We asked them the following questions via email:

  • How much have you donated over the last three years?
  • How much do you expect to donate over the next three years?
  • Where to?
  • How much of this is attributable to 80,000 Hours? (meaning what wouldn’t have been given if 80,000 Hours didn’t exist).
  • How much have you pledged to give as part of GWWC or otherwise?

For those people who responded last year, we asked for an extra year of data. You can see the answers and case studies from last year’s review in the appendix here.

We received responses from all ten people asked. Each intends to give to whichever charities they believe to be highest-impact (in practice, this mostly means effective altruist organisations or charities recommended by GiveWell or Giving What We Can). Also included in our results is last year’s highest donor (“A”), who declined to report this year due to concerns about anonymity (although “A” is still earning to give).

The results at a glance

TotalTotal attributed to us
Donated 2010-2013$476,100$152,225
Donated 2014$235,500$112,060
Total historical donations$636,600$264,285
Had planned to donate 2014-2017$3,572,500$978,750
Now plan to donate 2015-2018$12,557,500$10,143,750
Lifetime publicly pledged donations$54,500,000$23,525,000

You can see a full summary of responses here.

Some notable take-aways

  • The total amount donated annually rose by 50%. Assuming that “A” donated in line with the historical trend, we expect that in fact the total amount donated annually has roughly doubled, likely reaching over $1m.

  • The amount that the group intends to donate over the next three years rose more than three-fold compared with last year (despite the lack of data for “A”). This is mainly due to the increased earning power of the group, improved confidence in this earning power, and the addition of an extra large donor (who anticipates donating $5m over the next three years).

  • Only three people decreased their estimate for future donations, and only one stopped earning to give, and that was because they believed they could have greater impact through other means.

  • The amount of future donations attributed to 80,000 Hours increased about ten-fold (despite the lack of data for “A”). This rate of increase is so high because of the two largest donors, one is estimating for the first time and the other now attributes almost all of their donations to us.

  • About half of the donors had made a public pledge to donate their income, with one in three pledging more than 50%.

  • For the people who had taken a pledge, we made a rough estimate of their lifetime income, and multiplied that by the percentage pledged. That produced a rough estimate of the lifetime donations pledged, giving a figure of over $50m.

Some qualifications:

  • The two largest donors, accounting for about 80% of the total, gave figures derived from startup equity. The figures given are just expectation values, and there is still about a 50% probability that the equity will end up worthless. Moreover, there’s a good chance it won’t be possible to sell the equity within the three years, so the money will not in fact be available to donate within that time horizon though it should be available within ten years).

  • The figures for future donations and the proportions attributed to us are highly approximate, and are likely to be biased (though there are reasons for biases both upwards and downwards).

What does this imply about the earning to give community as a whole?

  • My guess is that the total number of people earning to give is two to four times larger than the number who made a significant plan change due to 80,000 Hours.

  • The above figures are for the top 10% of donors, who likely account for about 85% of total donations (in line with our survey from last year).

  • Putting these two points together, the entire earning to give community has likely donated $1.5m – $3m over the last four years, and will donate $30m – $60m over the next three years (not including new donors who are added to the community in the next three years).

  • Going forward, that’s an annual rate of over $10m, although since a large proportion of these potential donations are currently in startup equity, they won’t be accessible within the next three years.