A recent article on the Washington Post expressed concern that the growth of effective altruism could seriously reduce funding for the arts. It even mentions that the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation recently decided to focus 100% on funding the arts and culture, in part because “philanthropy, directly or indirectly influenced by the effective altruist approach, is increasingly focused on problems perceived as more pressing”.
This was astonishing to me.
Here’s why effective altruism is not going to destroy the arts.
1) Only a couple of percent of American philanthropy is influenced by effective altruism, and it’s not taking funding from the arts.
Explicitly “effective altruist” giving is well under $100m per year, only 0.03% of the total Americans give to charity each year.
If we look more broadly to giving that has an effective altruist style, even if it doesn’t explicitly use the label, the Gates Foundation is the largest proponent. But the Gates Foundation spends about $4bn per year, only 1% of the total Americans give to charity each year.
It seems hard to claim that more than a couple of percent of American philanthropy is even remotely influenced by effective altruism. One study found that only 3% of American donors give based on the relative performance of the nonprofits they donate to. Only 4% of total American giving even goes to international causes,