Donation history

This page provides a history, as best as I can reconstruct, of my charitable donations.

See also my pages on effective altruism and GiveWell and my August 2011 GiveWell guest post that goes into more detail about my early donation history.

For more context, you can seemy financials page. Please contact me if you’re interested in seeing more in-depth information.

You can also take a look at my page on the Donations List Website, a preliminary, un-vetted website created by Issa Rice and me listing donors, donees, and donations.

2007

I don’t have good written records of these years, but I think I made these donations in December of the year. This was the first time I was making a sufficiently sizable income that it made sense to talk of donating “my own money”:

  1. $100 + $25 to the WikiMedia Foundation
  2. About $10 or $15 to the Mozilla Foundation.
  3. About $25 to Creative Commons.

I treated these as one-off donations rather than the basis of recurring annual donations — the rationale being that this was the sort of price I would pay for buying these services once to use for a lifetime (this is considerably less than the value I get from them, but that’s also true of the many services for-profit companies offer me).

2008

In June 2008, I started making regular monthly donations to Children’s International. Although there is nothing wrong with them, I believe that this decision reflected some poor thinking and prioritization on my part. When I started making the donations, I was not familiar with the ideas of effective altruism and had not even heard of GiveWell.

2009

Throughout the year, I continued making regular monthly donations to Children’s International.

In December 2009, I encountered a Bloggingheads diavlog (video conversation) between Peter Singer and William Easterly. I believe this was the first time I heard of charity evaluator GiveWell. I may have heard of them earlier, though, but had at any rate not paid sufficient attention to investigate them.

2010

In February 2010, I terminated my monthly recurring donation to Children’s International.

I made donations of $1250 on January 16, 2010 and $2000 on May 22, 2010 to VillageReach, then GiveWell’s top-rated charity, through GiveWell’s website.

Around August 2010, I got in touch with a researcher and talked about partially funding some research related to low-cost private education in the developing world. We had extensive correspondence and phone conversations and in September 2010, I made a donation covering part of the costs of a new research project, with the understanding that any cost overruns would be covered by him. The project was successful (albeit with cost overruns). My contribution to the project was $7500.

In December 2010, I made a donation of $5100 to VillageReach, my largest to the organization, bringing my total to-date donations to VillageReach at $8350. After donating, I talked over the phone with VillageReach employee John Beale about VillageReach’s activities, to help me in future donation decisions.

2011

The rather huge amounts of money I donated in 2010 left me with fewer finances to make large donations in 2011. I also made a small investment in a for-profit company in September 2011, and this further weakened my financial position. I made only one charitable donation that year, to The Seasteading Institute, for $520, on May 31, 2011.

2012

In 2012, my financial position had still not recovered from the huge expenses in 2010 and 2011, and other expenses of mine had also increased (I was working harder and longer hours, and handling a number of other responsibilities, so I tended to eat out more often, for instance). However, I was still committed to the idea of effective altruism. On December 24, 2012, I made a donation of $500 to GiveDirectly. GiveDirectly was at the time rated #2 by GiveWell and they hoped to raise money in a 7:2:1 ratio for their top three charities respectively, but I believed that the actual skew of funds raised would be biased against GiveDirectly because of its relatively less tested concept. My $500 donation was therefore a corrective to what I perceived would be an imbalance in the way money would flow to the top charities, and a suspicion that AMF would end up raising more money than they could allocate in the short term. Both suspicions turned out to be true (see GiveWell’s summary of money moved).

2013

My savings rate through 2013 was low because of an increase in other regular expenses (such as more take-out eating, as well as higher web hosting costs for my sites). Around the end of 2013, I also decided to embark on Cognito Mentoring with Jonah Sinick, something where we didn’t expect to make money initially. I had to draw on some long-term savings of mine and also asked my parents to send me some money to create a financial buffer within which I could experiment. Due to all these considerations, I chose not to make any donations in 2013.

2014 through 2017

By 2014, my thinking on charitable donation had shifted in a direction away from donating now, and towards saving money (you can read two related Effective Altruists Facebook group discussions, here and here respectively).

I have not made any donations between 2014 and 2017 (inclusive) but might be making a small donation again in 2018.

Some people, such as Peter Hurford, include contract work sponsorship in their donations list (in particular, some of Peter’s donations with listed organization as “Charity Entrepreneurship” are actually sponsored contract work). Using this definition, I have “donated” in the range of $75,000 for contract work as of January 2018; you can get a full breakdown here. I do not accept this definition of donation; in this respect, because payment is in exchange for work that I direct control. Tax authorities generally agree with me on this front when discussing tax-deductibility of donations. For this reason, when incorporating Peter’s donations into the (preliminary, un-vetted, use-at-your-own-risk) Donations List Website, I have explicitly excluded contract work sponsorship.

2018

At the end of 2018 (specifically, on December 22, 2018), I donated $3,000 USD with the following allocation:

  • $2,000 to GiveWell for discretionary regranting to top charities, by check
  • $500 to the $500,000 EA Donor Lottery by check, on behalf of Issa Rice. This means that, in the 0.1%-probability case that I win the lottery, he will choose the allocation of the funds
  • $500 to the Machine Intelligence Research Institute by ACH, on behalf of Issa Rice

I elaborate on my reason for donating at this time, donating this amount, and selecting these recipients, in the blog post My 2018 donations.

Basic information