Meetup Retrospective: Donation Decision Day 2014

At the end of 2014 (December 28th), the Seattle Effective Altruists group ran a hackday/workshop called Donation Decision Day for people to come and make their final donation decisions for the year. The idea was for people to come work out how much they wanted to donate and where they wanted to donate to. If they got stuck, they could talk with a partner to help troubleshoot their situation.

Overall, the Donation Decision Day was very successful, and will definitely be a yearly event. I think other groups might be able to copy it successfully. What follows are some thoughts and observations about the event. The Seattle group is unusual in that it’s mostly working programmers instead of students, so other groups holding similar events might look different.

Several people expressed some confusion about what kind of event it was going to be (event description at the bottom), so perhaps some people were scared off the event by a confusing description. Need a better name and description next year.

Since this was an especially action oriented event, I had hoped we would get people who had only been lightly involved or not involved at all to come, so the event would serve as an outreach event. But, that didn’t happen at all. 11 people showed up (about average), but they tended to be the most committed of the group, not the lightly interested. Next year, I would like to try specifically to get new people to come, as I think this is both a natural introductory meeting and a high impact activity. Not sure how to do that, though. We’ve discussed trying to run similar outreach events at our workplaces, but haven’t made concrete plans to try this.

A couple people were giving nothing or smallish donations, several people giving 5-20% and one person giving significantly more. I liked that there was a big spread of what people felt comfortable with. People lightly encouraged each other to give more during discussion of how much to give, but I think mostly avoided pressuring each other.

One person told me they gave dramatically more because of the meetup than they otherwise would. I think I probably gave about 10% more than I would have otherwise definitely was more efficient about it. Several people had productive 1-on-1 discussions about where their donations would go. We also coordinated with the Vancouver group to trade AMF and Give Directly donations, which allowed the Vancouver group to get the tax deductions on their donations and donate more.

The event description we used:

Lets get together and work on making our final donation decisions for the year!

Doesn’t matter if you’re giving $20,000 or $20.

Doesn’t matter if you’ve never done research on charities, or if you’ve read the primary literature on malaria net research.

Wherever you’re at, try to beat your personal best: give a little more this year and do a little better research this year.

Come and work on your personal donation decisions; with a partner or by yourself. Do research, run the numbers, and if you run into trouble, have a 1-on-1 discussion with someone about it.

Once you’ve made your decisions, send out your checks with our stamps!

Come starting at 11am to have a short discussion about donor advised funds etc.

People will be here all day, so feel free to come at any time.