I wasn’t planning on doing a drive this year. Until November, I was losing on the year, so tax-wise it didn’t make sense to donate. In December, I got lucky and binked a big tournament at the Bellagio, but it was so late in the year, that I was planning to just take a year off and enjoy the holiday season. Then Tom and Martin then reached out to me about making such large donations that I felt I had no choice but to accept and run the drive. I don’t have enough good things to say about their generosity. On a personal level,  I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction out of running this drive, so I am happy that they inadvertently pushed me into doing something that I believe is very clearly in my best interest. I have a bit of a hard time with the holiday season, generally with at least one bout with holiday blues. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this season I didn’t even have one negative day.

The drive exceed my expectations, raising $4.5 (!!!) million dollars. Here is the  breakdown charity by charity of donations that will be matched.


GiveDirectly $588,310
The Good Food Institute $415,966
Machine Intelligence Research Institute $299,301
Against Malaria Foundation $275,786
EA Funds – Animal Welfare $250,527
Brooklyn Bail Fund $170,462
Schistosomiasis Control Initiative $143,313
EA Funds – Long-run Future $43,501
Massachusetts Bail Fund $33,004
Helen Keller International’s Vitamin A Supplementation Program $25,210
Just City $4,790


Of course plenty of this money would have been donated anyway, so it’s not entirely accurate to say the drive raised that much over the baseline. . But being very conservative saying that we led to an extra 10% in donations… that is still $450,000. I think plenty of people think the idea of donating publicly is strange, but I disagree. Thinking about real lives being saved by encourages others to donate compared to some thoughts people may have in their heads… it seems clear to me.

I believe I have an idea that could increase efficiency for other drives. If you did a matching challenge, but capped drive donations at $100, I think it would be possible to *close to double* your effect on the world. The work to run this operation wouldn’t all that difficult. You could probably find a charity who would track the donations for you. The idea of this going viral and getting thousands of people to donate $100 seems doable to me. The drive could be simplified to a smaller number of charities, and with notice you could ask the charities to track the donations themselves.

Lastly, I wanted to say that if a charity resonates with you, but it isn’t necessarily the most effective or highly rated charity, it’s still totally fine for you to support it alongside other more effective causes too. Humans are not fully rational, and playing to our emotions seems like a valuable tool and can make the giving process more enjoyable.

Happy 2018!
-Dan Smith

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