Is EA Growing? EA Growth Metrics for 2018

Is EA growing? Rather than speculating from anecdotes, I decided to collect some data. This is a continuation of the analysis started last year. For each trend, I collected the raw data and also highlighted in green where the highest point was reached (though this may be different from the period with the largest growth depending on which derivative you are looking at). You can download the raw data behind these tables here.

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EA Survey 2018 Series: How Long Do EAs Stay in EA?

Not everyone who joins the effective altruism community stays around forever. Some people value drift, some people leave altogether, and some people continue to do EA-aligned things but choose to withdraw from the community. Better understanding how and why people leave EA is important for assessing our overall community health and impact, but getting reliable data on this can be very hard to do.

As of Giving What We Can’s 2014 Impact Analysis, they had noted that 1.7% of members leave each year and an additional 4.7% of members “go silent” each year, meaning that GWWC has not been able to hear a response from them after two years (doing roughly annual check-ins), with a total number of people ceasing donations at 5.8%. This would suggest ~74% of people involved in GWWC remain involved after a five year time period.

This number forms a good starting point, but it is fairly out of date, having been collected five years ago. It also may not be representative of the overall EA community, since being an active part of EA is a high time cost but may not require any financial costs, whereas pledging to donate 10% has a high financial cost, but may not require much time cost beyond sending in a check and returning an email once a year or so.

To try to address this question from a different perspective, we try to use data from three EA surveys run in 2018, 2017, and 2015.

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Cost-Effectiveness of RC Forward


  • RC Forward moved $4.4M CAD (~ $3.3M USD) from Canadian donors.

  • $430K to $3.7M of donations may have been counterfactually caused by RC Forward.

  • RC Forward appears to have increased donations by 11% to 500%, with a best guess of 25% to 35%

  • Donating to RC Forward seems between 3 to 55 times more effective than donating funds directly to the EA charities which RC Forward regrants to.

RC Forward is a donation platform through which Canadians can make tax-advantaged donations to high-impact charities located inside and outside of Canada. We hypothesized that previously inaccessible tax incentives and fee elimination offered by this service would increase the donation total and individual gift sizes. This post details a cost-effectiveness analysis of RC Forward in 2018 and some reasons to limit the weight put onto any specific numbers.

We find that compared to estimates of how much would have been donated if RC Forward did not exist, donations appear to have increased by 11%-500%, with a best guess of 25-35%. Operating with minimal resources during its experimental phase, $3 to $55 more may have been donated for each $1 spent, which offers a potentially large impact for funders who cover RC Forward’s costs. We should be clear that the cost-effectiveness estimates are generally less robust than one expects and are only our approximations of uncertain quantitative parameters, which are potentially subject to bias and error. Much of the uncertainty is reflected in the ranges given, but exact numbers should not be taken as high-confidence precise estimates of the actual value RC Forward.

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