[Question] How do you evaluate whether a $500 donation to a project that you know well is a good idea?

At habryka’s re­cent office hours he made the point that it’s re­ally hard for a big grand-giv­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion like the Long-Term Fu­ture Fund (LTFF) to fund cer­tain pro­jects. While good ra­tio­nal­ist cul­ture for ex­am­ple is valuable, fund­ing cul­ture by com­mit­tee in a top-down way is prob­le­matic. The peo­ple with lo­cal knowl­edge of a cul­tural pro­ject are in a bet­ter po­si­tion to judge whether or not a given ra­tio­nal­ist cul­ture pro­ject is valuable enough that it should be funded then a grant com­mit­tee like that of the LTFF.

Given that LTFF and OpenPhil have ac­cess to a lot of fi­nan­cial cap­tial these days for very rich in­di­vi­d­u­als, the scare re­sources these days isn’t pri­mar­ily money but lo­cal knowl­edge about which pro­jects are worth­while. This sug­gests that in­di­vi­d­u­als who have a small dona­tion bud­get and ac­cess to a lot of lo­cal knowl­edge of in­di­vi­d­ual pro­jects are more effec­tive when they make use of their scarce re­sources of lo­cal knowl­edge in­stead of donat­ing to money to big grant mak­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions.

While giv­ing money to big grant mak­ers is straight­for­ward, giv­ing money to small pro­jects is harder. How should an in­di­vi­d­ual who has a yearly dona­tion bud­get of <$10,000 go about eval­u­at­ing lo­cal pro­jects for donat­ing an amount like $500 to them?