Alignment Grantmaking is Funding-Limited Right Now

For the past few years, I’ve generally mostly heard from alignment grantmakers that they’re bottlenecked by projects/​people they want to fund, not by amount of money. Grantmakers generally had no trouble funding the projects/​people they found object-level promising, with money left over. In that environment, figuring out how to turn marginal dollars into new promising researchers/​projects—e.g. by finding useful recruitment channels or designing useful training programs—was a major problem.

Within the past month or two, that situation has reversed. My understanding is that alignment grantmaking is now mostly funding-bottlenecked. This is mostly based on word-of-mouth, but for instance, I heard that the recent lightspeed grants round received far more applications than they could fund which passed the bar for basic promising-ness. I’ve also heard that the Long-Term Future Fund (which funded my current grant) now has insufficient money for all the grants they’d like to fund.

I don’t know whether this is a temporary phenomenon, or longer-term. Alignment research has gone mainstream, so we should expect both more researchers interested and more funders interested. It may be that the researchers pivot a bit faster, but funders will catch up later. Or, it may be that the funding bottleneck becomes the new normal. Regardless, it seems like grantmaking is at least funding-bottlenecked right now.

Some takeaways:

  • If you have a big pile of money and would like to help, but haven’t been donating much to alignment because the field wasn’t money constrained, now is your time!

  • If this situation is the new normal, then earning-to-give for alignment may look like a more useful option again. That said, at this point committing to an earning-to-give path would be a bet on this situation being the new normal.

  • Grants for upskilling, training junior people, and recruitment make a lot less sense right now from grantmakers’ perspective.

  • For those applying for grants, asking for less money might make you more likely to be funded. (Historically, grantmakers consistently tell me that most people ask for less money than they should; I don’t know whether that will change going forward, but now is an unusually probable time for it to change.)

Note that I am not a grantmaker, I’m just passing on what I hear from grantmakers in casual conversation. If anyone with more knowledge wants to chime in, I’d appreciate it.