September 2016 Open Thread

Our goal is to give blog readers and followers of the Open Philanthropy Project an opportunity to publicly raise comments or questions about the Open Philanthropy Project or related topics (in the comments section below). As always, you’re also welcome to email us at [email protected] if there’s feedback or questions you’d prefer to discuss privately. We’ll try to respond promptly to questions or comments.

You can see our previous open thread here.


I’m curious to hear your thoughts on Jeff W’s comment on

Tobias Dänzer also raised a couple of questions that I’m curious about as well.

Apologies, I didn’t notice these comments on the open thread. I did respond to Jeff W’s comment here, on Oct. 4.

Now that Open Philanthropy is a few years old, I’d be interested to hear how your thoughts have developed on what the organisation may look like “at scale”.

- Are you open to becoming an organisation that advises an indefinitely large amount of philanthropic funds, or is there a cap to the amount you feel you can productively manage?
- Are you happy with the current ratio of $ granted / # of research staff, or do you want to change that ratio in either direction?
- Are you open to a future where you investigate different cause areas for different foundations, or do you plan to stick to the cause areas that look the most promising assessed separately from the interests of (future) philanthropic partners?

Apologies that I’m just now seeing this comment. Responses:

1. I don’t yet see a clear cap to the amount we can productively manage or advise on. This might change later (note that we’re still below the target giving amount currently).

2. Grantmaking has risen a great deal in 2016, something we’ll be discussing in our next annual review. At the moment the ratio feels reasonable to me. In an ideal world, we’d see the ratio of grantmaking to staff go up from here so that we can hit target giving without getting too big, but I’m not sure how realistic that will turn out to be.

3. At this point I hope to stick near-exclusively with the latter. There will be some points of compromise (where e.g. we help a valuable partner with an interest of theirs).

Thanks Holden!

Hello Open Phil team!

I have a question inspired by Holden’s recent post

In the post, he says: “This is still our position, and we still expect giving for the year to come in below this budget, though it will be significantly higher than it was last year. Specifically, we expect to have over $100 million worth of grants for which the investigation is completed this year (with a recommendation made either this year or early in 2017). (A comparable figure for last year would have been under $20 million.)”

However, according to your grants database (see for the breakdown) the total of publicly disclosed grants so far for 2015 was $6,851,855 and that for 2016 was $45,664,741, significantly less than the estimates you provided.

To what extent are these differences a result of these three factors?

(1) Grants made in the year after which the investigation was completed (this could apply to both 2015 and 2016)

(2) Grants not yet publicly disclosed, but that you intend to disclose publicly (this should mostly apply only to 2016; there has been ample time to disclose grants in 2015)

(3) Grants that you do not currently intend to disclose (this could apply to both 2015 and 2016)

I’m interested because it will help get a better sense of the level of comprehensiveness as well as the time lag in Open Phil’s grants database.

Hi Vipul,

For 2015 the difference is entirely #1. For 2016 there is more than one factor, but #1-type grants alone are sufficient for the numbers I gave.

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