This is mainly of interest to Effective Altruists and Cross-posted on the EA forum


Wanted to get community feedback and optimization suggestions on promoting effective giving using list-style articles.


The purpose for list-style articles would be similar to other types of effective giving content, namely to lead people to shift their giving toward more effective charities from less effective ones. To be clear, it is not to get people to join the Effective Altruism movement, to avoid the danger of rapid movement growth (see this video and paper). It is also not to get people to go down the Earning To Give path, as most likely only a small portion of people should go down that road, and moreover the EA movement as such faces a higher talent gap than funding gap. Instead, the goal is to redirect some of the hundreds of billions spent per year on charitable giving toward effective causes.


Now, getting to why use list-style articles as such. On the one hand, most list-style articles pattern-match with shallow content, not something that Less Wrongers typically appreciate - in fact, there has been some intense debate about this topic. On the other hand, list-style articles are one of the most widely read and shared types of content on the web, and there are specific strategies for doing high-quality list-style articles.


One concern is that these articles might be a turn-off for people who are oriented toward more high-brow content, and would not be inclined to learn about effective giving and especially effective altruism due to it being presented in a list-style article form. To address this concern, I think we should aim to avoid using the term "Effective Giving" and certainly "Effective Altruism" in the title of a list-style article. Thus, anyone just glancing at the headline would not be turned off by seeing this term in association with a list-style article. Only the people who click on the article and read it would learn about this term and the organizations associated with it. Since the readers of a list-style article are the ones who would enjoy list-style articles and not be put off by them, they would be highly unlikely to be negatively impacted by this type of article and the message of effective giving as conveyed by it, and instead would be impacted positively, on a weak to strong range.


To practice an experimental and data-gathering approach, I decided to try to publish a list-style article, and got this one, "8 Secrets of Savvy Donors," placed in The Huffington Post. It does not reference effective giving in the title, but talks about it in the body of the text. It is written in an engaging manner, has a clear narrative, conveys emotions, has a variety of images, and conveys a mixture of helpful ideas with promotion of EA organizations, such as Giving What We Can, GiveWell, and The Life You Can Save. It briefly mentions effective altruism as a movement, but does not specifically tie positive emotions with it, and suggests readers contact effective altruists for strategies on donating effectively. I suspect this is the first EA-written and EA-themed list-style article, but please correct me if I'm wrong - I know EAs made other broad-type content, such as memes, but not list-style articles.


Posted less than 48 hours ago, this article is spreading organically on social media with minimum publicity. I have not yet shared it with any EA groups, but it has already been shared more than 160 times on StumbleUpon, for example, as of the time of this writing (most articles published at the same time as this one on The Huffington Post Impact section, where this article was published, have less than 20 social shares). Social media shares provide significant evidence of reader enthusiasm for this article, since people are willing to put their personal social capital into sharing the article for their Facebook friends, Twitter followers, StumbleUpon followers etc. to read. Of course, social media sharing also has the additional benefit of many more people getting exposed to the content - a general rule of thumb is that for every social media share, 100 people read the article thoroughly, and many more skim it.


Another benefit of list-style articles is that they are well suited for fellow EAs to share on their social media. This is because EAs who are social media savvy know that this type of article will be more likely to be read by non-EAs in their social circle, and shared by other EAs. Thus, EAs can help spur social sharing of this type of article strategically, knowing the positive consequences of doing so.


A more broad medium-term goal would be to provide a depository of such articles that EAs can draw from and adapt to their local context. All of you should feel free to do so as well. Another medium-term goal is to have some EAs who specialize in marketing effective giving ideas for a broad audience. This should help address one area of talent gap in the current EA movement. For more on promoting effective giving from a systematic perspective, see this post.


Now, I'd appreciate your thoughts on this article. Does it work to convey the benefits of effective giving in an easy-to-read and engaging manner? Knowing about the benefits of sharing this type of article, would you share this article on your social media?


Also, would appreciate your thoughts on the meta issues, the strategy of using list-style articles as a way of spreading EA-style ideas about effective giving. Thanks!

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In this case I would consider social shares more of a vanity metric. Sharing socially could even negatively correlate, because sharing socially is a good way to get the social good will of being savvy and a donor, without actually doing any of the steps listed. List articles frequently have the problem of being shared and bookmarked without leading to action, due to the paradox of choice.

If you do a similar article in the future, it'd be cool to link right through to a donation page, pop a cookie on the persons browser, and see if they end up donating in the next couple months.

I hear you, it's hard to determine these things fully. I do think social sharing is weak evidence - again, people choose to put their social capital behind it, and it gets post-factum cognitive justification going.

A stronger piece of evidence is this case study from a comment on my personal FB page about someone who was convinced to donate to effective charities from an article I wrote.

Other evidence is important, of course, and I like your idea!

Sharing socially could even negatively correlate, because sharing socially is a good way to get the social good will of being savvy and a donor,

In this case I don't think so. Sharing such an article is bound to produce situations in which other people ask you for your donation habits.


Possibly... at least in the US there seems to be a social taboo against those sorts of questions.

Normally yes, but do you think the taboo would still exists when person shares an article like that?


I went ahead and shared it a couple of days ago and so far haven't gotten any comments. How did you fare?

How did you fare?

I haven't shared it myself.


Sounds like a good time for an experiment... let's both share it and see what comments we get.

To practice an experimental and data-gathering approach, I decided to try to publish a list-style article, and got this one, "8 Secrets of Savvy Donors," placed in The Huffington Post.

I like the article.

I would be very interested to have numbers about ordered superdonar T-Shirts that came through that article.

Glad you liked the piece! I tried to keep the feedback I got earlier in mind when writing it, so I'm glad my writing is growing better.

I'll be eager to learn about the Superdonor T-shirts too, but I doubt the numbers would be large. That would mean strong identification with the Superdonor concept. I think it would take a number of exposures to the Superdonor concept for people to identify with this notion.