Chapters Term Review and Q1 Plan (Jan 2017)

Overview of state of chapters

**Number of Chapters: **According to our chapter database there are 82 student chapters: 8 large chapters, 22 medium-sized, 52 small (with 13 of these new chapters). Judgements of these sizes have been made on limited information, the database is not exhaustive and there will be a few chapters on the database that no longer exist. There are 45 local chapters. Some of the knowledge from chapters is based on the Winter review which 18 out of 82 student chapters completed.

**What do they do: **The focus of most groups is to organise EA related events, including speaker events, discussions groups, socials giving games etc. Group organisers tend to spend between 3-7 hours a week on work for the group, but for larger groups this is more like 10h.

**Core Support: **The core support that we offer to chapters is outlined in the chapter resources drive and includes providing funding, books and resources, one-to-one advice and group calls.

What value do chapters produce?


**Pledges Caused/ Pledge Campaign: **The 18 chapters that completed the review reported causing 67 pledges, with the bulk of these being caused by large chapters. Another 3 chapters reported 17 pledges caused in total but didn’t fill in the term review. On the basis of this and data from the pledge sign up form I estimate that chapters caused around 100 GWWC pledges in total this term.

GWWC Sign up data: Out of 2618 pledges (up to the 21st January 2017) 255 (9.7%) members have listed a chapter they are part of. This is likely to under-represent the number of members part of a chapter, as only 40 chapters are listed on the GWWC website. 194 (7.5%) members listed ‘group’ or ‘chapter’ as one of the ways they first heard about Giving What We Can.


Winter Review: 18 out of 82 chapters filled out the Winter review: 68 of the large chapters, 722 of the medium chapters and 552 of the small chapters.

Pledges Reported: In total chapters reported causing 67 pledges during this period: the 8 large chapters reported causing 50, the 7 medium chapters reported causing 12 and the 6 small chapters reported causing 5.

Extrapolating to other chapters: A higher proportion of smaller chapters didn’t fill in the survey, and smaller chapters produce less pledges. There will also be a strong bias towards those who were most involved in the pledge campaign being the most likely to report their successes. Given this I estimate an additional 15 pledges caused by the the chapters that did not fill in the review, giving a total of around 100 pledges.

GWWC signup data: This seems broadly consistent with GWWC sign up data. This term (between Sept 1st and Jan 10th) there were 565 people taking the pledge with 59 of these reporting being a member of a chapter, and 78 cited ‘chapter’ or ‘group’ where they first heard about the pledge.

Effective Altruism Newsletter Signups

So far during this academic year chapters have caused over 6,000 EA Newsletter sign ups, with 5,000 of these coming from just the Oxford and Cambridge groups. Although these wouldn’t have happened without the presence of chapters, an estimate of 2,000 of these were signups were gathered by staff attending these fairs (Harri, Jon and 80k staff). The value of freshers’ fair sign ups will likely be less valuable than ‘organic’ signups - perhaps ΒΌ as valuable.

Career changes/ High impact individuals

**Term Review: **In the termly review most chapters did not give an estimate of the number of people who changed their career plans due to their group, due to lack of information. Some groups did provide a a members’ roster with details of their groups members, including info on whether they have pledged, their career plans etc.

80,000 Hours: 80k gave over 20 workshops with over 1000 attendees during their Fall outreach campaign, and 10% of these registered a Impact Adjusted Significant Plan Change (80k annual review) - giving around 100 IASPCs over the term. It’s unclear how essential the existence of student groups were to this, many (if not all) of the events were organised and publicised by student groups, but 80k would likely still be giving workshops without student groups. 80K also signed up 10,000 students to their newsletter over this period, through freshers’ fairs.

**Tail end: **It’s possible that a large proportion of the value of chapters plausibly comes through a handful of individuals who significantly change their future trajectory to have an extremely high impact, eg. by directing or creating an EA org in the future, donating very large sums.


A lot of the value of groups will be both hard to define and measure. Some of these benefits include enabling people to learn about effective altruism, providing a local community and an entry point to the larger EA community, and increasing awareness of and inclination towards EA.

How do chapters produce this value?


**Pledge Campaign Impact: **The number of pledges produced by chapters increased during the pledge campaign, with a higher proportion of people citing ‘local group’ or ‘chapter’ as the way that they hear about the pledge during the campaign than usual (13% during the campaign compared with 7% for all pledges), meaning chapters explicit efforts to gain pledges worked.

Pledge Campaign Strategy: There is some knowledge about how chapters produce pledges, most of this involves capitalising upon previous outreach work. The main chapter activities during the campaign were coordinating personal messaging about the pledge through group members, hosting pledge events and publicising the pledge on social media. Coordinated personal messaging seemed to be the most effective strategy, with a ratio of 110 people who received a message about the campaign taking the pledge.

**Follow up: **Coordinated follow up seems like a promising strategy to use throughout the year. Around 50% of event attendees leave their email addresses, and according to GWWC Oxford’s data this term, 37% of event attendees tick the ‘interested in hearing more about the GWWC pledge.

EA Newsletter Sign ups

It is relatively clear what chapter practices produce EA newsletter signups. Roughly 5,000 out of 6,000 signups were the result of fresher’s fairs, and many of the rest have come from chapters using feedback forms.

Career Plan Changes and High Impact Individuals

The vast majority of registered 80k career plan changes will be due to chapters hosting 80k workshops. It is unclear what practices outside of this tend to produce plan changes and high-impact individuals, although activities focused on engagement (eg. discussion groups) seem to be better for this purpose than those focused on outreach.


Increasing awareness is largely a result of publicity via social media and outreach events. Learning about EA and becoming part of the community will be mainly a result of the groups events (eg. speaker events, discussion groups, socials etc.) and transmission of other information. Efforts aimed at engagement and outreach seem to be necessary to producing a lot of the value of chapters. For example, many chapter members who took the pledge during the campaign were already heavily involved before the campaign, and so the pledge campaign is better seen as providing the final nudge for these people as opposed to being the main factor.

Bottlenecks/ limiting factors

It’s difficult to know how scalable are, but most of the bottlenecks don’t seem to impose hard limits. The major bottlenecks to chapter’s being more impactful include (in rough order of importance):

  • Organisational Capacity: Students tend to have little time or experience in running organisations. They also typically hold organisational positions for one year, leaving little time to build up relevant experience.
  • Knowledge: Many chapters are not particularly goal directed in their activities. Most chapters currently learn the best strategies and practices by working out for themselves.
  • Organisational Structure: Groups may reach diseconomies of scale past a certain point, with larger groups being much more complex and difficult to scale.
  • Target Audience: Past a certain group size, groups will find it harder to attract new members, as the pool of people with a positive inclination towards effective altruism who haven’t yet heard of the group gets smaller. Large groups are likely not at this stage currently, as most students at universities with large chapters aren’t aware of the groups’ existence.
  • Resources, information and funds: Chapters are reasonably well-supplied with all of these.

What should chapter support prioritise to increase the value of chapters?

A = high priority, B = medium priority, C = low priority. The current main priorities for the chapters team are: gathering information about chapters and the effectiveness of particular chapter strategies, increasing newsletter signups and pledges caused through chapters, and increasing inter-chapter communication, as well as maintaining core operational support.

Increasing the number of chapters - Low Priority

One way of increasing the value of chapters is by producing more of them.

Passively Starting Chapters: Roughly 3 people a month fill in the submission form on the GWWC website expressing interest in starting up a new group. Perhaps half of these people accept a skype call, and roughly 75% of these do not have groups one year later.

Actively Starting Chapters: In the past there have been large attempts to seed new chapters by contacting universities directly via a cold seeding method. This seems to have a much higher failure rate and is much more time intensive - see Summer 2015 Review.

**Value: **Small/medium groups don’t tend to grow fast and also do not tend to produce much of the value overall - the majority of the pledges, newsletter signups and 80k IASPS are from a handful of large groups. Because of the lower value produced by new groups, and the high attrition rate seeding more groups isn’t a priority. However, skyping new members that express interest seems to be an important motivational factor for new group leaders, and does not involve a large cost.

  • Plan:
    • C: Develop an introductory programme for new chapters (6h)
    • Eg a 2 month course consisting of four skype sessions,
    • A: Continue to skype any groups who request a call, or people interested in starting new groups. (3hpw)

Increasing the effectiveness of chapters

Individual Chapter Contact - Low Priority

Peter trialled a high-touch relationship with high-potential chapters last term, but found this not as valuable as expected because of the high time cost and lack of engagement by group leaders. Skype calls with larger chapters can provide a useful exchange of information to and from group leaders on which chapter strategies and projects are particularly effective, but this is probably more efficiently done via open communication channels (newsletters, EA organisers fb group and slack) rather than via one-on-one skypes.

  • Plan:
    • A: Continue to skype any groups who request a call, or people interested in starting new groups. (3hpw)

Information Gathering and Impact Evaluation - Medium Priority

We don’t currently know how many chapters there are and their current size/ status, and have incomplete contact with groups. We also have a limited understanding of the amount of value that chapters are producing; and which particular activities, strategies and structures make groups effective. Information on chapters in the past has been gathered informally through chapter calls or formally in termly and yearly reviews. The reviews have had a low response rate, and have tracked different things on different occasions, making comparisons across time difficult.

  • Plan:
    • B: Determine core metrics to assess and design yearly review based on feedback from termly review (10h)
    • B: Create an exhaustive database for EA Chapters including size and status information and impact potential (10h)
    • A: Contact 80k to work out how essential chapters are for 80k workshops and gather information on (3h)
    • A: Integrate member roster with the EA database (5h)
    • A: Make estimates of the current value of chapters, integrating EA Newsletter Signups, pledges and IASPC into one metric (5h)
    • B: Make rough judgements of the marginal value of more/ less time/ staff on the CEA Chapters Team. (5h)

Developing Guides and Resources for Chapters - High Priority

The current resources available to chapters are kept here.

Many chapters are not particularly goal directed. Most chapters currently learn the best strategies and practices by working out for themselves. Synthesising knowledge from across chapters can allow chapters to learn the best practices more quickly and reliably.

  • Plan:
    • B: Write a ‘chapter goals and strategy’ document for chapters. (5h)
    • C: Update the chapter starter pack (6h)
    • A: Use the chapters hivemind to create guides on a range of chapter-relevant topics including chapter publicity, organisational structure, individual engagement, individual follow-up and community building (4h per topic)
    • B: Encourage resource sharing between chapters including: newsletter templates, graphics (3h)
    • A: Edit and write up chapter franchise model document (15h)

Encouraging Best Practices - EA Newsletter and GWWC Pledge - High Priority

Some of the variance in chapter effectiveness is due to the adoption of specific practices, such as use of feedback forms, fresher’s fair stalls, coordinated pledge publicity etc. These practices seem like they would work for other groups, and we have relatively more knowledge of their effectiveness and are easier to encourage chapters to adopt compared with more general advice on chapter organisational structure. ** **

  • Plan:
    • A: Ensure 10 largest chapters use feedback forms at outreach events and send in resulting EA newsletter sign ups regularly. (6h)
    • A: Test individual follow up of (50) people who tick ‘interested in talking about the GWWC pledge’ with at least two chapters. (6h)
    • B: Retrial the $1 incentive for newsletter signups (2h)

Full-time chapter positions - Medium Priority

A number of chapters have been looking for funding full time/ part time positions. Providing funding for one or more groups seems like a good opportunity for CEA, as it could significantly increase the value chapters produced and is a relatively unexplored area. The main cost is funding for a salary. Whether this is ultimately worth funding would depend highly on the specific proposals received from group leaders. Proposal here.

  • Plan:
    • A: Talk to Kerry and the C&O Team about this (5h)
    • If this seems like a good idea, solicit applications from groups (10h)

Chapter communication - Medium Priority

The main current avenues of chapter communication are email and through the facebook group, largely on an ad hoc basis. Chapters do not have much communication with each other. Chapters often do not respond to emails.

  • Plan:
    • A: Trial Slack use for one month, if it fails revert to facebook as the main means of communication (started) (3hpw)
    • B: Establish monthly chapters newsletter (6hpm)
    • A: Take over organisation of biweekly chapter calls (4hpw)
    • B: Facilitate 5 inter-chapter skypes (2h)

Operational Support - Medium Priority

So far during this academic year $4500 has been given to student groups and we expect to give at least another $8000 by the end of the year. Around 200 books (Doing Good Better) have been sent to groups and 350 t-shirts distributed.

  • Plan:
    • A: Continue distributing books (including 80ks new book) and funding chapters (4hpw)
    • A: Update the GWWC chapters list (6h)
    • B: Get chapters list/ page up on the effectivealtruism.org website (?)
    • C: Provide standardised email addresses for groups (?)
    • B: Continue distributing t-shirts (5hpm)
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