Apply For An ACX Grant (2024)
I’m running another ACX Grants round. If you already know what this is and want to apply, use the form here to apply, deadline December 29. Otherwise see below for more information.
What is ACX Grants?
This year we’re partnering with Manifund, the charity arm of Manifold Markets, who will be handling the administrative/infrastructure side of things.
How much money is involved?
So far I am planning to contribute $250,000 of my own money. I have nonbinding commitments for an extra $70,000 from other people, for a total of $320,000. If you’re interested in helping, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since we have less money than last year, I expect the average grant to be a little smaller. Most grants will probably be between $5,000 and $50,000, with maybe one or two up to $100,000. If the average is $20,000 and we stay at $320,000 total, we’ll give ~10 - 15 grants.
What’s the timeline?
I’d like to have grants awarded by February 1 and money in your hands by March 1. This is a goal, not a promise.
What will the application process be like?
You fill out a form that should take 15 - 30 minutes. If I have questions, I might email you, in a way that hopefully won’t take more than another 15 - 30 minutes of your time to answer.
If you win a grant, Manifund will send you the money, probably by bank wire. I might ask you to fill out another 15 - 30 minute form letting me know how your project did after one year, three years, five years, etc.
What kind of projects might you fund?
There are already lots of good charities that help people directly at scale, for example Against Malaria Foundation (which distributes malaria-preventing bed nets) and GiveDirectly (which gives money directly to very poor people in Africa). I think these are hard to beat.
I’m most interested in charities that pursue novel ways to change complex systems, either through technological breakthroughs, new social institutions, or targeted political change. Among the projects I funded last year were:
Development of oxfendazole, a drug for treating parasitic worms in developing countries.
A platform that lets people create prediction markets on topics of their choice
A group of lawyers who sue factory farms under animal cruelty laws.
A biosecurity think tank at Stanford.
An open-source intranasal COVID vaccine.
Development of software that helps the FDA run better drug trials.
An assessment company that addresses implementation issues around Georgist land value taxes.
An effort to perform rapid replication of results in psychology journals.
You can read the full list here.
What are impact certificates / impact markets?
This year’s ACX Grants will be a hybrid design. Most of it will use the traditional funding model. But applicants whose projects don’t get funded by the traditional model will have the option (not requirement! you don’t have to think about this if you don’t want to!) to opt in to an “impact market”, a non-traditional charitable funding institution.
In an impact market, charitable projects offer to sell a sort of “stock”, called “impact certificates”. Investors buy the impact certificates, funding the project.
If the project succeeds, a funder (like a grantmaker or foundation) may choose to buy the impact certificates, becoming the “spiritual owner” of the project (ie endorsing it as something good that ought to have been funded, and getting some sort of social credit for funding it). This money goes to the investors, who hopefully profit off of their investment, vindicating their decision to buy the certificates in the first place.
The motivating idea is that a grantmaker might dismiss a charity’s plan as impossible, but an investor might believe they could succeed. The investor can fund the plan, then collect from the grantmaker if they turn out to be right. Everyone benefits: the charity gets funded, the investor makes a profit, and the grantmaker gets more of whatever kind of change they want (since a successful project is able to happen).
How will this year’s ACX Grants (optionally!!!) use impact markets?
Most of ACX Grants will happen through the traditional grantmaking structure.
But if I don’t fund your grant, you have the option of letting us auto-convert it into an impact certificate and place it on Manifund’s impact market. Then investors might fund your grant. From your perspective, this will just look like you getting the money you wanted, plus an investor who might give you some help and advice if you want. You won’t have to handle any of the impact market details, worry about your “stock price”, or anything like that.
(if you do want to do those things, you can work with Manifund to create a bespoke impact certificate contract - but you don’t have to)
I’m hesitant to fund AI safety grants and effective altruism community-building grants myself, both because of difficulty judging these things and because of potential conflicts of interest, so these are more likely to end up on the impact market than other things. This is an exception to the “you don’t have to use impact markets if you don’t want to” rule, sorry.
(there’s some concern that impact markets have skewed incentives for projects that have a risk of doing severe harm, and I understand AI safety and EA community building are especially dangerous here and we’ve avoided them in the past. We’ll be pre-screening projects before allowing them on the impact market, and eliminating ones in that category. Final oracular funders will also be encouraged not to fund projects that they think ex ante could have caused harm.)
We have four potential oracular funders who have expressed interest in impact certificates:
Next year’s ACX Grants
The Survival and Flourishing Fund (negotiations ongoing)
Long Term Future Fund and Survival and Flourishing Fund focus on the long-term future, including but not limited to AI safety, forecasting, and long-termist community building. EA Infrastructure Fund focuses on EA community-building. You can find previous lists of grants funded by LTFF, EAIF, SFF, and ACXG.
Final oracular funders will operate on a model where they treat retrospective awards the same as prospective awards, multiplied by a probability of success. For example, suppose LTFF would give a $20,000 grant to a proposal for an AI safety conference, which they think has a 50% chance of going well. Instead, an investor buys the impact certificate for that proposal, waits until it goes well, and then sells it back to LTFF. They will pay $40,000 for the certificate, since it’s twice as valuable as it was back when it was just a proposal with a 50% success chance.
Obviously this involves trusting the people at these charities to make good estimates and give you their true values. I do trust everyone involved; if you don’t, impact certificate investing might not be for you.
If you want to join these four institutions as a potential final oracular funder of impact certificates, see this document and email email@example.com. If you want to invest in impact certificates, I’ll give you more information on the ACX Grants version later, and you can look over the existing impact certs while you’re waiting.
Is there anything good about winning an ACX Grant other than getting money?
You will get my support, which is mostly useful in getting me to blog about your project. For example, I can put out updates or requests for help on Open Threads. I can also try to help network you with people I know. Some people who won ACX Grants last year were able to leverage the attention to attract larger grantmakers or VCs.
You can try to pitch me guest posts about your project. This could be a description of what you’re doing and why, or just a narrative about your experience and what you learned from it. Warning that I’m terrible to pitch guest posts to, have never gone through with this, and would be incredibly nitpicky if I did. Still, you can try.
You’ll be invited to an ACX Grantee Discord server, where you can talk to other grantees. I don’t really understand why people want this so much, but some of last year’s grantees seemed to appreciate it. One of them is considering sponsoring a physical ACX Grantee meetup in the Bay Area, which you would be welcome to attend if it happened. I wouldn’t be able to give you extra money to travel to this, sorry.
What are the tax implications of an ACX Grant?
Consult your accountant, especially if you live outside the US.
If you live inside the US, AFAICT it’s ordinary taxable income. If you’re an individual, you’ll have to pay taxes on it at your usual tax rate. If you’re a 501(c), you’ll get your normal level of tax exemption.
What’s the story behind why you have $250,000 to spend on grants, but are also looking for more funding?
Back during the crypto boom, some extremely generous readers told me to buy crypto, or asked to buy NFTs of my posts for crypto, or just sent me crypto and said “hold on to this, wait for it to go up, and thank me later”. Lots of it did go up, and I did pretty well. I’m eliding some details for security reasons, but I don’t think the full details would be scandalous or change anyone’s overall assessment of the situation.
I think of this as unearned money and want to give some of it back to the community, hence this grants program. I have a lot of it but not an unlimited amount. At the current rate, I can probably afford another ~4 ACX Grants rounds. When it runs out, I‘ll just be a normal person with normal amounts of money (Substack is great, but not great enough for me to afford this level of donation consistently).
My hope is that this will act as a seed, and other people will add more to the pot. Last year I committed $250,000 and other people added an extra ~$1 million. If this happens again, I might slightly decrease my $250,000 donation in order to save money to seed future rounds. If you’re thinking of helping fund these grants, and it bothers you to think of me scaling back my own money by some percent of your contribution, let me know and I won’t do that.
If you’re interested in helping fund these grants, you can talk to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sorry, I forgot, where do I go to apply for a grant again?
See form here. Please apply by 11:59 PM on December 29th.