Measure is unceasing

OpenPhil Grant Application

Proposal Summary (<20 words)

Manifund: longtermist grantmaker experimenting with regranting, impact certs and other funding mechanisms.

Project Description (<750 words)

Manifund started in Jan 2023 by building a website for impact certs for the ACX Mini-Grants round; we then hosted impact certs for the OpenPhil AI Worldviews contest. Since May, we’ve been focused on a regranting program. We’d like to scale up our regranting program, and experiment with other funding mechanisms and initiatives.

Some things that distinguish us from other longtermist funders:

Overall, we hope to help OpenPhil decentralize funding to other decisionmakers in a way that rewards transparent, accountable, timely and cost-effective grants.

Scaling up regranting

Regranting is a system where individuals are given small discretionary budgets to make grants from. This allow regrantors to find projects in their personal and professional networks, seed new projects based on their interests, and commit to grantees with little friction. Our current regrantors are drawn from Anthropic, OpenAI, Rethink Priorities, ARC Evals, CAIS, FAR AI, SERI MATS, 1DaySooner and others; see all regrantors here, and a recent payout report here.

With further funding, we’d like to:

Onboard new regrantors: we currently have a waitlist of qualified regrantors and get about one new strong application per week. We think we could find many more promising candidates over the next year, to sponsor with budgets of $50k to $400k. Increase budgets of high-performing regrantors: this incentivizes regrantors to make good grants, delegates authority to people who have performed well in the past, and quantifies their track record. Hire another team member: Our team is currently just 2 people, both of us are wearing a lot of hats, and one (Austin) spends ~30% of his time on Manifold. We’re interested in finding a fulltime in-house grantmaker for grant evaluation, regrantor assessment, and public comms. Ideally, this person would take on a cofounder-like role and weigh in on Manifund strategy. Later, we may want to hire another engineer or ops role.

Running a larger test of impact certs

Impact certs are a new mechanism for funding nonprofits. A philanthropic donor announces a large prize; projects compete for the prize and raise funding by selling “impact certs” (shares of prize winnings) to self-interested investors. This allows donors to pay directly for impact, while investors take on risk for return.

In the spring, we ran a trial with Scott Alexander with a $40k prize pool; this round will conclude this September. Scott is still considering whether to do Round 2 of ACX Grants round through impact certs; if so, we’d host that this fall. We also tried an impact cert round with the OpenPhil AI Worldviews Contest, with somewhat less total engagement.

Our most ambitious goal would be a AI Safety impact cert round with yearly, large (>$1m) prize pool. With less funding, we might experiment with an e.g. EA Art prize to test the waters.

Other possible initiatives & funding experiments

Why we’re a good fit for this project (300 words)

We have the right background to pursue philanthropic experiments:

Approximate budget

We’re seeking $5 million in unrestricted funding from OpenPhil. Our intended breakdown:

In total, Manifund has raised ~$2.4m since inception from an anonymous donor ($1.5m), Future Fund ($0.5m) & SFF ($0.4m) and committed ~$0.8m of it. We intend to further fundraise up to a budget of $10m for the next year, seeking funding from groups such as SFF/Jaan Tallinn, Schmidt Ventures, YCombinator, and small to medium individual donors.

Thanks to Joel, Gavriel, Marcus & Renan for feedback on this application.



Draft notes