Apply For An ACX Grant

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[UPDATE: Grants applications are closed for this year. No more proposals will be accepted]

What is ACX Grants?

I want to give grants to good research and good projects with a minimum of paperwork. Like an NIH grant or something, only a lot less money and prestige.

How is this different from Marginal Revolution's Fast Grants, Nadia Eghbal's Helium Grants, or EA Funds' grant rounds?

Not different at all. It’s total 100% plagiarism of them. I'm doing it anyway because I think it’s a good idea, and I predict there are a lot of good people with good projects in this community who haven't heard about / participated in those, but who will participate when I do it.

How much money are you giving out?

ACX Grants proper will involve $250,000 of my own money, but I’m hoping to supplement with much more of other people’s money, amount to be determined. See the sections on ACX Grants + and ACX Grants ++ below.

Why do you have $250,000 to spend on grants?

Unsolicited gifts from rich patrons, your generosity in subscribing to my Substack, and the second item here.

Also, this isn’t investment advice or anything, but apparently cryptocurrency only ever goes up.

I thought you were a believer in effective altruism, which says you have to donate your money to the most effective charity - which is probably about fighting malaria or existential risk or something. Giving it to random people on your blog isn’t very effective, is it?

Some effective altruist organizations suggest that people with large but not billionaire-level amounts of money might want to try acting as charity “angel investors”. They argue that there are enough government agencies and billionaires to fund the biggest and most obvious legible high-impact opportunities. One of the best things that normal people can do with their donations is take a chance on interesting projects too small and illegible to catch governments’/billionaires’ attention. Some of these might accomplish some circumscribed goal with their seed funding; others might use the seed funding to produce preliminary results that convince governments and billionaires to help them the rest of the way. My access to the ACX community gives me a unique opportunity to do this, so I really do feel like this is the best way to donate this money.

But I’ll also, separately, be giving 10% of my income to more standard effective charities, since I’ve pledged to do this.

What kind of projects are likely to get grants?

Projects that could make the world a better place, but might not be able to catch the attention of more traditional funders. A (very non-exhaustive) list of things I’m looking for would include projects that:

  • help address global poverty, global health challenges, mental health issues, animal welfare issues, or global climate change.

  • move forward innovative and potentially socially beneficial technologies and ideas, even if these are very speculative.

  • help understand and prepare for potentially disruptive future events, like pandemics or the advent of AGI

  • improve the academic, governmental, and decision-making institutions that work on these other causes

  • help do basic research, awareness-raising, or meta-level work that could eventually lead to one of the above

I’ll also tentatively be allowing grants for personal or career development, but there will be a high bar in terms of proving that your career would be really great for the world and that you would have a hard time developing your career without this money. I’d be most likely to approve a grant in this category if you were from a developing country that doesn’t have a lot of traditional avenues for building career capital.

These are only suggestions! If you think you have something that could make the world a better place that doesn’t fall in these categories, apply anyway.

I’ll mostly be approaching this from an effective altruist framework, but I’m not wedded to calculating things out exactly (which is impossible anyway), and if you have a great project that doesn’t fit within “traditional” effective altruism, apply anyway.

I’ll be happy to consider your application whether or not you are a traditional academic, whether or not you have a long history of past successful projects, etc.

Because I only have $250,000 and want to make at least a couple of grants, I’m unlikely to fund projects that cost more than about $100,000. If you have a really great project that needs more money than this, you should apply anyway, and I’ll see if I can fund you through ACXG+ or ACXG++

Can a group of people apply as a team?

Yes, of course.

What is ACX Grants + ?

I know a lot of nonprofits and rich people looking for interesting projects to fund. With your permission (ie if you check a box saying so on the application form), then along with considering your project myself, I’ll forward it to any of these people who I think it’s a good match for. Some of these people have a lot of money and are really excited about this, so I would highly recommend opting in (by clicking the checkbox on the application form). This would also be a good option for people who need more than $250,000.

If you’re a nonprofit or rich person interested in participating in ACX Grants + , and I don’t already know about your interest, please send me an email at scott@slatestarcodex.com.

What Is ACX Grants ++ ?

If you opt into this one (also just a check box on the application form) then I’ll include a description of your project, plus your contact info, in a public post on this blog. Anyone who reads about it and wants to fund it can.

What’s the process like and how long will it take?

You’ll fill in a form that should take about fifteen minutes. I will read the form and talk with smart people who seem like they might have good opinions. If you are a leading candidate, I might or might not email you asking for more information, or try to arrange a short call with you. The whole process shouldn’t take more than an hour or two of your time.

I’ll close applications in two weeks, and announce winners between two to four weeks after that.

Will this be taxed?

My current understanding is that I will have to pay a gift tax but winners will not have to pay taxes on the grant money. Please double-check this with your local jurisdiction.

Grant-making foundations have some tax advantages, but I don’t have a grant-making foundation. Some grant-making foundations are helping with this project, but I can’t legally “go through them” in a way where I both give them the money and influence their decisions. We’re still talking to tax experts, but most likely we’ll make decisions separately, then compare notes, and split the funding in some legally-permissible way. None of this should matter to you except that your check might come from me or from a foundation (if you opted-in to ACX+). You shouldn’t have to pay taxes either way.

How do I apply?

Fill in the form here.