Effective altruism movement

According to a Bloomberg report, SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk donated $5.7 billion worth of Tesla stock to charity in November. It appears that the man Musk has entrusted to decide where the money goes is poker pro Igor Kurganov.

Kurganov, along with Stefan Huber, Phil Gruissem, and long-time girlfriend Liv Boeree, founded the non-profit Raising for Effective Giving (REG). A number of other poker pros, including Erik Seidel, John Juanda, Cate Hall, and Justin Bonomo, have been dubbed REG “Ambassadors.”

REG’s goal is to maximize the effectiveness of charitable contributions in order to save as many lives as possible. The organization scrutinizes charities to determine which use money the most efficiently, maximizing the lives saved to dollars ratio. Primary focuses include poverty alleviation, disease prevention, and animal warfare, among others.

REG aims to educate people as to how to research charitable organizations in order to give to the most effective and worthy causes. There are many charities out there that waste money or even inadvertently harm those they are trying to help, so REG tries to help givers steer clear of those types of organizations.

Musk has been ramping up charitable giving

Though Elon Musk has donated millions of dollars over the last couple years, Alixandra Barasch, an associate professor of marketing at New York University, told Bloomberg that he certainly hasn’t adhered to the “effective altruism” philosophy practiced by REG.

Among his donations include $5 million to Khan Academy, $20 million to schools in Cameron County, Texas, where the SpaceX spaceport is located, $100 million for the XPrize Carbon Removal competition, and $10 to Brownsville, Texas, Cameron County’s largest city. That Brownsville money has so far been used for grants for local property owners, murals, and lighting projects.

Speaking to these causes in terms of effective altruism, Barasch said that “murals don’t do that much good in terms of the way it’s measured and defined in the movement.”

“Looking at those amounts I’m like, ‘Holy moly, there’s millions of dollars, it’s a lot of money,’” Barasch added, but “it’s nothing compared to what he’s worth.”

Brian Mittendorf, an Ohio State University professor who focuses on nonprofits, said that Musk’s $5.7 billion stock gift probably went to his charitable foundation, not to specific charities yet. It is entirely possible that the public will never know where the money exactly goes unless Musk or the Musk Foundation chooses to make that information public.

Bloomberg says that Kurganov has worked with the aforementioned recipients, even though they don’t seem to fit the effective altruism mold (this does not mean that they aren’t worthy recipients). He is now tasked with evaluating proposals and working with those receiving grants. But other than the knowledge of what sorts of organizations Kurganov might prefer based on his and REG’s history, nobody knows where the $5.7 billion will go.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” said Benjamin Soskis, senior research associate at the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute. “If you look at what he’s done, there’s no discernible pattern.”

Image credit: Steve Jurvetson

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.