This last June, BERI announced its first Individual Grants program: a Project Grants round. This post summarizes our process and announces the grant winners for this round.
We received 55 applications by the end of June, when the round closed. We then spent a total of approximately 77 person hours reviewing the applications, contacting references, and consulting advisors.
In late August, the Project Grants Committee (comprising three anonymous individuals) finalized its recommendations and sent those to BERI’s First Grant Fund Committee (more on the FGF Committee at this link) and Board of Directors for approval. We then emailed applicants notifying them of their status. We have spent most of September and early October setting up the logistics for the grants (drafting and sending out grant agreements, and disbursing funding). We have not yet finalized the disbursement of all grants.
We thought it might be helpful for future applicants to lay out some of the considerations that the project grants committee frequently found itself discussing. The following factors are presented in no particular order, and each committee member put different weight on each factor:
- The applicant’s general and specific competencies as evidenced by their past achievements (e.g., educational achievements, business achievements, social achievements, etc.).
- The quality and similarity of the applicant’s past work samples to the project being proposed.
- The general and specific competencies of the applicant’s references, as well as the content of the recommendations that the references submitted.
- The applicant’s track record of commitment to long-term futurist causes, or other signs of likelihood that the applicant cared about the long-term future.
- The likely and potential impact of the project, as well as the particular cost-effectiveness of the project being proposed.
- Potential downsides of the project.
- Whether the grantee was a good fit for the parameters of this project grant round.
- What would happen if BERI did not fund the project right now.
However, note that the committee may put more weight on a different set of factors in the future.
Mistakes & Challenges
There were several kinks in our process (we expected this, given that it was our first individual grants round). Some examples:
We sent out unclear recommendation forms to references, resulting in more back-and-forth about the forms than we had anticipated (and likely leading to fewer references being submitted than otherwise would have).
The project grants committee had difficulties scheduling meetings given summer vacation schedules and other events.
There were a number of internal steps that needed further development during the evaluation process, such as:
Transforming information gathered by the application form into an easy-to-compare format for committee members,
Collecting additional information on some applications for committee members, and
Developing grant agreements and figuring out how to communicate to grantees about the tracking requirements for the grants.
These steps took more time than we anticipated, and developing them as we went (as opposed to ahead of time) likely led to somewhat sub-optimal solutions in many cases.
However, despite the challenges, we’re relatively satisfied with how the grants round went—we managed to mostly keep to the schedule we set for ourselves and are excited about our selections. We now have a long list of improvements that we’d like to make for future individual grants rounds.
Of the 55 applications, we selected 18 to receive funding (~33%). One applicant was awarded a vendor contract in lieu of a grant based on the project’s legal structure and the availability of services offered that BERI wanted to purchase (not included in the grants totals BERI is reporting). We managed to stay close to the budget we initially set for this first round ($750k); in total, we plan to award $799,465 to selected winners (excluding the vendor). We are not sure how many applicants or grant winners to expect for future rounds—we predict (with low confidence) that we will receive more applicants, maintain our budget, and therefore accept a smaller fraction of applicants in the future.
Our grant winners are listed on our “Grants Database” page (note that we’re in the process of updating this page to be easier-to-read). Currently, only those who have received their grants are listed; we will continue to update the Grants Database page as we finalize disbursing the grants.
We’re excited about our grantees, and we hope you are too! We believe that having diverse projects all pursing work on x-risk as an objective is important to helping develop a culture of focus on humanity’s long-term survival and flourishing.
Questions or comments?
If you have feedback or concerns, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.