Mission and Vision
Helping People Help Animals. Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to finding and promoting the most effective ways to help animals. We assist compassionate donors, advocates, and professionals in making informed decisions about the potential impact of their contributions. We do this by thoroughly reviewing charities in order to provide you with the most comprehensive recommendations in the animal advocacy movement. Inspired by the philosophy of effective altruism, ACE uses evidence and reason to determine the most impactful ways to help animals, while continuously updating our recommendations based on new information. We believe that you can be substantially more effective by carefully considering where you donate your time and money.
Letter From ACE Staff
Welcome to ACE’s 2020 Year in Review! Last year, despite the challenges brought about by the global pandemic, we were able to influence an estimated $11 million to some of the most effective animal charities around the world. We are pleased to share that this was the highest amount of influenced donations of any previous year. We saw the completion of seven impactful research projects funded by our Animal Advocacy Research Fund, with findings disseminated throughout the movement. Additionally, our Movement Grants program (formerly Effective Animal Advocacy Fund) disbursed two rounds of funding to support promising projects among 42 recipients working to reduce animal suffering. Last year’s evaluations shifted toward a unique focus on organization resilience and adaptability in light of the extraordinary circumstances. Our research team conducted rigorous evaluations of 13 charities and published recommendations of the most effective organizations. In this process, we identified wild animal suffering as a potentially high-impact cause area.
As an agile and remote organization, the core of our work was relatively unaffected by the pandemic. However, we sought to support our staff as they faced the difficulties that it brought on a personal level. We doubled our paid sick leave, offered pay advances where needed, and continued to promote staff wellbeing through paid self-care time and opportunities for social connection. We maintained our commitment to transparency by publishing a public-facing compensation strategy on our blog, which took into account the findings from an exploratory survey conducted earlier in the year.
We hope that you enjoy ACE’s 2020 Year in Review. It highlights our achievements for animals during a challenging year, all of which were made possible by your generous support. Thank you for your belief in our work and for your tireless commitment to reducing animal suffering.
The Year in Numbers
One of our goals at ACE is to influence gifts to effective animal charities. We have implemented systems to help us track these donations as well as to survey donors who have indicated that they contributed to our recommended charities, our Recommended Charity Fund, and our Movement Grants as a result of our guidance. The amount is an estimate based on donations collected by ACE and donations reported by our recommended charities and donors.
In 2020, while navigating a global pandemic, ACE helped to influence an estimated $11 million in donations within the animal advocacy movement, including to our effective recommended charities and our promising Movement Grant recipients. This was a notable increase from the $8.9 million influenced in 2019 and brings the total estimated amount to over $37 million since we started tracking this metric in 2014. ACE remains committed to expanding the animal advocacy movement and making it more effective in order to help the most animals possible.
The Recommended Charity Fund is a convenient giving option for anyone who wishes to support ACE’s recommended charities through a single donation. For 2020, we distributed a total of $1,123,718 in grants from the Recommended Charity Fund to our Top Charities and Standout Charities. Recipients included the Albert Schweitzer Foundation, Anima International, Compassion in World Farming USA, Essere Animali, Faunalytics, the Federation of Indian Protection Organisations, the Good Food Fund, The Good Food Institute, The Humane League, Sinergia Animal, Sociedade Vegetariana Brasileira, Vegetarianos Hoy, and Wild Animal Initiative. From securing historic corporate animal welfare commitments and passing lifesaving legislative reforms to conducting influential research and revolutionizing the way food is produced via innovative technology, our recommended charities are working to achieve significant change for animals.
Our 2020 Recommended Charities
— Cameron Meyer Shorb, Deputy Director, Wild Animal Initiative
— Claudio Pomo, Development Manager, Essere Animali
— Javiera Mayorga Osorio, Director of Projects, Vegetarianos Hoy
ACE Movement Grants is for anyone interested in making the animal advocacy movement more effective. We launched our granting program originally as the Effective Animal Advocacy Fund in late 2018 for three main reasons. First, we believe that the movement should continue to fund a wide range of approaches because a broad, pluralistic animal advocacy movement will be more impactful overall than a narrow, monistic animal advocacy movement. Second, we believe that we should continue to support a broad range of interventions given that there is little available evidence supporting the effectiveness of any given one. Third, we believe that building relationships with a larger group of advocates and charities will make our own work more effective by providing us with new information to consider and new groups with whom to collaborate. Last year, we renamed the program ACE Movement Grants, but the objective remains the same: to fund promising animal advocacy projects.
In 2020, thanks to many generous supporters, we raised $822,185 for ACE Movement Grants and supported 42 promising projects around the globe working to reduce animal suffering. Special appreciation goes to the estate of a compassionate benefactor that backed a $300,000 matching challenge that doubled donations! We are eager to see what our fifth round of grantees will be able to accomplish for animals with this funding. In the meantime, you can learn more about our summer 2020 ACE Movement Grants and fall 2020 ACE Movement Grants, and enjoy our fall 2019 grantee updates, on our website.
— Gauri Maulekhi, Member Secretary, People For Animals Uttarakhand
— Cailen LaBarge and Vivian Mocellin, Co-Founders, SEED
— Alexandra Pleșea, Fundraiser, Freedom and Respect for Every Earthling (FREE)
— Nicole Rawling, CEO and Co-Founder, Material Innovation Initiative
Last year, ACE celebrated another successful Giving Tuesday. With the exceptional organizing by the EA Giving Tuesday team and generous support from donors during a challenging year, we raised $86,422 on December 1, 2020. Facebook provided an additional $15,161 in matching funds, bringing the total to $101,583 to support ACE, our effective recommended charities, and our promising grant recipients. Thank you to everyone who participated on #GivingTuesday!
— Eric Arellano
— Jeffery McLean
— John and Timi Sobrato
— Felix Werdermann
Special thanks to our top donors whose generosity is recognized on our website, with permission.
In early 2020, there was a transition in the leadership of ACE’s research team. Toni Adleberg stepped down from her role as Director of Research, following nearly four years of valued contributions as a member of ACE’s research team. Following Toni’s departure, Senior Researcher Greg Boese and Researcher Jamie Spurgeon were appointed Co-Managers of Research. We also welcomed the addition of Senior Researcher Manja Gärtner, who brings valuable knowledge and expertise in economics to our team.
Improvements to Our Charity Evaluation Process
We implemented several improvements to our charity evaluation process last year. We updated our menu of outcomes to better capture and communicate both how the animal advocacy movement works as a whole and how individual charities operate within the movement. We improved our method for predicting charities’ revenue and expenditures. We intensified our verification process and devoted a significantly larger proportion of our time to verifying claims reported by charities. We spread out the information requests we send to charities, so as to limit the burden placed on them, and we replaced our interview calls with charities’ leadership with written questionnaires, relieving capacity by not having to transcribe call summaries. Our new operating model enabled us to work more collaboratively as a team when drafting the reviews, which allowed us to make numerous smaller improvements to how we assess each criterion. Following the evaluation process, we identified several areas of improvement to focus our efforts on in 2021.
New Research Publications
We published the results of our exploratory compensation strategies survey targeting charities within the effective altruism (EA) and animal advocacy movements. The report served as foundational research to aid other organizations that are reviewing their salary-setting procedures and compensation strategy, as well as to inform ACE’s review of our own compensation strategy. We also published blog posts on our thinking about building alliances with the environmental movement, why we are not a “watchdog” organization, and how our new Co-Managers of Research intend to adjust our approach to research in light of the changing landscape within the effective animal advocacy movement.
Projects Funded Through Our Animal Advocacy Research Fund
ACE created the Animal Advocacy Research Fund (AARF) in 2016 to improve our collective understanding of effective animal advocacy (EAA) through the support of high-quality research. For the past five years, the AARF has helped to establish and legitimize a novel domain of research that aims to empirically determine the most effective forms, messages, and strategies of animal advocacy. Through the financial support of high-quality research, the AARF has resulted in numerous impactful, freely accessible publications and welcomed dozens of new researchers into the field of animal advocacy.
Last year, the AARF funded eight research projects (round 8) conducted by academic teams in India, South Africa, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, and Poland. It was the most geographically diverse funding round to date. Seven previously funded projects were completed and published in 2020: “Establishing a research field in natural sciences,” “Educated Choices Program—An Impact Evaluation,” “A review of advocacy interventions deployed by grassroots vegan activists,” “Monitoring a Meat-Free Pledge with Smartphones: An Experimental Study,” “Antecedents of alternative protein adoption: A US focus group study”, “Surveying attitudes towards helping wild animals among scientists and students,” and “Intervention Profile on Ballot Initiatives.”
ACE is seeking funding to continue building on the success of the AARF. This will allow us to encourage further research into EAA and help establish EAA as a recognized academic field.
— Shiva Pauer, PhD candidate, Social Psychology Program, Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam
— Christopher Bryant, PhD, Director, The Cellular Agriculture Society
— Chris Hopwood, PhD, Professor of Psychology, University of California, Davis
Fundraising Success Supported by Communications Campaigns
In 2020, we focused on strategic campaigns developed by our communications and philanthropy competency areas to meet our fundraising goals. These included running successful donation matching challenges for both our Movement Grants and Recommended Charity Fund. Our success in this area exceeded gains from 2019. We met the target of reaching ACE’s fundraising cap while navigating all the challenges of a global pandemic.
Partnership with Vox Future Perfect
In 2020, thanks to a generous gift from a donor, ACE collaborated with Vox Media to highlight animal welfare issues. This support enabled their Future Perfect series of journalism and podcasts to commit its third podcast season exclusively to farmed animal welfare topics. Episodes covered human interactions with animals from angles that weren’t previously popular in the broader discourse, such as how animal agriculture affects immigrant workers and local communities. The podcast was also able to highlight the relationship between factory farming and pandemic risk. ACE used our communications expertise to support the third season’s launch and promoted it via our channels, including our recommended charities, animal advocacy Facebook groups, and the broader EA community.
Introduction of Online Events
Last year we launched our ACE Community Chat event. This online event allowed our audience to participate in discussions about ACE’s work, such as our research and future goals. It also created a space for us to provide guidance to our Movement Grants and Animal Advocacy Research Fund applicants. We plan to continue our ACE Community Chat events on topics including but not limited to our organizational strategy, remote workplace management, and more.
While this page is intended to document ACE’s finances, we are proud to play a role in influencing revenue in the animal advocacy movement. Since 2014, we estimate that we have influenced more than $34 million1 to our recommended charities, and we have raised $3.4 million for ACE Movement Grants, while only spending $4.1 million on our programs and operations (excluding the Animal Advocacy Research Fund, which is a privately funded program).
2020 Revenue by Restriction
|Unrestricted (gifts, investment gains, interest)
|Gift restricted to Movement Grants program staff time
|Gift restricted to Animal Advocacy Research Fund
|Gift restricted to country prioritization research
|Animal Advocacy Research Fund grants and expenses
Note: The figures in these tables are rounded to the nearest dollar. In addition to the expenses and revenue tabulated above, we also regranted $262,500 of a restricted $350,000 donation we received for a project in collaboration with Vox Media’s Future Perfect.
At ACE, we realize that we are not perfect in our work. As is the case with any organization, we sometimes make mistakes. In the interest of fully disclosing our past activities and showcasing how our thoughts and research have developed over time, we have identified things we could have done better in 2020.
Difficulties in the implementation of our new operating model. In March 2020, we implemented a new operating model based on Scrum, a framework for agile project management. In general, we think this new model has been a positive change for our organization—both in terms of improving productivity and internal communication. That said, our recent culture survey results highlighted some areas for improvement. In line with the new model, we have structured some of our work in two-week sprints that contribute to the production of a defined product (e.g., charity reviews). This has worked well for most of our research work, but not as well for many of our communications and philanthropy projects. While this isn’t a problem in itself, it has made it difficult to involve non-research staff in sprints, leading to a situation in which some staff feel more siloed into their departments, despite efforts to remove formal departments at the organizational level. To address this concern, we have started planning sprints with more notice so that staff have more time to organize around them.
Another challenge we’ve discovered is some perceived ambiguity between the role of the Product Owner and “Scramster” (ACE’s creative way of describing Scrum’s “Scrum Master”—a role focused on building team velocity by removing bottlenecks and improving efficiency). In particular, there has been a lack of clarity regarding how the decision-making responsibilities of the Product Owner interact with those of the leadership staff. We are currently producing internal guidelines to delineate the responsibilities of ACE’s Research Co-Directors in relation to researchers acting as Product Owners. Most significantly, we have recently appointed our former Director of Communications, Erika Alonso, into a newly-formed Project Manager role, whose main responsibility is to oversee the continued implementation of the operating model.
Miscommunication regarding available funding in ACE Movement Grants. We unintentionally did not disburse all of the funds available for Movement Grants in 2020. Due to an internal miscommunication, we failed to use an updated balance including the donations that we received for the program during the first months of the year, which resulted in the distribution of only the funds received in 2019. Additionally, during the summer round of 2020, we were unable to disburse funds to several of the grantees we had initially selected; we also changed a few of our granting decisions due to the discovery of new information. Some of the funds were accounted for in the fall round but due to an oversight, a balance remained. To avoid this in the future, we will verify the total funds available for distribution at an explicitly defined point: the closing date of the current application round. We have updated the spreadsheet we use to record Movement Grant decisions to better track the amount of funding remaining to be disbursed.
ACE is looking forward to even more successes in 2021. We’ve revised our annual goal-setting process to better align with our new operating model, which will give our team the flexibility needed for working in the uncertain landscape of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Below we’ve shared a few of our 2021 prospective goals that we are especially excited about!
Our research team is currently working on making large-scale revisions to ACE’s charity evaluation process. In addition to an updated process, we are also redesigning the way we present the charity reviews so that the content is more accessible to a wider audience. Be on the lookout for our new and improved charity recommendations, to be released in November 2021.
As in previous years, one of ACE’s main goals is to direct funding to animal advocacy activities through our recommendations, giving opportunities, and grant-making programs. However, this year we have set our most ambitious targets to date: We aim to influence an estimated $14 million in donations to our recommended charities, including at least $1 million distributed through our Recommended Charity Fund.
Internally, we are dedicating resources to identifying and implementing additional key performance indicators by which we can measure ACE’s impact on the animal advocacy movement more broadly.
As the pandemic continues into 2021, we will adapt our programs and plans to better support our team, recommended charities, and grantees and strengthen our community—supporters like you! We look forward to forging ahead in these unprecedented times, together, and bringing about meaningful change for as many animals as possible.
Thank you for working with us to help the greatest number of animals in the most effective ways!