01. A Letter From ACE’s Board Chair
The past fiscal year has been both challenging and encouraging for ACE, and in response, we’ve strengthened our leadership by incorporating talented new board members. These dedicated individuals possess a diverse range of skills, experience, and expertise that will undoubtedly benefit ACE.
In addition to expanding the board’s capabilities, we added the talents of our new Executive Director, Stien van der Ploeg, whose strong, compassionate leadership brings a steady sense of direction to ACE, helping navigate adversities and drive progress.
Despite the challenges, ACE adapted its programs and services to better build capacity and amplify the incredible work being done by advocates and donors. The organization provided critical support and expanded its reach and impact in the movement, demonstrating its commitment to its mission.
Looking ahead to the 2023–2024 fiscal year, we are excited to build upon the past year’s momentum and continue to grow and evolve as an organization. We remain committed to our mission and are confident that with the continued support of our community, we can make an even greater impact in the year to come.
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to our success over the past year. We look forward to your continued partnership and support.
—Verónica Díaz Carrai
02. A Note from ACE’s Staff
Welcome to ACE’s Year in Review! We achieved many great things from April 1, 2022 through March 31, 2023: We welcomed five talented individuals to our team, including new leadership staff. Our Programs team conducted rigorous evaluations of 12 charities and released our recommendations of the organizations we believe can do the most good with additional donations. Even though it was a challenging year to raise funds, we distributed $1.7 million in grants to our Top and Standout Charities and $910k in Movement Grants to 35 promising charities and projects working to reduce animal suffering around the world.
We hope you enjoy reading ACE’s 2022–2023 Year in Review. All of our achievements for animals highlighted here were made possible by ACE’s generous supporters. Thank you.
03. Charity Evaluations
Charity Evaluations Program
Our goal with our Charity Evaluations program is to identify the animal charities that can do the most good with additional donations. We consider a large number of groups in the early stages of our process, then filter down our list using a quantitative model that prioritizes charities based on the outcomes they work toward and the regions they work in. We then review a smaller number at each stage that follows, until we recommend a few groups that we are most confident in their effectiveness. The final evaluations are based on a charity’s performance on each of ACE’s evaluation criteria: Programs, Cost Effectiveness, Room for More Funding, and Leadership and Culture.
In 2022, we considered 635 charities, conducted comprehensive reviews of 12 charities, and recommended one new Top Charity (joining three others from 2021) and four new Standout Charities (joining seven others from 2021). To decide between the 12 charities in the final stage of evaluations, we introduced an iterative ranking approach instead of a simple majority vote. This new process recognizes that disagreements between the evaluations committee members are inevitable and expected, and that committee members do not need to reach a consensus in order to move forward, eliminating possible roadblocks.
We made several other improvements to our charity evaluation process last year. Notably, we moved toward more quantitative methods by implementing quantitative scoring frameworks to arrive at a single numerical score for each charity in Programs and Cost Effectiveness. For Programs, we did this by introducing the Scale, Tractability, and Neglectedness (STN) framework to score different types of animal groups, countries, outcomes, and interventions. In Cost Effectiveness, we did this by comparing charities’ expenditures to their achievements in each of their main programs during that time and then weighting each program proportional to its cost. We also improved clarity and transparency in our reviews by adding “introduction” and “overall recommendation” sections and formatting them to show more independence between each criterion. You can learn more about our evaluations process in this video.
Biggest challenge: Completing 2022 evaluations under the leadership of a new Programs Director and Charity Evaluations Manager, as well as two new researchers.
Proudest moment: Our best moment was after introducing new methods to try to address many of 2021’s shortcomings, we were validated by an unexpectedly large amount of positive feedback from the effective altruism and animal advocacy communities!
In 2022, we continued to increase transparency and summarize evidence and considerations that inform our charity evaluation decisions. We published a new research brief on “What is the Current State of Evidence for Farmed Insect Sentience“, maintained the research library by adding 292 new publications, and created our new Research Newsletter where we publish monthly lists of empirical studies related to farmed animal advocacy. We plan to expand the scope of our Research Newsletter to include publications from outside academic journals, explore other groups of animals, add a fish welfare category, and change the format to make it more user-friendly.
We also developed our Decision-Making Framework to our Tools for Charities. This framework was initially developed and used internally at ACE. We decided to share it because it was useful in facilitating group decisions at ACE and because several external stakeholders expressed an interest in using it to make more thorough decisions at their organizations.
Animal Advocacy Research Fund
In 2023, we provided the final grant payments through the Animal Advocacy Research Fund (AARF). Created in 2016, AARF’s mandate was to support research to contribute to a better understanding of effective animal advocacy. The program is now officially closed.
Through eight funding rounds, AARF awarded grants to 51 research projects and financially supported more than 75 researchers at universities and effective altruism and animal advocacy organizations. Several of these projects have already been completed and published in peer-reviewed journals, such as Nature Food, Appetite, and Frontiers.
The research supported by AARF extended throughout the globe, with many projects exploring effective advocacy in China and India, two of the fastest-growing markets for animal products. ACE is incredibly proud of the completed research projects; we’re excited about the progress and potential of the projects that remain under the stewardship of the talented researchers funded through AARF. To view projects funded and completed through AARF, please visit our website.
2022 Top Charities
—Brooke Haggerty, Executive Director, Faunalytics
2022 Standout Charities
—Haven King-Nobles, Executive Director, Fish Welfare Initiative
Our Movement Grants program aims to build and strengthen the global animal advocacy movement. We fund groups working on various approaches to animal advocacy, prioritizing those that are underfunded, target large numbers of animals, and are in regions with a relatively small animal advocacy movement. In 2022, we reviewed 164 applications, and thanks to our generous supporters, we were able to award $910,000 to 35 promising organizations and projects in 24 different countries across six different continents. Out of the $910,000 we awarded in 2022, $154,500 was granted to projects in Africa, $161,000 to projects in Asia, and $70,000 to projects in Latin America. The median size of the grants was $25,000, and 27 of the grantees were first-time recipients.
We took significant steps to improve our grantmaking process following the sixth round of Movement Grants. We increased the quantity and depth of feedback we provide to unsuccessful applicants to help organizations improve and to explain our thinking in more detail. We made several other behind-the-scenes improvements, including setting up more automated processes to increase our efficiency. We redesigned our approach to collecting project updates from grantees; we now check in with applicants once they have completed their projects rather than conducting fixed check-in four months after administering funding. This approach allows us to share more detailed updates with our audience and receive better data to inform our own decision-making and understanding in the future. Many of these changes were made with the intention to improve the efficiency of Movement Grants in the future—we are now set up to move much larger sums of money and handle increases in the number of applications we receive.
Biggest challenge: We need more funding! Each round, we receive a greater number of high-quality applications, and we have many more applications that we would like to fund than we have funding available to give.
Proudest moment: A key focus of Movement Grants is increasing funding in regions that receive relatively little support for animal advocacy work. In 2022, we were able to direct 48% of funds toward applicants in Latin America, Africa, and Asia—an increase from 30% in the previous year. We hope to see this trend continue in future rounds of Movement Grants.
—Carole Bibas-Barkan, Chief Operating Officer, Modern Agriculture Foundation
—Varda Mehrotra, Founder, Samayu
—Sabina Bravo, Legal Area, Fundación Derecho y Defensa Animal
—Benjamin Muschol, Movement Grants donor
Recommended Charity Fund
The Recommended Charity Fund is for anyone who wishes to support ACE’s recommended charities through a single donation, simplifying the donation process so that you can easily give to multiple effective charities at once. Every donation to our Recommended Charity Fund supports all of our Top and Standout Charities, each working on a diverse range of effective interventions.
In 2022, we raised $1,726,676 for the Recommended Charity Fund, awarded in biannual disbursements to our Top and Standout Charities. In July 2022 (with donations collected between January–June 2022), we granted $90,571 to each of our three Top Charities and $31,351 to each of our 13 Standout Charities. In January 2023 (with donations collected between July–December 2022), we granted $104,858 to each of our four Top Charities and $57,088 to each of our 11 Standout Charities. From securing historic corporate cage-free commitments and conducting informative wild animal welfare research, to revolutionizing our food and materials systems through alternative proteins, cell-cultured meat, and next-gen materials, our recommended charities are working hard to significantly improve the lives of animals. Thank you to the generous donors who make this work possible.
Biggest challenge: The economic recession affected the stock market and caused mass layoffs across several industries. Other pressing issues, such as the war in Ukraine and the reproductive rights crisis in the United States, also diverted some potential donors’ attention away from our cause.
Proudest moment: Despite last year’s economic challenges, including some unexpected changes to important third-party fundraisers, we were grateful to not only meet our fundraising goal for the Recommended Charity Fund but to exceed it. This unexpected victory was made possible by our dedicated and generous donors. Many thanks!
—Jonathan Dutson, Recommended Charity Fund donor
In 2022, we were delighted to offer a matching opportunity for both our Recommended Charity Fund and our Movement Grants program. A special acknowledgement of appreciation goes to Richard, a dedicated and compassionate animal advocate whose legacy generously provided $600,000 in matching funds to honor his memory and help reduce animal suffering. Thank you, Richard.
Estimated Donations Influenced
In the 2022–2023 fiscal year, ACE helped influence an estimated $8.3 million in donations within the animal advocacy movement (total or substantial influence on 92%; moderate influence on 1%; slight influence on 7%). This includes $5.6 million donated to our recommended charities (both directly and via ACE), nearly $2 million donated to our Recommended Charity Fund, and $707k raised for our Movement Grants program. Thank you to our compassionate and generous supporters who made this possible.
We simplified the ACE-influenced donation request process, aiming to make reporting and receiving donations easier and less time-consuming for our recommended charities by reducing the requests and streamlining the donation report format.
Biggest challenge: Charities are doing their best to identify and report their ACE-influenced donations. However, there are likely some ACE-influenced donations that charities are unaware of because donors did not indicate whether ACE influenced their decision to give. Conversely, there have been occasions where charities reported donations as being ACE-influenced, but upon further review, we came to believe otherwise.
Proudest moment: Our efforts in identifying, recommending, and granting funds to effective charities and interventions have inspired donors to contribute generously to our recommended charities. As a result, every $1 donated to ACE’s operations this past fiscal year has translated into $6 for our recommended charities and Movement Grants recipients, further enabling them to reduce animal suffering around the globe.
In the fiscal year running from April 1, 2022 through March 31, 2023, we raised $1,721,335 for ACE, $1,994,037 for our Recommended Charity Fund, and $707,569 for our Movement Grants program (Fig. 2). In the previous year, we raised $1,420,352 for ACE, $2,636,826 for the Recommended Charity Fund, $930,457 for Movement Grants (Fig. 3).
We raised a total of $1,721,335 for ACE from corporations, individuals, and foundations and organizations (Fig. 4). This includes $88,500 restricted to staff time spent on the Movement Grants program. (Fig. 5).
Our expenses came to a total of $1,428,940: Charity Evaluations ($467,088), Movement Grants ($162,730), Recommended Charity Fund ($144,740), Fundraising ($185,852), and Operations ($468,529) (Fig. 6). In addition to our revenue and expenses, we also regranted $120,514 in restricted donations we received for a project in collaboration with Vox Media’s Future Perfect.
For the fiscal year running from April 1, 2023 through March 31, 2024, we have revised our budgeting practices by splitting expenses by program in addition to expense category and by putting down more specific revenue projections. For our most up-to-date financial information, please visit our website.
Biggest challenge: Due to a number of external factors, fundraising was challenging over the past year. As a result, we fell short of our $1M goal for our Movement Grants program to distribute in 2023.
Proudest moment: Despite the year’s fundraising challenges, we are pleased to share that ACE raised nearly double the amount of our $1M goal for our Recommended Charity Fund.
ACE had two Acting Executive Directors in 2022: Jon Bockman and Samantha Berscht. After nine months of leadership, Jon Bockman stepped down as Acting Executive Director in early July 2022. Samantha Berscht assumed the role until October 2022, when our permanent Executive Director, Stien van der Ploeg, joined ACE.
Jon and Sam worked together on a number of important projects, such as updating ACE’s three-year strategic plan, hiring five new talented employees, and making significant efforts toward strengthening the internal culture at ACE. A considerable amount of work was put into our Respect in the Workplace Policy and subsequent employee training sessions. A number of ACE policies were also updated with the lens of equity and inclusion.
Furthermore, ACE attended nine external events and resumed in-person retreats, with one being held in Washington D.C. in October 2022 and one in San Francisco in February 2023. These strengthened team building and collaboration through joint sessions, workshops, and social activities. The team also participated in a feedback workshop facilitated by Scarlet Spark, where we learned how to effectively give honest, specific, and constructive feedback.
Biggest challenge: While changes in leadership can be difficult and leave employees feeling uncertain, each leader at ACE brought unique strengths to the role, and the rigorous process of choosing a new, permanent leader was well worth the effort.
Proudest moment: Having the opportunity to offer two in-person staff retreats this year was incredibly valuable. While we enjoyed our virtual retreats over the past few years, nothing replaces the connection employees feel when given the opportunity to spend time together.
—Tyler Maule, ACE donor
08. Looking Ahead
ACE is looking forward to even more success in the year ahead. We recently updated our Guiding Principles, Theory of Change, Strategic Plan, and Organizational Objectives. Together, these better align with ACE’s vision for the future and leverage our unique ability to strengthen the animal advocacy movement. We’ve also adopted a new operating model, the DARCI Decision Making Model, and created staff work plans to align with this and increase cross-departmental collaboration, the efficiency of goal setting, and measuring key results.
In 2023, ACE is rebranding to grow our visual identity, unify our programs, and represent the animals we work for. We are also working on improvements to ACE’s charity evaluation process through consulting experts, tackling priority research questions, and updating our beliefs about interventions based on the latest available evidence.
ACE is continuously striving to be more inclusive and facilitate Movement Grants applications from more places worldwide, especially in regions that receive less funding relative to the number of animals farmed there, such as Latin America, Africa, and Asia, as well as reaching organizations working in underserved communities, such as those led by Black, Indigenous, and people of the global majority (BIPGM) in countries like the U.S. In preparation for the seventh round of Movement Grants, we have been proactively reaching out to more organizations in these groups to invite them to apply. We have also translated our application materials into Spanish and Portuguese to encourage more groups from Latin America to apply, as we have seen relatively fewer applications from there.
As always, ACE aims to increase and direct funding to the effective animal advocacy movement; we aim to influence an estimated $10 million in donations to effective animal charities. We also intend to raise sufficient and diverse funding to continue to perform high-quality work and achieve our ambitious goals.
Thank you for your continued dedication and trust in ACE. We look forward to another year of working to improve animals’ lives with your generous support.