Our Goals for 2016
We are following a three-year strategic plan to inform our goals for 2016. A work plan can be found in our latest gantt chart, but we discuss some of our goals in more detail below.
Move $1,000,000 in donations to our recommended charities
We far exceeded our goal for moving money in 2015, as we moved a total of over $826,000. While we cannot know for certain if those donors will continue to donate based on our recommendation, we are encouraged by our growth and influence, so we are setting a goal of raising $1,000,000 for our recommended charities in 2016. We will achieve this by building on the relationships we have already established while examining new strategies to encourage high-net-worth donors to support our recommended charities.
This increase does not mirror our growth from 2014–2015 for several reasons. We acknowledge the possibility that our increased ability to track donations in 2015 accounted for some of the increase. We added a redistribution option on our website, and many donors took advantage of being able to easily donate to our top charities through our site.
We also only started tracking donations during the second half of 2014, and had no data prior to May 2014. At the beginning, we only had limited assistance in tracking money influenced from our top charities, and this made it more difficult to accurately track our influence as well.
These conditions make us think that we may have moved considerably more money in 2014 than we were able to measure, which means that the increase in the amount of money moved in 2015 might not be as large as it seems. Still, we feel listing an increased goal of $1,000,000 is reasonable given the amount of increase that we do feel more confident about, along with other growth factors.
Evaluate our method of conducting reviews more generally, including our criteria, our selection of charities for review, and the value of deep reviews
We have largely been happy with our evaluation criteria thus far. However, as we have now used these criteria for three rounds of evaluation, we feel that we have learned more about what makes charities effective, and thus we will investigate whether or not there are ways we can improve our approach.
We also find ourselves in a position where it is not as obvious which groups to select for review based on our concerns of neglect, scale, and tractability. We will spend time thinking about how to approach evaluations given this concern.
We also conducted our first deep review in 2015, and while it was informative, we are unsure if the benefits were worth the extra time costs associated with doing a deeper level of review. Thus we will also discuss whether or not to continue with deeper reviews in the future.
Release five new case studies on social justice movements, and formulate a plan for how to synthesize our findings
We composed our first three case studies in 2015, and they have become progressively more detailed as we improve our approach. We plan to produce more case studies by spending some staff time on them (previously, we solely had interns work on case studies). We also intend to start figuring out how we can synthesize our findings into usable recommendations for animal advocates.
Publish six new interviews with advocacy leaders and relevant industry professionals
Continuing with our educational interview series, we will conduct bimonthly interviews with advocacy leaders and professionals to better inform our work as well as the work of our followers by gaining insights from these leaders’ experiences.
Create up to four additional intervention reports (undercover investigations, online ads, legal work, and possibly vegfests or direct action)
Since we increased our staff last year and intend on hiring another Research Associate this spring, we will be able to focus more of our efforts on intervention reports. In the future, these will need to be decided upon in conjunction with the Advocacy Research Program Officer to avoid duplicating efforts, but we anticipate that the options listed above can be examined in 2016. Intervention reports are valuable not only in conducting our evaluations, but also in assisting individual advocates and groups with deciding on the most effective tactics to help animals.
Conduct some research using MTurk or a similar platform to gauge the effects of common interventions on attitudes towards wild animals, intervention in the wild, and conservation
We intend to explore potential “quick wins” by investigating public attitudes toward certain key questions through the use of Mechanical Turk. We are unsure how valuable this will be, so we will start small and decide how much time and money to invest once we have piloted a few questions.
Compose writings on our thinking about various animals’ capacities for pain, pleasure, awareness, and the degree to which each is supported by scientific evidence
We have long wanted to better understand various animal’s capacities for pain, but we have not had the time to dedicate to leading an investigation on this issue. In 2016, we will spend some time thinking and writing about a viable approach to this question.
Lead research on effective advocacy by working with our newly hired Advocacy Research Program Officer to oversee studies examining the effectiveness of interventions and messaging strategies
We are working in conjunction with various advocacy leaders and academics to enable the Program Officer to start work immediately upon joining the ACE team. This Officer will lead efforts to conduct research to better understand the impact of different types of advocacy through a variety of methods, and though we don’t expect to see many direct results in 2016, we do intend to have some data collected and several studies underway by the end of the year.
Host an academic conference to facilitate better quality research that is useful to animal advocates
There is untapped potential for helping animals in academia, and we are hosting a conference to unite researchers with advocates so that they can produce research that is mutually beneficial to their chosen field as well as helping animals effectively. We intend to bring together 100–200 attendees and over 20 speakers.
Modernize our website with a new template that improves user experience
We have learned a lot since launching our current website in January of 2014, and we intend to work on migrating the site over to a new template sometime in 2016 to improve user experience.
Create an explainer video introducing the concept of effective altruism for animals
Many animal advocates are unaware of the concept of effective altruism, so we will work with contractors to produce a 60-second video that serves as a quick introduction to helping the largest number of animals with advocates’ time and money.
Produce four sets of printed materials, including our annual review, guide to giving, advocacy advice, and academic conference program
As we have increased our size and presence, we have a need for additional printed materials to distribute at relevant events. We are forgoing our trifold this year in favor of a general advocacy advice booklet, and in addition to our yearly guide to giving, we will also produce an annual review and program for our upcoming academic conference.
Improve the functionality of the effective animal advocacy research library
We didn’t have a large amount of time to polish the library in its current state, as we were working on evaluations and simply wanted to publish relevant materials as soon as possible and worry about improving interface at a later time. In 2016, we will improve the library by adding a search function and better categorization so that users can find what they are looking for more quickly, and we hope to trial a function for users to be able to submit new relevant content.
Conduct user testing on website to improve user experience
We ran two separate groups of sessions on user testing last year, and experimented with three A/B tests on the site. We intend to continue using these procedures, including at least one set of user testing sessions and ten A/B tests, to improve the functionality of our site, though we will need to wait on some of them until later in the year after we have updated the rest of our site.
Optimize AdWords to improve quality and quantity of traffic
After increasing our monthly budget with AdWords to $40,000 awarded through Google GrantsPro, we decided to invest more time in making sure that we are spending money as efficiently as possible. We will continue to monitor the quality of our paid search traffic throughout the year.
Build our social media following through increased engagement and advertising
We experienced a significant gain in followers at the end of the year on Facebook due to changing our approach and level of engagement on social media, as well as acquiring a $1500 Facebook Ads grant allocated in part to building our audience. We intend to continue this practice in 2016, and we aim to have 12,500 Facebook likes and 1,500 Twitter followers by the end of 2016. We also will work to increase engagement with and awareness of our work and effective animal advocacy ideas through our social networks.
Establish a strategic communications plan
Our communications team will create a comprehensive strategic communications plan as part of our efforts to increase our presence in the media. Some focus areas include locating and networking with key media correspondents who are more likely to consider a story about our work, and consulting with other groups and individuals in the nonprofit space. We aim to network with 20 media contacts and produce at least three stories about our work in key media outlets.
Increase our presence at key conferences, including additional speaking engagements
While we will be selective about our attendance at different events to ensure that we are efficiently using our resources, we have identified at least four key conferences and plan to speak at each of them over the course of 2016.
Create a formal marketing plan to guide our outreach and promotional efforts
As our team has grown, the need for a more formal plan to outline our specific strategies has become apparent. We will invest time in creating a formal marketing plan in order to create a foundation for all areas of communications.
Create a formal development plan to increase our funding, build our donor base, and steward existing supporters
As we have grown, we have identified key donor segments based on the types of people that support our work. We intend to create strategies for each target segment so that we can be as successful as possible in raising money for our work.
We enjoyed increased support in 2015, but many of those donors were first-time supporters. These increased funds have allowed us to expand our staff, but increased costs accompany this gain, so we need to be vigilant in preparing a strategy to continue working alongside higher operating costs.
Continue increasing our level of transparency, including producing write-ups on cause prioritization, foundational questions we have about advocacy tactics, and our general thoughts on strategic approaches to helping animals
While we are already extremely transparent as an organization through the publication of our strategic plan, our board meeting minutes, our budget, our goals, and our mistakes, we want to be even more transparent with our thinking. Often we are simply limited by resources (staff time) as to how much we can write about, but we intend on producing regular writings that discuss our thinking in more detail throughout the year.
In the interest of being open about our objectives, we have published the ACE strategic plan. It represents the contributions of the ACE board and staff, and details our plans for the coming year as well as our longer-term vision. We also provide gantt charts of our work plan below. We see this as a living document that we will modify as new information becomes available. We appreciate constructive feedback.