To learn more about our supporters, ACE sent a survey in March 2015 to people who had donated to ACE during 2014. We didn’t survey people who had used ACE’s top charity recommendations but hadn’t donated directly to ACE. These people also support ACE’s work in a meaningful sense; people using our recommendations to guide their giving is one of ACE’s clearest impacts, both to potential donors to ACE and to other organizations we interact with. However, it would require cooperation from all our top charities even to reach those we know about, and our methods of identifying such people are still missing many of them entirely. So this time we took on the much simpler task of contacting only ACE donors, a much more clearly-defined group.
Responses were collected in two groups: 20 responses from the 65 people who had donated under $500 to ACE during 2014, and 9 responses from the 18 people who had donated $500 or over to ACE during 2014. The survey was anonymous unless respondents identified themselves, and donation size to ACE has been reported separately from other answers where necessary to preserve anonymity (e.g. on free response items). The survey’s 95% margin of error for multiple choice questions was +/- 15% for the whole sample, and larger for subgroups or if not everyone responded. So while the following results give a general sense of the behavior of ACE’s donors, we need to be careful of drawing too many conclusions from this small survey.
ACE donors also donate to top charities – and they wouldn’t have done so otherwise.
We asked respondents whether they used our top charity recommendations and other questions about their donation behavior. We wanted to understand whether people were using our recommendations – and if they were, what they would have done with their money without the recommendations.
59% of respondents reported using ACE’s top charity recommendations to guide donations, other than their donation to ACE. Most of the respondents who indicated they used ACE’s top charity recommendations provided estimates of how much money they donated to ACE’s top charities in 2014. Estimates ranged from under $75 to $30,000, with a median of $400. 65% of respondents who used our top charity recommendations said they had never donated to any of our top charities before.
Respondents were also asked how much they donated in total to animal charity in an average year. The median response was $100-$999, suggesting that for donors influenced by ACE’s recommendations, ACE influences a substantial proportion of their total donation to animal charity.
When asked what else they might have done with the money they donated to ACE and ACE’s top charities, respondents provided a wide variety of answers, including most commonly donations to other charities not focused on animals. Of note is that the majority of donors would not have donated to other farm animal advocacy organizations, suggesting that most of ACE’s money moved is not simply diverted between very similar organizations.
Of course, because we surveyed only donors to ACE, this doesn’t give us a full picture of the donation behavior of everyone who uses our recommendations. In particular, we’ve had reports of some larger individual donations than were mentioned on this survey. It’s also possible that people who donate to ACE’s top charities but not to ACE would do different things with their charitable donations if they didn’t read our recommendations than these respondents would: for instance, maybe ACE donors would donate to other charities popular with effective altruists, such as those recommended by GiveWell, but other people who use our recommendations would donate to animal charities they already supported.
Donors support ACE for several reasons, most importantly our research and recommendations.
The most common reasons that people gave for supporting ACE cited ACE’s research and work on evaluations as a valuable contribution to animal activism. About half of respondents used words like “research”, “science”, and “evaluation” in their response when asked “Why did you donate to ACE?” (We didn’t rigorously analyze this or other free-response questions quantitatively, because there were few enough responses that it was easy to consider all of them individually.) Other common elements were references to effective altruism, general support for meta-charities, and general concern about animal suffering.
- To help improve the quality of recommendations, and support other research (e.g. that on social movements).
- To support effective altruism and research into cost-effective animal charities — ACE recommendations will very likely affect my future donations.
- I’m an effective altruist who thinks animal suffering is a worthwhile cause; I wanted to make sure it gets attention and to help your efforts to identify the top charities in this area.
- Because immense suffering is caused by our factory farming system and I want to help fight this.
- – Meta-charity seems leveraged – ACE is aware of crucial considerations like wild-animal suffering.
Respondents were also asked to indicate what ACE’s greatest value was, from a list of provided responses. Many respondents chose multiple responses. Donors who had donated a larger amount to ACE had slightly different concerns than smaller donors, in particular valuing specific recommendations and advice less highly.
Donors want to see ACE evaluate more interventions and charities.
We asked donors to tell us the most important area in which we could improve. The most commonly mentioned areas for improvement were doing more research on interventions and providing more information about more charities. Concerns were similar between larger and smaller donors to ACE, except that larger donors did not seem to be concerned with ACE providing reports on a larger number of charities.
Respondents identified the following areas as most important for ACE to improve:
- I would like to see the list of interventions that ACE has investigated to broaden. I think that this has important implications for what charities ACE recommends and also limits the conclusions that ACE can make. The more ACE knows about interventions, the more they can talk about which ones are effective or ineffective, and the better they can recommend/evaluate charities.
- Rate more charities and give more information on them.
- Consider possible negative impacts of the animal movement (e.g., on wild animals in the future)
- Let supporters know by email text and/or tweet etc. when website content added or substantially changed. Also, please give thoughts on orgs that present themselves mainly concerned with pets. Is that a morally questionable but effective marketing approach?
We greatly appreciate those of you who took the survey, and are working to address your suggestions. For those of you who didn’t, what do you see as ACE’s greatest contribution? And what areas should we by trying hardest to improve?