As we review more charities, we have chosen to allow our list of Standout Charities to grow indefinitely, showcasing a variety of charities that do excellent work. For those members of our audience who broadly share our values but are skeptical of some of our reasoning for recommending our Top Charities, we think our reviews of our Standout Charities are an excellent place to start. These reviews also give members of our audience a better understanding of the range of effective animal advocacy work currently in progress. To make it easier, this year we’re providing a chart comparing a few key pieces of information about each of our Top and Standout Charities.
Below is our comparison chart, followed by a brief explanation of each column. We encourage you to use the chart to find organizations you may want to look into in more depth, and are hopeful that it may be of use for finding organizations to work with and/or donate to.
This column indicates whether ACE has designated the charity as a Top or Standout Charity this year. Top Charities are those which carry ACE’s highest recommendation. Standout Charities may be excellent charities overall which have narrowly missed Top Charity status, or may excel in one or more specific areas while lacking other characteristics we see as necessary for a Top Charity recommendation.
The date given is the most recent year in which we published a new or updated review for the charity. Top Charities are reviewed yearly, while Standout Charities are reviewed at least every other year. In some cases (noted below and in the chart) information from 2015 reviews is not completely comparable with information from 2016 reviews. In general, information from our reviews is accurate (and checked with the charity) at the time of review publication–but may fall out of date over time.
For ACE and individual donors, we think that most of the best opportunities to help animals are through supporting organizations and programs that aim to help farmed animals. Occasionally, we find an organization working in another cause area, such as promoting general antispeciesism, in a way that we think may be particularly effective.
Room for More Funding
The range given represents the amount of additional funding (beyond what was received in the previous year or has already been committed in grants) that we are fairly confident a given charity could use in the coming year. We anticipate that the charity would use this new funding similarly to their current funding, to expand their existing programs or to create new ones that are similarly effective. We are more confident that charities could use the amount of funding indicated by darker shading than that indicated by lighter shading. In general, we aren’t sure what they would do with a larger increase in funding; in some cases, it might be used immediately and effectively, while in others it might be held in reserve until the charity’s management has capacity to expand.
The methods we used for estimating room for more funding were slightly different in 2016 than in 2015. Additionally, we usually find that growing charities have more room for funding each year than they did in the previous year. As a result, numbers in this column for charities that we reviewed in 2015 are probably not very good representations of the room for funding for those charities in 2016.
Cost-effectiveness (Animals Spared and Years of Suffering Avoided)
The ranges given represent our estimate for the number of animals spared per dollar donated to the charity, and the number of years of suffering spared per dollar donated to the charity.
Where both ranges are provided, they are two different ways of looking at the same information, rather than separate and independent effects of donating. In 2015 we gave single-value estimates for the number of animals spared and did not calculate a number of years spared. Consequently, those point estimates should not be taken as more certain than our 2016 estimates given as ranges. We do not provide cost-effectiveness estimates for some charities with programs we see as having primarily or exclusively long-term impacts.
We do believe there is room for disagreement about various aspects of our cost-effectiveness estimates, but we provide them as one point of comparison between charities and to provide greater transparency regarding our thought processes. A charity’s cost-effectiveness, as we estimate it, is only one factor in our understanding of their strengths and weaknesses overall.
Best Qualities and Worst Qualities
These columns provide condensed summaries of charities’ strengths and weaknesses as identified in our reviews. Our reviews of all Top and Standout Charities go into more detail than we have space for in this chart, both in introductory remarks about strengths and weaknesses and throughout the review.
Charities vary in terms of the scope of what they’d accomplish if their plans are completely successful. A charity that seeks to make a small reform and would then cease acting if this goal were achieved would be considered to have a low impact potential, regardless of how effectively they acted towards that goal. Most charities we evaluate have moderate impact potential: they ultimately wish to help as many animals as possible, but their methods allow them to make a consistent incremental impact at best, unless something changes systemically (which would probably not be due solely to their own influence). A few charities work to trigger larger changes in the way animals are treated in society. These programs may have fewer incremental or immediate impacts on animals than other programs, or be less likely to succeed in their ultimate goals. However, if these goals were to be achieved (for instance in the successful extension of legal rights and protections to nonhuman animals), it would mean a decisive and dramatic difference in the lives of an enormous number of individuals.
Note that impact potential is distinct from current or expected impact, as the probability of a charity reaching their full potential is not considered.
Knowledge of Organization
When we have reviewed a charity multiple times, or worked with them on outside projects, we have more insight into their activities and thought processes compared to those charities we have reviewed only once. For instance, when we review a charity for the second time, we’re able to look at their past plans for expansion and whether they’ve expanded in the amount and/or ways they predicted (and if not, what they did instead). Having access to more information about a charity does not necessarily lead us to view the charity more favorably, but it does increase our confidence in our evaluation of the charity. With more contact, our reviews become more informative and detailed, and we are more likely to make accurate assessments of an organization’s performance and outcomes. This column combines the number and depth of evaluations we’ve performed for each charity with the level of other contact we have with its staff, as a marker of how well we think we understand the charity’s staff and operations.