In 2016, we wanted to introduce a way for members of our audience interested in exploring all of our recommended charities to quickly compare them, and identify those that particularly spoke to their interests. To this end, we produced a comparison chart that provided some key information about our Top and Standout Charities. As of our 2017 charity evaluation process, our recommended charities have changed, and the Standout category is now split into two subcategories: “General Interest” and “Special Interest.” While we think that reading our reviews is the best way to fully understand why we’ve recommended our Top and Standout Charities, we recognize that this can involve a significant time commitment. We have thus created an updated comparison chart to help give you a sense of what these charities do, what makes them so promising, and how well they might fit your interests and values.
Below is a button linking to our new comparison chart, followed by a brief explanation of each column, where necessary. We have introduced several new points of comparison this year, as well as information regarding why some of our Standout Charities have received a “Special Interest” designation. We encourage you to use the chart to find organizations you may want to look into in more depth, work with, and/or donate to.
This column indicates whether ACE has designated the charity as a Top Charity or a 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 they may excel in one or more specific areas but not necessarily all areas. We have divided our Standout Charities into General Interest and Special Interest Charities. We think that General Interest Charities will appeal to the majority of our audience, while Special Interest Charities have unique features that might make them particularly appealing to a smaller subset of our readers with specific interests or situations. For example, some of these charities may appeal to donors interested in supporting an unusual intervention or donors who are able to make a particularly large donation. We have noted the reasoning for each Special Interest Charity in this column.
The year in this column is the most recent year in which we published a 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 our 2016 charity reviews is not completely comparable with information from our 2017 charity reviews. To the best of our knowledge, information from our reviews is accurate (and confirmed with the charity) at the time of review publication, but may fall out of date over time.
We think that most of the best available 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.
Within each focus area, charities are often engaged in multiple programs that can lead to change for animals in different ways. We think some of these programs are likely to be more cost-effective than others, and individual donors may have particular programs or interventions that they wish to support. The programs for each charity are listed from most to least expenditure, based on the most recent financial information we have.
Room for More Funding
The assessment conveyed in this column 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 effectively in the coming year. Usually, 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. In general, we aren’t sure what they would do with increases in funding beyond the amount indicated in the chart; in some cases, it might be used immediately and effectively, while in others it might be held in reserve until the charity has the capacity to expand.
In order to more easily make comparisons between charities, we have grouped our room for more funding estimates into three categories: Low (<$0.5 Million), Moderate ($0.5–1 Million) and High (>$1 Million). Our method for calculating room for more funding changed between our 2016 and 2017 evaluations. We think that our room for more funding estimates for those two years are still broadly comparable, but direct comparisons should be made with some caution—we think that the 2016 estimates are less likely to be accurately categorized than the 2017 estimates.
Strengths and Weaknesses
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. It is possible that our discussions of charities reviewed in 2016 are now outdated.
Understanding of Success and Failure
Charities that score highly in this category have a good understanding of what they need to do in order to achieve both their short-term and long-term goals. They will likely perform regular self assessments and act to adjust programs in light of these assessments. These issues are covered in depth in Criterion 5 of our reviews, the outcomes of which are reduced to a qualitative ranking here to provide an overall comparison.
Strength of Culture and Strategic Direction
An important part of assessing the effectiveness of a charity is understanding its internal structure and operations, both from the perspective of how the charity is run and what the culture is like for its staff. These issues are covered in depth in Criteria 6 and 7 of our reviews, the outcomes of which are combined here into a qualitative ranking in order to provide an overall comparison across charities. We made substantial changes in our approach to evaluating culture in 2017, such that we cannot make a comparative estimate in this category for those charities reviewed in 2016.
ACE’s Knowledge of the Charity
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. To fill in this column, we combined the number and depth of evaluations we’ve performed for each charity with the level of other contact we’ve had with its staff, to arrive at a marker of how well we think we understand the charity’s staff and operations.