Below we discuss last year’s prospective goals and whether we were able to meet them. While we succeeded in accomplishing most of these goals, we were unsuccessful in certain areas. Since we were ambitious in our pursuits, we are satisfied with the rate of success we achieved. You can find more details about our 2016 achievements in our Annual Review, and you can learn about our 2017 goals in our blog post.
Move $1,000,000 in donations to our recommended charities. Reports show that we influenced over $3.5 million in donations to our recommended charities in 2016, which means that we significantly surpassed our goal. We influenced almost $10 in giving to our recommended charities for every $1 we spent on ACE’s operations over the entire year. We also received new reports from donors on past giving, so we updated our total for 2015 to $1.19 million, which is a substantial increase over our previous total from last year as well.
We were also pleased to find that we influenced over $70,000 in giving to charities that we had reviewed, but were not ultimately chosen as Top or Standout Charities. As there are a great number of charities doing good work in a variety of specific areas within animal advocacy, some people chose to donate to additional organizations they discovered through the reviews listed on our site. There were also instances in which ACE staff made direct recommendations based on the particular interests of individual donors.
Evaluate our method of conducting reviews more generally, including our criteria, our selection of charities for review, and the value of deep reviews. We examined our evaluation criteria and made small adjustments to criteria 4, 6, and 7. Details can be found in our associated blog post update.
Previously, we used three types of reviews in our evaluation process: Shallow, Medium, and Deep. We decided that Deep reviews were not worth the additional commitment of resources, so we did not conduct any additional review of this type. Instead, we used two types of reviews in 2016: Exploratory and Comprehensive. These new titles replace our old designation of Shallow and Medium reviews; since we no longer conduct Deep reviews, we revised the titles of these reviews to more accurately reflect their level of depth.
We chose not to make major changes to our method of selecting charities for review. While we would have needed to make changes if we wanted to prioritize reviewing a larger number of charities at the Exploratory level, we decided that our priority should be to conduct as many Comprehensive reviews as we had capacity for. We have not had trouble identifying a suitable number of organizations for this level of review.
Release five new case studies on social justice movements, and formulate a plan for how to synthesize our findings. We did not achieve our goals in this area. We have four unpublished studies—two of which are near completion—but we did not release the desired five new case studies. We tried to use an intern model for this project, but we have found that to be difficult to manage in most cases due to the scope of each case study. We will be re-evaluating this project in the first half of 2017 to decide whether we will continue to pursue it. If we do continue to work on it, then we will develop a framework to enable us to more properly prioritize the efforts allotted.
Publish six new interviews with advocacy leaders and relevant industry professionals. We published five interviews over the course of 2016. While this is one interview short of our goal, we are satisfied with the results of this continuing project. We published valuable exchanges with David Wolfson, Will Potter, Jo-Anne McArthur, Brad Goldberg, and Paul Shapiro.
Create up to four additional intervention reports (undercover investigations, online ads, legal work, and possibly vegfests or direct action). We published reports on undercover investigations and online ads. We began but did not complete work on an examination of legal work and a report on direct action. We found that our intervention reports take a large time commitment, and we will be examining our intervention report process in 2017 to see if we can make any improvements.
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 conducted several MTurk studies, including two studies on wild animal suffering and one on clean meat nomenclature. We have published the results from the first of these. We may write about the others in 2017, and plan to publish the datasets in the Animal Advocacy Data Repository whether we write about them or not. We were not satisfied with the methodologies of these efforts, though we did improve as we gained more experience, which is something that we find to be a valuable outcome from all attempted research. One of the main reasons for lower quality in this area is the fact that we did not allot enough time to allow for proper review and critique. We have recently developed a framework to improve the quality of our research, and we will apply these improvements to any subsequent studies we attempt in the future.
Compose writings on our thinking about various animals’ capacities for pain, pleasure, awareness, and the degree to which each is supported by scientific evidence. After investing about three weeks of one full-time researcher’s time on this project, it became clear to us that we were likely not the best people to be working on it. We wrote up some thoughts from our experience, and have turned the project over to Sentience Politics.
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. This year we launched the privately-funded Animal Advocacy Research Fund. We completed our first round of funding in late 2016, and we have at least 2 rounds of grants planned for 2017. In 2016 we awarded eight grants, totaling $105,000, which addressed research topics such as cultured meat, activist engagement, and contact with animals.
Relatedly, the Animal Advocacy Data Repository was launched in October. The repository provides a hub for research data compiled from animal advocacy studies, so that researchers and advocates can continue to improve on previous efforts to understand the effectiveness of efforts to help animals.
Host an academic conference to facilitate better quality research that is useful to animal advocates. We hosted our first research symposium at Princeton, and it was well-received overall. Over 160 advocates and academics gathered together to share their work studying ways to help animals, and we bore witness to many new collaborative opportunities that developed during subsequent networking.
We intend to continue this effort in the future, though we may modify the format. We think it may make sense to repeat the 2016 symposium format every alternate year, and intend to explore an opportunity to conduct a different type of event in 2017 that consists of a small, tight-knit group of academics who can discuss and plan prospective studies. We will write about this more if we decide to move forward with it, but in the meantime you can read about our previous symposium.
Modernize our website with a new template that improves user experience. We launched a completely redesigned website in late November 2016. We are happy with the results of this initiative; our focus was to improve usability, and we think we have done so. We plan to test our site with users in 2017 to continue making refinements.
One unfortunate miscalculation involved the amount of work that was required for this redesign. We originally estimated that we could complete the redesign by the end of the summer, but it was pushed several months simply due to the scope of the project—we have over 600 pages on our website, and the redesign brought with it many complications. We hired a new staff member, Kristie Taylor-Muise, to coordinate our efforts after she assisted us for several months as a volunteer—but it was still delayed for several months. This was not without good reason, as you can see from her blog post explaining some of our thinking as we planned out the new design, but our miscalculation on the time involved led to shortcomings in other areas when we were forced to direct resources to the redesign project.
Create an explainer video introducing the concept of effective altruism for animals. We released this video in the fall of 2016. It is meant to serve as a very gentle introduction to the concept of effective altruism for animals. We created a landing page specifically to host this video, and we remain excited about its potential to create strategic consideration of efforts to help animals. We intend to promote it more heavily in 2017.
Produce four sets of printed materials, including our annual review, guide to giving, advocacy advice booklet, and academic conference program. We published three of these four materials. We completed about 50% of the advocacy advice booklet, but decided that we weren’t going to be able to accomplish our goals with a single material. Instead, we put it on hold—devoting some of those resources to the website redesign—and have begun work on a more ambitious white paper project, which we hope will enable us to provide free advice on best practices in various standard charity departments for advocacy groups everywhere.
The printed materials that we did complete proved to be excellent tools for communicating our message at conferences and with donors. One modification we intend to make in 2017 is adding a small amount of additional information about our Standout Charities, to increase our promotion of all charities that are doing good work, while still prioritizing our Top Charities in our booklets and elsewhere.
Improve the functionality of the effective animal advocacy research library. We had a volunteer team devote their time to improving the research library, and they did an excellent job producing a much more user-friendly resource. Unfortunately we experienced some bugs just prior to the launch of the new website. We will work out the issues and release this updated interface in 2017.
Increase efforts to improve functionality of website pages through user testing and A/B tests. We had to put these goals on hold as we completed the website redesign. It would not have made sense for us to conduct such testing on our old site, since we were about to update it. We also didn’t finish our redesign until late November, which is our busiest time of year. We will spend more time in this area in 2017, and are renewing our plans to conduct Usertesting feedback sessions and A/B tests.
Optimize AdWords to improve quality and quantity of web traffic. This remains a continual commitment, and we saw minor improvements throughout 2016. However, we feel it is unlikely that additional advancements would be worth the substantial time investment needed to create them. Therefore, we will be switching our efforts to maintenance instead of spending extra time trying to make marginal improvements.
Build our social media following through increased engagement and advertising. We exceeded our plans for growth on Twitter, as we reached over 1,900 followers by the end of the year. We fell just short of our plans for growth on Facebook, as we reached over 14,000 likes (our goal was to reach 15,000). Overall we continue to be happy with our growth on social media platforms in general. We maintain a focus on quality over quantity to ensure strong engagement.
Increase promotion in the media. We were covered or quoted in several national outlets, including Huffington Post and Slate. We were also interviewed as an authority in the field by other sources that did not quote us directly.
Increase our presence at key conferences, including additional speaking engagements. ACE spoke or tabled at five conferences throughout 2016. This included the Sentience Conference, the Animal Rights conference, the TAFA conference, EA Global, and our own research symposium. We continue to find value in participating at these events through the connections we make with people interested in effective animal advocacy. Additionally, we brought the entire ACE team to the Animal Rights conference, as it was the only time during the year where our whole team could meet in the same location. This gathering was a very worthwhile team-building opportunity, but as we now boast a team of 13, we will have our first staff retreat in 2017. While we will still attend the Animal Rights conference in 2017, it will therefore likely be in a reduced capacity.
Create a formal marketing plan to guide our outreach and promotional efforts. Create a formal development plan to increase our funding, build our donor base, and steward existing supporters. Due to the need to prioritize other areas, these plans were not completed. However, we have made progress on both of them, and will finalize them in 2017.
Continue increasing our level of transparency, including producing writeups on cause prioritization, foundational questions about advocacy tactics, and our general thoughts on strategic approaches to helping animals. We remain committed to transparency, and published many articles explaining our thinking on various issues, as well as foundational questions we have that we feel are important and in need of being addressed. We published our thinking on cause prioritization, in both a summary and detailed format. We also updated our conflict of interest policy to include disclosures, where we now feature any affiliations we may have with evaluated charities.