“The more you chase the Holy Grail of short-term performance, the less you get in long-term results.” Walter Cabot
As tempting as it was to pull out all the stops and start promoting ACE early on, we made a conscious decision to wait. Sure, we had some good information, and we likely would have done some additional good by advertising our work. And, our recommendations were based on reasonable conclusions. But ACE isn’t especially concerned with small, short-term wins. Instead, as shown in our strategic plan, we’re constantly thinking about the big picture.
A popular TED Talk by Dan Pallotta highlights the need for nonprofits to think strategically and invest time to thrive. He talks about how people might invest money in a business like Amazon and be ok without seeing a return for six years because they realize that the business is building up infrastructure to achieve their goals. Conversely, nonprofits are expected to produce more immediate results with their funding, and not spend money on things outside their immediate mission. This is tied to the idea of “overhead being the enemy of the cause,” when in reality some careful investments could multiply the amount of money available for the cause in question. If charities don’t produce tangible results in short order, donors become disillusioned with their work, and many will choose not to support them in the future.
I can relate to these issues, having spent the last decade in the nonprofit sector. Donors want to know what their donation achieves; that’s why I would always come up with little milestones ($20 feeds a bunny for a month, or $100 helps vaccinate 15 cats) to encourage contributions. And those methods worked! It can certainly be frustrating: On the one hand, you need the freedom to plan long-term to achieve your intended results; on the other hand, you need to compromise that planning to produce immediate wins.
Our strategy shows that ACE is committed to thinking about the big picture. We are carefully planning our efforts to ensure we achieve our goals in the long-term. We’ve rebranded as ACE, we’ve published a site with loads of fresh content, and we’ll have revised recommendations based on our new criteria in early May. At that point, we’ll be working with our recommended organizations to track money moved, and focus more heavily on promoting the fruits of our labor. This plan will enable us to not only move large amounts of money to our recommended organizations, but also put us in a strong position to accomplish our other goals of spreading a meme of concern for animals and creating an environment that encourages evaluation.
What do you think of ACE’s plan? Are we missing anything? Would you like to see us reprioritize? How can we improve? We highly value feedback from our community, and encourage suggestions in the comments below.
Note: The above links to our strategic plan direct to an updated version (uploaded April 1, 2014).