Many people approach us with concerns about our policy of not publishing information about a charity without their permission. Doesn’t that impede our ability to be a watchdog? Does that mean that we only report on positive accomplishments? Aren’t we being partial?
ACE is not meant to be a “watchdog” organization. Instead, we are trying to make recommendations for individuals and organizations on how to be as effective as possible. We do rank “top charities,” but we don’t just want to state our recommendations and call it a day; we want other charities to see what we recommend and learn from our work. We want to maintain good relationships, so we don’t rank charities or publish reviews without approval.
There are many reasons why we don’t report information without approval:
When we conduct our reviews, we don’t simply report on publicly available information from each charity’s website. We hold conversations with leaders and ask them to be honest with us. We ask for groups to provide budgetary breakdowns by program, and to share internal documents with us. The only reason we’re able to access some of these materials is through our promise to not post information without their approval.
If organizations had to fear ACE releasing sensitive information to the public, then they would be much less likely to respond to our requests for information. As we need a variety of information to write our reviews, we want organizations to feel comfortable with us, and the knowledge that we require their permission encourages participation in the reviews.
ACE doesn’t just conduct evaluations with organizations; sometimes we engage in discussion about how we could potentially work together. For example, we might want to discuss ways to evaluate a particular intervention that an organization specializes in, or to offer suggestions for how they can evaluate their own programs. Acquiring approval before publishing information helps establish the trust that is necessary for us to advance these areas.
We work hard to maintain a professional environment so that groups feel comfortable and confident in their discussions with us. That environment would be tainted if we were to use any information provided to us in the course of the review process as a way to slander or in some way negatively publicize information a group that we are reviewing. As different groups have different views on what might be perceived as negative, we make sure that all parties are comfortable with all materials before we record them on our site. If we can’t come to an agreement about something that we feel essential to a review, that is one reason we may decide not to publish a review.
Ultimately, we are trying to create the greatest good for animals, and to achieve that we do not publish information about organizations without their consent. What do you think of this choice? Is there something we can be doing better? Let us know in the comments or by contacting us.