ACE has a small staff of five people, and to date we’ve only considered slightly over 100 United States charities, and a total of 156 charities worldwide.
People often ask why we bother considering international organizations when we have barely scratched the surface of charities in the United States. This blog will explain our reasoning, along with some of the challenges we face.
Our ultimate goal is to help the largest number of animals with our work. This includes animals from all sections of the world; we are simply concerned with doing the greatest good for animals. In fact, some countries have much weaker animal welfare laws than the US, and as a result animals in those areas may be suffering even more than animals in the US. Thus we want to examine as many opportunities for helping animals as possible.
However, in our early evaluations, it made sense to focus on the US for several reasons. We were still figuring out a system for evaluation, and we wanted to start with the environment with which we were most familiar. Additionally, all of the animal charities in the US communicate in English, which makes it much easier to gather and consider information. So, our first full round of recommendations in May of 2014 focused strongly on US charities. We continued to focus on US charities in our second round of recommendations in December 2014, but also included many international charities.
At this point, the majority of charities that we have not considered in the United States are conventional shelters and humane societies designed to help companion animals. While we applaud all efforts to help animals, our donation allocation chart shows that the greatest need for funding, along with the largest number of animals in need, lies in the farm animal category. Therefore, we have prioritized evaluating farm animal charities in our reviews.
Because we’ve already explored those farm animal charities in the US that we think have the greatest potential to have high impact, we have begun to conduct more evaluations of international animal charities. There are important benefits to this approach. We believe this is one way that we will discover new, innovative techniques to help animals. We also think that it is possible that international groups are working more cost-effectively than many groups in the United States, allowing donors to receive maximum value for their donation.
Exploring international charities is not without its challenges. For example, we have been contacted by groups who would like us to review their work, but we have been unable to proceed, despite thinking it plausible that they are doing high impact work, simply because they do not have resources in English. Even if the leadership for that organization speaks fluent English, we wouldn’t be able to garner an understanding of the effectiveness of their tactics and materials; instead we would just be relying on communication from a single source, which would not be representative of the organization as a whole. It also wouldn’t be fair to our other charities if we made exceptions and spent significant extra time for individual charities, just to understand basic explanations of their work from leadership. Even if we did make extra effort to examine these charities, the majority of donors to our top charities are currently from the United States, and they would be less likely to be able to navigate these groups’ websites and materials, even to confirm our most general claims.
When we do find international charities that have resources in English, we consider reviewing them in the same way that we do for US charities. Even then, we have experienced some challenges in communication. These include: different accounting practices; records in another language (even if they have other resources and can communicate verbally in English); resources in English that may not be updated as frequently as other materials (something we might not be aware of when initially reviewing an organization); verbal communication challenges. Apart from communication, there are also cultural challenges; we don’t have as good of an ability to recognize a reasonable claim about effects of interventions in, for example, India as we do in understanding the effects in the US .
Despite these difficulties, we still believe it is worthwhile to look for and examine international organizations. So far, this belief has borne fruit: Two of our recommended charities (Top Charity: Animal Equality, Standout Charity: Albert Schweitzer Foundation) operate primarily or entirely outside the US. We feel both of these organizations conduct exceptional work and serve as strong examples of how to effectively run an animal advocacy organization. Because we have had success in locating high performing international charities thus far, we will continue to look for and review other high-potential international charities.