Below, we discuss last year’s prospective goals and whether we were able to meet them. Looking back at 2015, we are satisfied that we achieved a large percentage of what we hoped to achieve over the past year. You can find more details about our achievements in our Year in Review, and we will post about our prospective goals for 2016 soon.
Our Progress on 2015 Prospective Goals:
- Move at least $200,000 to our top charities in 2015. We moved over $826,000 (that we know about) to our top charities in 2015, far surpassing our goal for the year. This amount was an increase of $685,000 from our previous year, and amounted to influencing more than $5 in donations to our recommended charities for every $1 that we spent.
- Improve tracking of money moved. We added a donation distribution tracking mechanism on our site, allowing us to facilitate the process of donating to our top charities and better track the amount of money that we have influenced in giving to our top charities. Two of our recommended charities also featured check boxes on their donate pages where donors could indicate that they were influenced by ACE’s recommendation.
- Create more intervention reports using our intervention evaluation template. Although we spent a large portion of the year periodically working on our intervention report on undercover investigations, we were unable to finalize a report before the end of the year. Some of this was due to waiting for confirmation that we could publish some sensitive information that we learned during the process. This undercover investigation report will be released within the next week. We also did not initiate additional reports partly due to a staff transition period over the summer which absorbed some of the time of the research team.
- Provide additional details about our organization recommendation process, and expand our list of considered charities. We have now investigated a total of 326 charities, and published a total of 14 new or updated reviews on our website in 2015. We conducted our first deep review of The Humane League, which involved a much more detailed look into their organization (note that we will be writing about our thoughts on the value of deep reviews in the coming months). We constructed a page detailing our 2015 review process which attempts to explain our thinking as we selected our recommendations. We had also planned to spend more time writing about our review process mid-year in 2015, but ended up needing to postpone that writing until this year due to time spent dealing with staff transitions.
- Improve transparency. We continue to strive to have a high level of transparency whenever possible. We continue to update pages with our board meeting minutes, our mistakes, our policies, and our budget. We will include an updated version of our prospective goals page for 2016 soon. We also produced more posts on our thinking, including a summary and detailed explanation of our thoughts on cause prioritization.
- Release bi-monthly case studies of social justice movements. We produced three case studies in 2015, and an additional two case studies were in progress at the end of the year. We did not meet our goals for this area for several reasons. Over the past year, we had interns working on these case studies, but occasionally interns were a better fit for other projects so we had them focus on other more appropriate areas. We also had one intern leave in the middle of his case study, and that one has not been revisited yet. We hope to produce five case studies by the end of 2016.
- Release bi-monthly interviews with experts from relevant fields. We met our goal of producing six interviews with advocacy and industry professionals, producing interesting information for us and all advocacy groups to consider in being as effective as possible. You can see a list of all the interviews that we have conducted on our conversations and interviews page.
- Create a library of resources on topics related to effective advocacy. We published an “effective animal advocacy” library on our site, a resource which provides a categorization of studies relevant to effective advocacy. We intend to improve the functionality of this library in 2016, such as through adding more search functionality through the use of tags, and add more content as relevant.
- Improve functionality of our site. We spent resources working to optimize the functionality of our site. This includes conducting user testing sessions with a third-party company to better understand the user experience. We also began conducting A/B tests on certain pages to maximize conversions. Some changes that we’ve implemented as a result of these efforts include making design changes to our donate page, adding a scroll to top button for longer pages, and modifications to our navigation menu.
- Explore the effectiveness of niche areas of animal advocacy. We spent some time looking into niche areas, and some of these efforts resulted in the recommendation of charities working in unconventional ways to help animals. This includes organizations focused on promoting cultured meat, working on attaining legal rights for animals, and considering wild animal suffering.
- Increase networking with academics. We continued our conversations with academics in 2015, but we don’t feel that our efforts in this area have been especially productive at this point in time. However, we feel there is still great potential in collaborating with academics and researchers. Our work in this area made the need for increased visibility and networking apparent, and to that end we are hosting an academic conference near the end of 2016 that will seek to unite researchers and academics with advocacy leaders to inspire research that will maximally benefit animals. Work on this project began in fall of 2015 when we brought in an intern (Sofia Davis-Fogel) to specifically focus on it, and she has since been hired on as a part-time staff member to organize the conference.
- Increase promotion of our work. We held several presentations in 2015, including at the Animal Rights conference, at the San Diego VegFest, and at a panel on effective altruism for animals at NYU on behalf of the Animal Studies Initiative. We sent out press releases at appropriate times to increase our odds of being seen in the media – some examples include stories on Medium and VegNews and blogs our staff wrote for HuffPost. Our AdWords funding increased considerably, and we spent staff time refining our advertising strategy to maximize quality traffic on our site.
- Increase our following on social media. We exceeded our targets for followers on both Twitter and Facebook, reaching a total of 1,004 on Twitter and 4,533 on Facebook. Our social media following grew substantially during the final months of 2015 due to an increased focus on building engagement and the use of advertising.
- Diversify funding base. We greatly reduced our reliance on internal (staff and board) donations (which only totaled 5% of our donations in 2015, as compared to over 30% in 2014), accruing considerable support from the community including several larger contributions. We raised considerably more than expected in 2015, and have quickly adapted our plans to account for this additional income by doubling the size of our staff and budget in 2016. We will post about our continued need for more funding in the coming weeks.