As summer draws to a close, we are continuing to navigate this global pandemic and time of economic, political, and social uncertainty. In order to be able to give our full support to our recommended charities and Effective Animal Advocacy Fund grantees during this year’s particularly unpredictable giving season, we have decided to launch our own fundraising campaign earlier than in previous years.
Like our recommended charities, Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) depends on the generosity of our supporters to make our work reducing animal suffering possible. Our goal this year is to raise $1 million to cover our operating expenses. So far, we have raised approximately $700,000 to support our operations, research, and charity evaluations, including a generous $60,000 donation from a lead donor to kick off our fundraising campaign.
We opted not to increase our 2020 fundraising goal for two main reasons. First, given the especially unpredictable state of the global economy, we want to remain conservative in our growth until we are able to better understand how charitable giving will be affected. Second, while we significantly exceeded our 2019 goal of influencing $7 million to our recommended charities and grantees, we did not meet our fundraising goal to support ACE’s own operating budget, forcing us to dip into our financial reserves. Our goals with this year’s budget are to retain our talented international staff, hire only new team members who will fill essential roles, and stabilize our supporter base—enabling us to continue supporting the effective animal advocacy movement through whatever the future may bring.
Here are a few of the ways that we’ve adapted our 2020 budget and goals from previous years:
Focused on retaining, developing, and supporting our staff
ACE has been pleased to add three new members to our remote team, increasing our capacity to carry out our core programs while ensuring that our team members’ workloads remain sustainable, particularly as we all navigate the impact this year’s global events have had on our lives. We hired a full-time Senior Researcher, specialized in economics, to contribute to our charity evaluation process and other research; a part-time Copy Editor to assist with the volume of digital and print information that our organization produces, particularly during our charity evaluations; and a full-time Philanthropy Officer to help us raise critical funds for ACE, our Recommended Charity Fund, and our Effective Animal Advocacy Fund.
We have developed a comprehensive compensation model to enable us to attract and retain talented staff members while ensuring that their work is equitably compensated. Additionally, we have improved our health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) offerings to U.S. staff members, increased the amount of sick leave available for our entire international staff, and improved our vacation day policy for most team members in order to ensure equity across the countries in which we operate. We are in the process of developing a sabbatical policy that we hope will allow us to retain tenured team members while permitting them to take a step back from their roles every few years in order to return with fresh, inspiring ideas.
Reduced budget in non-essential areas
Part of our effort to operate as conservatively as possible this fiscal year has been to reduce the amount we spend on program areas that are less essential to our core programs. This led us to the difficult decision to pause our paid internship program for the second half of 2020, with staff retention being our priority. If we are successful in meeting our fundraising goal this year, we plan to resume our internship program in early 2021.
Additionally, the context of a global pandemic has caused us to shift budget away from in-person activities such as retreats and conferences. Instead, we held our two retreats virtually this year, and we have participated in and hosted several virtual speaking engagements. Rather than handing out our printed materials at in-person events, we have experimented with sending our publications to our key stakeholders via post.
Identified low-cost technological solutions to benefit our operations
We have spent a modest amount of our budget on low-cost technologies and services that we think will benefit our work in cost-effective ways. Most significantly, we’ve implemented an organization-wide project management tool to enhance our recent transition to an agile operating model. We increased the speed and reliability of our website to improve user experience by moving to a new hosting provider. We hired an external Google AdWords expert who has more efficiently organized our AdWords grant account, saving us time and effort. Also, we are investing in a new fundraising partnership that we hope will enable us to reach more donors within the cryptocurrency community.
Increased spending on priority areas to benefit our core programs
We have thoughtfully selected a few priority areas of our work where we think that increased spending will result in especially large returns in our ability to effectively help animals.
We’ve increased the number of charities that we are reviewing to 14, and we’ve invested in our ability to better understand and evaluate charities working in important and neglected geographic areas. We have allocated budget toward translating some of our charity evaluation materials into other languages, allowing us to review charities in places such as Brazil, China, Italy, Russia, and Chile, to name a few. We are working with an external academic researcher to develop country profiles for priority regions so that we can build on our understanding of effective ways forward in parts of the world with large amounts of animal suffering and relatively few animal advocates.
We opted to have our in-house researchers review grant proposals for our Animal Advocacy Research Fund (AARF), rather than an external committee. While this decision makes higher use of our staff’s time, we felt it was well worth the investment in order to ensure that the focus areas of AARF grant recipients closely align with the research priorities that we have identified through our charity evaluation and grant-making processes.
In December, we are planning to conduct an all-staff training session with an external expert on Representation, Equity, and Inclusion. While this was a decision we made at the beginning of the year, the recent Black Lives Matter uprising has highlighted the urgent need for the effective animal advocacy movement to focus more attention on racial justice and consider how our relationship with other social causes affects our work.
In response to the unexpected global events that the effective animal advocacy movement and the rest of the world are still facing, we have dedicated some of our staff time to special projects that we hope will support advocates, charities, and donors in navigating the new challenges that have arisen. These projects include our blog post on how our recommended charities are adapting to COVID-19, as well as our statement in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter uprising.
It is the generosity of our supporters that makes ACE’s work possible. We hope that you appreciate what we have accomplished so far this year and that you are inspired by the ways in which we have adapted to global events. By helping us meet our fundraising goal, you will allow us to shift our focus to supporting our recommended charities and our Effective Animal Advocacy Fund during this important giving season. Please consider making a gift today so that we can continue to support advocates, charities, and donors in navigating this challenging context in 2021.