When we evaluate a charity comprehensively, we publish an estimate of the amount of additional funding we think the charity could use effectively the following year. Since we can’t predict exactly how any charity will respond upon receiving more funds than they have planned for, these estimates are speculative—not definitive. We could imagine a charity running out of room for funding more quickly than we expect, or coming up with good ways to use funding beyond what we have suggested.
When we wrapped up our evaluation process in November 2016, we made a plan to seek updates in May 2017 from some of our recommended charities about their room for funding. We felt it was possible that one or more of our Top Charities may receive a substantial portion of the funds we estimated they could use effectively by this point in the year. For that reason, we decided to check in with them so that we could determine whether we might want to recommend that donors cut back on funding those charities for the remainder of the year. If so, we would suggest that donors direct remaining funds to our other Top Charities instead—and possibly to some of our Standout Charities.1
Last month, we corresponded by e-mail with The Good Food Institute, Mercy For Animals, and The Humane League and asked about their room for more funding. We followed up with The Humane League by phone. Ultimately, we decided not to update our advice to donors. We still feel that each of our Top Charities are excellent opportunities for donating effectively.
Finally, we spoke with Animal Equality in order to learn whether our 2016 recommendation change had significant effects for them. We also asked about their progress on resolving the concerns we had last fall. Our goal was to determine whether they would be a suitable candidate for more funding in the case that our Top Charities had less room for funding than anticipated.
The Good Food Institute’s Room for More Funding
GFI’s 2016 budget was $2.5 million. Last November, we predicted that they could use at least $3 million to $3.5 million in funding in 2017.2 When we checked in with them last month, they reported that between December 1, 2016 and April 30, 2017, they raised a total of $1,422,102. We believe that GFI still has significant room for more funding this year, so we did not follow up any further.
Mercy For Animals’ Room for More Funding
MFA’s 2016 budget was $7.3 million. Last November, we predicted that they could use at least $8.3 million in funding in 2017.3 When we checked in with them last month, they reported that between December 1, 2016 and April 30, 2017, they raised a total of around $5.2 million. We believe that MFA still has significant room for more funding this year, so we did not follow up any further.
The Humane League’s Room for More Funding
THL’s 2016 budget was $1.6 million. Last November, we predicted that they could use at least $2.6 million in funding in 2017.4 When we checked in with them last month, they reported that between December 1, 2016 and April 30, 2017, they raised a total of around $3.3 million, including $1 million in committed (but not yet received) grant funds.
To learn more about THL’s room for funding, we spoke with Executive Director David Coman-Hidy. We asked about THL’s plans for using more funding, whether they are currently hiring, and we asked for more information about the grants they’ve received.
Coman-Hidy reports that THL has begun expanding into the U.K. and is looking to further extend their reach overseas, particularly through their international grant program, the Open Wing Alliance. They’ve also opened an office in New York City, expanded their campus outreach program, and they’re in the process of hiring a fourth staff member in Mexico. Before the end of the year, they plan to invest greater resources in administrative support, communications, and development.
THL has already budgeted their 2016 grants from the Open Philanthropy Project, though two installments remain forthcoming. The grant will be used for campaigns (both internationally and in the U.S.) and for general organizational support.
While THL has already received more funding that we predicted they would be able to use this year (including their forthcoming grant money), Coman-Hidy hopes that THL can raise an additional $2.2 million–$2.7 million this year. We are well aware that virtually any executive director of a nonprofit is likely to report a large need for more funding. Still, we are encouraged by THL’s specific plans for expansion, their intent to invest in development, and the fact that they generally do not seem to have trouble filling open positions. They don’t show any obvious signs that they are growing too quickly or struggling to use funds effectively. However, we are less confident that THL has substantial room for more funding than we are about GFI and MFA’s room for more funding.
Animal Equality’s Room for More Funding
Animal Equality has been a Top Charity in previous years and they were a close contender for Top Charity status in 2016. We decided to check in with them last month to see whether some of our previous concerns about them had been resolved and to gain insight into the effect of our recommendation change for them. We also asked about their room for funding, thinking that we might try to direct more donations their way if they had significantly more room for funding than our Top Charities.
Animal Equality’s 2016 international income was $3.4 million. Last November, we predicted that they could use at least $4.4 million–$4.7 million in funding in 2017.5 When we checked in with them last month, they reported that between December 1, 2016 and April 30, 2017, they raised a total of $1,367,101. By comparison, between December 1, 2015 and April 30, 2016, they raised about $1.1 million. We suspect that they would have grown more this year if they had received our top recommendation, but we were happy to learn that they are still growing.
To learn more about Animal Equality’s progress since our last review, we spoke with International Director Sharon Núñez Gough. We inquired about their plans for using more funding, their corporate campaigns, and their other recent accomplishments. We also asked about their operations and communications procedures, since these areas concerned us last year.
Nũnez Gough reports that Animal Equality has had 12 corporate policy victories since our last review. They are still looking to hire managing directors in various countries, an international managing director, a data analyst (funding permitting), and a staff of lawyers in India. In 2016–2017, Animal Equality has hired more people to help with operations and communication, including Development Director William Rivas-Rivas. We’ve already observed an improvement in Animal Equality’s communications since the hiring of Rivas-Rivas, and some of the donors with whom we communicate have also noticed an improvement. We stand by our advice to donors from 2016; we recommend that those who supported Animal Equality in previous years continue to do so. We plan to offer Animal Equality another full review later this year.
We are fairly confident that GFI and MFA can continue to use more funds effectively this year. We are less confident about THL’s room for more funding, as they have already surpassed the amount we initially thought they could use. However, since we have not seen any evidence that THL is growing too quickly or struggling to use their funds effectively, we continue to promote donations to our three Top Charities equally. Of course, we will once again re-evaluate our advice to donors this fall, when we write our next set of reviews.
“GFI projects a budget of $2.5 million for 2016, including the income needed to establish an initial operating reserve equal to 6 months’ expenses. This figure includes half of the $1 million two-year grant to GFI made by the Open Philanthropy Project. We think they could use at least $500,000 to $1 million more in 2017, to finish filling their operating reserve and possibly to begin some of their additional planned expansion.”―Animal Charity Evaluators’ Review of The Good Food Institute (2016)
“We think that MFA could use at least $1 million to $2 million more in funding next year than they had this year. It’s likely that they would use most of the increase to fund additional programs outside the U.S., including corporate outreach and institutional meat-reduction programs.”―Animal Charity Evaluators’ Review of Mercy For Animals (2016)
“THL’s goal is to raise about $1.5 million more in 2017 than in 2016. Given the amount they expanded in 2016, it does seem reasonable that they would be able to use at least $1 million to $1.5 million more in 2017 than 2016. Given the timing of the Open Philanthropy Project grants, we estimate that they will provide about $500,000 of this, so that at least $500,000 to $1 million is left to other donors to contribute.”―Animal Charity Evaluators’ Review of The Humane League (2016)
“We think Animal Equality could effectively use an increase in funding of at least $1 million to $1.3 million this year, which would allow them to grow in 2017, but not to double their current size.”―Animal Charity Evaluators’ Review of Animal Equality (2016)