In this post, some ACE staff members explain where they gave their charity contributions this year. This is intended to give interested readers examples of different approaches to charitable giving, from some of the people who are most familiar with our materials.
Sofia Davis-Fogel, Managing Director
This year I was very excited to donate to Albert Schweitzer Foundation (ASF), ACE’s newest Top Charity. ASF pursues interventions that seem likely to be highly effective, and they continuously measure the impact of their work, actively looking for ways to improve their materials and strategy. Of most importance to me is the fact that ASF is one of the first animal charities beginning to prioritize corporate outreach on behalf of farmed fishes. A forthcoming ACE report estimates that there were between 52 billion and 167 billion (midpoint 109.5 billion) fishes farmed globally in 2015—yet there are relatively few resources allocated to improving their welfare. ASF aims to raise welfare standards in the aquaculture industry, specifically with regard to water quality, feed, use of medicine, transportation and handling, and stunning and slaughter methods. They have also created a list of research priorities for fish welfare work (and are supporting individuals undertaking some of this work), commissioned a 2017 study on consumer attitudes towards fishes, and are engaging with key stakeholders, presenting at conferences and workshops, and collaborating with international organizations.
I’ve also donated to ACE Standout Charity Otwarte Klatki (Open Cages) this year. Open Cages operates in a part of the world where the animal agriculture industry is relatively large and the animal advocacy movement is relatively small, so they are well-positioned to engage in highly impactful work. On a programmatic level, I usually prioritize advocacy on the part of animals farmed for food over animals farmed for fur because of the relative scale of these industries. However, Open Cages operates in Poland and Lithuania, where the exploitation of animals for fur is comparable in scale to that of the exploitation of some species farmed for food. For this reason, I support Open Cages’ substantial allocation of resources toward the alleviation of suffering on fur farms. On an operational level, as noted in our 2017 review of Open Cages, they demonstrate a willingness and ability to improve their approaches and tactics, sometimes discarding ineffective programs to make room for more effective ones; they view failure as a “positive byproduct” of vigorous efforts to find the best way to effect change. I continue to be impressed with Open Cages’ work, and was excited to learn that this year they are increasing the independence of their Ukrainian team and are expanding into Russia. Given their excellent track record and their exceptional leadership, I expect them to continue to do highly impactful work.
I am pleased to continue supporting Animal Equality, which has been an ACE Top Charity for four out of the past five years. Animal Equality achieves significant successes with very small amounts of money; specifically, they have conducted undercover investigations for a fraction of the cost of some other organizations. They have particularly strong international programs, having hired mostly local staff with strong cultural knowledge in each region in which they operate. I find their legal outreach in Mexico, India, and the European Union to be especially important, in addition to their support of legislative initiatives in the United States. Animal Equality also has visionary leadership and a generally healthy work culture, which contributes to my confidence in their long-term organizational stability. My donation to Animal Equality was doubled because of their current matching campaign.
I have also donated to Encompass again this year. Encompass is filling an important gap in the movement, working not only to support advocates with marginalized identities but also to help organizations shift their perspectives and improve their processes so that they can better incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion into their approach to advocacy—thus increasing their effectiveness. In her interview with ACE, Founder and Executive Director Aryenish Birdie pointed out that “[d]iverse, equitable, and inclusive groups are more creative, insightful, and productive than homogenous ones” and that they “better reflect our evolving world—which means they are more adaptable, resilient, and successful.”
I have also made some smaller donations this year to other effective animal advocacy charities. Sinergia Animal is a brand new ACE Standout Charity in Latin America with only three staff members and a disproportionately long list of accomplishments. They are highly collaborative; rather than starting from scratch, they work with established organizations and learn from the successes of corporate campaigns in the U.S. They then apply these strategies to their advocacy in more neglected countries. I’ve also donated to Mercy For Animals, whose new president Leah Garces has brought her sharp insights, extensive domain knowledge, and nonprofit management expertise from her recent role as executive director at Compassion in World Farming USA (which also received a small donation from me this year, as did The Humane League—the only organization to receive a Top Charity designation in every single ACE evaluation cycle). I also contributed to L214 Éthique & Animaux, an ACE Standout Charity operating in France. L214 does a number of things, but I’m most excited by their institutional campaigns and their investigations; they seem to have made an impressive amount of progress in a short amount of time. This—combined with the fact that animal advocacy seems to be somewhat neglected in France—leads me to believe that their work may be highly cost effective. Additionally, when I spoke to members of L214’s team during the 2017 charity review process, they impressed me: they are passionate and directed, and they demonstrated a firm understanding of the context in which their advocacy operates, as well as a strong sense of the steps needed in order to achieve success.
Lastly, I donated very small amounts to a few non-animal charities. For a friend’s birthday I donated to the International Rescue Committee, whose mission is to respond to the world’s worst crises and help people survive and rebuild their lives. They strive to fulfill this mission “with the greatest possible degree of effectiveness and efficiency,” and “have a strong commitment to research, evaluation and learning.” I also donated to the New York Public Library in order to contribute to preserving free and accessible educational resources, and to Give Power, a charity that provides solar energy systems that power food production, clean water, and electricity. The energy is directed to schools, businesses, and emergency services in Haiti, Kenya, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Congo.
Toni Adleberg, Director of Research
I made the majority of my donations this year on Giving Tuesday so that they could be matched through Facebook. (Thanks so much to the group who organized the EA pledges and tracked them afterwards!) I’m happy to report that my donations were registered in the first eight seconds and qualified for the match.
This is the first year I’ve personally given to ACE or our Recommended Charity Fund (RCF). In the past, I have used a higher portion of my personal donations to support newer and/or smaller charities that I felt had the potential to do a lot of good. I changed my giving strategy this year for two reasons. First, I think that both our evaluation process and our Top Charities are continuing to get stronger every year. This year, our RCF is supporting not three but four charities that are pretty hard to beat in terms of impact per dollar. Second, I am less concerned this year about ACE’s potential to direct too many resources to too few charities—a concern that I’ve heard discussed among EAs as well as directly from advocates working at those newer or smaller charities.
The first year that ACE released recommendations, we influenced just under $150,000 to our recommended charities. Back then, since we were moving a relatively small amount of money, I think it made sense to direct every penny we could to the few charities we’d selected as the most effective. However, our influence has steadily grown each year. As we began influencing millions of dollars to our recommended charities, concerns have grown that we might be preventing new groups from emerging (and potentially becoming new recommended charities) by supporting only groups that were already established. Because of this concern, I used my personal donations in 2016 and 2017 to support newer and/or smaller groups like Wild-Animal Suffering Research and Collectively Free.
This year, however, I think we’ve found a way to address this potential problem via our new Effective Animal Advocacy Fund, the purpose of which is to support the effectiveness of the entire movement, viewed as an ecosystem rather than a bunch of charities working in isolation. It allows us to make grants to all kinds of effective work, and to prioritize promising groups that especially need the funding. Now that ACE as an organization has more flexibility to direct funding in response to the movement’s needs, I as an individual am happy to direct my marginal donations to our recommended charities.
Erika Alonso, Director of Communications
My partner Adam and I share finances, but he largely defers to my judgement on where we donate. Our donations throughout 2018 were very similar to prior years, and along the same lines of reasoning. One change is that we allocated more of our donations to funds as opposed to individual charities—this year we donated to both ACE’s Effective Animal Advocacy Fund and Recommended Charity Fund. We’re excited to diversify our giving portfolio based on ACE’s recommendations, not only across Top and Standout charities, but to small but promising charities working within the animal advocacy space as well. In addition, we made donations to The Good Food Institute and Animal Equality, both of which we believe to be doing some of the best work for animals at the moment. We also made small one-time and monthly donations to ACE.
We also continued our sponsorship of a chicken with Farm Sanctuary. This donation is a gift to my niece in lieu of other gifts, and we hope it inspires her to think differently about farmed animals. Additionally, we donated to Food Empowerment Project for their continued work on food justice and promoting ethical veganism. Finally, we also made a small donation to Compassion in World Farming USA as part of a Facebook birthday fundraiser.
Our last donation of the year will go to Strong Minds, as they are working in a cause area that resonates with me on a personal level, and one that we believe is high impact and largely neglected. In the future, I hope to see more mental health focused charities recommended within the effective altruism community, as it’s a cause area I strongly support but am uncertain about the effectiveness of organizations working in this space.
Gina Stuessy, Director of Operations
I consider myself a part of the effective altruism movement, and each year I aim to contribute substantially to high-impact causes. I believe the main way I’m having an impact is through the work I do for ACE, so this year I decided to give most of my financial contributions to another neglected, important cause area: existential risks facing humanity. I donated to the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute, a think tank that analyzes risks to the survival of human civilization and aims to develop ways to confront those threats.
In addition, I made smaller donations to ACE’s Recommended Charity Fund and Effective Animal Advocacy (EAA) Fund. I’m confident in our research team’s work in choosing strong recommended charities, and am interested to learn about the process they will develop for choosing promising programs and charities to support via our EAA Fund.
Kathryn Asher, Research Scientist
As an effective altruist (EA), I consider a notable part of my contribution to be in-kind from the difference between what I make at ACE and what I might expect my salary to be if I aimed to maximize my earning potential. However, donating is also an important way that I feel I can contribute to doing the most good and offsetting some more net-negative aspects of my footprint. We donate as a household unit and as the EA among us, I take the lead with the bulk of our giving decisions while my husband’s job is what creates room in our budget for giving back.
The primary recipient of our donations in 2018 was The Good Food Institute (GFI). We make planned monthly donations to GFI and also made one-time gifts on Giving Tuesday and during the spring matching challenge coordinated by the Effective Altruism Foundation and Raising for Effective Giving. I see substantial value in donating to GFI both because of their status as an ACE Top Charity and because as someone who has dedicated much personal and professional effort to uncovering how to change people’s diets, I know that this is a hard-fought battle. I hope that GFI’s work to transform the food landscape will allow us to increasingly shift our focus away from changing individual behavior and more towards promoting product substitution at the institutional level. In my most optimistic predictions, I see this eventually manifesting as consumer indifference to whether their meat and other animal products are conventionally-produced or cell-based, akin to how consumers now are indifferent to whether their meat comes from farm A or farm B. Also in the food tech space, we donate monthly to New Harvest, but I scaled back our contributions when they were no longer recognized as an ACE Standout Charity. This year we also made a small contribution to We Animals since I truly value Jo-Anne McArthur’s work (and personal sacrifice) in the area of the politics of sight.
I generally aim for three-quarters of our donations to go to animal-related charities, with the other quarter going to human-focused ones. In 2018 this materialized more as a 70/30 split. I have a much weaker knowledge base about the performance of human-related charities and so happily follow GiveWell’s advice for this type of giving. We have been donating monthly to the Against Malaria Foundation and also supported them during the spring matching challenge. When GiveWell released their latest recommendations I decided to follow their advice to the letter and donated directly to them on Giving Tuesday, which allows them to use their discretion to allocate the funds toward the highest priority needs of their Top Charities.
Some of our household donations (10% on estimate) are not aimed to be highly impactful giving opportunities. I give donations for some birthday and Christmas gifts and try to gear these to the recipient’s interests. My husband donates to a local TNR cat rescue organization when they are facing particularly lean times and also makes donations through his work for things such as casual Fridays, 50/50 draws, and co-workers’ fundraisers. There are times that I do not escape the social pressure to donate, which I run across least pleasurably in line at the grocery store when asked to support a heart-tugging cause with many an onlooker behind me. Somehow it never feels quite right to use my abstention as an opportunity kick off a discussion about scale, tractability, and neglectedness.
Jamie Spurgeon, Research Associate
The largest portion of my donations this year has been to The Good Food Institute (GFI) following their renewed status as a Top Charity. Aside from being continually impressed with the work GFI does, I suspect that they will play a crucial role in the move away from factory farming. I think most of the people who have shifted their diets towards veganism so far are likely to be the low hanging fruit of the general population—those who, due to factors of their personality, upbringing, etc, are more susceptible to making this change. Given that it has already been challenging to secure the dietary shifts we’ve seen so far, I would expect that this will become increasingly difficult without continually reducing the barriers that prevent people from changing. One of the main barriers, in my opinion, is the perceived sacrifice a meat eater must make by giving up the foods they enjoy. This is a barrier that can be reduced through the increased availability of plant-based and eventually cultured animal products.
Another substantial portion of my donations this year was to ACE’s Effective Animal Advocacy (EAA) Fund. While I think ACE does a fantastic job with our charity evaluation process, there are certainly smaller organizations pursuing new and/or novel interventions that may not be established enough to secure a recommendation, but would greatly benefit from early funding nonetheless. ACE would not be here today without the early support from donors who thought our work looked promising, and our broad view of the movement puts us in a good position to now identify similar promising opportunities. The call for applications for EAA Fund grants has just gone out, and I’m very excited to be a part of the grant-making process in January.
Also within the animal space, I made smaller donations to support our other Top Charities, The Humane League, Animal Equality, and newly appointed Albert Schweitzer Foundation. I think that all of these organizations are doing fantastic work, and they offer a high-impact, but lower risk donation option in the event that cultured meat development faces insurmountable hurdles. I am particularly excited about the corporate outreach work these groups are doing, especially the early successes ASF has seen with fish, which are currently a hugely neglected group.
Finally, I like to make a smaller set of donations (~15%) outside of the effective animal advocacy space to cause areas that I think seem worthy of more attention. This year I made donations to both the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, and The Beckley Foundation here in the U.K. After reading Michael Pollan’s book How to Change Your Mind and subsequently following some of the research being done into psychedelics, I think there seems to be substantial promise in the treatment of several mental health conditions, such as PTSD, depression, and addiction—not to mention more foundational neuroscience research that may be a window into better understanding consciousness. While most of the research is in early stages, there are a few avenues that may also be beneficial to animal advocates down the line. Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) is a common experience amongst many members of the movement, particularly those who are being directly exposed to the suffering of animals on a regular basis, and the positive results seen in PTSD treatment so far seem promising should they generalize to STS. Secondly, any gains in our understanding of consciousness would likely be useful to our work, as it may allow us to draw more definitive lines between the experiences of human and nonhuman animals.
Trent Grassian, Research Associate
My donation priorities are to support work that simultaneously addresses human and non-human animal suffering. This is a highly neglected component within the animal advocacy movement and represents an excellent opportunity to support and create a sustainable future. Through my own background as a researcher into the promotion of sustainable dietary transitions toward veganism, I have encountered a variety of excellent organizations working in these areas.
My partner and I have decided to support one organization and one individual that we believe are (a) highly impactful, (b) have room for expansion, and (c) address key intersections of human and non-human oppression. We also choose to support fewer organizations through larger monthly donations as these allow charities to incorporate these amounts into their monthly income and reduce transaction costs. As we spent most of the year on a fixed income as I finished my PhD, our donation capacity has been more limited than we would like, but we look forward to continuing to support these organizations in a more significant capacity into 2019.
We contribute to the Patreon for Christopher Sebastian, who is a renowned academic, speaker, blogger, author, and thinker in deconstructing non-human and human oppression. He also supports a variety of organizations, including being the editor and social media manager for the Peace Advocacy Network, being on the advisory board for Black Vegans Rock and Encompass, and co-founding VGN.
Christopher Sebastian also supports A Well-Fed World (AWFW) as a writer and researcher, the primary organization we support. AWFW is unique in its approach, addressing human hunger and animal suffering simultaneously by providing plant-based food to impoverished communities around the world. This is an area of incredible importance, especially as we increasingly rely on animal-based foods and climate change continues to decrease food production and access. AWFW’s work is a model for governmental and non-governmental organizations looking to create a sustainable future. They also engage in vegan advocacy and community building programs, and they provide grants to a wide variety of projects that address both human and animal suffering around the world.
This year my partner and I also ran our first half-marathon and used this as an opportunity to raise money for Animal Aid, a U.K.-based animal rights organization working on a variety of high-impact areas. Among other accomplishments, they recently worked to pass legislation mandating CCTV cameras in all slaughterhouses throughout the U.K. They have also successfully campaigned for all but one of the U.K.’s largest supermarkets to clearly label their vegan products. We have also made some smaller donations to other organizations in support of races our friends are participating in and as birthday/holiday presents.
Melissa Guzikowski, Managing Editor
Though my primary goal is to reduce animal suffering, this year I have divided my donations between animal and non-animal charities.
For animal charities, I will be donating to The Good Food Institute (GFI) and the Albert Schweitzer Foundation (ASF), two of ACE’s four 2018 recommended Top Charities. I support GFI because they promote the development of cellular agriculture. Unfortunately, I don’t think the world is going to take on a vegan ethic anytime soon, so I believe it’s essential that we create price-competitive alternatives to traditional animal products that can appeal to many people in the meantime. ASF is also doing fantastic work. I’m particularly interested in their farmed fish advocacy, since I believe that farmed fish suffering is extremely large in scale and highly neglected.
For my donations outside of animal advocacy, I relied mostly on the effective altruism organization GiveWell’s research and recommendations. After examining their recommended charities, I chose to donate to GiveDirectly and the Against Malaria Foundation, two organizations that engage in potentially high-impact work in some of the world’s poorest countries. I participated in a matching challenge on GivingTuesday and had my donation to GiveDirectly doubled.