Archived Version: December, 2019
|Primary Work Area||Industrial Agriculture|
|Secondary Work Area||Capacity Building|
|Website||Compassion in World Farming USA|
|Review Published||December, 2019|
|Current Version||November, 2021|
|Last Updated||December, 2019|
What does Compassion in World Farming USA do?
Compassion in World Farming is an international organization working to improve farmed animal welfare. Their mission is to end all factory farming practices and advance the well-being of farmed animals globally. Founded in 1967 by a British dairy farmer against the introduction of factory farming practices and the increasingly poor conditions in which animals were being kept, they have nearly 50 years of campaigning experience.
In 2011 they formed a branch specific to the United States. This review focuses on their U.S. branch only.1 In the U.S., they are focused on changing corporate practices and policies through corporate campaigns, their Food Business program, and their 25×25 program. These programs seek to influence retailers, food services, and manufacturers to adopt animal welfare policies and practices that measurably improve the lives of farmed animals or reduce the number of animals in supply chains. In support of this, they run initiatives to harness public engagement to influence these companies. To a smaller extent, they also support national legislative efforts as they pertain to banning close confinement systems and “ag-gag” bills.
What are their strengths?
Compassion in World Farming USA (Compassion USA) has a strong understanding of the worst abuses that occur in animal farming and they have tailored their approach to focus on combating the causes of the highest levels of suffering. They actively seek to improve their work and conduct research on how to be more effective. They focus on welfare reforms for broiler chickens and laying hens, and they are currently piloting a program to support companies in reducing the number of animals in their supply chains. Compassion USA works to ensure that companies follow through with their welfare pledges by monitoring compliance with their EggTrack and ChickenTrack reports.
Through their efforts in corporate and public outreach, Compassion USA has convinced key influencers to implement animal-friendly policies. This work likely impacts a larger number of animals than outreach to individuals. Compassion USA plays a different role in corporate campaigns than many of the other charities we evaluate. Rather than running negative campaigns against corporations, Compassion USA maintains collaborative working relationships with corporations, helping them to write and implement more animal-friendly policies and monitoring their implementation of these policies.
Compassion USA seems to have strong leadership and a well-developed and implemented strategic plan. They also show signs of a healthy organizational culture: We found that employee engagement at Compassion USA is high and that the culture supports a healthy work/life balance.
What are their weaknesses?
Compassion USA’s main programs focus on the problems with factory farms but don’t highlight issues with raising animals for food in general. We have concerns that addressing the issues of factory farms without making an ideological case against using animals for food in general may have long-term effects of increasing complacency in the use of animals for food. They have, however, recently launched a program to decrease the number of animals used in supply chains, though the effects of that program have yet to be seen. Compassion USA appears to have a healthy organizational culture, though their board could benefit from adding some members with more diverse backgrounds, occupations, and viewpoints. They could also likely benefit from adding members with a particular expertise on the animal advocacy movement in the U.S.
Why did we recommend them?
Compassion USA focuses on reducing the suffering of farmed animals, which we believe is a high-impact cause area. They engage in programs that seem likely to be highly impactful for animals in the short to medium term and that have the potential to be impactful in the long term when implemented thoughtfully: For instance, their corporate outreach campaigns to improve the welfare of broiler chickens and egg-laying hens are likely to reduce the suffering of a large number of animals. What’s more, their recent program to reduce the number of animals in food supply chains has the potential to reduce a large amount of animal products in major food businesses, and therefore to spare many farmed animals.
In general, we believe that Compassion USA has a strong commitment to effectiveness: They have demonstrated an ability to self-identify areas of success and failure and respond appropriately, and their strategy seems to be impact-driven and thoughtfully implemented based on research.
Compassion in World Farming USA has been one of our Standout Charities since November 2017.
We also have a review of the international organization based in the U.K.
Table of Contents
- How Compassion in World Farming USA Performs on our Criteria
- Interpreting our “Overall Assessments”
- Criterion 1: Does the charity engage in programs that seem likely to be highly impactful?
- Criterion 2: Does the charity have room for more funding and concrete plans for growth?
- Criterion 3: Does the charity possess a strong track record of success?
- Criterion 4: Does the charity operate cost-effectively, according to our best estimates?
- Criterion 5: Does the charity identify areas of success and failure and respond appropriately?
- Criterion 6: Does the charity have strong leadership and a well-developed strategic vision?
- Criterion 7: Does the charity have a healthy culture and a sustainable structure?
- Questions for Further Consideration
- Supplemental Materials
How Compassion in World Farming USA Performs on our Criteria
Interpreting our “Overall Assessments”
We provide an overall assessment of each charity’s performance on each criterion. These assessments are expressed as two series of circles. The number of teal circles represents our assessment of a charity’s performance on a given criterion relative to the other charities we’ve evaluated.
|A single circle indicates that a charity’s performance is weak on a given criterion, relative to the other charities we’ve evaluated:|
|Two circles indicate that a charity’s performance is average on a given criterion, relative to other charities we’ve evaluated:|
|Three circles indicate that a charity’s performance is strong on a given criterion, relative to the other charities we’ve evaluated:|
The number of gray circles indicates the strength of the evidence supporting each performance assessment and, correspondingly, our confidence in each assessment:
|Low confidence: Very limited evidence is available pertaining to the charity’s performance on this criterion, relative to other charities. The evidence that is available may be low quality or difficult to verify.|
|Moderate confidence: There is evidence supporting our conclusion, and at least some of it is high quality and/or verified with third-party sources.|
|High confidence: There is substantial high-quality evidence supporting the charity’s performance on this criterion, relative to other charities. There may be randomized controlled trials supporting the effectiveness of the charity’s programs and/or multiple third-party sources confirming the charity’s accomplishments.1|
Criterion 1: Does the charity engage in programs that seem likely to be highly impactful?
When we begin our evaluation process, we consider whether each charity is working in high-impact cause areas and employing effective interventions that are likely to produce positive outcomes for animals. These outcomes tend to fall under at least one of the categories described in our Menu of Outcomes for Animal Advocacy. These categories are: influencing public opinion, capacity building, influencing industry, building alliances, and influencing policy and the law.
Theory of Change
To communicate the process by which we believe a charity creates change for animals, we use theory of change diagrams. It is important to note that these diagrams are not complete representations of real-world mechanisms of change. Rather, they are simplified models that ACE uses to represent our beliefs about mechanisms of change. For the sake of simplicity, some diagrams may not include relatively small or uncertain effects.
A note about long-term impact
We do represent some of each charity’s long-term impact in our theory of change diagrams, though we are generally much less certain about the long-term impact of a charity or intervention than we are about more short-term impact. Because of this uncertainty, our reasoning about each charity’s impact (along with our diagrams) may skew towards overemphasizing short-term impact. Nevertheless, each charity’s long-term impact is plausibly what matters most. The potential number of individuals affected increases over time due to both human and animal population growth as well as an accumulation of generations of animals. The power of animal charities to effect change could be greater in the future if we consider their potential growth as well as potential long-term value shifts—for example, present actions leading to growth in the movement’s resources, to a more receptive public, or to different economic conditions could all potentially lead to greater magnitude of impact over time than anything that could be accomplished at present.
Interventions and Projected Outcomes
Compassion USA pursues several different avenues for creating change for animals: They work to influence public opinion, influence industry, build alliances, and influence policy and the law. Below, we describe the work that they do in each area, listed roughly in order of the financial resources they devote to each area (from highest to lowest).
Compassion USA works with corporations to adopt better animal welfare policies and ban particularly cruel practices in the animal agriculture industry. In the short to medium term, corporate outreach can create change for a larger number of animals than individual outreach can with the same amount of resources. It also seems more tractable to secure systemic change one corporation at a time rather than lobbying for larger-scale legislative change. Though the long-term effects of corporate outreach are yet to be seen, we believe that these interventions have a high potential to be impactful when implemented thoughtfully.
In previous years, Compassion USA worked to convince companies to implement cage-free egg commitments, and they are currently focusing on securing commitments to improve broiler chicken welfare. They are campaigning for companies to switch to higher welfare (but likely slower growing) breeds of broiler chickens, and to commit to provisions on stocking density, lighting, and environmental enrichments. Such commitments may lead to higher welfare but also to more animal days lived in factory farms. Compassion USA is also piloting a program to support companies in reducing the number of animals in their supply chains. We believe this may be an effective tactic to reduce the number of animals in factory farms.
Compassion USA also works to ensure that companies follow through with their welfare pledges. Their EggTrack report monitors which companies are on track to comply with their cage-free egg commitments. They expanded the program by creating a ChickenTrack report which monitors compliance with broiler welfare commitments. Many animal advocates are concerned that companies will fail to comply with welfare pledges.2 Tracking companies’ compliance allows Compassion USA and other advocacy organizations to exert pressure on companies that seem likely to fail to meet their commitments.
Compassion USA’s outreach to key influencers provides an avenue for high-impact work since it can involve convincing a few powerful people to make decisions that could influence the lives of millions of animals. We believe that the impact of building alliances varies considerably depending on who the key influencers are and the kinds of decisions they can make.
Since Compassion USA takes a highly collaborative approach to their corporate work, we consider their welfare campaigns to be alliance-building as well as influencing industry. They maintain collaborative working relationships with corporations, helping them to write and implement more animal-friendly policies and providing support for companies working to remove animals from their supply chains.
Influencing public opinion
Compassion USA works to influence individuals to adopt more animal-friendly attitudes and behaviors through online and media outreach. The effects of public outreach are particularly difficult to measure for at least two important reasons. First, most studies of the effects of public outreach rely on self-reported data, which is generally unreliable.3 Second, even if we understood the effects of public outreach on individual behavior, we still know very little about how animals are impacted by individuals engaging in behaviors such as changing their diet, deciding to vote for animal-friendly laws, or becoming activists. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the effectiveness of most public outreach interventions, we do think it’s important for the animal advocacy movement to target at least some outreach toward individuals. A shift in public attitudes and consumer preferences could help drive industry changes and lead to greater support for more animal-friendly policies; in fact, it might be a necessary precursor to more systemic change. On the whole, however, we believe that efforts to influence public opinion are much less neglected than other types of interventions as we describe in our Allocation of Movement Resources report.
The primary way that Compassion USA works to reach individuals is through online outreach, including petitions, producing and posting videos, and social media. They also seek media attention for their work. However, we are uncertain of the effect of online outreach and are concerned that the marginal impact may be fairly low, as people may not engage with the content very deeply.
Influencing policy and the law
Compassion USA engages in grassroots legislative advocacy. While legal change may take longer to achieve than some other forms of change, we suspect its effects to be particularly long-lasting. We believe that encoding protections for animals into the law is a key component in creating a society that is just and caring towards animals.
In 2018, Compassion USA rallied its supporters against the King Amendment—which would override some state animal welfare legislation—and in favor of California’s Proposition 12. We think that grassroots political campaigning can be highly impactful, though it’s our understanding that Compassion USA played a relatively small role in these campaigns.
Working to build the capacity of the animal advocacy movement can have a far-reaching impact. While capacity-building projects may not always help animals directly, they can help animals indirectly by increasing the effectiveness of other projects.
Compassion USA conducts animal welfare research, especially on chicken welfare. As part of their research, they produced cost-effectiveness estimates for corporate pledges. This type of research can help to inform the corporate outreach strategy used by Compassion USA as well as other organizations.
Criterion 2: Does the charity have room for more funding and concrete plans for growth?
We look to recommend charities that are not just high impact, but also have room to grow. Since a recommendation from us can lead to a large increase in a charity’s funding, we look for evidence that the charity will be able to absorb and effectively utilize funding that the recommendation may bring in. We consider whether there are any non-monetary barriers to the charity’s growth, such as time or talent shortages. To do this, we look at the charity’s recent financial history to see how they have dealt with growth over time and how effectively they have been able to utilize past increases in funding. We also consider the charity’s existing programs that need additional funding in order to fulfill their purpose, as well as potential areas for growth and expansion.
Since we can’t predict exactly how any organization will respond upon receiving more funds than they have planned for, our estimate is speculative, not definitive. It’s possible that a charity could run out of room for funding more quickly than we expect or come up with good ways to use funding beyond what we expect. We check in with each of our Top Charities mid-year about the funding they’ve received since the release of our recommendations, and we use the estimates presented below to indicate whether we still expect them to effectively absorb additional funding at that point.
Recent Financial History
The following chart shows Compassion USA’s recent revenue, assets,4 and expenses.5, 6 In this chart, the 2019 revenue and expenses are estimated based on the financials of the first six months of 2019.7 Compassion USA notes that they expect their funding to increase in the next year through their public engagement campaigns attracting new donors.8
Estimated Future Expenses
A charity may have room for more funding in many areas, and each area likely varies in its cost-effectiveness. In order to evaluate room for more funding over three priority levels, we consider each charity’s estimated future expenses,9 the relative cost-effectiveness10 of meeting each future expense, and the feasibility of meeting each expense if more funding were provided.11
|Estimated future expense||Funding estimate||Priority level|
|Hiring four to ten new staff members12||$90k to $0.60M13||High (40%) and moderate (60%)|
|Possible additional expenditures14||$15k to $0.28M||Low|
Estimated Room for More Funding
The cost of Compassion USA’s plans for expansion over the three priority levels is estimated via Guesstimate and visualized in the chart above. We estimate that Compassion USA’s plans for expansion would cost between $0.15M and $0.71M. Our room for more funding estimates include a linear projection of the charity’s revenue from previous years to predict the amount by which we expect the revenue to increase or decrease in the next year. Compassion USA has received funding influenced by ACE as a result of its prior Standout Charity status, so in order to more accurately estimate their room for more funding, we have subtracted the estimated ACE-influenced funding from our estimates of future revenue, which means the charity’s real 2020 revenue could be higher than the revenue we predict.15 Comparing Compassion USA’s estimated revenue for 201916 and 2020,17 this projection predicts that in the next year, the revenue will change between -$0.12M and $0.34M. As mentioned above, in order to account for our own impact, we have not included ACE-influenced revenue in this estimate. The estimates for change in revenue are more uncertain than the estimated costs of expansion, so we put limited weight on them in our analysis.
Criterion 3: Does the charity possess a strong track record of success?
Information about a charity’s track record can help us predict the charity’s future activities and accomplishments, which is information that cannot always be incorporated into our other criteria. An organization’s track record is sometimes a pivotal factor when our analysis otherwise finds limited differences between two charities.
In this section, we consider whether each charity’s programs have been well executed in the past by evaluating some of the key results that they have accomplished. Often, these outcomes are reported to us by the charities and we are not able to corroborate their reports.18 We do not expect charities to fabricate accomplishments, but we do think it’s important to be transparent about which outcomes are reported to us and which we have corroborated or identified independently. The following outcomes were reported to us unless indicated otherwise.
Compassion USA was founded in 2011 as a branch of Compassion International specific to the U.S. In 2013 they started their Food Business program and one year later, they launched their Public Engagement program. In 2018, they launched a new program called 25×25 (Eat Plants. For a Change). Below is our assessment of each of these programs, ordered according to the expenses invested in each one (from highest to lowest) in 2018–2019:
- Achieved at least 11 cage-free and 20 broiler welfare corporate commitments (2016–2019)
- Developed a global animal welfare policy with Subway (2018)
- Published three annual EggTrack reports20 which tracked companies’ progress on their cage-free commitments (2017–2019)
- Hosted four annual business-to-business Better Chicken Leadership Forums21 (2016–2019)
Compassion USA reported achieving 11 cage-free and 16 broiler welfare commitments from corporations in the U.S. from 2016 to 2017,22 as well as four broiler welfare commitments since 2018.23 Many of these corporate victories have been achieved in collaboration with others, so it is difficult to determine Compassion USA’s responsibility. But, if implemented, these policies will likely affect a large number of animals per year.24
Although Compassion USA continues engaging corporations to achieve new broiler welfare commitments,25 their Food Business program has focused on ensuring implementation by working in collaboration with companies and providing technical assistance. Since 2016, Compassion USA has consistently developed their annual Better Chicken Leadership Forum, which seems to strengthen their relationships with companies, probably increasing the likelihood of achieving and implementing more commitments.
Since 2017, they started to publish an annual EggTrack report that follows the cage-free commitments of corporations. Their 2018 version followed the progress of 27 more companies than the previous year and seems to be a useful tool to promote transparency in the marketplace and increase the implementation rate of cage-free commitments.26
- Achieved coverage of the 2018 EggTrack report in major media outlets, reaching millions of potential viewers28 (2018)
- Launched two campaigns to raise awareness of consumer deception and chicken suffering (2017, 2019)
- In cooperation with other organizations, supported the passage of Proposition 12 in California and helped defeat the King Amendment (2018)
Compassion USA’s Public Engagement program leads to change for animals through the support it provides for corporate outreach campaigns. In the past, Compassion USA has launched petitions to pressure specific companies to make commitments,29 and in 2018 they achieved large media attention for their 2018 EggTrack report.
In 2017, Compassion USA launched a video about consumer deception and broiler chicken suffering. The video receiving media coverage30 and in 2019, they launched another campaign with a video on the same topic.31 Although we are highly uncertain about the impacts of this work on animals, it is likely that it has exerted pressure on companies to make further broiler welfare commitments. This type of media may also have an effect on consumer attitudes and behaviors.
In 2018, Compassion USA contributed to the passage of Proposition 12 in California and the defeat of the King Amendment, an amendment that threatened to override some existing animal protection measures. Since these victories have been achieved in cooperation with other organizations and individuals, it is difficult to determine the extent to which Compassion USA’s Public Engagement program has led to an impact for animals. However, we believe that the large number of animals affected by these victories32 make Compassion USA’s legal advocacy work likely to be impactful.
- Engaged with three food businesses to begin execution of the Friendly Food Alliance pilots that seek 25% reduction of animal products by 202534 (2018–2019)
- Launched the “Eat Plants. For a Change.” campaign on popular media outlets35 (2018)
This recent program has been launched with the purpose of reducing the total number of animals in the food system by engaging with food businesses and the public. If their Friendly Food Alliance pilots are successful, this project may have the potential to reduce a large amount of animal products in major food businesses, potentially sparing many farmed animals. Compassion USA also launched a campaign promoting the reduction of animal products which has received media attention. Although we are highly uncertain about the magnitude of this campaign’s impact, it may impact public attitudes and behaviors towards eating animals.
Criterion 4: Does the charity operate cost-effectively, according to our best estimates?
A charity’s recent cost-effectiveness provides an insight into how well it has made use of its available resources and is a useful component to understanding how cost-effective future donations to the charity might be. In this criterion, we take a more in-depth look at the charity’s use of resources and compare that to the outcomes they have achieved in each of their main programs.
This year, we have used an approach in which we more qualitatively analyze a charity’s costs and outcomes. In particular, we have focused on the cost-effectiveness of the charity’s specific implementation of each of its programs in comparison to similar programs conducted by other charities we are reviewing this year. We have categorized the charity’s programs into different intervention types and compared the charity’s outcomes and expenditures from January 2018 to June 2019 to other charities we have reviewed in our 2019 evaluations. To facilitate comparisons, we have also compiled spreadsheets of all reviewed charities’ expenditures and outcomes by intervention type.36
Analyzing cost-effectiveness carries some risks by incentivizing behaviors that, on the whole, we do not think are valuable for the movement.37 Particular to the following analysis, we are somewhat concerned about our inclusion of staff time and volunteer time. Focusing on staff time as an indicator of cost-effectiveness can reward charities that underpay their staff and discourage organizations from working towards increasing salaries to be more in line with the for-profit sector. As for volunteer time, we think that volunteer programs can increase the cost-effectiveness of a charity’s work, however, overreliance on volunteers can make a charity’s work less sustainable. While we think that these factors are relevant and worth including in our analysis of cost-effectiveness, we encourage readers to bear these concerns in mind while reading this criterion.
Overview of Expenditures
The following chart shows Compassion USA’s total expenditures in 2018–2019 and 2019–2020, divided by program.38
We asked Compassion USA to provide us with their expenditures for their top 3–5 programs as well as their total expenditures. The estimates provided in the graph were calculated by dividing up their total expenditures proportionately, according to the size of their programs. This allowed us to incorporate their general organizational running costs into our consideration of their cost-effectiveness.
Summary of outcomes: received 57 million media impressions for EggTrack in 2018; made progress on the McDonald’s campaign; conducted a campaign to raise public awareness of genetic issues that affect meat quality in fast-growing broiler chickens; saw a ~120% increase in Facebook video views and Instagram follows; and garnered support to stop the King Amendment and pass Proposition 12. For more information, see our spreadsheet comparing 2019 reviewed charities engaged in corporate outreach.
Note: Compassion USA engages in three programs that we have categorized as corporate outreach for this analysis—25X25, Public Engagement, and Food Business.
Use of resources
Table 1: Estimated resource usage in corporate outreach, Jan ‘18–Jun ‘19
25X25 (Eat Plants. For a Change.)
|Compassion USA’s Public Engagement||Compassion USA’s|
|Average across all reviewed charities39|
|Staff time (weeks41)||98||98||245||380|
|Volunteer time (weeks42)||0||0||0||0|
Compassion USA spends close to the average on corporate campaigns of other charities we have reviewed in our 2019 evaluations. Relative to their expenditures for this program, their staff time is also roughly equal to the other reviewed charities.
Evaluation of outcome cost-effectiveness
Table 2: Estimated number of animals affected by corporate commitments, Jan ‘18–Jun ‘19
|Number affected per year by commitments (Public Engagement)43||Number affected per year by commitments (Food Business)44||Average across reviewed|
Corporate outreach that is focused on securing commitments to improve welfare has a direct impact on animals. After factoring in the proportional responsibility that Compassion USA had for each commitment, we can estimate how many animals will be affected when the commitments are implemented.47 Overall, after accounting for expenditures, their work appears to be less cost effective than the average of the charities we have reviewed this year. This estimate has limitations in that the ranges are often very uncertain, and it does not account for other activities that charities engage in as part of their corporate outreach programs. Compassion USA, in particular, engaged in more corporate outreach work outside of welfare commitments than other reviewed charities.
Aside from the outcomes included in the above estimate, Compassion USA has also released their annual EggTrack report and hosted the Better Chicken Leadership Forum, which both help to build relationships with companies that have made commitments and create incentives for new companies to make commitments. While it is difficult to assess the cost-effectiveness of this approach, it seems otherwise neglected in the movement and complements the approach of other charities that tend to have more adversarial relationships with companies.
Additionally, their 25×25 campaign aims to reduce meat consumption rather than improve welfare. Currently, the campaign appears to be in its early stages and has yet to achieve outcomes that directly impact animals. However, their approach—which involves targeting both companies and the public while also conducting research to support protein diversification—seems promising, and we would expect the cost-effectiveness of the campaign to increase as it scales.
As part of their Public Awareness Campaigns program, Compassion USA has continued their work on the McDonald’s campaign. For example, they secured media coverage of a petition being delivered to the McDonald’s headquarters. Compassion USA is one of six organizations leading the broiler welfare campaign against McDonald’s, which, if successful, would impact an estimated 200 million to 340 million chickens annually.
Some of their reported outcomes—while having large impacts for animals—were conducted in conjunction with several other groups, so their responsibility for the outcome is not always clear. For example, in the defeat of the King amendment, they were one of over 220 organizations in opposition. Similarly, in the Proposition 12 campaign, they were one of 33 organizations listed in support of Proposition 12, and it seems likely that its success is mostly attributable to substantial funding from the Humane Society of the United States and the Open Philanthropy Action Fund.48
After accounting for all of their outcomes and expenditures, Compassion USA’s corporate outreach seems less cost effective than the average of other reviewed charities in 2019.
Criterion 5: Does the charity identify areas of success and failure and respond appropriately?
By conducting reliable self-assessments, a charity can retain and strengthen successful programs and modify or discontinue less successful programs. When such systems of improvement work well, all stakeholders benefit: Leadership is able to refine their strategy, staff better understand the purpose of their work, and donors can be more confident in the impact of their donations.
In this section, we consider how the charity has assessed its programs in the past. We then examine the extent to which the charity has updated their programs in light of past assessments.
How does the charity identify areas of success and failure?
Compassion USA reports that after each project, they perform a formal recapitulation in which they review what worked, how it worked, and how it could be improved.49 This self-assessment process normally involves their most important teams (Food Business team and Public Engagement team) who work collaboratively on each project from the start.
Compassion USA measures the outcomes of their Food Business program by estimating the number of animals that would benefit from corporate commitments being made, taking into account their implementation rate.50 Compassion USA also sets goals around the number of companies they need to engage in order to achieve commitments, prioritizing companies based on the number of animals they use and their marketing influence. When commitments are made, Compassion USA sets goals for the number of companies they aim to publicly report implementation progress on in their EggTrack report.
In the past three years, Compassion USA has consulted with external consultants on social media, graphic and web design, market research, and filmmaking. They also consulted with a law office to get advice on legal matters.51
Does the charity respond appropriately to identified areas of success and failure?
We believe that Compassion USA has responded appropriately to their self-determined areas of success and failure in many ways. We list three salient examples below.
Compassion USA has been successful in obtaining corporate commitments that will likely improve the welfare of many farmed animals, but they acknowledge that action is also needed to reduce the increasing number of animals entering the supply chain.52 In order to address this key issue, Compassion USA launched a program in 2018 with a corporate outreach component and a public outreach component.53 Their Food Business team is currently engaging food companies not only to use animal products with higher welfare standards but also to reduce or replace the total amount of animal products in their supply chain. Meanwhile, their Public Engagement team has launched an outreach campaign aimed at reducing the consumption of animal products. Compassion USA has approached this gap in their work to help farmed animals by using their skills, experience, and existing relationships with food companies. They report that they are currently working on a methodology to measure the impact of this program.54
Following the success they achieved with their EggTrack reports (e.g., receiving media attention and having more companies report progress) and their progress with broiler welfare corporate outreach, Compassion USA decided to launch the ChickenTrack report to track companies’ progress on implementing broiler welfare commitments. With this initiative, Compassion USA is expanding their compliance work, engaging businesses to annually report progress not only on their cage-free commitments but also on their broiler welfare commitments, ultimately increasing transparency in the marketplace.
Compassion USA reports that they have turned down many opportunities to work on projects with food companies because they were not within their focus area. For instance, they have declined to work on projects that would impact dairy cows because the outcomes would not affect as many animals as projects targeting chickens.55 In order to maintain their focus on implementing chicken welfare commitments, they have reportedly made difficult decisions such as declining meetings with food companies and participation in events related to non-priority areas. Although we are highly uncertain about the impact of these potential opportunities, it seems reasonable for Compassion USA to use their limited resources on their previously determined goals and plans. We think this strategy increases the likelihood of them achieving their goals and having their expected impact on animals.
We believe that Compassion USA failed to respond appropriately to areas of success and failure in at least the following way:
In our previous review of Compassion USA, we noted concerns about the potential lack of viewpoint diversity on their Board of Directors, and these concerns have not dissipated. Three out of five board members are still leadership staff from Compassion International,56 which may suggest that the majority of the board is likely to have similar opinions about what decisions Compassion USA should make. Since our previous review of Compassion USA, the number of board members has remained the same, while only one member changed. The new board member maintains a similar affiliation with Compassion International as the previous one: The previous member was the Director of Communications at Compassion International and the new member is the Director of Finance at the same organization. As such, we think that Compassion USA’s board still could benefit from adding some members with more diverse backgrounds, occupations, and viewpoints.
Criterion 6: Does the charity have strong leadership and a well-developed strategic vision?
Strongly-led charities are likely to be more successful at responding to internal and external challenges and at reaching their goals. In this section, we describe each charity’s key leadership and assess some of their strengths and weaknesses.
Part of a leader’s job is to develop and guide the strategic vision of the organization. Given our commitment to finding the most effective ways to help nonhuman animals, we look for charities whose strategy is aligned with that goal. We also believe that a well-developed strategic vision should include feasible goals. Since a well-developed strategic vision is likely the result of well-run strategic planning, we consider each charity’s planning process in this section.
This year, Rachel Dreskin stepped into the role of Compassion USA’s Executive Director after six years of working at the organization (previously, as U.S. Head of Food Business). Her self-described leadership style is decisive and authoritative, but also collaborative and welcoming of others’ perspectives. Other key leaders at Compassion USA include David Soleil, U.S. Head of Operations, Nina Farley, Head of Public Engagement, Cynthia von Schlichten, U.S. Partnerships Manager, and Jeff Doyle, Head of U.S. Food Business.
We distributed a culture survey57, 58 to Compassion USA’s team and found strong agreement among the entire team that their leadership is attentive to the organization’s overall strategy. There was also strong agreement that Compassion USA’s leadership promotes transparency, both internally and externally.
Board of Directors
Compassion USA’s Board of Directors consists of five members, including the CEO of Compassion International, Philip Lymbery. It also includes two other key staff members of Compassion International: Kathryn Flanagan, COO, and Aoife Junor, Finance Director. Compassion USA has told us that the heavy presence of Compassion International staff on their board is intended to ensure cohesion with Compassion’s international strategy.59 In the U.S., it’s considered a best practice for nonprofit boards to be comprised of at least five people who have little overlap with an organization’s staff or other related parties. However, there is only weak evidence that following this best practice is correlated with success.
We think that Compassion USA’s board could benefit from adding some members with more diverse backgrounds, occupations, and viewpoints. They could also likely benefit from adding members with a particular expertise in the animal advocacy movement in the U.S. We believe that boards whose members represent occupational and viewpoint diversity are likely most useful to a charity since they can offer a wide range of perspectives and skills. There is some evidence suggesting that nonprofit board diversity is positively associated with better fundraising and social performance,60 better internal and external governance practices,61 as well as with the use of inclusive governance practices that allow the board to incorporate community perspectives into their strategic decision making.62
Strategic Vision and Planning
Compassion USA shares Compassion International’s mission of ending factory farming.63 They also share Compassion International’s 2018–2022 strategic plan, which emphasizes a “focus on impact” and a grounding in “facts and science” as two of their core values. Given their mission and their history of conducting evidence-supported interventions to support farmed animals, we expect Compassion USA to remain committed to effectively helping animals in the foreseeable future. We find their mission a bit ambiguous, however, concerning whether or not the organization would support other systems of animal agriculture if and when factory farming is eliminated.
Strategic planning process
Compassion USA’s parent organization, Compassion International, has a five-year global strategy for the whole organization. Compassion USA exercises some autonomy in determining how to implement that global strategy in the U.S. and in developing country-specific goals. Compassion USA develops annual operating plans at their biannual full-team retreats. Dreskin describes the strategic planning process as highly collaborative, though she has the ultimate authority to make final decisions, with the approval of the board.64
Goal setting and monitoring
Compassion USA formally checks their progress on their annual operating plan every six months at their staff retreats. Each team member also develops performance plans and key performance indicators with their managers at the same intervals. The full team’s progress is regularly reviewed by the U.S. Board of Directors.
Criterion 7: Does the charity have a healthy culture and a sustainable structure?
The most effective charities have healthy cultures and sustainable structures to enable their core work. We collect information about each charity’s internal operations in several ways. We ask leadership about the culture they try to foster and their perceptions of staff morale. We review each charity’s policies related to human resources and check for essential items. We also send each charity a culture survey and request that they distribute it among their team on our behalf.
Human Resources Policies
Here we present a list of policies that we find to be beneficial for fostering healthy cultures. A green mark indicates that Compassion USA has such a policy and a red mark indicates that they do not. A yellow mark indicates that the organization has a partial policy, an informal or unwritten policy, or a policy that is not fully or consistently implemented. We do not expect a given charity to have all of the following policies, but we believe that, generally, having more of them is better than having fewer.
Culture and Morale
A charity with a healthy culture acts responsibly towards all stakeholders: staff, volunteers, donors, beneficiaries, and others in the community. According to Compassion USA’s leadership, they prioritize work-life balance and creating a family-friendly culture. Dreskin tells us that providing flexible time off and making employees feel valued and supported has been the best way to maintain a high level of morale and engagement.65 According to the culture survey we distributed, Dreskin’s strategy is working. Compassion USA employees agree that their organization is a good place to work for people with families and that the culture supports a healthy work-life balance. Compassion USA scored very highly on employee engagement.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion66
One important part of acting responsibly towards stakeholders is providing a diverse,67 equitable, and inclusive work environment. Charities with a healthy attitude towards diversity, equity, and inclusion seek and retain staff and volunteers from different backgrounds, which improves their ability to respond to new situations and challenges.68 Among other things, inclusive work environments should also provide necessary resources for employees with disabilities, require regular trainings on topics such as diversity, and protect all employees from harassment and discrimination.
We view Compassion USA’s attitudes to diversity, equity, and inclusion as a particular strength of the organization. Dreskin reports that the organization has gender diversity, including among their leadership (three out of five U.S. leaders are women, as was their previous Executive Director).69 She also reports that Compassion USA actively works to be inclusive of people of color and of different religions by, for example, using floating holidays.70
Compassion USA employees generally agreed that their organization supports diversity, equity, and inclusion, particularly in terms of gender identity and sexual orientation. Several staff members reported to us that, while they feel personally supported by their colleagues and the organization’s leadership, Compassion USA could do more to promote their support of marginalized groups externally. For instance, several staff members suggested that Compassion USA could engage in more multi-issue advocacy.71
Compassion USA has strong anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies, and the results of our culture survey suggest that their employees feel safe at work. If the organization did have a problem related to harassment or discrimination, their employees strongly and unanimously agreed that they have someone they could comfortably report the problem to. Many commented that there are multiple people they would be comfortable approaching with problems at work.
An effective charity should be stable under ordinary conditions and should seem likely to survive any transitions in leadership. The charity should not seem likely to split into factions and should seem able to continue raising the funds needed for its basic operations. Ideally, it should receive significant funding from multiple distinct sources, including both individual donations and other types of support.
In 2016, Compassion USA received a $550 thousand grant from the Open Philanthropy Project for use over two years. In 2018, that grant was not just renewed, but nearly doubled; they received $1.5 million for use over three years. Much of Compassion USA’s remaining funding also comes from foundations and is sometimes restricted to certain projects,72 leaving them with an especially heavy reliance on support from foundations. We consider this a risk, since losing the support of a single organization could substantially affect Compassion USA’s budget, and we would like to see Compassion USA grow their base of individual donors.
The risk of Compassion USA failing to raise enough money is somewhat limited by their relationship with their headquarters. Compassion USA is a branch of Compassion In World Farming International, and until 2016 they received some of their funding from the international organization. In 2017, they began fundraising on their own,73 but they may still look to U.K. headquarters for some specifically targeted funding. We expect that Compassion USA might be able to rely on Compassion International headquarters to bridge temporary funding shortages or help them regain a stable financial footing if needed.
Compassion USA underwent a significant change in leadership this year when their former Executive Director, Leah Garcés, became the Executive Director of Mercy For Animals. In our view, Compassion USA has a relatively small but strong team and managed this transition fairly seamlessly.
Questions for Further Consideration
Fish welfare seems to be one of Compassion International’s priority areas, and yet Compassion USA does not seem to be working on it. Does Compassion USA have any concrete plans to work in this area in the short or medium term?
Compassion USA’s response:
“CIWF’s (Compassion in World Farming) global headquarters has received a grant to study legislative and corporate avenues for farmed fish advocacy. CIWF USA is currently assessing how the research and analysis can be leveraged within the US market. With increased funding, we plan to work on fish in the coming years and will be considering potential for impact, market feasibility and readiness, amongst other factors. We are also looking into salmon standards in particular, as Global Animal Partnership has received a grant to work on salmon standards.”
Does Compassion USA oppose all forms of animal farming, or just industrial agriculture?
Compassion USA’s response:
“Compassion in World Farming’s mission is to end factory farming, which is inclusive of all types of intensive animal agriculture, versus the abolition of animal agriculture all together However, we feel that incremental welfare reform is alone not enough. A critical component of our program is to raise awareness around factory farming and, while we advocate for incremental improvements, we simultaneously highlight issues associated with any type of intensive farming. As a programmatic extension of that, we have recently launched a Food Business program and our Eat Plants for a Change public-facing campaign that advocates for a shift toward plant-based diets.
With the position of supporting and advocating for welfare reform, along with a focus on removing animals from the supply chain altogether, we are able to reach across a broad spectrum of stakeholders and make progress. We find the place everyone can agree, and start making progress from there, one step at a time, measurably reducing suffering.”
Does Compassion USA worry that focusing on banning some of the most extreme confinement practices could lead to complacency with other forms of suffering farmed animals endure or with meat consumption?
Compassion USA’s response:
“We don’t have any evidence to date that companies have become more complacent regarding suffering of farmed animals due to their commitments to ban the most extreme confinement practices. In fact, we feel the institutional partnerships put animal welfare more at the center of the public eye and at the center of companies’ brands. It makes animal welfare more central to company identity and core to their culture. Additionally, moving to higher welfare standards for animals is inherently more costly, which opens up the conversation around protein diversification and investing in alternative proteins that will ultimately result in a more sustainable and humane protein portfolios.
It also requires companies to be more accountable. Without these public commitments, farmed animal issues could remain in the shadows and companies could exist without any accountability at all to the farmed animals.
We feel that success in getting companies to recognize animals as sentient beings, and to create policy changes that reduce their suffering, is an essential step on the journey. However, this must be coupled with initiatives to reduce the total number or animals raised for food. We have already seen considerable outcomes on reducing suffering, and continue to see huge potential for reduction in suffering, by meaningfully improving the lives of the animals that are still stuck in the system. We see impact scaling considerably, especially through work on ensuring the follow through of the broiler chicken commitments and expanding the number of companies with broiler commitments.
We see this two-pronged approach as a pragmatic way of reducing as much farmed animals suffering as possible.”
For more information on the reliability of self-reported data, see van de Mortel (2008) in the Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing. Also see Peacock (2018) on the use of self-reported dietary data.
We found that charities interpreted the question of how many assets they had very differently. Some interpreted assets as financial reserves, some as net assets, and some as material assets. We have interpreted assets as financial reserves, which we calculated by taking the assets from the previous year, adding the (estimated) revenue for the current year, and subtracting the (estimated) expenses for the current year.
2014–2016 revenue, assets, and expenses: ProPublica, n.d.
2017 expenses: Compassion in World Farming USA, 2018
2017 revenue: calculated based on assets of 2018
2018 revenue, assets, and expenses: Compassion in World Farming USA, 2019
2019 estimate for revenue and expenses: Compassion in World Farming USA, 2019
We assume that charities receive 40% of their revenue in the last two months of the calendar year. To calculate estimates of total revenue, we multiply the revenue from the first six months by 2.778. We assume that expenses stay constant over the year, so to calculate estimates of total expenses in 2019, we multiply expenses from the first six months by 2. Because of Compassion USA’s financial year, they provided us with their revenue and assets for three months instead of six months like other charities. Therefore, to estimate the total finances of 2019, we multiplied the revenue of the first three months of 2019 by 2*2.778, and the expenses by 4.
In combination with our estimates of the priority level and costs of each planned expansion, the estimates are based on charities’ own estimates of planned expansion as expressed in our follow-up questions for them (Animal Charity Evaluators, 2019).
See ACE’s 2019 cost-effectiveness estimates spreadsheet.
Potential bottlenecks besides lack of funding include lack of operational capacity to support new staff members and difficulty to find and hire value-aligned individuals with the right skill sets. We base our estimates for capacity for expanding staff based on the current number of staff employed, as reported in Compassion in World Farming USA (2019). Our subjective assessment is that we are highly confident that Compassion USA can hire 40% of the new staff they would like to hire before running into non-funding related bottlenecks. For 60% of the hires, we believe the non-funding related bottlenecks play a more significant role and we are only moderately confident that Compassion USA can overcome these bottlenecks within the next year.
Compassion USA would like to hire for 10 specific new positions:
“Drive higher farmed animal welfare standards and measurably reduce suffering in the global food supply:
– Food Business Compliance Coordinator
– Senior Food Business Manager
– Food Business Manager–Investment Specialty
– Commercial Supply Chain Specialist
– Animal Welfare Specialist
– Public Engagement Manager
Advocating for corporate policy measures to reduce reliance on animal protein and re-prioritizing investments that reduce suffering and contribute toward a more secure food future:
– Market Analyst
– Public Relations Specialist
– Food Business Coordinator–Sustainable Food Systems
Operations to underpin above expansion and ensure organizational sustainability:
– Administrative assistant” (Animal Charity Evaluators, 2019)
We estimate the salaries at Compassion USA based on GuideStar (2018). The three positions listed are CEO/ED, top finance position, and top operation position. The median of what they earn is $59,248, $43,790, and $41,313, respectively. Based on this, we believe salaries at Compassion USA are between $33,050 (20% less than the lowest salary listed) and $59,248 (we think it’s unlikely staff members earn more than the median salary of a CEO).
This is an estimate to account for additional expenditures beyond what has been specifically outlined in this model. This parameter reflects our uncertainty as to whether the model is comprehensive, and it constitutes a range from 1%–20% of the charities’ total projected budget.
To estimate the revenue not influenced by ACE, we consider the total revenue per year and subtract the amount we estimate is influenced by ACE in the same year. We use these numbers to estimate the average growth not influenced by ACE. To calculate the estimated 2020 revenue, we add the average growth not influenced by ACE to the 2019 revenue not influenced by ACE. In the case of Compassion USA, the amount of revenue influenced by ACE was $511,913 between the beginning of 2017 and mid-2019. For details, see our giving metrics reports from 2017, and 2018. At the time of writing, our 2019 Giving Metrics Report is not yet published.
This calculations on which this estimate is based exclude revenue influenced by ACE, and have an uncertainty of ± 20%. The calculations are made via a linear projection of the total revenue of previous years.
While we are able to corroborate some types of claims (e.g., those about public events that appear in the news), others are harder to corroborate. For instance, it is often difficult for us to verify whether a charity worked behind the scenes to obtain a corporate commitment, or the extent to which that charity was responsible for obtaining the commitment.
Compassion USA reports that the forum brought together 48 attendees representing 32 major companies, including producers, purchasers, certifiers and breeders (Compassion in World Farming USA, 2019).
Compassion USA reports securing commitments with HelloFresh, Blue Apron, Diana Foods, and PCC, the first retailer to commit to the full broiler ask (Compassion in World Farming USA, 2019).
According to one rough estimate, 10–280 chickens may be affected per every dollar spent on cage-free and broiler welfare corporate campaigns (Šimčikas, 2019).
Compassion USA reports challenging and engaging with Tyson, Perdue, and Wayne Farms to meet purchaser demand and to consider the scientific research underlying the need for higher welfare standards, including broiler breeds and stocking density (Compassion in World Farming USA, 2019).
According to Compassion in World Farming (2018), 27% of companies have reported progress. Also, Compassion USA reports McDonald’s and Walmart/Sam’s Club disclosed progress against their cage-free egg commitments for the first time (Animal Charity Evaluators, 2019).
Compassion USA reports reaching more than 57 million potential viewers in major popular outlets such as Bloomberg and Eater (Compassion in World Farming USA, 2019). See, for example, Shanker (2018) and Curry (2018).
Compassion USA reports achieving a combined video view count of over 116,000 (Compassion in World Farming USA, 2019).
For example, another organization that also supported Prop 12 (The Humane League) estimates that when this law comes into force, it will affect about 40 million animals per year (The Humane League, n.d.).
Compassion USA reports having “engaged deeply with Compass Group, Bon Appetit Management Company, and Unilever” (Compassion in World Farming USA, 2019).
Compassion USA reports that campaign subscribers receive regular resources on how to eat more plants and fewer animal products. The campaign is promoted through a video, partnerships with social media influencers, and was featured on popular media outlets and podcasts such as Plant Based News, Our Hen House, Jane Velez Mitchell, The Sustainability Agenda, and What Doesn’t Kill You (Compassion in World Farming USA, 2019).
For a longer discussion of the limitations of modeling cost-effectiveness, see Šimčikas (2019).
To estimate their expenditures, we took their reported expenditures for this program and added a portion of their general non-program expenditures weighted by the size of this program compared to their other programs. This allows us to incorporate their general organizational running costs into our consideration of their cost-effectiveness. All estimates are rounded to two significant figures.
They provided this number in hours, and we converted it into weeks for readability. We assume that one week consists of 40 hours of work. We think it is unlikely that, in practice, volunteers are working full-time weeks, however we are using this unit in order to maintain a comparison with the amount of staff time used.
We provide these estimates as 90% subjective confidence intervals. For more information, see this explainer page.
We provide these estimates as 90% subjective confidence intervals. For more information, see this explainer page.
We provide these estimates as 90% subjective confidence intervals. For more information, see this explainer page.
These estimates are informed by a variety of sources—charities’ self-reported estimates, information about the size and production output of the companies, data from the Open Philanthropy Project, etc. For more details, see our spreadsheet comparing 2019 reviewed charities engaged in corporate outreach and the accompanying Guesstimate sheet.
See California Secretary of State (n.d.) for a list of organizations providing financial support.
For more information about this program, see Compassion in World Farming (n.d.).
For more details about Compassion USA’s board, see Criterion 6.
We recognize at least two major limitations of our culture survey. First, because participation was not mandatory, the results could be skewed by selection bias. Second, because respondents knew that their answers could influence ACE’s evaluation of their employer, they may have felt an incentive to emphasize their employers’ strengths and minimize their weaknesses.
Our goal in this section is to evaluate whether each charity has a healthy attitude towards diversity, equity, and inclusion. We do not directly evaluate the demographic characteristics of their employees. There are at least two reasons supporting our approach: First, we are not well-positioned to evaluate the demographic characteristics of each charity’s employees. Second, we believe that each charity is fully responsible for their own attitudes towards diversity, equity, and inclusion, but the demographic characteristics of a charity’s staff may be influenced by factors outside of the charity’s control.
We use the term “diversity” broadly in this section to refer to the diversity of any of the following characteristics: racial identification, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, ability levels, educational levels, parental status, immigrant status, age, and/or religious, political, or ideological affiliation.
There is a significant body of evidence suggesting that teams composed of individuals with different roles, tasks, or occupations are likely to be more successful than those which are more homogeneous (Horwitz & Horwitz, 2007). Increased diversity by demographic factors—such as race and gender—has more mixed effects in the literature (Jackson, Joshi, & Erhardt, 2003), but gains through having a diverse team seem to be possible for organizations which view diversity as a resource (using different personal backgrounds and experiences to improve decision making) rather than solely a neutral or justice-oriented practice (Ely & Thomas, 2001).
For a detailed overview of multi-issue food activism, see Sebo (2016).
The following materials are supplementary research documents associated with our charity review process and are referenced in the comprehensive review.