The following is a summary of a conversation that took place on August 27, 2014 as part of our evaluation of Animal Equality. Thomas Hecquet spoke with Allison Smith, ACE’s Research Manager.
1 year and 5 year goals
The organization has separate websites for each of the four languages – Spanish, German, Italian, and English – that they operate in. However, their mission and vision remains the same throughout.
Their overall vision is to reduce animal suffering, save and spare animal lives, and to provide legal rights to them. In the short term, the organization wants to grow into a more stable and professional structure.
They have some projects with different objectives. They use “Objective and Key Results” which involves measuring realistic objectives by key results for each objective. For example, if one objective is to release one investigation in March 2015, this would actually have other objectives of releasing that info in each country, and then they would want results tied to each objective. They might want to reach 2 million people, or to get $2000 in donations, and this is how they follow up on their results. At the beginning of the year, they define all of their key objectives and key results and how they tie to personal and departmental (for each country) objectives. As a part of the general coordination meetings (3 times a year), they analyze to what extent progress on these objectives has been made and decide on measures to be taken. At the end of the year, they evaluate to what extent they met each objective, and then they are able to say that ‘Animal Equality reached x % of their objectives.’
Farmed animal investigations were a priority and they released some footage this year (through the end of August, two had been released in Germany, one in Spain, and one in Italy). In addition, they are running some online ads, distributing veg literature, and doing research on efficiency of their work. They created their veg literature with the help of Nick Cooney and a sociologist so that it would have as much impact as possible on university students. They measured the impact of this guide on university students in Spain and England, also with the help of a s sociologist.They also want to look at the trends in society two or five years from now. Further, they are working on a detailed report about the key stakeholders in the meat industry so as to better organize their campaigns and investigations in the future.
The organization is seven years old. No one was employed until about three years ago, but now they have fundraising that has enabled them to finance their growing work. Currently 18 people are employed worldwide by the organization. They are currently focused on moving more resources to India and China where the work can have more of an impact.
In their first five years of existence they didn’t have a proper fundraising strategy. They have always to have a sufficient amount of money, and as a result, in the last two years many of their objectives simply couldn’t take place because they couldn’t employ someone to carry it out. For example, people in Germany worked for two years on projects but were not employed by the organization. They could have many more projects if they had more money. As a 2014 goal the organization decided to raise enough money to hire a fundraiser in each country; this will likely be implemented in 2015. At the moment the Spanish entity has a fundraiser working full time and an external company that creates a fundraising plan for the organization in Spain. The information is shared on an international level.
For the past year, how much more money could they have used?
They could use 3 people for each of the four main countries that they operate in (12 in total) at approximately 25,000 Euros each. Thus, they estimate that about 400,000 Euros would be necessary to stabilize their work. They believe that they could add these three people fairly easily within a year without losing any productivity.
Current fundraising efforts
Fundraising efforts only began in earnest approximately two years ago, and since then they’ve been able to hire some people and to begin making the organization more professional.
If they received an additional 10,000 Euros, they would decide between which projects to carry forward, but might alternatively invest in a good web designer to speed up creation of a landing page (which starts off showing undercover investigation videos) for some of their online veg ad outreach.
If they received an extra 100,000 Euros, they would spend it refining their booklets and hiring more people.
Outcomes are measured by the number of articles that they get in the press and the number of people that they reach with each article. They also look at analytics for their website to see how many people they reach online and at the number of investigations and articles that they post on their site, and number of people who visit through social media. They have Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for all of these and look at them each month. This information also includes the number of new members they get each month as a result of these campaigns, number of views for videos on Youtube and the exact minute when people stopped watching a video, etc. They also measure how many people have signed up for their meat-reduction or vegetarian pledges and plan to survey them after some time to see what percentage of them are still vegetarian.
They are using “animals saved” and “number of days of animal suffering averted” as indicators of impact. But it’s very difficult to use this measure for some things. The long term goals is to be able to calculate the number of animals saved with all Animal Equality’s campaigns.
Success with goals/programs
A rough estimate would be that they usually achieve 80-90% of their goals and objectives. They make notes, and actively discuss in their meetings what they’ve learned from investigations. Further, they track the number of articles that have resulted from their work to gauge how successful it was, and they learn from that.
They released an investigation in Germany in July/August that reached 68 million people. They received huge coverage in China for their investigations on the fur and meat industry, particularly on dogs and cats. Their investigations into rabbit farms in Spain received international coverage twice (England, Germany, USA, Spain and Italy). Animal Equality has been featured several times in some of the most important international media outlets; BBC – 2012, The Sunday Times 2012, 2014, CNN -2013, El País 2013, 2014, The Guardian – 2013, Il Corriere de la Sera – 2012, 2013, 2014 etc. They reached millions of people through this coverage, positioned the organization internationally, gained the respect of key journalists, fundraised and got a lot of volunteers through this work.
The organization held “animal corpses” demonstrations that brought a lot of attention to the issues. They believe that this is an efficient way of acting.
Learning from failures
They often release investigations later than they would like to, and try to compensate for that by analyzing the reach and impact with the investigations, analyzing their relation with the press and trying to improve it. Sometimes they expect certain investigations will receive more coverage from the media than they do. Fundraising remains an ongoing learning project for them.
In the beginning, they did not press charges after finding cruelty on their investigations. Now they try to do it when a law is being broken; as a side effect, this also tends to create media exposure. They had been relying substantially on volunteer activists but are now using professionals for things like video editing and web design so they can be more professional and appeal to a larger base.
In addition, they have a well-connected network of journalists in Europe, Mexico, India and the US and have learned to communicate with them more frequently and in multiple ways.
What signifies a need for change?
Information from their own studies or that ACE or other reliable sources release on the impact of different advocacy methods would probably alter where they choose to focus their time.
Legal challenges with undercover investigations
They don’t deal with ag-gag laws, but there are similar repercussions. For example, when they release an investigation they charge the farmers for cruelty if a law is being broken, and in some cases farmers can try to charge them with trespassing. There are cases where places have tried to use anti-mafia laws against such work, as was the case in Austria a few years ago. Spain also faced a similar situation with charges being filed against activists. But as far as filming the footage in farms, it is not illegal to do so.
The three founders are the general coordinators, originally based in Spain. Now two of them are based in Los Angeles and are also working for Last Chance for Animals but continue to coordinate Animal Equality on an international level, while one is still in Spain. The founders have been activists for approximately 15 years. They consult with other leaders within the organization to make decisions, and they also constantly look for the opinion and advice of other animal rights leaders and activists for opinions on specific campaigns They also have three coordinators in Germany, two in England and Spain and one in Italy, India, Mexico and Venezuela. The European coordinators meet personally 3 times a year and once a month via Skype, Sharon maintains weekly contact with the rest of the coordinators and their plan for the near future is to have all AE coordinators in an international meeting once a year.
There have been no paid employees who have left the organization as of yet, but some volunteers have left. They think that their turnover numbers are quite low compared to other organizations. In Spain there are volunteers that have been in the organization since its foundation in 2006, in Italy the core group of volunteers has remained the same since its foundation in 2010, and the same can be said about Mexico and India. The coordinator in Venezuela has been involved in Animal Equality since 2006.
They have general training documents and guidelines for trainees, as well as documents for different positions. They are also developing guidelines on different tasks and workflows, to try to improve those processes.
They share their materials with other groups. For example, they are working on a Wiki planned to be shared with other German animal groups. They are very open with their work and offer informational materials from their undercover investigations at animal rights conferences in Europe. They are also trying to make presentations in United States as well, and stay connected to the grassroots movement. Animal Equality has actively helped some groups giving them feedback and advice.
They have contacts to Albert Schweitzer Foundation in Germany and have ongoing discussions with them. They are also helping a sanctuary in south Germany by giving advice and guidance. They have exchanges with Nick Cooney and brought him over to give presentations to gatherings. In Italy the organization has a good relationship with the main groups in the country. In Mexico the organization has been in contact and proactively working with 4 different organizations to get a ban in the use of animals in circuses in Guadalajara. In Spain the group has an excellent and collaborative relationship with PACMA (the animal rights political party). One of the roles of the general coordinators as well as the country coordinators is to maintain a good relationship with the different groups.
They use KPIs, but also use time trackers where their employees write down the hours that they work on different projects on a spreadsheet. This helps them to understand and improve the process of where they dedicate resources. They would like to develop software to better measure the amount of time that they spend on various projects. This is a tool that they are just working on for themselves, but that would be useful for other organizations.
The organization is always looking ways to make processes more effective and efficient, from time management, to employing key people in countries where salaries can be lower (but still good salaries), to equipment and programs that make their work more efficient (7 Geese, better time tracking systems, Optimizely, Survey Monkey), to running A-B tests with their newsletters to see what header works better. They consider time to be as valuable a resource as funds.