Sharon Núñez Gough and Thomas Hecquet spoke with Allison Smith, ACE’s Director of Research, on September 4, 2015.
An overview of the past year
What has changed in the past year?
Sharon Núñez Gough said that Animal Equality’s strategic plan is still in progress because creating such a plan for a large international charity is challenging. However, they are in the last part of the process: they have already done their internal and external diagnosis, which they are happy to share with ACE. They have a week-long meeting in Stuttgart where they will develop the strategic plan for the organization for the next five years. They are using a company to facilitate this meeting and the development of the plan itself.
Animal Equality has increased its focus on farmed animals in 2015, and in the future plans mainly to do farmed animal campaigns and investigations, though some other issues may appear as news items on the website or social media. They have carried out farmed animal investigations in key countries where they had not previously done investigations: in India, Venezuela and Mexico. The conversation about strategy has increased in those areas.
Most of the hires mentioned in the 2014 conversation have been implemented. For example, they have taken on a Graphic Designer and video editor, and are very happy with their performance. They have hired a Director and an educational outreach coordinator in Mexico, and they will soon hire a Director in Venezuela. There have been challenges with hiring in the fundraising department. But they are working with a fundraising company to develop a fundraising plan, which has been quite successful.
The main lessons Animal Equality have learned are associated with improving hiring and organizational structure. In 2014, they brought in some people who ended up leaving after a short period of time. They have learned that they should discuss letting go of new employees who are not good fits sooner in the process, and more generally that they should have a much more thorough interview process. They are currently looking to follow the Google model of interviewing, and are giving all new employees a six month probationary period.
They have also learned that there was not enough communication with offices in other countries, especially India, Mexico and Venezuela. As a result, there was a disconnect between the vision and strategy of Directors in Europe and in these countries. So, these Directors are now part of the monthly international meeting and have a meeting every week with Sharon. They will also be part of the international meeting in Stuttgart where they will meet face to face once a year. This has been hugely beneficial for the organization, and is one of the most important changes in 2015. To give one example, previously, Animal Equality’s aim of being an 80% farmed animal organization was not reflected in their work in Mexico. However, this changed following the meetings. Directors in these areas are now more motivated, have increased campaigns, and have increased the number of farmed animal publications.
Animal Equality have also simplified their time management. Due the limitation of the functionalities of spreadsheets, they have created their own time management tool, which is now being used 90% successfully. They have created a ten hour monthly learning goal for each Director: each Director has to dedicate ten hours to learning, in addition to the three courses that they do each year.
Finally, regarding internal processes, every month all international Directors meet to follow up on goals in each country, and each country Director meets with Sharon every three months to assess performance. This improves communication and ensures that process goals are being met.
Can you give an example of what kind of thing people are doing for the ten hour monthly learning goal?
Everyone has the freedom to decide on which area of knowledge they wish to increase, with direction from the Sharon. Someone is doing a course on media management. In Italy, Matteo is reading about fundraising; and in Mexico, they are focusing on management and media.
Innovation, impact, influence and measurement
Animal Equality have developed ‘The 360 Project’ which shows footage inside factory farms and slaughterhouses, and they have presented this at numerous animal rights conferences. Many groups have reached out to them because they believe that the footage has huge potential. The animal rights conferences provided useful feedback for Animal Equality. Tech-based campaigns such as The 360 Project can circumvent this problem.
To ensure maximal impact, they are carrying out a study which compared The 360 Project to other forms of outreach. Moreover, for the media presentation of the project, they are working with a scriptwriter and have been working a lot on editing the footage.
Finally, they are developing a nutritional newsletter project in Germany, which is linked with some of the projects they are presenting in the next month, with landing pages similar to those used by Mercy For Animals in their What Came Before presentation. People can sign up after they watch the video, download a vegetarian starter kit, and receive regular newsletters. In order to develop the newsletter, they are using B.J. Fogg’s model of behavior change, which uses a trigger to ensure that the behavior is successfully implemented. They are also following up with before-and-after surveys to check that behavior change has been maintained. They are also developing a website encouraging diet change based on this model of behavior change.
Animal Equality has presented a total of ten investigations from September 2014-August 2015, including working with a TV program in Italy to present footage of slaughterhouses, which was watched by 7 million people. In Spain, they have presented an investigation on vivisection, which has been nominated for a public awareness prize. In Germany, their duck investigation reached 72 million people, and their hen investigation reached 40 million. They have also started a pay per view service in Germany and Mexico. Animal Equality have just finished developing an 11 minute video project for Mexico which will be part of the landing page video campaign.
They have read studies which say that exposure to documentaries and books can be a good catalyst for change. They have translated Nick Cooney’s Veganomics into Spanish, are looking into having Melanie Joy’s Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism translated into Spanish, and before the end of the year they will translate and publish Jo-Anne McArthur’s We Animals.
Animal Equality is also becoming actively involved in the effective altruism movement. Thomas Hecquet has been to both the Oxford and Basel Effective Altruism conferences. Animal Equality consider this to be very important. They are working to encourage the movement in general to be more impactful and measure-oriented. To that end, they have participated in Vegan Street Day in Stuttgart and Vegan Summer Festival in Berlin, as well as many animal rights conferences.
Animal Equality carried out three studies in 2014, two into vegan guides and one into messaging on Facebook. Carrying out these studies has been challenging. They will share the Facebook study once they have the requisite feedback on it.
With regard to the vegan guide studies, they have the data, but they are trying to figure out the best way to present their findings. Animal Equality have learned that in future, they must have a clearer idea of what they want from studies and must share the process and methodology of the study earlier.
Animal Equality are currently working on several farm investigations in Mexico, Venezuela, Germany, Spain, Italy and India. They are actively recruiting in Spain and England and will start recruiting in Venezuela, Mexico, India and other countries before the end of the year. In addition, they are working on a vegan website to help people reduce meat consumption. They are also working on a brand new website, and updating their landing page and videos project. They are developing this in Mexico with the help of a grant from Veg Fund. They already have a $4,000 monthly grant from Veg Fund, to publicize the landing page with the video. They are looking to launch the landing page and video project in eight countries and in four languages before the end of the year. As part of their strategic plan, their organizational focus areas will be research, meat reduction, and corporate outreach.
Which projects seem most promising, and which are your seeking to expand?
The innovative 360 Project has huge potential. They want to present it in the media and use it to get the support of influential people from the worlds of entertainment, technology and politics. They are not sure whether they will implement the project in universities worldwide.
In Mexico alone, thanks to the grant from Veg Fund, the landing page and video project is currently reaching 100,000 people per month. If Animal Equality actively pursues this project in other countries, and secures other grants, the project could reach half a million people every month internationally.
They are also very encouraged with the newsletter plan based on the B.J. Fogg model of behavior for several reasons. Firstly, they are going to survey people at the end of reading it. Secondly, they will not only actively motivate people, but will help them through the transition to a vegan or vegetarian diet.
They are also optimistic about showing footage to students in pay-per-view style outreach in Mexico, Venezuela, India, and other countries.
Finally, the new website should help Animal Equality have a more professional image.
Which program seemed least promising, and which are you cutting or reducing?
Because of the political climate, population and/or political and cultural influence of some countries they have decided to focus most of their efforts and allocate a great amount of their resources to countries where they are already working with either some or all of these characteristics: A) a large population, B) big political and cultural influence, C) a great amount of people open to changing their behavior, or D) a large amount of animals slaughtered.
For many years AE has been doing protests of different issues in the streets of several cities. In order to keep the focus on farmed animals and maximize impact we will be bringing most of our street outreach to universities with the specific goal of changing university students behavior.
In light of what you have said about investigations affecting companies globally, are you doing increased corporate outreach?
Animals Equality is looking into that as a major part of their strategic plan. There haven’t been major advancements through 2014-2015. But as part of the process of developing the strategic plan, they did external diagnoses to determine what the opportunities are for them in each country they’re working in, and they found that increasing corporate outreach was one of the key possibilities.
Can you tell me a little more about how fundraising is going overall?
For several reasons, they have roughly doubled their budget in less than a year. As they said in 2014, they feel that an organization needs to do good fundraising to achieve its full potential. There are still some key positions that are missing.
They’ve focusing more on fundraising. The decision to have Jose and Sharon stay in the US, register Animal Equality there and get a tax exemption, has been beneficial for Animal Equality’s budget, bringing an addition of approximately $300,000 to the budget.
How much has ACE impacted the funding situation?
Hugely. 20% of their funding is thanks to ACE. Animal Equality is now part of a community of individuals who donate rationally. This has been especially important in the US.
You mentioned key positions still being missing. What are they?
An administrative assistant in the US would be very useful to help coordinate their international affairs. They urgently need another designer, as lots of their work involves design. They would also like to hire an investigator to work in Europe. They would like an educational outreach coordinator. They’re understaffed in their offices and the Directors in Spain and Italy coordinate volunteers for their educational outreach programs. Their priority is still to hire a fundraiser in the US.
They believe that they could triple their income in less than a year if they hired a professional fundraiser. Finally, they urgently need a writer and editor in English, to keep the organization up to speed with all the projects that need to be translated.
You mentioned your studies on vegan guides and you also mentioned you were planning to expand your leafleting program. Did the results from your studies on vegan guides influence that decision?
Initially, the raw data did not look promising. However, after Sharon, Thomas, Jose and Nick Cooney spent some time examining the data, they decided it was worthwhile to continuing leafleting. Sharon is happy to share the details with ACE. Animal Equality are now looking for funding in Germany to fund leafleting as well as a survey to measure impact.
Protocols and measurement
Thomas Hecquet spoke for the remainder of the conversation. Animal Equality are still using the protocols to describe routine works they introduced in 2014, though they have been updated a bit. There is a protocol on how to edit videos; an investigation protocol defining how investigations are being done; a social media protocol; a graphic design protocol; and a protocol on how to deal with members. This year they have added a general communication protocol. They also have a newsletter protocol which defines when to write a certain kind of newsletter, tracks all the newsletters sent in every country, which have been translated and so on.
This year they have developed a measurement plan. This defines where and how to do measurements on their different projects, such as newsletters, social media, and veganism websites. The plan defines what to measure on each project and why they do each project.
They still use KPI, which they update on a monthly basis. This tracks a number of things, including their media reach, income, their members and the number of website visits. They discuss the performance on these metrics on a monthly basis.
Until three months ago, they used a Google spreadsheet to track the time spent on each project. They have now developed their own in-house software. Each individual puts their hours worked on a project, and this information is then saved on a central database. They would like to use this tool in the future to monitor the time and money spent on a project. This would allow them to know which processes they can optimize, to find out where to divert resources and so on.
They are still using the ‘Objective and Key Results’ tool, and using a software called 7Geese. They define their goals at the beginning of the year and track them in terms of key results. Every project manager is supposed to use the tool so that Animal Equality know the overall progress.
Can you give me examples of how you’ve used the key progress indicators and the other measurements to make decisions?
Animal Equality use the tool when they do their monthly project reviews. This allows them to ascertain how much time they have spent on a project, and to see if some projects have lower cost per reach ratio than others. They have general coordination meetings two to three times per year to look at the overall progress of each objective.
Are there any types of projects that consistently don’t meet their goals or consistently exceed their goals?
They have around 150 different objectives internally. For example, they usually meet 80% of their fundraising objectives. Last year, investigations were released later than they had anticipated. Finally, they had aimed to develop an app, but this has been postponed until next year.