This web page provides a detailed description of how we used ACE’s four criteria to conduct our charity evaluations. This mirrors the standard text in the full review of each Recommended Charity published in 2023.
Impact Potential: How promising are the charity’s programs?
With this criterion,1 we assess the impact potential (IP) of a charity’s programs without considering their specific program achievements. During our assessment, we analyze the groups of animals the charity’s programs target, the countries where they take place, and the intervention types they use. We also examine how the charity allocates expenditures among different animal groups, countries, and interventions. A charity that performs well on this criterion has programs with great potential to reduce animal suffering or improve animal wellbeing. The key aspects that ACE examines when evaluating a charity’s programmatic work are discussed in detail below.
ACE characterizes promising programs as those that (i) target high-priority animal groups, (ii) work in high-priority countries, and/or (iii) use interventions that work toward high-priority outcomes. We used a version of the Scale, Tractability, and Neglectedness framework to score the impact potential of charities’ programmatic work in three categories: animal groups, countries, and interventions. Specifically, we calculated:
- Animal-relative scores to assess the expected impact of targeting different animal groups relative to each other
- Country-relative scores to assess the expected impact of working in different countries relative to each other
- Intervention-relative scores to assess the expected impact of using different interventions relative to each other
- Synergy scores to assess the expected impact of using specific combinations of animal groups, countries, and interventions together
For each animal group, country, and intervention, we assigned an impact potential score (IP score) on a 1–7 scale. For each animal group and intervention, we also assigned an uncertainty score on a 1–7 scale, which accounts for our team’s confidence in the IP score. We designate our overall impression as “high priority” when the IP score is equal to or greater than the median (of all animal group scores, country scores, and intervention scores, as applicable) and as “high uncertainty” when the uncertainty score is equal to or greater than the median (of all animal group scores, country scores, and intervention scores, as applicable). Scores below the median were categorized as “moderate priority” and “moderate uncertainty.”
We asked charities to estimate the percentage of their annual programmatic expenditures (i.e., non-overhead) allocated toward different categories of animal groups, countries, and interventions. The final IP score for each charity is the average of the four scores mentioned above (the animal-relative score, the country-relative score, the intervention-relative score, and the synergy score) weighted by those percentages. This final IP score represents ACE’s assessment of the impact potential of the charity’s collective programs without considering their specific program achievements. Similarly, we also arrived at a final uncertainty score for each charity.
We designate our overall impression of each charity’s impact potential as “high IP” when the final IP score is equal to or greater than the median (of all 2023 charities under evaluation) and as “high uncertainty” when the final uncertainty score is equal to or greater than the median (of all 2023 charities under evaluation). Scores below the median were categorized as “moderate IP” and “moderate uncertainty.”
Limitations of Our Method
In this criterion, we assess the impact potential (IP) of charities’ programs without considering their implementation or achievements. We address this limitation in the Cost Effectiveness criterion, where we analyze charities’ program achievements since 2022.
Due to the lack of available data for STN proxies and our limited capacity to gather data, we were unable to assess the effectiveness of interventions and animal groups based solely on data and without any subjective scoring by ACE team members, as we did for countries. The intervention-relative scores are based on ACE team members’ scores. In contrast, the animal-relative scores use a hybrid approach, incorporating ACE team member scores for tractability, neglectedness, and some scale proxies. For other scale proxies, we used animal population data and Rethink Priorities’ adjusted data on welfare ranges, each with its own limitations.8 Because we assigned numerical values to non-numerical data, we advise caution when interpreting results, as they can appear more objective than they are.
Due to limited capacity, we decided to estimate the welfare range of each animal group using only one species. Rethink Priorities recommended a more complex method that involves population-weighted averages of welfare ranges for categories of multiple animal species (e.g., wild animals). Although we did not use Rethink Priorities’ suggested method this year, we may implement a refined version of it in the future if we expect it would significantly improve the accuracy of our estimates.
We based the country-relative scores entirely on data, but unfortunately, not all the data we intended to include was available. Our original plan for this year was to use the amount of farmed animal advocacy funding per human population as a proxy for neglectedness in different countries. However, due to a lack of reliable data on the amount of farmed animal advocacy funding in each country, we instead used the number of farmed animal organizations in the country as a proxy. The data we used for the country-relative scores also has limitations, as they are estimations made by different institutions using various methods. Another limitation of our country-scoring method is that it only applies to farmed animal advocacy. We do not have country scores to evaluate programs that aim to support wild animals or other animal groups. In such cases, we scored countries as “n/a” and excluded the country factor from our analysis.
ACE team members used empirical evidence when available to score interventions and synergy impacts; however, evidence was inconsistent across interventions. For example, we found limited research on the effects of corporate litigation or funding.
We are particularly uncertain about the long-term impact of interventions, which is plausibly what matters most.9 The potential number of animals affected increases over time due to an accumulation of generations. Thus, we expect that the long-term impacts of an action will likely affect more animals than the short-term impacts of the same action. This year, we included some considerations of long-term impact in our assessment of each intervention type.However, we remain highly uncertain about the specific long-term effects of each intervention. Due to this uncertainty, our reasoning about the potential impact of each charity (including our diagrams) tends to emphasize short-term effects.
Cost Effectiveness: How much has the charity achieved through their programs?
With this criterion, we assess the effectiveness of a charity’s approach to implementing interventions, their achievements, and the costs associated with those achievements. Charities that perform well on this criterion likely use their available resources in a cost-effective manner. The key aspects that ACE considers when examining cost effectiveness are reviewed in detail below.
We conducted our analysis by comparing a charity’s reported expenditures over 12 months to their reported achievements in each intervention category during that time. To simplify the reporting process for charities, we gave them the choice to report achievements for the last full calendar year or their organization’s last full fiscal year.
We asked charities to report up to 10 key achievements per intervention category alongside their estimated expenditures for each achievement.10
During our evaluation, we verified a subset of the charity’s reported achievements. Specifically, we identified the three intervention categories for which the charity reported the highest expenditures and selected up to three key claims per intervention category to verify.11 We aimed to identify the claims with the highest reported expenditures, ideally by finding at least one independent source to confirm the claim. When we were unable to do so, we directed follow-up questions to the charity to verify their achievements.
We used a Weighted Factor Model12 (WFM) approach to calculate the charity’s final cost-effectiveness score (see image below) based on their achievement scores. The achievement scores represent a combination of the intervention impact potential (IP) score and the implementation scorefor each key achievement.
- For each key achievement, we assigned the respective intervention IP score. For more details on how we calculated intervention IP scores and prioritized interventions, see the Impact Potential criterion.
- We also computed the achievement quantity, i.e., how much the charity accomplished per U.S. dollar or per $100,000.13 We applied discounts to the achievement quantities if a charity collaborated with other organizations, and in certain other cases (e.g., if a charity influenced funding rather than directly providing it, if they summarized and disseminated research rather than conducting original studies, or if a corporate campaign did not result in any commitments). We then normalized the achievement quantity against other achievements in the same intervention category and with the same unit and mapped it onto a 1–7 scale.
- We then used a rubric to score the achievement quality (i.e., how well the charity had implemented the intervention). The rubric included the respective animal-relative IP score for the animal group targeted by the achievement, as well as intervention-specific factors. Where an achievement targeted multiple animal groups, we used the average animal score.14
- We calculated a weighted average of the achievement quantity per dollar/$100k and the achievement quality to arrive at the implementation score.15
- We then multiplied the intervention IP score by the implementation score and normalized and mapped the resulting score onto a 1–7 scale to arrive at the achievement score.16
- The final cost-effectiveness score for each charity is the average of all of their achievement scores, weighted by their expenditures. This score indicates, on a 1–7 scale, how cost effective we think the charity has been during the reported year, with higher scores indicating higher cost effectiveness. Note that charities were benchmarked against other charities under evaluation rather than against all charities, and the standard of effectiveness in the charities we selected to evaluate is likely high. Low cost-effectiveness scores therefore don’t necessarily indicate low cost effectiveness in absolute terms.
Fig. 1: A model depicting the breakdown of a charity’s cost-effectiveness score
We also rated our level of uncertainty in each achievement score based on the intervention uncertainty score, the number of missing scores in the achievement scoring rubric,17 and whether we were able to successfully verify a charity’s achievements. Uncertainty was scored on a 1–7 scale, with higher scores indicating higher uncertainty. The final uncertainty score for each charity is the average of the achievement uncertainty scores, weighted by the relative achievement expenditures.18 We consider a score to represent “high uncertainty” when it is equal to or greater than the median of all charities under evaluation.
Limitations of Our Method
ACE used quantitative cost-effectiveness models until 2018. Between 2019 and 2021, we moved away from this approach due to concerns about the usefulness of purely quantitative models. Instead, we employed a qualitative analysis of charities’ cost effectiveness, which consisted of an assessment of whether we had concerns about the way a charity was using its funds. Since 2022, we have again been moving toward an approach that includes more quantitative information. For ACE’s 2023 evaluations, we decided not to use a model that fully quantifies the expected impact on animals for the following reasons:
- The charities we evaluate employ a wide range of interventions, and we lack the empirical research for most interventions that would enable us to make informed, quantified estimates of their impact on animals. The resulting uncertainties would be significant, limiting the estimates’ usefulness.19
- Fully quantified cost-effectiveness estimates often ignore important factors that are hard to quantify and are sometimes arbitrary in what they include and exclude.
- Interventions are interdependent and their effectiveness is context-sensitive, so there might not be a clear answer as to which intervention is the most effective.
- Improving on these limitations may lead to greater complexity, making it harder for the public to understand and critically appraise the model.
To include as much quantifiable information as possible this year, we opted for a Weighted Factor Model20 (WFM) approach, which can be useful when limited hard data is available. This approach allows us to combine objective (hard) factors (e.g., the number of downloads of an educational resource) and subjective (soft) factors (e.g., how evidence-based the content of the resource is) when evaluating a charity’s achievements. Because factors and factor weights are standardized, this approach also ensures consistency in evaluation across charities. However, there are several noteworthy limitations.
Given that most factors and factor weights are set in advance, a WFM can have limited flexibility.21 Additionally, because we assign numerical values to non-numerical data, the data can be misinterpreted as more objective than it is. Therefore, the results of a WFM need to be interpreted with caution.
Further, due to limited team capacity, we could not independently verify every achievement charities reported to us. Instead, we followed a protocol where we aimed to verify one to three achievements in each of the top three intervention categories for which charities reported the highest expenditures. In some cases, we were either partially or not able to independently verify the achievements that were reported. In these cases, we sent follow-up questions to the charities to ask them for evidence of the achievement. While we made every effort to independently verify all the achievements we selected using our verification protocol, there were some achievements we were not able to verify. This increased our uncertainty score for these achievements.
To allow for comparison across charities, we evaluate them based on a standardized 12-month time period. However, this limited timeframe may not accurately reflect a charity’s long-term cost effectiveness. Some accomplishments that are reported to us might seem more cost-effective than they actually are if a significant portion of the associated expenses occurred before or after the assessed timeframe. On the other hand, for a charity that focuses on long-term systemic change, the 12-month time period may not capture the full impact of their achievements. Complex issues like policy reform or behavior change often require sustained efforts over multiple years to yield significant results. Therefore, assessing cost effectiveness within this limited timeframe does not fully reflect the long-term potential and cumulative impact of the charity’s work.
Additionally, it’s important to note that charities could report achievements based on the last full calendar year or the last full fiscal year, depending on their financial reporting practices. While this flexibility allowed charities to align their reporting with their financial cycles, it means that we did not evaluate the exact same time period for each charity. Consequently, although there is significant overlap between the charities’ selected reporting periods, some caution should be exercised when directly comparing charities.
Generally, assessing cost effectiveness by considering a charity’s key achievements has inherent limitations. It could bias cost-effectiveness estimates upward because it tends to disregard work that did not result in an achievement. To help mitigate this, we asked charities to report achievements and expenditures that cover at least 90% of their overall program expenditures.
Room For More Funding: How much additional money can the charity effectively use in the next two years?
A recommendation from ACE could lead to a large increase in a charity’s funding. With this criterion, we investigate whether a charity would be able to absorb the funding that a new or renewed recommendation may bring, and the extent to which we believe that their future uses of funding will be as effective as their past work.
We begin our room for more funding (RFMF) assessment by inspecting the charity’s revenue and plans for expansion through 2025, assuming that their ACE recommendation status and the amount of ACE-influenced funding they receive will stay the same. We then outline how the charity would likely expand if they were to receive funds beyond their predicted income and use this information to calculate their RFMF.
Plans for Expansion
To estimate charities’ RFMF, we request their financial and staffing records from 2020 onwards and ask them to predict their revenue and staff size through 2025. We ask them to report how their projections are allocated across different interventions, animal groups, and countries. We then assess our overall level of uncertainty in the charity’s projected revenue, expenditures, and hiring plans on a scale of 1–7, with higher scores indicating higher uncertainty. This assessment is based on factors such as sustainability of growth,22 alignment with projections from our previous evaluation (if applicable), and our uncertainty in charities’ ability to find and train planned new hires in the projected time frame based on our understanding of the talent landscape.23
Our focus is to determine whether additional resources will likely be used for programs with high impact potential or other beneficial organizational changes. The latter may include investments into infrastructure and staff retention, both of which we think are important for sustainable growth.
We ask charities to indicate how they would spend additional, unexpected funding that an ACE recommendation may bring. Because previously recommended charities tend to receive more ACE-influenced funding over time, we also ask those charities to specify how they would use additional funding.
We then assess our level of uncertainty in the effectiveness of the charity’s plans in 2024 and 2025 and estimate their RFMF for those years. To do this, we assign an uncertainty score on a 1–7 scale, with higher scores indicating higher uncertainty, based on questions such as the following for each plan:
- How uncertain are we that the charity’s plans will make as effective use of the funding as their previous expenditures?
- Is there a percentage threshold of the charity’s proposed plans beyond which the additional funding is not used as effectively?
- Are there nonfinancial barriers that may impact the charity’s ability to carry out their plans?
We use these uncertainty scores and the charity’s revenue and expenditure trajectory to define two RFMF dollar estimates that represent the amount beyond the charity’s projected revenue in 2024 and 2025 that we believe they could effectively use. If the charity has plans for a large amount of unexpected funding that are likely to be as effective as their past work, they will receive higher RFMF estimates.
We may adjust RFMF based on the status of a charity’s reserves. It is common practice for charities to hold more funds than needed for their current expenses to be able to withstand changes in the business cycle or external shocks that may affect their incoming revenue.24 Such additional funds can also serve as investments in future projects. Thus, it can be effective to provide a charity with additional funding to secure the organization’s stability and/or provide funding for larger projects in the future. Therefore, we increase a charity’s RFMF if they are below their targeted amount of reserves. If a target does not exist, we suggest that charities hold reserves equal to at least one year of expenditures.
The charities we evaluate typically receive revenue from a variety of sources, such as individual donations and grants from foundations.25 A review of the literature on nonprofit finance suggests that revenue diversity may be positively associated with revenue predictability if the sources of income are largely uncorrelated.26 However, there is evidence that revenue diversity may not always be associated with financial stability.27 Therefore, although revenue diversity does not play a direct role in our recommendation decision, we indicate charities’ major sources of income in this criterion for donors interested in financial stability.
Limitations of Our Method
Because we cannot predict exactly how much charities will fundraise in the future and how their plans for expansion will unfold, our estimates are speculative—not definitive. For instance, a charity could lose a major funder or discover a way to use additional funding that they did not anticipate, in which case our estimates would be too low. Conversely, they could fail to hire an employee with the necessary skills or experience to enable an expansion, in which case our estimates would be too high.
Our RFMF estimates are intended to identify the point in time at which we would want to check in with a charity to ensure that they have used their funds effectively and can still absorb additional funding. Therefore, we check in with our recommended charities twice a year leading up to our Recommended Charity Fund distributions to update our sense of their RFMF.
Finally, because we assign numerical values to non-numerical assessments of uncertainty, the data can be misinterpreted as more objective than it is.
Organizational Health: Are there any management issues substantial enough to affect the charity’s effectiveness and stability?
With this criterion,28 we assess whether any aspects of an organization’s leadership or workplace culture pose a risk to its effectiveness or stability, thereby reducing its potential to help animals. Problems with leadership and workplace culture could also negatively affect the reputation of the broader animal advocacy movement, as well as employees’ wellbeing and their willingness to remain in the movement. For example:
- Schyns & Schilling (2013) report that poor leadership practices result in counterproductive employee behavior, stress, negative attitudes toward the entire company, lower job satisfaction, and higher intention to quit.
- Waldman et al. (2012) report that effective leadership predicts lower turnover and reduced intention to quit.
- Wang (2021) reports that organizational commitment among nonprofit employees is positively related to engaged leadership, community engagement effort, the degree of formalization in daily operations, and perceived intangible support for employees.
- Gorski et al. (2018) report that all of the activists they interviewed attributed their burnout in part to negative organizational and movement cultures, including a culture of martyrdom, exhaustion/overwork, the taboo of discussing burnout, and financial strain.
- A meta-analysis by Harter et al. (2002) indicates that employee satisfaction and engagement are correlated with reduced employee turnover and accidents and increased customer satisfaction, productivity, and profit.
We review aspects of organizational health by examining information provided by top leadership staff and by capturing staff perspectives via our engagement survey. We also distribute the survey to volunteers working at least five hours per week.
Poor performance on a single aspect of the organizational health assessment does not automatically lead to an unfavorable overall outcome. Instead, we seek to assess organizational health from multiple perspectives to arrive at the most appropriate conclusion within the time available based on the information we have. This includes our follow-up conversations with the charity’s leadership.
People policies and processes
We ask charities to report their people policies.We provide a checklist of policies that we believe are strong indicators of organizational health and ask charities to indicate which of these they have implemented.Policies are grouped into the following categories:
- Workplace safety
- Organizational design and communication
- Performance and hiring assessments
- Learning and development
- Workplace conditions
- Representation, equity, and inclusion
We do not assess which policies from our list are the most important. As we gather aggregated information about the charities we evaluate, we hope to build up a clearer picture over time of which policies are the strongest indicators of organizational health in different contexts. As noted above, we take into account that many charities work in contexts (e.g., geographical regions) where these policies may not be common practice.
A safe and inclusive working environment is likely to deliver significant benefits not only for advocates, but also for the effectiveness and stability of organizations and the broader animal advocacy movement.29 This is why we collect information about policies and activities regarding representation, equity, and inclusion. We use the term “representation” broadly to refer to the diversity of certain social characteristics (called “protected classes” in some countries).30 Additionally, charities should generally have human resources policies against harassment31 and discrimination32 and ensure that cases of harassment and discrimination in the workplace33 are addressed appropriately.
We also ask about the internal accessibility of people policies and processes, i.e., which policies are shared with employees at the organization and in what way. This is because written policies have little use without employees knowing that they exist, understanding them, and believing that the organization enforces them. For example, it is important for employees to understand their entitlement to sick days and how to submit internal reports of harassment and discrimination.
Governance and accountability
We ask charities to report whether they have basic governance policies and processes in place, including: an anti-retaliation policy protecting whistleblowers and those who report grievances, a Conflict of Interest policy, a policy setting out procedures for the storage and destruction of documents, and a process for documenting minutes of board and board committee meetings.
We also consider leadership’s commitment to transparency.34 Firstly, we require organizations selected for evaluation to be transparent with ACE throughout the evaluation process. This is essential for us to be confident that we have the necessary information to carry out a full, well-informed evaluation. Secondly, we consider organizations’ public-facing transparency by asking charities to report what information they have available on their website, such as key staff members and financial information. Although we value such transparency, we recognize that some organizations may be able to have a greater impact by keeping certain information private. For example, organizations and individuals working in some regions or on particular interventions could be harmed by publicizing certain information about their work. We seek to understand where this is the case based on conversations with the charity’s leadership.
Leadership and governance
First, we consider key information about the composition of leadership staff and the board of directors. There appears to be no firm consensus in the literature on the specifics of the relationship between board composition and organizational performance.35 However, BoardSource (a 501(c)(3) organization that provides the most reliable research we have found on nonprofit board leadership) recommends that, if the law permits, the Executive Director (ED) or equivalent should be an “ex officio, non-voting member of the board.”36 In this way, the ED can provide input in board meeting deliberation and decision-making while avoiding perceived conflicts of interest, questions concerning accountability, or blurring the line between oversight and execution. We also ask if there have been any recent transitions in leadership and what measures were taken to ensure this transition happened smoothly.
We ask about the board’s membership and functions, so we can understand to what extent these align with the Compliance Practices set out in BoardSource’s Recommended Governance Practices. For example, we ask how often the board meets, how its performance is evaluated, and what term limits are in place for board members.
Our engagement survey also asks staff to identify the extent to which they feel that leadership competently guides the organization, both as an indicator of leadership competence and staff engagement. The questions we ask are based on cross-cultural research by Culture Amp and Google’s Project Oxygen.
Finally, we have specific considerations for charities that work internationally. In some international organizations, there can be a particular risk of power imbalances between offices based in different countries, and especially between offices based in the Global North and the Global South. These power imbalances—e.g., resulting from differences in the level of autonomy and decision-making power granted to different regional offices, or from inequalities in the level of funding received by Global North and Global South offices—can occur within the same organization or between organizations working together. We think it is important that charities’ leadership create opportunities for all of their subsidiaries to influence decision-making at the international level.37 We ask leadership to elaborate on their approach to international expansion and report the measures they take to address potential power imbalances.
Staff engagement and satisfaction
We solicit staff and volunteer perspectives via our engagement survey. We developed this survey in collaboration with organizational consultants Scarlet Spark. To help ensure that our questions were reliable predictors of organizational health, we based them where possible on recognized frameworks such as the cross-culturally validated Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey, the Maslach Burnout Inventory, Google’s Project Oxygen, and cross-cultural research by Culture Amp.
We require at least 65% of the charity’s staff to respond to the survey to ensure that we have a representative sample of responses. There is no participation threshold for volunteers, recognizing that most organizations do not have a fixed number of volunteers as their participation tends to fluctuate.
If a charity scores particularly low on any aspect of staff engagement, we follow up on these factors with the charity’s leadership to hear their perspective and understand any relevant context. We only share aggregated organizational-level data with leadership and do not share individual survey responses or other confidential information. ACE may recommend that the charity address any outstanding concerns, for example, by:
- Conducting a comprehensive staff survey to assess employee engagement, satisfaction, and areas for improvement.
- Establishing regular channels for communication and feedback, such as open-door policies, suggestion boxes, or anonymous reporting mechanisms.
- Developing professional development opportunities and career advancement pathways for staff.
- Seeking external expertise on how to improve staff morale.
- If low staff morale is being caused by a specific person, carrying out a performance review with that person and agreeing on the specific ways in which their behavior needs to change, including a timeline by which changes must happen.
Our engagement survey contains questions based on the 12 statements from the Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey, with staff requested to rate each statement on a scale from 1 (No, I strongly disagree) to 5 (Yes, I strongly agree). Where possible, we avoided making adjustments to standard assessments since these questions have been validated with large, cross-cultural samples of participants. However, we made minor amendments to some statements in the original Gallup survey that charities have found unclear in the past. We consider an average engagement score of below 3 (the scale midpoint) to warrant follow-up with the charity’s leadership.
In addition to the engagement questions based on the Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey, we ask questions designed to elicit information about the risk of burnout among staff, the level of psychological safety at the organization, and organizational stability. We designed these questions together with Scarlet Spark, based largely on the frameworks mentioned above (the Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey, the Maslach Burnout Inventory, Google’s Project Oxygen, and cross-cultural research by Culture Amp). We also ask all staff about wage satisfaction since this can serve as an indicator of retention.38
We ask volunteers an alternative set of questions specifically designed to assess volunteer engagement and satisfaction. These questions are similar to the ones in the employee engagement survey but with added dimensions to understand whether volunteers feel they are making a difference, whether their workload is fair, the ease of volunteering for the organization, and their pride in volunteering at the organization.
Harassment and Discrimination
The engagement survey contains a link to an anonymous Whistleblower Form,39 developed with support from legal experts at Animal Defense Partnership, for any staff or volunteers who wish to report issues of harassment and discrimination. In most cases where we decide to take action based on such reports, this consists of sharing relevant non-confidential information with the leadership of the organization in question and hearing their perspective. We do this to improve our understanding of what happened, whether the leadership members were aware, and what measures they took or plan to take, if relevant. We then factor this information into our overall Organizational Health assessment.
Limitations of our method
While we strive to continually improve our assessment of charities’ organizational health, we recognize that several limitations remain.
Firstly, we are currently unable to fully investigate harassment and discrimination claims due to a combination of time constraints, lack of expertise, and the often anonymous nature of the reports that we receive. We recognize that this may cause frustration among charities that we evaluate, especially when we are unable to share specific details about these claims for reasons of confidentiality.
This year, we have sought to improve the channel for people to submit such reports, linking to the more comprehensive Whistleblower Form co-developed with Animal Defense Partnership, rather than asking about harassment and discrimination in the engagement survey directly. We hope this helps ensure that claimants understand the implications of providing such information, improve the comprehensiveness of any such information that we receive, better enable us to follow up with claimants, and better identify the level of detail we are able to share with the leadership of the charity in question. At the same time, we recognize that requiring claimants to fill out a separate, more comprehensive form may reduce the number of reports that we receive.
Secondly, our engagement survey only provides a limited window into a charity’s workplace culture and may not fully represent the broad range of experiences within the organization. In particular, we recognize that surveying staff and volunteers can lead to inaccuracies due to selection bias and also may not reflect employees’ true opinions, as respondents are aware that their answers could influence ACE’s evaluation of their employer. We also recognize that our assessment represents a snapshot at a point in time and may not fully capture ongoing cultural shifts within an organization.
This year, we have included a wider range of questions in the survey and collaborated with the organizational consultant Scarlet Spark to help ensure these questions are likely to be effective predictors of organizational stability and effectiveness. As in previous years, we do not rely solely on the results of the engagement survey to make our assessment. Rather, we assess organizational health from multiple perspectives to arrive at the most appropriate decision within the time available based on all the information we have, including our follow-up conversations with the charity’s leadership.
Thirdly, there is no universally agreed-upon “best practice” for organizational leadership and culture. With a wide range of frameworks, models, and approaches available, it can be challenging to establish a singular standard for evaluation, which may lead to a variety of interpretations and expectations among charities.
As mentioned, this year, we developed our organizational health assessment in collaboration with organizational consultants Scarlet Spark to help ensure we are using the most relevant research. Where possible, we used recognized frameworks such as the cross-culturally validated Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey, the Maslach Burnout Inventory, Google’s Project Oxygen, and cross-cultural research by Culture Amp. As in previous years, we also seek to gather input both from the charity’s leadership and non-leadership staff so that we can understand any issues from multiple perspectives.
Lastly, our assessment may be biased toward certain Western workplace practices. As a U.S.-based organization with staff based predominantly in the U.S. and Western Europe, our understanding of best-practice organizational health is inevitably skewed toward the cultures with which we are most familiar.
We seek to recognize this bias at all stages of the assessment and to continually learn from the charities that we evaluate, rather than imposing a ’one size fits all’ approach onto each charity’s unique situation. For example, we recognize that not all of the policies and processes that we ask charity leadership about will be common or relevant in all countries and situations. Where there are indications that important policies and processes may be lacking, we follow up with the charity to gain a better understanding of the context. Particularly if the charity is based outside of the U.S., we are also eager to learn of additional policies they may have that they find to be important contributors to their effectiveness. In this way, we hope that this exercise can be mutually informative for ACE and for the charities that we evaluate.
This year, we also modified our engagement survey questions to reduce their focus on Western cultures and piloted the questions with charities from different global regions to help ensure this was successful. We will continue to explore how best to improve the applicability of our assessment across all national contexts, using evidence from the countries where our evaluated charities are based.
If you have any questions about ACE’s evaluation methods, please contact our Charity Evaluations Manager, Vincent Mak: email@example.com.
This criterion was called Programs from 2020 to 2022.We decided to rename it Impact Potential to better reflect its focus on assessing the effectiveness of charities’ programs without considering their implementation. This name is more specific and less confusing internally, especially since we recently changed the name of our research team to the Programs team.
Rethink Priorities adjusted their welfare range estimates for use in ACE’s evaluations. Because ACE compares animal charities with each other rather than with human charities, Rethink Priorities reindexed the ranges to pigs instead of humans—see this page for more information.
The framework we used to prioritize countries only applies to farmed animal advocacy.We have not developed a framework to prioritize wild animal welfare work because there are very few organizations that work on wild animal welfare, and those we have considered so far are focused on indirect work such as research and academic development, which is less country-specific.
For example, when scoring the intervention category “apps and other digital resources,” we considered the following tractability proxies: the Global Innovation Index, Education (mean years of schooling), and Internet Penetration rate.
We asked that reported achievements and associated expenditures amount to at least 90% of a charity’s total program expenditures during the reporting period. We also adjusted achievement expenditures by taking the charity’s reported expenditures and adding a portion of their non-programmatic expenditures (i.e., overhead or administration). This process allowed us to incorporate general organizational running costs into our consideration of cost effectiveness.
For more information about Weighted Factor Models, see Charity Entrepreneurship (2019).
We standardized this unit to achievements per one U.S. dollar or per $100,000, depending on which was easier to interpret, to allow for comparison across achievements. For example, we calculated how many individuals a social media campaign reached per dollar spent or how many legal actions a charity filed per $100,000 spent. For some intervention categories, the number of achievements was too low to normalize the achievement quantity. In these cases, we used the average of two researchers’ subjective assessment of the quantity on a 1–7 scale.
Two researchers scored each achievement on the rubric and discussed significant disagreements before a second round of revising scores. We averaged the two researchers’ scores for each factor. Where we did not have enough information to score an achievement, we set the corresponding factor weight to zero.
We defaulted to giving achievement quality 75% and achievement quantity 25% weight. In some cases, e.g., if we were particularly uncertain about the achievement quantity, we gave achievement quality a higher weight.
By using a multiplicative method, we avoid giving high scores to achievements that implement promising interventions poorly (i.e., high intervention score but low implementation score). Consider the example where a charity focuses on an intervention like cage-free campaigns, which has the potential to be highly impactful, but fails to achieve any significant commitments. With a weighted average approach, the charity would still receive a relatively high score despite an unsuccessful implementation of their campaigns. However, by using a multiplicative method, the overall score accounts for the interaction between intervention and implementation scores. This means that if the implementation quality is lacking, the overall score will appropriately reflect that.
We encouraged charities to give as much information as possible about each achievement. In order to protect their capacity, we also marked some questions as optional. Where we did not have the relevant information to score an achievement on a factor in the scoring rubric, this increased our uncertainty score for that achievement.
We increased the uncertainty score for charities that reported fewer than 10 achievements to account for the fact that measurement errors and uncertainties have a higher impact on the final score when fewer achievements are averaged.
For interested readers, we compiled a list of existing quantified cost-effectiveness estimates for animal advocacy interventions here.
For more information about Weighted Factor Models, see Charity Entrepreneurship (2019).
This criterion was called Leadership and Culture from 2020 to 2022. We found that ‘leadership’ was often misunderstood as referring solely to the qualities of individual leaders and that ‘culture’ was understood in very different ways across countries and demographics. With the new name Organizational Health, we intend to highlight the broad focus of this criterion and to clarify that its goal is to identify any significant risks to the organization’s effectiveness and stability.
For example, in a study by Anderson (2020), 49% of paid animal advocates and 28% of unpaid animal advocates reported having experienced discrimination or harassment. Advocates who were members of a minoritized group (i.e., people of color, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ people) were significantly more likely to leave the movement as a result of discrimination than non-minoritized advocates.
Examples of such social characteristics include: race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender or gender expression, sexual orientation, pregnancy or parental status, marital status, national origin, citizenship, amnesty, veteran status, political beliefs, age, ability, and genetic information.
ACE defines “harassment” as bullying, intimidation, and other behavior (whether physical, verbal, or nonverbal) that has the effect of upsetting, demeaning, humiliating, intimidating, or threatening an individual. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.
ACE defines the “workplace” as any place where work-related activities occur, including physical premises, meetings, conferences, training sessions, transit, social functions, and electronic communication (such as email, chat, text, phone calls, and virtual meetings).
Charity Navigator defines transparency as “an obligation or willingness by a charity to publish and make available critical data about the organization.”
BoardSource (2016), p. 4
Anheier (2005), p.370. More broadly, a review by Greer et al. (2017) maintains that teams with a high degree of power dispersion (meaning high power concentration vs. balanced distribution) have poorer outcomes and more unproductive conflict.
For example, see Mitchell et al. (2001).
The publicly accessible version of this form can be found via ACE’s Third-Party Whistleblower Policy on our website.