ACE evaluates animal advocacy organizations in order to find those that are able to do the most good with additional donations. Following anti-speciesist principles, we recognize that success can take many forms, but aim to compare these different types of success by the amount of improvement they cause in the lives of animals. We use multiple criteria to identify the best organizations at each stage of our process, then review those organizations more deeply before making our recommendations.
- Our Process
- Organizations Considered
ACE seeks to evaluate organizations based on their success in improving the lives of animals. Because the many methods of improving animal lives are not directly and easily comparable, we use a variety of direct and indirect criteria for evaluating each organization’s success in this area. Additionally, because our recommendations are intended to drive increased funding to the organizations we recommend, we consider whether organizations are likely to be able to use increased funding in the short term.
Our complete list of criteria follows. Though they are not all equally important, we always consider all criteria. An organization that was sufficiently strong in some areas could receive a recommendation from us even if it performed poorly in others. Our charity evaluation template features an elaboration on the below criteria.
1. The organization has concrete room for more funding and plans for growth. It has plans that cannot be fully accomplished with the expected funding from other sources, and the barriers to accomplishing those plans are monetary, not due to time, a lack of qualified personnel, or other non-monetary issues. Receiving money from donors directed by ACE would be very likely to increase the organization’s total impact.
2. A back-of-the-envelope calculation finds the organization is cost-effective. Considering the organization’s budget and its demonstrated successes, the organization appears to be cost-effective in the goal of reducing animal suffering, relative to other organizations. If these calculations were produced with perfect information, they would be the only factor necessary to consider beyond room for more funding. However, because our calculations are necessarily estimates, corroborative evidence is required.
3. The organization is working on things that seem to have high mission effectiveness. Without considering the specific implementation, the interventions pursued by the organization are among those expected to be highly effective. Often this information will come partly from our intervention evaluation process. At the very least, the organization is working in a domain with high potential for efficiency (for instance, farmed animal advocacy) or is working in another domain with methods that appear to be exceptionally cost-effective.
4. The organization possesses a robust and agile understanding of success and failure. The organization has both short and long term goals and can articulate signs that indicate whether they are moving towards or away from their goals. Regular self-assessments guide the organization’s program development. If applicable, the organization has responded appropriately in the past to signs that a program was not succeeding. Furthermore, they are able to innovate effectively: they regularly try small and large changes to programs, identify which changes improve outcomes, and act on that information.
5. The organization possesses a strong track record of success. The organization has a record of successful achievement of incremental goals or of demonstrated progress towards larger goals. Note that this implies the organization has been in existence for some length of time. While very young organizations may have strong potential to return large results for small initial amounts of funding, donating to organizations without track records is inherently risky.
6. The organization has strong leadership and long-term strategy. The current leaders of the organization seem competent and well-respected. The organization's overall mission puts a strong emphasis on effectively reducing suffering, and the organization responds to new evidence with that goal in mind, revisiting their strategic plan regularly to ensure they stay aligned with that mission.
7. The organization has a healthy culture and sustainable structure. The organization is stable and sustainable under ordinary conditions, and seems likely to survive the transition should some of the current leadership move on to other projects. The organization acts responsibly to stakeholders including staff, volunteers, donors, and others in the community. In particular, staff and volunteers develop and grow as advocates due to their relationship with the organization.
We generate a list of organizations for consideration by combining existing lists of animal advocacy organizations, organizations that we are aware of for other reasons, and suggestions solicited from experts and obtained through our website. Suggestions for our next round of evaluations are welcome.
Because there are so many animal advocacy organizations, even briefly evaluating all of them would easily overwhelm our capacity: The Humane Society of the United States estimates that there are 3,500 animal shelters in the US alone, and though in some cases a single organization runs many shelters, this suggests the number of animal advocacy organizations is similarly high. Therefore, as we are compiling our list, we use heuristics to decide which organizations to include. Specifically, we strive to include all organizations focused on highly effective areas, but in areas we consider less promising, we evaluate only those groups recommended specifically to our attention. Therefore, while we hope that our evaluations cover a large percentage of groups working towards farmed animal advocacy, we omit from consideration many charities focused on companion animal welfare. As we conduct future research, we may revise our opinions of which areas offer the most effective ways of improving animal lives, and we would then revise our heuristics accordingly.
ACE’s research staff work with interns and qualified volunteers to conduct charity reviews. We use an evaluation template to ensure that crucial factors are considered for each organization. Evaluators review the organization’s website and other materials and interview some of their employees. Evaluators also consider general evidence regarding the activities of the organization, such as the findings of our intervention evaluations. Evaluators document conversations so that sources can be provided in the final report.
Our reviews occur at two levels of intensity: exploratory and comprehensive (previously referred to as shallow and medium, with an additional deep level). For an exploratory review, evaluators visit the website of an organization and briefly review other publicly-available information about its mission, methods, and past achievements to evaluate how well it meets the criteria listed above. Evaluators also consult a staff member of the organization being evaluated to ensure the review is fair and representative. All organizations we evaluate have received at least an exploratory review.
ACE conducts comprehensive reviews on those organizations that appear most promising following an exploratory review. For a comprehensive review, evaluators more fully examine publicly available information and also solicit materials and interviews from people at the organization being evaluated. Evaluators may also solicit materials and interviews from others who work with the organization being evaluated, such as volunteers and partner organizations.
A comprehensive review requires considerable staff and volunteer time from ACE and cooperation from the organization we are evaluating. If in the process of conducting a review we become convinced that we will not be able to recommend the organization, we may discontinue the review and write a report based on what we have already learned. If an organization fails to respond to our requests for information or explicitly declines to participate in our evaluation process, we indicate this, in lieu of writing a review.
Previously we had a third level of review called a deep review. This was a more thorough version of the comprehensive review, including more conversations with organization staff and volunteers, as well as with others who work with or are served by the organization, such as staff at partner organizations or program participants. As of 2016, we are not planning to conduct any more deep reviews, but we will incorporate some aspects of the deep review into our comprehensive reviews going forward.
The finished product of each review is a narrative report summarizing the evaluator’s research and conclusions. One component of this report is a detailed cost-effectiveness estimate, but it is important to note that such estimates are subject to many and varying sources of error and should not be used in isolation.
We publish the results of finished reviews along with relevant supporting materials. When we have used materials that we do not have the right to reproduce, we summarize and cite the sources we have used. Before publishing a review, we show it to the relevant organization for review and approval. If we are unable to produce a report that accurately reflects our views and is acceptable to the organization concerned, we indicate that the organization declined to participate in the review process.
View our organization evaluation criteria.
We revise evaluations of all organizations that we currently recommend and update our recommendations on December 1 of each year. Throughout the year, we also conduct new evaluations and revise old evaluations of organizations that we do not currently recommend. To ensure that our recommendations are solid and well-researched, we focus our attention on evaluations that we feel have the most potential to change our recommendations, rather than revising each evaluation each year. We revisit each organization we have previously reviewed at least every third year, to account for changes in the organization over time. We plan to revisit standout organizations at least every other year.
Animal Equality advocates for animals by conducting undercover investigations, promoting them through media outlets, and engaging in legal and corporate outreach. They also conduct grassroots outreach, including demonstrations, protests, leafleting, and video showings. See our full review of AE for a detailed breakdown and analysis of their work.
Mercy For Animals primarily focuses on undercover investigations, but engages in a wide range of other advocacy tactics, including online efforts, grassroots outreach, and legal and corporate outreach. See our full review on MFA for a detailed breakdown and analysis of their work.
The Humane League runs a variety of programs that advocate for farmed animals, including online veg ad and leafleting programs. Through their research program, Humane League Labs, they continually seek to optimize the impact of their activities. See our full review of THL for a detailed breakdown and analysis of their work.
Albert Schweitzer Foundation (ASF) conducts corporate outreach campaigns and a variety of vegetarian outreach campaigns involving tours to different cities and advertising their messages through truck banners. Additionally, their scientific division researches ways to improve the quality of their work. Read our full review of ASF for more information on their work.
Humane Society of the United States' Farm Animal Protection Campaign (FAPC) advocates for farmed animals by engaging in legal, corporate, and institutional outreach, and conducting undercover investigations. Read our full review of FAPC for more information on their work.
Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) focuses primarily on incentivized video outreach, but they also engage in a variety of other national campaigns. They also host an annual Animal Rights conference each year. Read our full review of FARM for more information on their work.
Vegan Outreach (VO) engages almost exclusively in a single intervention, leafleting on behalf of farmed animals, which we consider to be among the most effective ways to help animals. Read our full review of VO for more information on their work.
New Harvest supports and promotes the development of animal products made without animals, such as cultured meat, by funding projects in the early stages of developing products which could replace the outputs of animal agriculture. They help connect scientists who have the necessary training, and help them find funding, business partners, and investors. Read our full review of New Harvest for more information on their work.
Faunalytics works to connect animal advocates with information. This mostly involves creating independent research, working directly with client organizations on various research projects, and providing resources for individual advocates through the content library they host on their website. Read our full review of Faunalytics for more information on their work.
The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) is working to achieve legal personhood and rights for at least some nonhuman animals. They have begun litigating, or planning to litigate, initially on behalf of great apes, elephants, and some marine mammals like dolphins. Read our full review of NhRP for more information on their work.
Animals Australia uses a variety of strategies to help several different groups of animals in need. A significant portion of their resources is spent on public advertising in Australia. They also conduct investigations, corporate outreach, leafleting and tabling, activist support and development, and online education. Most of their work deals with industrial agriculture or live export. Read our full review of Animals Australia for more information on their work.
Animal Ethics works to spread anti-speciesist messages in academia and to a general audience. They research topics related to anti-speciesism and animal issues, particularly wild animal suffering, and write up their findings in academic papers and essays aimed at a general audience. They also give talks, particularly in academic settings, distribute leaflets based on their work, and conduct online outreach and education through social media. Read our full review of Animal Ethics for more information on their work.
We have considered 170 organizations in total. For more details, see our complete list of organizations.