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Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) is a US-based non-profit charity evaluator and effective altruism-focused organization dedicated to finding and promoting the most effective ways to help animals. ACE performs research in order to provide guidance to charities and activists on the relative effectiveness of different interventions and offers top charity recommendations to donors. ACE offers career and volunteering suggestions as well as advice to existing charities on becoming more effective animal advocates. In December 2014, ACE named Mercy for Animals, The Humane League, and Animal Equality as Top Charities. ACE's Standout Charities from the same review include The Humane Society of the United States' Farm Animal Protection Campaign, The Albert Schweitzer Foundation, Vegan Outreach, and Farm Animal Rights Movement. Notable Board Members include Robert Wiblin of the Center for Effective Altruism and author and philosopher Peter Singer.
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Animal Charity Evaluators started out as Effective Animal Activism (EAA), a webpage created by Eitan Fischer for 80,000 Hours. The page was created to fill the need for evidence-based advice for donors who wish to help animals in the most effective ways possible.
In April 2013, the organization hired Jon Bockman as its first paid staff member. EAA soon became a US non-profit and merged with another non-profit, Justice for Animals, though EAA retained its goal of providing advice to donors on the most effective charities. In November 2013, EAA became a 501(c)(3). Around the same time, EAA expanded its mission to include providing advice to existing charities and activists on how to be the most effective.
In late 2013, EAA parted ways with Eitan Fischer, hired three more staff members, and rebranded as Animal Charity Evaluators.
During the organization review process, ACE considers many different criteria in making its Top and Standout Charity recommendations.
- Room for more funding and plans for growth
- Focus on projects with high mission effectiveness
- Willingness to adjust based on successes and failures
- Successful track record
- Strong structure and leadership
ACE's process for choosing Top and Standout Charities takes place in three phases: basic consideration, shallow review, and medium reviews. ACE plans to conduct deeper reviews for some charities in the future to determine if the more careful examination will improve the recommendations enough to justify the extra time spent.
During this round, ACE's goal is to generate a list of animal charities and their focus areas, in order to understand get a sense of the types of charities that exist. This will inform ACE's strategy in the charity evaluation process as well as their research in general. Any group can request to be considered in this round. The criteria considered in this phase includes the organization's web presence, whether or not the organization fits the scope of the evaluation, the language on the organization's website, the organization's goals and tactics, as well as whether the organization makes use of violence or destruction of property. Organizations that have been considered in this phase but not any other are listed on ACE's List of Organizations page as "considered".
In this round of reviews, ACE selects a target number of groups to investigate based on the available resources. Selection for this phase is guided by what the organization's focus is, their methods, the ease or difficulty of the evaluation, and the general likelihood of the organization receiving a recommendation. ACE explains that a groups focusing on change through institutions are more likely to be considered than groups focusing on caring for individual animals, because of their ability to achieve more change at a lower cost. Similarly, ACE prioritizes evaluating groups operating at the national and international level rather than local groups because efficiencies of scale make them slightly more effective on average and hence more likely to receive a recommendation.
In this round ACE staff members visit the organization websites to evaluate them based on the seven criteria they have chosen for charity selection. Staff members also investigate a basic overview of the organizations' budget and reserves. Once information has been collected, staff members read each other's notes and discuss overall opinions. ACE generate short 3-5 paragraph reviews of the organizations, and submits them to the organizations being evaluated for approval. If the organization agrees, the shallow reviews are published on the ACE website, and listed on the List of Organizations page as "reviewed".
After the research phase but before the writing phase of the shallow review process, ACE selects a small number of organizations to be further investigated in the Medium Review round.
The third round of the review process is intended to allow ACE staff members a chance to consider carefully and in detail a target number of promising organizations in order to recommend Top and Standout Charities. When choosing organizations for the Medium Review phase, ACE considers whether they expect the organization's programs to be cost-effective, whether the organization seems to consider appropriate evidence as guidance for their programs, and how much ACE expects to learn from conducting the review.
In this round, ACE staff members speak with a high-level staff member from the organization being evaluated, and ask specific questions pertaining to the organization evaluation criteria and to the organization's budget. At this point, a detailed review is written, including call summaries, spreadsheets with cost-effectiveness calculations, and supporting material. The review is submitted to the organization for approval, and if the organization, is published on ACE's website. The organization then appears on the List of Organizations page as "reviewed".
Once the Medium Reviews have been conducted, the evaluated organizations are notified as to whether they have been selected as a Top Charity, Standout Charity, or neither.
- Animal Equality (since December 1, 2014)
- Mercy For Animals (standout charity since ACE's launch in August 2012 - May 2014; top charity since May 14, 2014)
- The Humane League (since ACE's launch in August 2012)
ACE has four standout charities:
- The Farm Animal Protection Campaign of The Humane Society of the United States (since May 2014)
- Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) (since May 2014)
- Vegan Outreach (top charity between August 2012 and May 13, 2014, standout since December 1, 2014)
- Albert Schweitzer Foundation (since December 1, 2014)
ACE's research program is intended to consider a wide variety of animal advocacy activities and identify the most promising interventions. Deeper investigation is conducted in the more promising areas, to identify which interventions have the strongest evidence of efficacy. ACE's research efforts are divided into three main areas: investigation to evaluate different interventions, organizational research and evaluation, and foundational research.
Animal activists use a wide variety of interventions to advocate for animals, and ACE aims to identify which interventions efficiently solve the problems that they seek to address. This information allows activists and charities make informed decisions in deciding which course to pursue. ACE's research team has found that corporate interventions, such as working with restaurants and supermarket chains to strengthen animal welfare policies, appear to be some of the most cost-effective interventions, according to available evidence. Leafletting alone or in groups, because of the ease of availability of the materials, and the low time commitment required, appears to be a promising volunteer activity. Online ads could be even more cost-effective than leafletting as an intervention, though there is less available evidence. ACE has also considered humane education, the practice of going to schools and colleges to teach students about the negative effects of factory farming, as an intervention, but lacks enough evidence to recommend this practice as an effective intervention.
ACE regards charity evaluations as a top priority, and considers organizations from the perspective of which are the most effective at reducing the largest amount of animal suffering. ACE considers a large amount of organizations on a superficial level, and then performs more detailed examinations of the most promising organizations.
In addition to the intervention and organization evaluations, ACE performs more general research on topics relating to advocacy. These findings provide the necessary background to perform evaluations and for comparing work in differing areas. Some of the focus areas include research on the best ways to conduct surveys, and the general effects of vegan- and vegetarian-centered programs. ACE has also performed general research on understanding wild animal suffering, the relative impacts of different diet choices on animals, and vegetarian recidivism.
Using several different tracking methods, ACE estimates that over $141,000 in donations were influence for the Top and Standout Charity recommendations. ACE plans to improve tracking abilities by taking in donations and redistributing them to top charities.
Marc Gunther reviewed ACE in an article for Nonprofit Chronicles, noting: "[T]he work of Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) is relevant to nonprofits of all kinds. As its name suggests and, on a very modest budget, ACE evaluates animal charities. Its work could inspire those who want to evaluate charities in other sectors—education, the environment, that arts, whatever." He further noted: "The point is, Animal Charity Evaluators is asking the right questions–the kind all nonprofits should be asking themselves."
Charity evaluator GiveWell conducted and published notes on a conversation with Jon Bockman, the Executive Director of ACE, as part of an investigation into animal welfare as a potential cause area to devote resources into.
The Ultimate Fundraiser blog reviewed ACE, concluding: "The suffering that animals endure often caused by human self-interest is enormous. By educating people about how they can best advocate for animals, this organization hopes to contribute to the largest possible reduction of suffering for the largest number of animals. Animal Charity Evaluators is an organization that is taking the lead in helping us progress towards effective altruism." The Effective Altruism Hub has recommended to donors interested in animal welfare that they should donate to ACE-recommended charities.