Where ACE staff are giving in 2019 and why

by Animal Charity Evaluators6 min read27th Dec 2019No comments

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In this post, some ACE staff members discuss the contributions they’ve made to charities in 2019. This is intended to give interested readers examples of different approaches to charitable giving, from some of the people who are most familiar with our materials.

Heather Herrell, Director of Philanthropy

I like to think of philanthropy as an investment in a better future. While I have given to a variety of charities over the decades (primarily animal organizations), this year I took the Try Giving Pledge to officially commit to donating at least 5% of my income, which I have happily exceeded. I relied significantly on ACE’s annual recommendations to help direct my 2019 giving.

This year, I continued my monthly support of ACE because I genuinely value the contributions our organization makes to the animal advocacy movement. I also made several donations to a number of our effective Top and Standout Charities that are doing impactful work around the globe to reduce animal suffering. On Giving Tuesday I took advantage of Facebook’s $7M in matching funds, successfully organized by the EA Giving Tuesday group (thank you!). The Double Up Drive and Effective Animal Advocacy Fund Matching Challenge were additional incentivizing giving opportunities to increase the amount and potential impact of my donations.

I’m looking forward to giving more in 2020! Imagine how much good we could do if everyone gave something.

Erika Alonso, Director of Communications

My partner Adam and I share finances, but he largely defers to my judgment on where we donate. Our donations throughout 2019 were very similar to prior years and along the same lines of reasoning. Similar to last year, we allocated most of our donations to funds as opposed to individual charities—this year we donated to both ACE’s Effective Animal Advocacy Fund and Recommended Charity Fund. We’re excited to diversify our giving portfolio based on ACE’s recommendations, not only across Top and Standout Charities but to small but promising charities working within the animal advocacy space as well. We also made small one-time and monthly donations to ACE and ACE’s Top Charities.

We also continued our sponsorship of a chicken with Farm Sanctuary. This donation is a gift to my niece in lieu of other gifts, and we hope it inspires her to think differently about farmed animals. Additionally, we donated a small amount to nonprofits working on empowering women throughout the world via the new Momentum Giving app.

Our last donation of the year will go to Strong Minds, as they are working in a cause area that resonates with me on a personal level, and one that we believe is high impact and largely neglected. In the future, I hope to see more mental health-focused charities recommended within the effective altruism community as it’s a cause area that I strongly support, but I am uncertain about the effectiveness of organizations working in this space.

Gina Stuessy, Director of Operations

I consider myself a part of the effective altruism (EA) movement, and each year I aim to contribute at least 10% of my income to high-impact causes (I took the Giving What We Can Pledge). This year I made one of my two main donations on Giving Tuesday to take advantage of the Facebook matching opportunity: A few EAs worked very hard on the Giving Tuesday match to collect pledges from donors and provide best tips for getting donations matched as well as statistics afterward (thank you!). All together, EAs donated over $1.2 million as part of this single-day effort. My donation went to ACE to help meet our funding needs.

A couple of weeks later I realized I had enough to make another donation, and this time I gave to ACE’s Effective Animal Advocacy Fund—I’m excited to help support many animal charities working around the world with programs that our team finds to be quite promising. Additionally, donations to that fund are currently being matched by a generous, anonymous donor!

Jamie Spurgeon, Researcher

The majority of my giving this year has been split between both of ACE’s funds, the Recommended Charity Fund and the Effective Animal Advocacy Fund. Between the two funds, my contributions can help fund the most effective charities in the movement and also support a healthy pluralistic movement by ensuring funding is allocated across effective charities of all sizes. While I have a good sense of how I would allocate the funding myself within each Fund, I find that going through a team decision process consistently yields better results, and I greatly value the viewpoints of my colleagues when we make these funding decisions. In particular, I think that our second round of granting from the Effective Animal Advocacy Fund was a substantial improvement from the first round, and I look forward to seeing continual improvements as we move forward.

I have also donated specifically to The Good Food Institute (GFI) following their renewed status as a Top Charity. Aside from being continually impressed with the work that GFI does, I suspect that they are playing a crucial role in the move away from factory farming. Their work is both institutional in focus and serves to reduce the barrier non-vegans face in reducing their animal product consumption, which I think will be crucial for wider-scale societal change and moral circle expansion.

I have also donated a smaller amount to Rethink Priorities. I have been impressed with the work they’ve done in the last year and found it useful for informing my own work, particularly on estimating cost-effectiveness. I’m excited to see what the coming years bring for them.

Melissa Guzikowski, Managing Editor

I always directed the majority of my donations to animal charities. However, since I spend a large portion of my day-to-day life advocating for animals, every year I also direct a smaller amount of monetary resources to non-animal charities. I believe that helping to address human suffering is valuable both intrinsically and instrumentally as a tool to a brighter future for all species. This year, I donated directly to GiveWell, an effective altruism organization that conducts research to find the most effective giving opportunities.

For animal charities, I donated to The Good Food Institute (GFI) and The Humane League (THL), two of ACE’s four 2019 Top Charities. I support GFI because they promote the development of cellular agriculture. Though I believe that humanity’s moral circle is expanding, I am skeptical that the world is going to take on a vegan ethic in the near future. As such, I believe it’s essential that we create attractive alternatives to traditional animal products that can appeal to many people in the meantime. I’m also particularly impressed by THL’s work; I admire their strategic approach to advocacy and their commitment to collaborating with other groups in the movement. I donated to THL on Giving Tuesday and had my donation matched.

This year, I also donated to ACE’s Effective Animal Advocacy Fund (EAA Fund). The EAA Fund supports a wide range of groups that might not otherwise be eligible for ACE’s recommended charity status due to factors such as their small sizes or short track records. This donation was also doubled through an ACE matching challenge.

Cash Callaghan, Field Research Associate

I gave most of my donations this year to ACE’s Recommended Charity Fund and Effective Animal Advocacy Fund. I think it may be more effective to donate to funds at ACE’s discretion because the marginal value of donations to charities may change depending on how much of charities’ funding gaps have been filled at the time of disbursement. In general, I have high fidelity in my colleagues who deliberate together to determine how the money from those funds is dispersed. Their expertise and the group decision-making process makes me confident that the money from these funds will be allocated as effectively as possible. Rather than donating to one or a few charities, I hope that by giving to these funds my donations are spread out between a range of highly effective and promising charities. I especially hope that the Effective Animal Advocacy Fund will help expand and diversify the animal advocacy movement by supporting younger organizations that are doing promising work.

I also donated through Facebook’s Giving Tuesday Donation Match Campaign, in hopes that my donations will be counterfactually matched by Facebook (thank you to the EA Giving Tuesday team who helped organize this effort!). Specifically, I donated to Wild Animal Initiative, Fish Welfare Initiative, Aquatic Life Institute, and Rethink Priorities. Wild Animal Initiative researches effective ways to help wild animals, a relatively high scale and neglected cause area within animal advocacy. I am hopeful that their work will help inform and empower efforts to improve the welfare of wild animals. Fish Welfare Initiative and Aquatic Life Institute are both new nonprofits dedicated to improving fish welfare, which is also a relatively high scale and neglected cause area within animal advocacy. I am excited to see more from these two organizations in the coming year and to support them in their efforts to expand the growing field of fish advocacy. Rethink Priorities conducts foundational research on neglected causes (including causes related to animal advocacy). In the past year, Rethink Priorities has published articles related to animal advocacy that I have used in my own work, including their work related to corporate campaigns, invertebrate welfare, wild animal welfare, accuracy issues with FAO animal estimates, and a collection of effective animal advocacy resources.

I am very grateful for the work these organizations do to help animals, and I look forward to seeing what they accomplish over the next year.

Marianne van der Werf, Effective Animal Advocacy Fund Program Officer

In general, I think that the largest amount of donations should go towards each of ACE’s Top Charities, a large amount should go to each of the ACE’s Standout Charities, and some amount should go to each promising newer or smaller organization, such as ACE’s Effective Animal Advocacy Fund (EAA Fund) grantees. For deciding my own donations I take this “ideal” distribution of additional resources into account as well as what I believe the real distribution will be, based on ACE’s giving metrics reports from 2018, 2017, and 2016. Based on this, I decided to give half of my donations this year to three of ACE’s Standout Charities, for which I selected Faunalytics, the Sociedade Vegetariana Brasileira, and the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO).

I am giving the other half of my donations to ACE’s EAA Fund, for which I’m program officer. I’m excited that the Fund allows us to support a more diverse range of programs that complement ACE’s Recommended Charities. This donation stands out from my other donations because it can either result in one EAA Fund grantee receiving a larger donation, or it can result in us being able to support an additional applicant.

Lastly, I donated a smaller amount to two EAA Fund grantees that I was especially impressed with after receiving their grant updates: Essere Animali and Christopher Sebastian McJetters. I believe McJetters’ work contributes to a more sustainable, equitable, and effective movement, and I support him via his Patreon. I appreciate Essere Animali’s work on fish welfare, as well as the fact that they used part of the EAA Fund grant towards improving their internal structures and communications between staff, which I believe is key to building an effective organization.

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