Charity Science's first annual review: how effective is fundraising?

by Joey21st Oct 20146 comments

10

Charity Science Foundation
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Here is Charity Science's one year review, cross-posted from our website for those of you interested in reading about our progress so far. 

In this internal review, we describe and evaluate Charity Science’s progress after its first year of operations. We mainly focus on the most recent 6 months, as we have already shared information on and results from our first 6 month experiment. However we have compiled yearly totals for important metrics such as money moved to effective charities.

This review focuses on hard metrics rather than offering an in-depth narrative description of the lessons we have learned or how well we felt specific fundraising strategies succeeded. That information is linked to in the section below describing our experiments.

We also want to thank our volunteers and donors for making it all possible. This could not have been accomplished without everybody’s combined efforts. This report is a list of everything we have managed to achieve. We look forward to seeing how many people we will be able to help next year.

Summary

  • We raised 4.5 times more money in our second 6 months than in our first 6 months, which is a substantial improvement.
  • We moved $55,974 to effective charities over the last year. Taking into account our costs, this means that for every dollar we spent we raised $3.70.
  • We will be continuing with Charity Science. Our plans will be published on our operations blog at a later date.

Historic goals

We view money moved as the best reflection of awareness of and support for our proven charities. Here are the goals we have previously set for this:

Goal from July 2013:

  • $50,000 over 1 year (around what we could donate doing earning to give)

Benchmarks from April 2014:

  • If we move less than $20,000 (over the year) to effective charities then shut down
  • If we move $20,000-$40,000 then keep going but only in a lean and experimental mode
  • If we move over $50,000 then consider expansion

In-depth reports on our experiments

Here are the experiments we have conducted, with reports and data on them:

Grant writing

Networking

Events

Matching

Timeline

Here is a rough timeline of our activities so far:

  • Grant writing: July - December 2013 (6 months)
  • Planning next steps and charity evaluation: December 2013 - February 2014 (3 months)
  • Networking: February - August 2014 (7 months)
  • Events: July - September (3 months)

We spent about 3 months working full time on planning and reviewing charities as well as some unrecorded time before we started working on this project full time. During this time we also worked on re-branding and getting charitable status.

We spent about 12 months doing full time fundraising, with the team spending about 78 hours per week on this. The breakdown of this time was as follows:

  • 6 months on grant writing
  • 3 months on planning/research/operations
  • 3 months on networking
  • 1.5 months on the event
  • 1.5 months on logistics/website/reports/email

Here is a breakdown of our time over the most recent 6 months:

A breakdown of our time over our first 6 months can be seen here.

The total cost of these activities (including salaries) was around $15,000. This is lower than the total we spent as we spent a portion of our personal savings to cover various costs.

We spent about $12,000 on salaries (three full time staff, two of whom worked full time on these fundraising projects), and about $3,000 on other expenses. At some points we experienced financial pressures due to not receiving a large donation which we were expecting. We plan on raising more money for operating expenses at the start of 2015 to guarantee that this does not happen again and slow down our work.

Money moved by category

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These figures are in Canadian dollars. More donations are coming in in these categories, so we will update them periodically to reflect this.

The totals above exclude $5,875 in donations ($11,750 counting the match) and the Google Grants that we obtained for various charities, because it was unclear whether these would have happened without our work, and unclear how much money in donations a Google Grant is worth. We suspect that many organizations would include these numbers in their totals. We also expect that several donations were made that we were unable to track this year due to our directly pointing people to GiveWell or to our proven charities, but we do not have a concrete estimate of their total size. We only counted donations for which we had tax receipts (or other solid proof that the donation was made), and which we were convinced could be attributed to a Charity Science staff member or volunteer project.

Money moved by charity

This is the total counterfactual amount donated over the last 6 months, organized by which charity it went to. Evidence Action got the most donations due to being the charity for which we fundraised through our charity event. SCI did not get very much due to us mainly promoting Evidence Action as the deworming charity and GiveDirectly as the cash transfer charity.

  • Evidence Action - $22,812 CAD including match
  • Give Directly - $20,428* CAD including match
  • GiveWell unrestricted - $2,000 CAD including match
  • SCI - $724 CAD including match

* A few donations have been made and counted in these numbers but not processed until we acquire charitable status in Canada

Below is a chart of the total amount moved to each charity (including funds from the match) over the last year to provide a visual sense of which charities got the most donations.

Money moved to effective charities by time period

Over our first 6 months: ~$10,000

Over our second 6 months: ~$45,974 (including funds from the match)

The large boost later on is mainly due to our Charity Science Walk (in September) and scaling up our birthday fundraising campaign (in August and September).

Ratio: 3.7:1 (over the year)

Conclusions

  • We think that our grant writing experiment during our first 6 months was not successful.
  • We think that our experiments over our second 6 months were relatively successful.
  • We have been improving at fundraising significantly and feel that we will continue to do so over time.
  • We currently think that Charity Science is worth continuing (with some large changes and improvements).

We are currently writing a separate post describing our future plans, including the changes and improvements referred to above. Look out for that on our operations blog, or consider subscribing to our operations blog's RSS feed.

6 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 8:38 PM
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How are your salaries so crazy low?

(Also, thanks for this informative review and all your hard work on fundraising for EA causes.)

The short answer is that we have internalized opportunity costs and thus donate (or in this case take a really low salary) anything above our basic living costs (which is always lower than 20k for the two of us).

I think the question is, then, how are your living costs so low?

Looks great Joey.

The large boost later on is mainly due to our Charity Science Walk (in September) and scaling up our birthday fundraising campaign (in August and September).

I agreee that seems like if you lumped together the matching donations with the birthday donations, or with the walk-related donations, then they would make up a decent fraction of the donations of the second 6 months. Do you have data to confirm this? A graph of donations month by month might be informative, although there would be other ways.

Hey Ryan I do in fact have a month to month graph of donations but it did not move over to the forum for some reason. You can see it here http://www.charityscience.com/operations-details/one-year-internal-review

That was my bad, I've now fixed it.