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Just as~2 years ago,  the EA Animal Welfare Fund has significant room for more funding. This could be a pretty important point that informs end of year giving for a number of donors who are looking to make donations within the animal sector. 

Briefly, here’s why the Animal Welfare Fund has some pretty significant room for more funding at this point:

  • Right now, there’s currently ~$1M in the Animal Welfare Fund
  • We also now have 50 grants, summing to ~$4.5M in grants under evaluation.
  • Between mid-last year and mid-this year, the EA AWF received ~350 applications over the past year of which ~150 were desk rejects and ~200 were graded by fund managers. Of these ~200, ~60 received funding, and ~30 received the grant amount they applied for or more. 
  • Assuming that the general shape of the pipeline remains similar, that could imply we may now have more grants than we can fund. Potentially even if we were to have an influx of several hundred thousand dollars.  
  • In general, the AWF is navigating a difficult period funding-wise: last year, we had ~$7M to allocate, whereas our projection for this year — extrapolating from donations received so far — is only ~$5M.
  • We also have some plans for significant growth next year through some internal expansion plans in the works (e.g., possibly adding further fund managers, hopefully at least one who is full-time, and doing more active grantmaking). 
  • Also, a lot of our grantees have grown, so they’ll have more room for funding. As a lot of the groups we give to are relatively small, they can grow at such a rate that they’d often be looking to absorb twice as much funding in the next year. If we zoom in on just say Fórum Nacional de Proteção e Defesa Animal–a promising Brazilian group. In 2021 we granted $30k to them and this year $80k. Which comfortably corresponds to a greater than 100% growth in grant amount over a two-year period. Generally, it seems that if we have more money in the fund, it encourages some good organizations to request more funding for some quality projects.
  • Relatedly, some of the areas we grant in just tend to be pretty high growth and grow at comfortably >20% year on year. For instance, years ago there was basically very little that could be granted to invertebrate welfare, but this year we made several hundred thousand dollars in grants within that area. 
  • So next year, we think that we could fairly comfortably and productively absorb and grant out in the realm of $6M-$10M (that’s a ~20%-100% increase on this year) without any significant decreases to the quality of our grants.
  • Note too, that in previous years we have been able to do such jumps in grantmaking volume. In 2020 we granted out ~$2M in total, in 2021 more than doubled that to ~$4.5M, and in 2022 went up to $7M, before now likely decreasing to ~$5M this year. We think we’re again on track to handle 2020-2022 levels of either absolute growth or percentage growth in grants for next year, which will put us in that $6M-$10M range.
  • So one way to look at this is that we now have ~$1M in the fund but next year we could do something like at least ~$7.5M in grants. So in that sense, we have several million dollars in room for more funding.
  • It could be worth thinking about how much we’ll likely raise for grants for next year too though. This year, we typically raised ~$100k per month. Historically, we have seen about a ~2x-8x increase on that monthly total for the month of December and January (some end-of-year donations come in on the books in January).
  • Another way to look at this then, is based on the current trends and growth in them year to year, we would now be looking at raising something like ~$1.7M (~$100k per month + say ~4x that total for Dec and ~3x for Jan) between now and the end of next year (presuming trends hold about the same as other years, and we don't see too much of a reason to think they won't at this point). Again, as we have ~$1M now in the fund, that brings the total to ~$2.7M. But we think we could productively absorb at least several million dollars on top of that relatively comfortably.
  • Also in terms of how much we will raise, we will flag there’s some significant variance in that year to year. Because some notable supporters tend to give amounts that fluctuate quite a bit year to year, because their giving potential tends to be tied to some relatively volatile Cryptocurrencies. Correspondingly, we had something of an influx in $’s at the end of 2017/ start of 2018, when the crypto market boomed, then somewhat of a quieter year on that front in 2019 and 2020, but then again some large donations in 2021 and 2022. It’s pretty unclear to me what to expect from Crypto next year.

So putting those above bullets together, our sense is that the Animal Welfare Fund has significant room for more funding. At least a couple hundred thousand dollars in room for more funding, quite credibly a couple of million dollars in room for more funding, and potentially several million dollars in room for more funding for grants next year. 

What Does a Marginal Grant at AWF Look Like? 

We ranked grantee applications from the past 12 months, and then modified and blended grants to form representative fictitious grants based on brief descriptions. (The causes, activities, and regions have been blended but the costs are representative of the actual costs for that type of activity). This should give one an idea of the types of applications that have been funded in the past (and corresponding grant costs in brackets).

  • Supporting a premiere EAA organization implementing cage-free transitions in Latin America as we approach cage-free deadlines ($150k).
  • Supporting an organization with a track record of coordinating animal advocacy organizations in Asia to hire and train local staff in local farmed animal advocacy organizations in Asia ($100K).
  • 1-year salary and set-up costs for someone to found a recruitment agency to hire top talent into cage-free work ($85K).
  • Supporting an already-established animal advocacy student group in hosting a symposium to discuss the role students and academia can play in the transition to more humane farming methods ($7k).
  • Supporting a pragmatic organization in Asia, with previous support from other funders, to lobby a government for alt protein support ($10K).
  • Funding a multi-year study by an established researcher in a prestigious university to develop a tool to audit welfare for farmed invertebrates with reasonable grounds for sentience ($80k).
  • Supporting an organization with a smaller track record that is plugged into the Open Wing Alliance and wants to scale up its cage-free campaign in Africa ($20k). 
  • Fund a Corporate Engagement Manager in an organization in Asia for a 2-year period to engage businesses in the food sector to add more plant-based protein options to their menus ($90k).
  • Supporting a relatively new organization in lobbying government and training journalists to cover alternative protein in Latin America ($30k).
  • A multi-day strategy workshop in Africa to strengthen advocate connections, co-create initiatives and form working organizations ($20k).  
  • Supporting an organization in new cage-free campaigns in Asia and a second research study on the state of cage-free hens in a large Asian country and a conference to share results of their study ($100k).
  • Supporting a relatively new organization with a decent track record to support farmed animal welfare litigation efforts in a large European country ($50k).
  • Providing a 6-month salary for a promising Ph.D. student working with a renowned supervisor in a systematic review and meta-analysis of interventions to increase voter participation in animal welfare ballot initiatives ($26K).
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Thanks for the update. Do you ever estimate the cost-effectiveness of potential grants? If not, why? From Giving What We Can's evaluation of AWF (emphasis mine):

Fourth, we saw some references to the numbers of animals that could be affected if an intervention went well, but we didn’t see any attempt at back-of-the-envelope calculations to get a rough sense of the cost-effectiveness of a grant, nor any direct comparison across grants to calibrate scoring. We appreciate it won’t be possible to come up with useful quantitative estimates and comparisons in all or even most cases, especially given the limited time fund managers have to review applications, but we think there were cases among the grants we reviewed where this was possible (both quantifying and comparing to a benchmark) — including one case in which the applicant provided a cost-effectiveness analysis themselves, but this wasn’t then considered by the PI in their main reasoning for the grant.

What are the fund's current views on funding farmed vs. wild animal welfare?

In terms of the present funding allocation, it is much more focused on farmed than wild animals. An important factor contributing to that is there are very few opportunities that we can support on the wild animal side at this point. The promising opportunities for wild animals that exist now receive funding from us and are some of our bigger grantees. But there’s only so far we can go with research there, and we haven’t yet identified some promising wild animal welfare intervention that groups could implement. That contributes to there being significantly fewer grantmaking opportunities on that side of things right now.  

In contrast, on farmed animals there do seem to be various grants that can be made now around a) implementing promising interventions, b) coordinating around promising interventions, or c) building up the field in order to do more promising interventions later. At this point, such opportunities don’t seem to exist to nearly the same extent on the wild animal side.    

Also note there is in general some variance in views within fund managers and that adds some nuance to describing overall views on this, and other questions related to the “fund’s current views.” Here I am reporting my own relatively quickly put views, while others on the fund may have slightly to somewhat different views.   

Hi Kieran, thanks for posting— it was an interesting and insightful read, and it's unfortunate that the fund is facing a wider gap and has fewer resources available compared to last year.

I have a few questions if you don't mind:

1) If I understand correctly, with $1 million currently available and $4.5 million worth of grants under evaluation, several promising applicants are likely to be declined. In instances where applications are rejected due to insufficient funds, does the fund ever share information about these declined proposals with other potential funders, so as not to miss out on any potentially promising interventions? Do these applicants typically remain active long enough without funding to reapply in the following year?

2) You flagged that the fund is (somewhat) tied to funders that invest in Cryptocurrency— are you able to share a rough % breakdown from funds received from Cryptocurrency sources versus more traditional funding sources? Would you attribute the anticipated variation in funding for the upcoming year to fluctuations in the Cryptocurrency market, or are there other unrelated factors primarily influencing this change?

3) Do any of AWF's larger donors provide restricted funding, where their contributions are earmarked for specific initiatives or causes? For instance, a donor who specifies that their donation should only be used for projects related to fish welfare, or those favoring abolitionist approaches over welfare-based methods. How common is this, if at all, and does it lead to any challenges or difficulties?

Thanks! I was really happy to hear that there was significant investment in invertebrate welfare over this past year— I hope that continues, and keep up the great work with the fund.

Hi David, thanks for engaging! Responding to your questions below. 

  1. Yes, sometimes we do this if we think that some opportunity is a particularly good fit for a different funder. Yeah, I would say applicants usually remain active long enough to reapply again in the future. It seems rare to me that our funding is the deciding factor for their continued existence. 
  2. I can’t easily pull that information, and I think it depends on the year, but my very rough guess is between 3-30% of funds raised in any given year of the fund’s existence so far were crypto-related. Note that variance too, wherein some years we don’t receive any major crypto-associated donations, and other years our largest donations are crypto-related. When I think about fluctuations for this year or next, I am more thinking about, as Luke put it in one comment

One thing that I've found when speaking with pledgers/donors and other people in the charitable sector is that economic conditions are also a very important part of the story. This has held since early 2022 when the dollar value of large donations dropped when financial markets and crypto markets declined (our larger donors tend to be more likely to have made money in tech or finance instead of other industries). 

3. As far as I know this has never happened. 

Hope that helps. 

Perfect, this was all very insightful— thanks Kieran.

Thanks for posting this! If you are able to share, I would be interested in not just the marginal grant but also what some of your biggest hits from the past one or two years have been. I think it would help me to get a sense of what the upside from donations to AWF could be expected to be.

Sure. Before doing that a couple of quick notes. First, I think it takes a while for grants to mature and impact to play out, so that makes it difficult to judge at this point which were the biggest hits from the past year. Second, there are some grants that I have a COI with, but think may have been hits from 2022, but nonetheless won’t list them here. Third, as some further background context, the general categories of grants that I am most excited by are early-stage support to aligned groups, working on neglected animals, or in neglected places. 

Then being quite brief, some hits that come to mind for me: 

  • Our early 2022 grant of $185,000 to the team at EA Singapore to run a capacity-building fellowship throughout SE Asia. They have run multiple iterations of a 14-week fellowship, have had tens of people go through that fellowship, and partnered with tens of organizations on the fellowship. They were renamed as Welfare Matters, and secured a $1M grant from Open Phil earlier this year. In my view, the movement basically went from not really having a very promising movement-building option for much of SE Asia (which is a critical area for the movement[1]) to having one in the space of 1-2 years, in large part because of the EA AWF. 
  • Our early 2022 grant of $45,000 grant to the Shrimp Welfare Project (SWP). I think our support of SWP was quite important to their growth and they went on to secure larger grants from us, and be ACE-recommended. In my view, the movement went from not really having a promising option for addressing shrimp welfare, to having one in the space of 1-2 years, in large part because of the EA AWF. And by SWP’s estimates, they already now (in expectation) help 1 billion shrimps per annum.    
  • Various grants we have made to support chicken welfare campaigns internationally seem to have been quite good investments in my view (e.g., Sinergia Animal and Çiftlik Hayvanlarını Koruma Derneği).  

I hope that gives some more sense of the potential upside but feel free to follow up further. Also as noted in response to a different question, there is variance in views within fund managers. Here I am reporting my own relatively quickly put views, while others on the fund may have slightly to somewhat different views.    

  1. ^

    Throughout much of SE Asia there's little to no organized effective animal advocacy. Many of these countries are highly populous and some of the largest animal product producers. Somewhat dated but see p.16 re: total number of farmed animals. 

This is very cool, thanks Kieran!

Is AWF considering hiring a fundraiser to help fill this funding gap?

(I don't work on the Animal Welfare Fund directly)

I think hiring a fundraiser for EA Funds could make sense (particularly if we were able to make a quick hire for giving season before deciding about a longer commitment); feel free to refer fundraisers that you have a high opinion of.

I don't think we have the capacity to run a proper hiring round for a fundraiser right now.

Is AWF considering hiring a fundraiser to help fill this funding gap?

No, not considering hiring for strictly a fundraiser at this point. However, we are interested in adding other positions that could contribute to fundraising (as well importantly contribute in other ways). 

Specifically as mentioned in the post:

We also have some plans for significant growth next year through some internal expansion plans in the works (e.g., possibly adding further fund managers, hopefully at least one who is full-time, and doing more active grantmaking). 

To that end, recently we posted looking for guest fund managers. In addition to that, I am hopeful we will also do some further recruitment efforts next year. 

Executive summary: The Effective Altruism Animal Welfare Fund has significant room for more funding. The fund currently has ~$1M but could productively use $2M-$10M next year.

Key points:

  1. The fund currently has ~$1M but could productively grant $6M-$10M next year.
  2. The fund typically receives a large influx of donations in December and January.
  3. Many grantees have capacity to absorb much more funding and scale up impact.
  4. Areas like invertebrate welfare are seeing rapid growth in promising interventions.
  5. Marginal grants support a variety of high-impact activities like corporate engagement, movement-building, and research.
  6. Donors have a significant opportunity to increase animal welfare impact through end-of-year AWF donations.


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