15 March, 2018

Animal Charity Evaluators Introduces the Recommended Charity Quiz

This entry was originally posted on Effective-Altruism.com. It is reposted here for reference only.

The following post was published on the Animal Charity Evaluators blog earlier this month. We've just released a new recommended charity quiz that allows users to enter in their specific preferences and outputs the best animal charities that correspond to those values. We believe that this is especially appropriate for effective animal advocacy charities, as there may be a higher level of variance depending on initial values than there would be with human-based charity comparisons.
When it comes to reaching out to non-EA audiences, we believe that using quizzes like this may allow us to connect more closely with existing animal advocates who are as-yet unfamiliar with EA ideas like focusing on just the "best" charity. We also want to be wary of relying too closely on expected value calculations, since the cost effectiveness estimates we use are approximations, fail to resolve uncertainty, and are subject to bias, even though we do think they are useful for intervention reports and charity evaluations. For these reasons, we believe that this new recommended charity quiz is both appropriate and useful.
The remainder of this post is copied verbatim from the ACE blog, authored by ACE Research Associate Jamie Spurgeon.

We are excited to announce the launch of our recommended charity quiz. This quiz will allow you to discover charities that match your interests and values, determined by some of the distinguishing features of our recommended charities.
At ACE we are always looking for new ways to engage with our community and help donors connect with the most effective charities. To this end, we recently released an update to our charity comparison chart and now you can use the quiz to receive a personalized recommendation of the three charities that best align with your goals and interests. While we think that reading our reviews is the best way to fully understand why we recommend our Top and Standout Charities, we recognize that reading all of our reviews may take more time than some readers have to invest. The charity quiz can help you to quickly identify charities that you may be particularly interested in, giving you more time to explore those organizations in depth.
The following information is for those more interested in further explanations of the factors explored in the quiz. In general, the quiz aims to capture individual preferences about charity features that aren’t clearly good or bad. By measuring the relative importance individuals place on each of these features, we can identify charities that closely align with those preferences.

How important is a strong track record of success?

This factor is directly related to Criterion 4 in our comprehensive charity review process. Among the charities we evaluate, there is a large disparity in the strength of their track records, and this is an important consideration for some donors. A charity’s track record encompasses at least three factors: (i) the length of time that the charity has been achieving successes, (ii) the number of successes they’ve achieved, and (iii) the magnitude of effect those successes have had in creating change for animals.
The quiz question aims to determine how important the overall effect of these factors are to you, relative to the other traits that make for a promising charity. If you are a potential donor, charities with strong track records may seem to be a safer option as they appear more likely to achieve future successes similar to those seen in the past. However, some donors may not feel that track record is necessarily a strong indicator of future success, or they may simply prefer to support younger charities that could be working in a particularly promising area in which it is possible they will have an even larger impact if successful.

Do you prefer to support more established advocacy methods with a lower risk of failure, or would you like to support advocacy that is less established but may have a potentially larger impact?

There are other aspects of charities’ work beyond track record that affect the balance between risk (the chance of future success), and reward (the magnitude of that success). If we recommend a charity that we perceive to be higher risk, then it is often because we feel their potential reward is higher, so these two individual factors tend to remain relatively in balance across all of our charities.
For example, a charity working in regions where the animal advocacy movement is less developed, such as parts of South America, may be considered higher risk but also higher reward. They may find several advantages to their work:
  • Wages may be lower, allowing them to achieve more with their budget
  • Proven methods from countries with more established animal advocacy movements can be re-used (e.g., using corporate outreach campaigns to secure cage-free commitments for egg laying hens)
  • Interventions such as investigations may have a higher impact, as they are less saturated in number1
However, there are unknown factors involved with work in some South American countries that may make it less tractable than it initially appears:
  • The public attitudes towards vegan advocacy may be less favorable, or other unknown cultural differences may affect individuals’ receptivity to advocacy messaging
  • The different legal situation may prohibit the success of some interventions (such as investigations and corporate outreach)
  • The political climate may affect the likelihood that legal advocacy work will be successful
Other examples of charities that might be considered higher risk/higher reward include charities that work on longer-term goals and those that are focusing efforts on highly neglected groups of animals (such as fish). This quiz question aims to capture each donor’s preference for higher vs lower risk/reward.

Do you prefer to donate to charities with smaller budgets, or larger budgets?

During our charity evaluations, we have two main criteria in which we consider a charity’s budget—Criterion 1, which concerns the amount of room for more funding that a charity has, and Criterion 3, which concerns the cost effectiveness of the charity’s programs. As it is objectively better for a charity to have both a higher room for more funding and a higher cost effectiveness, these are not especially useful metrics for determining a preference that our audience may have. However, the absolute size of a charity’s budget often comes with advantages and disadvantages, and the charities we recommend span a large range in this regard. For example, donations to smaller charities will have a greater effect on that charity than a similar donation to a charity with a much larger budget. Additionally, smaller charities are more likely to be working in novel areas. On the other hand, charities that have a larger budget may be able to achieve things that smaller charities can’t, such as influencing large food producers in a corporate outreach campaign.

How important is it for a charity’s work to support the animal advocacy movement as a whole?

While most of our recommended charities work to directly cause change for animals, there are some that also (or sometimes solely) work to support the movement as a whole. This includes conducting and publishing research, either in collaboration with other charities or through evaluating their own programs. It also includes charities that take on a more organizational role, providing support to and helping coordinate the efforts of other charities in order to create a greater impact. Charities that are not as supportive of the movement, however, may be less so because they are working in particularly niche or neglected areas, and this may be of particular interest to some donors. Some donors may also simply prefer to support charities that work more directly to create change for animals.

Which types of animal advocacy do you want to support?

To measure donors’ preferences for particular interventions, we have divided up the types of animal advocacy interventions into three main groups: traditional advocacy, institutional advocacy, and innovative advocacy.2 Traditional advocacy includes interventions that have been commonly used by the movement for more than 10 years and often aim to create individual changes in attitudes or behavior—such as the adoption of veganism. These interventions include leafleting, protesting, and undercover investigations, among many others. Institutional advocacy includes any interventions that target institutions—from large international corporate food producers to smaller institutions such as schools and hospitals. Finally, innovative advocacy encompasses more novel areas of advocacy—including the development of cultured and plant-based meat, securing legal rights for animals, and conducting or facilitating research into wild animal suffering. These tend to be more ambitious approaches that have large potential for change, but that also have more uncertainty surrounding whether their end goals will be achieved.

Putting it all together

We have given each of our recommended charities featured in the quiz a subjective score for each topic that is covered by a question or a particular response. As you go through and specify your preferences, the quiz uses your responses to weight the scores given to each charity. It then recommends the three charities that most closely align with the preferences you indicated. Expressing a strong preference for a particular question puts a higher weight on that factor when calculating your matches.
If you have any further questions, please leave a comment here or submit a feedback form at the end of the quiz. Don’t forget to share your results!

  1. We expect that the U.S. is reaching a point where the large number of investigations released means that future investigations are likely to start to have diminishing returns. 
  2. It’s difficult to divide interventions into distinct categories, as often those categories will overlap. For example, while protesting and undercover investigations are examples of established advocacy interventions, they are both also used to support institutional campaigns. However, as multiple answers can be selected for this question, we hope this won’t significantly skew our quiz results. 

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