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Executive Director at Farmed Animal Funders


Hi Henry, 

I am one of the other fund managers on the EA AWF. 

>To what extent does the Animal Welfare Fund take into account ACE's recommendations?

One difference between the EA AWF and ACE’s recommendations is that the AWF tends to donate to more numerous, often earlier-stage projects that are higher-risk and, arguably, higher-reward. In contrast, ACE’s recommendations tend to highlight fewer, larger, more established charities with a demonstrated track record of success. 

ACE usually recommends groups that are a) of a greater size, (b) with a promising performance over a certain period, and c) on aggregate perform quite well according to certain criteria

On the other hand, I’d say the EA AWF generally grants to groups of a) a lesser size, b) that don’t necessarily have as strong of a track record, or only exhibit promising performance in certain areas (e.g., for certain programs but not others, so we may give a restricted grant whereas ACE’s recommendations are generally more so for the group as a whole), and c) though it's hard to articulate, my sense is that there probably is some difference in the weight we give various criteria. 

Given those differences, as well as there being different sets of people responsible for the respective decisions, I’d say that the two are quite independent. Further, in any cases where there’s overlap, I imagine each still performs their own investigation, and try to reach their own view.

Some funders share data, typically when they’re considering funding a project and want other funders to co-fund it with them, but I’m not aware of any funders standardizing what they look for in grant requests, renewals, or progress reports. I think this a good idea—though it would require a high level of collaboration between funders that I think could be a bit challenging to achieve. FWIW, I pitched a few funders on this idea roughly a year ago at Farmed Animal Funders but didn’t get enough buy-in to warrant moving ahead. My sense is that many EA-aligned donors (excluding Open Philanthropy) don’t require too much in the way of grant applications or reporting from their grantees, so that’s some comfort. 

  1. Many of the fund managers interact with NGOs seeking grant funding through our day jobs, so we've built up a network of potential grantees that we can refer to the EA Fund. We also ask people in neglected areas, where we're less likely to have connections or speak the language, to refer promising people and projects to the EA Fund. Those referrers are often movement leaders whose work we value and opinions we trust. We rarely haven’t heard of an EA Fund applicant. When that’s the case, the quality of the idea presented in the application becomes all the more important. If we don’t know the applicant, we often make a point of checking their references before making a decision. 
  2. In terms of how highly we weigh a referrer’s opinion, it depends. If we’re on the fence about funding someone and we hear glowing reviews of their work (and depending on how much money they request + the EV of the project), a positive reference could tip us towards funding them. On the flip side, if we’re skeptical of a proposal and we hear mixed or negative reviews about the project manager, we’re more likely to pass on funding. The answer to this question is also influenced by the quality of the other proposals we receive. 
  3. In general, I’d say yes. 

You’re right that farmed animal advocacy has benefited from increased funding in recent years. Interestingly, though, the majority of philanthropic dollars in this space doesn’t come from EA-aligned donors. Perhaps because of this, the overwhelming majority of funding to alleviate farmed animal suffering comes from donors who live in and support projects in North America. On this point alone, by supporting more neglected, important, and tractable interventions particularly in LMICs, the EA Fund has a comparative advantage. Then, in comparison to EA-aligned donors, the EA Fund has an additional comparative advantage in that it funds higher-risk, earlier-stage projects that may lack a track record of success. Larger foundations like Open Phil and some members of Farmed Animal Funders don’t often have the ability to support nascent, higher-risk projects for a variety of reasons, including minimum grant size, struggling to get unproven charities or certain interventions approved by their boards, and lacking the time to find and assess many smaller, higher-risk projects. 

On your second question, we’d like to see an EA-aligned donor bet on promising individuals and give them latitude (e.g. giving a few top EA animal welfare advocates $100k each to pursue promising and cool ideas). Most foundations and Donor Advised Funds don’t have the ability to directly fund individuals (without affiliations to charities or universities to accept the funds). You’d need to make sure your donation vehicle legally permits you to directly donate to individuals, and you’d need to trust the individual to act in a values-aligned way. 

Of the 85 non-desk-reject proposals we reviewed, 38% fell outside of our request for proposals and 62% in some way pertained to our RFP. (I took a liberal approach to calculating this number—for example, if we received a proposal about advancing alternative proteins in any way, I counted it as pertaining to our RFP.) It’s probably worth noting that 17 out of the 18 proposals we ended up funding in the latest round fell *within* our RFP. 

A good rule of thumb is that ACE’s Recommended Charity Fund tends to donate to fewer, larger charities that have a demonstrated track record of success. In contrast, the EA Animal Welfare Fund tends to donate to more numerous, often earlier-stage projects that are higher-risk and, arguably, higher-reward. Perhaps also relevant, ACE Movement Grants focus on a wider-range of interventions with less rigorous supporting evidence that aim to build a more pluralistic farmed animal advocacy movement. 

The EA Animal Welfare and ACE Recommended Charity Fund sometimes act as a pipeline, where a nascent project will seek support from the EA Animal Welfare Fund before growing into a more established charity that receives support from the ACE Recommended Charity Fund. One example of this pipeline is Wild Animal Initiative, which has received EA Animal Welfare Fund grants since 2017 (under the name Wild Animal Suffering Research), and became an ACE Top Charity in 2020. 

I really enjoyed this post! FYI that Hilton Hotels & Resorts adopted a global cage-free policy last week. As you mentioned above, Saulius, Hilton met the deadline in some of the 19 countries where they made commitments, but not all of them. They refused to share where and why they fell behind, which is what led The Humane League to launch a global cage-free campaign on Wednesday 5/8/19. The campaign lasted less than 24 hours.

I work in philanthropy at an effective animal welfare nonprofit. Here are my thoughts on DAFs:

PROS: DAFs have the benefits of having your own foundation (including enabling you to give over any number of years and have tax benefits) but without the administrative burden. DAFs can create a barrier between the donor and the nonprofit (i.e. if you don't specify who you are, the nonprofit can't contact you) which could be a pro or a con.

CONS: the nonprofit doesn't receive names and contact info for the people who donate to your DAF. If an individual makes a donation to your DAF in honor of your wedding, the nonprofit doesn't know that s/he donated and may miss out on the opportunity cultivate her/him as a donor. You may be able to circumvent this, though, by asking your wedding guests to opt into sharing their names/contact info and then passing that info along to the nonprofit. At the nonprofit where I work, we've had repeated success with converting wedding donors into lifetime donors.