Are You Getting The Results You Deserve?
By Caryn Ginsberg (guest blogger)
My last article, “What’s Your Animal Story?”, discussed how tales of animal suffering and personal transformation can motivate people to change. Interesting stories are more memorable and effective than statistics.
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As advocates, we love success stories: the dog finding a furever home … the slaughterhouse employee turning vegan … the elephant going from circus to sanctuary. We feel proud and hopeful when we hear these tales.
While it’s great to share happy endings, we don’t want to miss the big picture. To evaluate our impact, we want to make sure the numbers add up.
Summing up Success
Holly Sternberg focused on numbers to consider her long-term veg advocacy. Despite years of talking to people and handing out materials, few had changed the way they ate. What could she do differently to move them?
Holly created Pay Per View. Advocates invite people at events or on the street to receive one dollar for watching a four-minute video. The video shows how animals are treated in food production. Poster board or other “walls” surround the video players (laptops or TVs) to keep them hidden from all but those who choose to participate. After viewing the videos, participants talk with the advocates, who share materials and answer questions about farm animals and veg eating.
People come away moved, shocked, even in tears. Holly observed that many expressed interest in going veg. They were grateful to get materials and advice on how to eat differently.
FARM, VegFund, Mercy for Animals, and other organizations have taken note of Pay Per View’s impact. FARM is quantifying that impact more precisely, by surveying people who view the videos to see how many go veg. VegFund is working with Faunalytics to test different messages to see which would be most effective to move people to eat more plant-based foods.
The surveys and message testing provide more specific feedback on how Pay Per View is doing and how to make it even better. That’s the beauty of using numbers; you can find ways to increase them. But evaluation isn’t about esoteric statistics. Each figure represents real animals saved or suffering less.
As the saying goes, information is power.
The animal protection field is increasingly using statistics to improve results. I helped the ASPCA design a series of measures and supporting data that the organization implemented with partner communities across the country. Managing by the numbers – intake, adoptions, return to owner, transfers, spay/neuter and more – has contributed to local humane organizations’ live release of more than 400,000 animals and greater than 465,000 targeted spay/neuters. These efforts include not just the tracking effort, but also an important cultural shift:
We’re very clear with new hires and staff that goals are set and they’re expected to achieve them…. Our perspective of success is the entire city and the live release rate*, so we can only use numbers and large numbers to deem ourselves successful. Of course, we focus on stories for warm and fuzzies and making people feel good, but it’s the sheer numbers we report on at volunteer get-togethers, staff lunches, and board [meetings].
– Christy Counts, Central Oklahoma Humane Society
*(Adoptions + Return to Owner + Transfer with Guaranteed Placement)/Intake
Faunalytic’s Che Green and I are working with Farm Sanctuary to define outcomes and how to measure them. The process has already helped fine-tune elements of several existing programs. The chosen outcomes will also help shape the design of new initiatives.
Farm Sanctuary will use the measurement findings to compare programs to each other. The organization will determine where to invest resources to be both effective (greatest impact for animals) and efficient (most results per dollar or other resource). Savvy foundations and donors are also looking to allocate funding to efforts that demonstrate measurable results and return for the resources employed.
Count on Success
Here’s how you can be among the leaders in making our advocacy as effective and efficient as possible.
- Know where we stand. HumaneTrends.org and Animal Tracker (atHumaneSpot.org) include valuable statistics such as the perceived importance of animal protection, proportion of U.S. states with laws regulating companion animal breeders, number of Animal Welfare Act covered animals use din experiments and much more.
- Ask “how much impact am I having?” for programs, campaigns, events, and other activities. An honest assessment of where you are can help you do more of what’s working and revisit what isn’t.
- Observe how people respond to your efforts. Are the majority fully engaged, somewhat interested, or put off by what they hear, see, or (especially for shelters) smell?
- Implement more extensive assessment. The surveys that FARM is doing, the message testing by VegFund, and the ongoing tracking by Central Oklahoma Humane Society provide crucial insight to support accomplishing more for animals with existing resources.
You invest time, energy, and money to help animals. You – and the animals – deserve the most powerful tools to get the best results as quickly as possible. Evaluation is one of those tools.
To learn more about evaluation and six other powerful tools to help animals, get your copy of “Animal Impact: Secrets Proven to Achieve Results and Move the World” at http://Animal-Impact.com. Bruce Friedrich (FARM Sanctuary), Aimee St. Arnaud (Humane Ohio), Michelle Thew (European Coalition to End Animal Experiments), and Bert Troughton (ASPCA) are among the leading advocates who have recommended applying the book’s lessons to improve the way we help animals.