When we first founded Charity Science, we spent some time researching different areas and considering what to experiment with. Since then we have learned a lot. We need to refresh and expand on our research. To do this we decided to do shallow reviews on different fundraising topics, asking key questions so we can more accurately compare the different options. Although good research is light or nonexistent in most fundraising areas, we still thought we could benefit from spending 10 to 20 hours considering each area across a wide range (around 30) of areas.
A variety of volunteers and charity staff members contributed to making the reports, and they span from very short (less than 1 page) to very long (around 14 pages), depending on area complexity and how promising it seemed. We saved time by stopping research early if the area looked very unpromising.
We will publish both our methodology, our full reports and our relative rankings on this blog so others can benefit from the research we have done. We do not expect these reports to cover 100% of fundraising areas or be perfect, but we do expect them to help individuals and organizations when considering and comparing a wide range of fundraising options. The reports were based on Charity Science and GiveWell-recommended charities so might be less applicable to other cause areas and much larger charities.
The questions and broad structure we attempted to use for each topic area listed below. We also made a evaluation rubric that we gave to staff and volunteers that we found greatly increased report quality.
- How does this approach work? What is the theory behind it? Explain it as though the person has no previous information.
- What research says on it (e.g. expected fundraising ratios, success rates, necessary pre-requisites)
- What are some relevant comparisons to similar fundraising approaches? How well do they work?
- What types/sizes of organizations is this type of fundraising best for?
- How common is this type of fundraising, in nonprofits generally and in similar nonprofits (global health)?
- List of sources (links) you found most helpful
- Different ways to run an experiment
- Best suggested way to run an experiment
- Expected time, cost and outcomes.
- Expected value
- Expected time cost to get best time per $ ratio (would we have to have 100 staff or huge budget to make this effective?)
- What do we not know?
- What the open or remaining questions are on the issue?
- How much more research it might take (if any) to feel confident?
- What are the predominant considerations against doing this sort of experiment?
- What are the predominant considerations for doing this sort of experiment?
- How does it seem from the reading you have done, past experience and people you have talked to?