How do we evaluate organizations that help Ukrainians?

Redakcja EA / 4 marca 2022

wersja polska: link

Since the mission of the Effective Altruism Poland foundation is to support effective and impactful charity, we have turned our focus to trying to maximize the impact of  the  recent stream of aid which has been directed at helping Ukrainians in their struggle. We want to make it easier for donors to find trustworthy organizations which are most likely to act quickly and effectively in a time of crisis.

Following the idea of Chris Szulc, our close colleague from the Dutch Effective Altruism community, we have undertaken a review of the most promising charitable efforts aimed at helping Ukrainians. We have included our recommendations in an article you can find following the link, and we will keep updating it according to our findings:

https://efektywnyaltruizm.org/blog/help-for-ukrainians

Here we would like to explain what criteria we take into account when accessing if an initiative is one we can recommend. Our main focus is on fundraisers as they are potentially the most effective and easiest form of support to evaluate. Please note that we are assessing short-term initiatives and their benefits, rather than focusing on their impact in the long term.

So what criteria do we use?

1. Operational experience in situations of armed conflict

Direct assistance to armed actors involves organizing improvised material supplies, smooth adaptation, as well as ensuring the safety of staff and volunteers. This requires specialized equipment, training and knowledge which experienced professionals possess. The ability to cooperate with armed groups, including hostile ones, is also crucial. The safety of people and supplies depends on being able to make an accurate assessment of the military situation, an adequate flow of information, efficient and effective communication, the ability to negotiate, and sometimes even being able to conceal information on the actual level of support received. 

2. Experience during humanitarian crises

We also pay attention to an organization’s experience with working in fast-paced and shifting environments that require the ability to recognize and quickly adapt to evolving needs. In such situations, the ability to anticipate and prepare for food shortages, medicine shortages, epidemiological threats, or other crises which can arise in a destabilized economic system, may be crucial.

3. The age of the organization 

The older an organization is, the more experience it has. Procedures developed over the years also often allow for undertaking quicker and more effective action.

4. Support from official authorities – the Ukrainian or Polish government, as well as local governments

We recognize that the Ukrainian government and local Ukrainian authorities have a vested interest in effectively assisting their citizens. Therefore, they have every reason to provide the most accurate information regarding what kind of help is most needed. Since this may be data of strategic importance, we assume that only trusted organizations may be in possession of it. The cooperation of an organization with the Ukrainian government increases the likelihood that it has up-to-date and reliable information about what is needed, which in turn means that it can provide more effective assistance.

Similarly, the Polish government and local authorities in Poland have the best understanding of the refugee situation in our country. If a charity cooperates with local governments that have the capacity to secure public funds to support those in need, it is guaranteed that the charity’s requests for assistance will not go unnoticed.  

5. Capacity 

As a measure of capacity, we chose the number of hours an organization spends on its activities based on the full-time equivalent (FTE). It determines the organization’s potential to scale up its activities by engaging new staff and volunteers. New activists need to be onboarded, trained, and their work needs to be managed. The more time resources you have, the more of it you can allocate to performing these activities.

It is not usually clear whether an organization is able to absorb more money and still manage it effectively. A prerequisite to this, however, is an adequate number of volunteers or employees available at a given time. This number determines how the available funds will be spent in the short term, as it takes time – weeks or even months – to introduce new people.

6. Type of aid being provided 

Assessing this helps us determine the importance of the aid in a situation of grave danger. We’ve singled out the following categories:

  • Help for areas facing active hostility or threatened by it (Kyiv, the following oblasts: Kyiv, Kharkiv, Cherkassy, Chernihiv, Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson, Luhansk, Mykolaiv, Odessa, Poltava, Sumy, Zaporizhia)
  • Help for the other regions of Ukraine
  • Temporary help for people crossing the border, on their way to refugee camps and in transit camps 
  • Help for people who find themselves in a stable situation, with a place to live for the next two months
  • Help for people who find themselves in a stable situation, intending to relocate and those relocating
  • Help for animals

7. Funds already raised versus the fundraising goal 

Data on the amount of funds raised so far is an indicator that allows us to identify organizations whose activity may be underestimated in view of their real potential. We want to recommend supporting underfunded organizations that will be able to make effective use of extra funding.

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