RC Forward 2018 Year in Review

This post is be­ing re­leased in con­junc­tion with a May 20 cost-effec­tive­ness anal­y­sis of our pro­gram con­ducted by Re­think Pri­ori­ties.


Since launch­ing in late 2017, RC For­ward has on­boarded 25 effec­tive char­i­ties and ini­ti­a­tives to the RC For­ward plat­form, hired a full-time pro­ject man­ager, and fa­cil­i­tated the move­ment of $4,447,307.20 CAD (net) to high-im­pact char­i­ties.

Re­think Pri­ori­ties re­cently pub­lished a cost-effec­tive­ness anal­y­sis (CEA) of RC For­ward, es­ti­mat­ing that dona­tions to­ward build­ing and ser­vic­ing the RC For­ward plat­form have a coun­ter­fac­tual im­pact of 3x to 55x the value of donat­ing di­rectly to our part­ner char­i­ties.

This post out­lines be­low our ac­tivi­ties, les­sons learned and plans for RC For­ward in 2019.

RC For­ward Overview

RC For­ward is a dona­tion plat­form through which Cana­di­ans can make tax-de­ductible gifts to high-im­pact char­i­ties lo­cated in­side and out­side of Canada. Ab­sent the plat­form, Cana­di­ans would be un­able to donate tax effi­ciently to over 20 high-im­pact char­i­ties recom­mended by GiveWell, the Open Philan­thropy Pro­ject, An­i­mal Char­ity Eval­u­a­tors, Founders Pledge and The Life You Can Save. The plat­form gives donors the af­for­dance to sup­port each re­spec­tive char­ity, or give through funds that largely ad­here to al­lo­ca­tion recom­men­da­tions made by se­lected eval­u­a­tors. Every donor re­ceives a Cana­dian tax re­ceipt for gifts routed through RC For­ward. We’ve also added the op­tions to donate af­ford­ably via se­cu­ri­ties, such as cryp­tocur­rency.

Table of Contents

  • Our Year in Numbers

  • Early Difficulties

  • Re­spond­ing to Feedback

  • Plans Mov­ing Forward

Our Year in Numbers

Below are gross figures for money moved by each of the RC Funds:

  • The Global Health Fund dis­tributed $570,876.06 CAD in a 7030 split to the Against Malaria Foun­da­tion and Schis­to­so­mi­a­sis Con­trol Ini­ti­a­tive per GiveWell’s recom­men­da­tions.

  • The Hu­man Em­pow­er­ment Fund dis­tributed $64,809.86 CAD to GiveDirectly per GiveWell’s recommendation

  • The An­i­mal Welfare Fund dis­tributed $64,112.30 CAD to An­i­mal Equal­ity In­ter­na­tional ($18,536.74), Good Food In­sti­tute ($17,590.90), Hu­mane League ($16,408.59), and Albert Sch­weitzer Foun­da­tion ($11,576.08) per ACE’s in­struc­tions.

RC4 Cost-effectiveness

  • RC For­ward moved $4.4M CAD (~ $3.3M USD) from Cana­dian donors.

  • $430K to $3.7M of dona­tions may have been coun­ter­fac­tu­ally caused by RC For­ward.

  • RC For­ward ap­pears to have in­creased dona­tions by 11% to 500%, with a best guess of 25% to 35%

  • Donat­ing to cover the costs of RC For­ward may lead to 3 to 55 times more go­ing to the char­i­ties that RC For­ward re­grants to than donat­ing di­rectly to those char­i­ties in­stead.

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RC For­ward is pow­ered by donations

Staffing costs, cross-bor­der fees and over­head ex­penses are cov­ered by di­rect dona­tions and in­sti­tu­tional grants. We do not charge any ad­minis­tra­tive fees for our ser­vices.

Early Difficulties

Like all star­tups, we en­coun­tered a steep learn­ing curve in our first year of op­er­a­tions, and have been con­tinu­ally grow­ing and up­dat­ing our pro­gram to max­i­mize effi­ciency and cost-effec­tive­ness.

1. Char­ity Regis­tra­tion Process

The Char­i­ties Direc­torate in Canada states it takes up to 6 months to reg­ister a char­ity. Our reg­is­tra­tion pro­cess ended up tak­ing 15 months, from Novem­ber of 2017 to Fe­bru­ary 2019. This pro­cess took much longer than an­ti­ci­pated and would have been ex­tremely difficult with­out le­gal guidance from our law firm Blake, Cas­sels & Gray­don LLP. Our recom­men­da­tion for other ini­ti­a­tives is to se­ri­ously con­sider so­lic­it­ing pro bono as­sis­tance from do­mes­tic law firms spe­cial­iz­ing in rele­vant do­mains be­fore em­bark­ing on time-con­sum­ing bu­reau­cratic pro­cesses.

2. Dona­tion Distri­bu­tion Logistics

To re­duce credit card fees where pos­si­ble, we pro­vided mul­ti­ple di­rect dona­tion av­enues for Cana­dian donors. Be­cause we worked with a va­ri­ety of part­ners to make this a pos­si­bil­ity, the quar­terly turn-around for dis­tri­bu­tions took an av­er­age of 8 weeks to pro­cess. Send­ing mail be­tween Canada and the United States caused a lot of vari­a­tion in ex­pected de­liv­ery times. To re­duce ad­minis­tra­tive time as­so­ci­ated with fol­low­ing up cheque ar­rivals, we moved to a postal-track­ing sys­tem af­ter Q2. In or­der to miti­gate the unique challenges and costs when deal­ing with two na­tional postal ser­vices, we moved to a wire based sys­tem in Q1 of 2019.

3. Tax Re­ceipt­ing Efficiency

Tax-re­ceipt­ing was au­to­matic for all dona­tions made on­line via our on­line plat­form. How­ever, all fee-free dona­tions were sub­ject to man­ual re­ceipt­ing pro­ce­dures when origi­nat­ing from our fis­cal spon­sor. We would have greatly benefited from au­to­mated re­ceipt­ing soft­ware to send and store all of our dona­tion re­ceipts in 2018. We are now beta-test­ing our pro­pri­etary soft­ware to man­age this for all fu­ture dona­tions. This ser­vice will also come with a sum­mary func­tion that will send an an­nual re­port to donors dur­ing tax sea­son to en­sure there is a re­li­able and ac­cu­rate pa­per trail for all par­ties.

Re­spond­ing to Feedback

Our last pub­lic up­date gen­er­ated valuable feed­back on how we could im­prove our plat­form.

We have since added EA Funds and the Cen­tre for Effec­tive Altru­ism to our plat­form as a re­sult.

We ex­am­ined the vi­a­bil­ity for adding an op­er­a­tions ‘tip’ func­tion, similar to GiveWell, but have been ex­pe­rienc­ing tech­ni­cal challenges in­te­grat­ing this with CHIMP’s in­fras­truc­ture. Nev­er­the­less, we will be keep­ing this in mind as a key de­sign fea­ture.

Plans Mov­ing Forward

1. Lead­ing effec­tive char­ity reg­is­tra­tion in Canada

We have plans to help a well-known effec­tive char­ity ob­tain char­i­ta­ble sta­tus in Canada, and we are con­sid­er­ing this strat­egy as a broader ini­ti­a­tive for other effec­tive char­i­ties.

2. En­gag­ing cor­po­rate dona­tions and em­ployee match­ing programs

We are work­ing with Benevity, a pop­u­lar cor­po­rate dona­tion and match­ing tool, to en­sure our part­ner char­i­ties are available for Cana­dian em­ployee match­ing pro­grams. Thanks to Telus Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and a gen­er­ous em­ployee, our first match se­cured $10,000 CAD for GiveDirectly in early 2019.

3. Im­prov­ing the donor experience

In ad­di­tion to im­ple­ment­ing au­to­mated tax re­ceipt­ing, we are cur­rently build­ing a new web­site for RC For­ward that will be op­ti­mized for giv­ing donors a smooth ex­pe­rience.

4. In­creas­ing dis­tri­bu­tion transparency

In­spired by the al­lo­ca­tion and email no­tifi­ca­tion sys­tem that Against Malaria Foun­da­tion uses to track bed­net dis­tri­bu­tion, we are aiming to de­sign a sys­tem that will provide a track­ing mechanism for in­di­vi­d­ual donors to see when dona­tions have been gifted to their char­i­ties of choice.

5. Re­search­ing how to mar­ket effec­tive giv­ing to Canadians

How do we con­vert donors to high-im­pact giv­ing? What unique challenges or benefits ex­ist in mar­ket­ing effec­tive giv­ing to Cana­di­ans? We are cur­rently reach­ing out to all of our part­ner char­i­ties to help them max­i­mize aware­ness that they can re­ceive tax-de­ductible gifts from Cana­di­ans via RC For­ward.

This post was writ­ten by Siob­han Bren­ton. Thanks to Tee Bar­nett, Bax­ter Bul­lock, Simmo Simp­son, Neil Dul­laghan and David Va­tousios for com­ments. If you would like to dis­cuss RC For­ward in more de­tail con­tact us at op­er­a­tions@rtchar­ity.org.

RC For­ward (le­gal en­tity Re­think Char­ity Foun­da­tion 793187881RR0001) is a Cana­dian Registered Char­ity and Non-Profit so­ciety based in Van­cou­ver, Canada.

RC For­ward is a pro­ject of Re­think Char­ity.