2017 was again a record-breaking year for us. In total, we raised $4,292,847 for highly effective charities—more than twice as much as last year’s record. The main driver of this success was the matching challenge we ran together with Tom Crowley, Martin Crowley, and Dan Smith, who put up an incredible $2,000,000 of matching funds between them. However, neither the phenomenal result of this event nor all the donations throughout the year would have been possible without the continued support of everybody involved. We are profoundly grateful to all our donors, collaborators, and supporters. Below, we look back at the goals we set ourselves at the beginning of the year. We detail our plans for this year here.
Expand our ambassador program
Target: Have at least 8 official ambassadors by the end of 2017 (in addition to REG co-founders).
Evaluation: We reached our goal in 2017. The following ten poker players agreed to become ambassadors for REG: Martin Jacobson, Erik Seidel, Cate Hall, Justin Bonomo, Christopher George, George Danzer, John Juanda, Andrew Barber, Luciana Manolea, and Jeff Gross. Since then, the ambassadors have supported our mission by promoting our campaigns and spreading the word.
Reconsider our pledge model
Target: Evaluate our pledge model and consider alternative models. If a different one looks more promising, put it in place with the relaunch of the website.
Evaluation: We decided to make the pledge less central to our campaigns by moving it to our Donate page. Instead we emphasize our advice much more strongly by creating a guide to effective giving and adding a sign-up form to apply for individual philanthropic advice. We will revisit this decision in 2018 when we have more data on how well this change has worked.
(Co-)Host a charity poker tournament
Target: Host at least one charity tournament in 2017, or have very concrete plans worked out together with a partner for a tournament happening in 2018.
Evaluation: PokerStars agreed to let us host a charity event in January of 2018 during the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure on the Bahamas. The event raised around $30,000. We will consider whether this is something we should attempt to institutionalize.
Establish REG as a viable corporate social responsibility partner
Target: Have two corporate partnerships with important players in a given industry (poker, or other) by the end of 2017.
Evaluation: While we have not entered a formal partnership in 2017, we worked closely with both PokerStars and 888poker, which resulted in donations totaling $230,150 and $91,225 respectively.
Increase our presence at major tournaments
Target: Be present at at least one European Poker Tour stop in 2017.
Evaluation: The European Poker Tour was rebranded as PokerStars Live. REG staff attended two European PokerStars Live events in 2017: one PokerStars Championship in Monte Carlo and one in Barcelona. While they did not result in immediate donations, we are confident that they were important in building lasting relationships with players and corporate partners.
Conduct online fundraising campaigns
Target: Conduct at least one online campaign in 2017, and evaluate the potential of such campaigns in more detail.
Evaluation: We conducted a hashtag campaign around the Spring Championship Of Online Poker which encouraged players to donate 3% of their final table winnings. In the end we raised $6,005, very close to the total in 2016 ($6,400). This led us to conclude that such campaigns are not worth the effort.
Support donation matching challenges
Target: Support and/or host at least 3 matching challenges.
Evaluation: While we only facilitated one such campaign, that one was a massive success. In December we teamed up with Tom Crowley, Martin Crowley, and Dan Smith, who put up an incredible $2,000,000 of matching funds between them. When the cap was reached before the year end, Fedor Holz chipped in another $250,000, which was soon matched as well. As a result, a total of $4,500,340 was donated as part of the challenge (see our semi-annual report for a breakdown between the recipient charities).1 This has encouraged us to facilitate a December matching challenge every year.
Explore our options in the financial and eSports industry
Evaluation: We did not set a specific target for these efforts in 2017. We conducted additional research into our options in other industries, and also applied to Ycombinator with an expansion idea, where we were rejected. Overall, the information we gained over the course of the past year led us to be believe that expanding REG’s model into other industries is not worthwhile. Going forward, we will instead focus on collaborating with the Effective Altruism Foundation in offering philanthropic advice for high-net-worth individuals and families.
Redesign our website
Target: Launch an improved version of our website in the first half of 2017.
Evaluation: We launched our new website in July. A change in staff delayed the release by a few weeks.
Increase external transparency
Target: Publish more reports on our processes, goals, and strategy.
Evaluation: We will continue to publish annual goals (2016, 2017, 2018) and an evaluation of them such as this and the one for 2016. In addition, we release semiannual reports on how much money we have moved to which effective charities. For specific strategic questions we will reach out to select stakeholders to get additional information.
Improve our donor management system
Target: Implement a new donor management system by the end of the year.
Evaluation: We originally planned to build a donor management system in-house, but this turned out to be more difficult than we had anticipated. As a result, we decided to switch to an existing system, Pipedrive, which we could integrate with our custom-build donation processing system. We have been testing this new setup since October and are very satisfied so far. In 2018 we will further improve and iterate on this solution.
Expand our tax deductibility status
Target: Enable tax deductible donations for UK donors.
Evaluation: Since December 2017 we allow our donors to make tax deductible donations from the UK by partnering with Rethink Charity. While we incur some costs per transaction with this setup, we still believe this to be an important step in order to attract and retain more UK donors.
1 We did not include all donations made as part of the challenge in our report, but only $3,144,741 (70%). Since the challenge had also been advertised the charities themselves, it was very likely that people contributed who would have made the donation in any case. We inquired with individual donors and charities to estimate how much of the total contributions had been donated because of the matching challenge itself and extrapolated conservatively from the results.