Skilled volunteering, putting to use the expertise that you’ve developed in your professional life so far, seems likely to be a more effective use of your time for doing good and a better way for you to build career capital or test your personal fit with a career path than volunteering that doesn’t draw on your existing experience (more on this below).
Animal advocacy is widely regarded within the effective altruism community as a high-priority cause area. There are both shorttermist (e.g. 1, 2, 3) and longtermist reasons (e.g. 1, 2, 3) to prioritise this work. Animal Advocacy Careers has contacted dozens of effective animal advocacy nonprofits and asked them what sorts of skilled volunteering support would be most useful for them.
Animal Advocacy Careers’ new skilled volunteering board is a tool that will help match skilled volunteers with the organisations that need their help. So if you have a skill that you’ve developed and some time to volunteer, check out our new skilled volunteering board!
I've copied below our text on "Is skilled volunteering for you?" in case of interest, though bear in mind that its target audience is people already interested in helping animals, more so than people already interested in effective altruism.
Volunteering can really help animals. A number of highly cost-effective animal advocacy charities rely on the support of large grassroots support bases who get active in support of the campaigns without expecting anything in return. That’s fantastic, and we’re very grateful for the dedication of so many amazing animal advocates.
When people volunteer for animals, they tend to be trying to do one or two of the following:
- Help animals
- Build a stronger connection with animals and motivation for animal advocacy,
- Build career capital and test personal fit with a career path.
WHY “SKILLED” VOLUNTEERING?
Skilled volunteering is likely to be a more effective use of your time for helping animals than something unskilled or something you have no experience with:
- Your contribution will probably be much less replaceable than if you volunteer for something unskilled and easy to replicate in large numbers.
- If you’re doing something that you’re already quite good at, you probably won’t need as much supervision or training, which will save the nonprofit time and resources.
It’s also likely to be a better way for you to build career capital and test your personal fit with a career path:
- You’re more likely to be focusing on developing skills that are more aligned with your comparative advantage within the community.
- If you’re doing something that you’re good at, you’re more likely to create a good impression of yourself and build useful connections and credentials.
WHY ITS NOT RIGHT FOR EVERYONE
- Volunteering is not necessary for everyone, especially not long periods of volunteering. There are often other methods that can be used to test your fit with a career path. For some ideas, see our skills profiles.
- It might be more useful for you to spend your volunteering time exploring your personal fit with a completely new skillset. In that case, you might want to focus on something you suspect you could become skilled at, rather than something you already are skilled at.
- If you do volunteer, you should do what you find sustainable and make sure that you look after yourself so that you can keep helping animals in the long-term. If you use all of your spare time volunteering for animal advocacy organisations, you might get sick of it and give up.
- For most people, volunteering should probably be a means to an end, rather than the end goal. You can probably help animals more by really focusing on a high-impact career path (including possibly helping animals quite indirectly, such as through donations, or work in government and policy).
Not sure you can contribute any of the listed skills but still want to volunteer to help animals? No worries — you find each organisation’s other available volunteering opportunities here. And remember to check back periodically in case the listed opportunities change.
If skilled volunteering does seem right for you... volunteer here!
This is really interesting, do you have a sense of how much organisations value skilled volunteers, and how likely it is that all the openings you've listed could be filled? (It seems like there are a lot!)
I'd also be curious how you prioritised this initiative overall from the other activities you are doing.
<<do you have a sense of how much organisations value skilled volunteers>> Reactions were pretty mixed. Some orgs seemed quite excited about the idea, others either didn't seem to get it, didn't seem to think it would be helpful, or just didn't reply. Most of the positive feedback was generic, along the lines of "this is an exciting initiative," which makes it difficult to interpret how useful they actually expect it to be. So in short, I don't have a very clear sense, no.
<<how you prioritised this initiative overall from the other activities you are doing>> We were in between some different projects, waiting on feedback. This felt like it would feed into several different goals we have and not take very long to set up, so we just tried it out with relatively little evaluation. (If you're interested in the more thorough thought process more typical of what we usually do for larger projects, see here https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/QGhoBnjjiGkBsrHC7/animal-advocacy-careers-2021-plans-and-2020-review)
Nice initiative! I'd have found the post title more informative if you replaced 'high priority EA cause area' with 'Animal Advocacy'/'Animal Welfare'. Is there a reason you went with the first one?
I have the sense that the skilled volunteering board could be useful for career capital and testing personal fit purposes even for people who don't prioritise animal advocacy, and so I was hoping to interest some of those people. But I suppose it does feel a little deceptive, which would be a bad community norm, so I changed it. Thanks for highlighting.