This is the 7th post in the Working At EA Organizations series which I started in autumn 2015. With more organizations hiring again, it’s time to finish the series. The posts so far:
The following are my notes from an interview with Michelle Hutchinson, which she reviewed before publishing, (and an exchange with Jon Courtney).
About Giving What We Can
Giving What We Can (GWWC) aims to move as much money as possible to the most effective charities. They do this by researching which charities have the most impact and encouraging people to commit to giving 10% of their income to the most effective ones. 1652 people have taken their pledge to date and form a community of givers. GWWC provides a commitment mechanism to help people reach their giving goals, allows people to meet others with a similar perspective on the world, and makes giving as easy and convenient as possible. They have set up a trust which functions as a donor advised fund and makes it possible to donate to top charities tax-deductibly.
GWWC’s current activities include chapter-building, individual outreach, research and community events. Since last year, chapter-building has been a major focus for GWWC, and is proving very successful. In this project they collaborate with EA Outreach, EAF and .Impact. Proactively initiating chapters, for example by reaching out to academics who can inspire their students to set up university groups have led to many new local EA groups over 2015. As well as helping to start new chapters, GWWC supports existing groups with materials such as a starter pack and posters. Noteworthy: the chapters are largely general EA chapters.
GWWC also reaches out to individuals who they think might be interested in taking the pledge and who often turn out to have just a few remaining questions before they’re ready to do so.
They supplement GiveWell’s research on global poverty charities, identifying new issues such as disease interactions between deworming and malaria and have put some thought into which climate-change reducing charities to support.
Current and future talent needs
The last hiring round is closed and 3 out of 4 positions have been filled. The remaining position to be filled would be a person to work full-time on chapters. Re-opening this position will be considered for the next hiring round. The next open positions are not known yet.
In general, GWWC looks for all-rounders with broadly valuable abilities. That could mean demonstrating your conscientiousness or team spirit through a project, your smarts by doing well in university or writing an interesting blog. You should be very on board with EA, but need not worry if you’re not yet well-networked within EA. A successful candidate should be willing to work with GWWC for at least two years. In the future, they’ll look more for specific experience such as fundraising, research to reduce the cost of training people up.
Which positions will be open next isn’t clear at this point.
How can you get involved on a lower commitment basis?
To become a volunteer you should probably start by publishing on the blog or joining the chapter team, e.g. as a chapter mentor. These tasks are most in need of volunteers at the moment (fewer people than expected offered to volunteer for the Local Effective Altruism Network). To write a blog post contact firstname.lastname@example.org and to join the chapter team email email@example.com and join this Facebook group.
There are many other volunteering opportunities. Current and past volunteers have also been working on research, social media and the website (including non-technical aspects like choosing photos).
Volunteering is also a common first step to getting involved full-time.
You can also help by starting your own GWWC/EA chapter. Please register here if you're interested or would like to meet likeminded people.
This year GWWC is once again offering summer internships. Last year, around 15 interns visited the office for 2 weeks. They worked on a wide variety of tasks such as contacting newspapers, content for the website, making infographics and seeding EA chapters. This year the period will be from June to August, but with some extra flexibility if needed.
The positions fairly competitive at ~3 applicants per place. Being involved in chapters or having particular skills such as video editing, technical or writing experience is a plus.
Next to having a direct impact, a summer internship can help you build a network within the EA community and showcase your fit for full-time work at an EA organization. Learn more about the internships from Thomas Sittler’s (very positive!) experience.
What's the application process like?
Most applications are fairly short- they involve answering a series of questions and including your CV. Several people then grade each applicant along a number of criteria, and then select the highest scored individuals to interview. This is usually followed by a few rounds of interviews to get a sense of the applicants and choose the one with the best fit. If possible, the applicants in the final round will also visit the office beforehand.
How would you trade off a qualified hire against donations?
GWWC is currently more talent-constrained than funding constrained, so in practice that means anyone who is qualified who thinks they would be a good fit should apply, and they might be hired even if they could make a lot of money and give it to GWWC directly.
Why work at Giving What We Can?
The principal argument for this being a high-impact opportunity is that GWWC has a very high fundraising ratio; the latest impact report indicated a ratio of 1:104. On the growth side of things, GWWC has the potential to scale a lot. (As 80000 Hours has argued, this aspect should be given more weight for small nonprofits). Many people are somewhat interested in donating more (effectively) but are unsure or just have a few more questions before they can make a commitment. GWWC solves this problem.
As part of CEA, the office culture offers has a strong focus on self-improvement. You’ll be trying out many productivity techniques benefitting from daily check-ins and getting specialized training (e.g. last year the staff attended a 1-week global health course). The office has a friendly, enthusiastic atmosphere and the work offers various perks such as a nap room and snacks and working flexible hours (or from home).
Due to GWWC’s startup-nature you’ll be working on a diverse set of tasks, making it a good choice for exploration value. With a high degree of responsibility you’ll be building skills fast. The roles are flexible so people can do what suits them best.
The roles offer good exit opportunities which will depend on your area of work. For instance, as a researcher you’ll build a network in academia or government. The opportunities for work on other EA projects will also be excellent if you believe EA is set to grow - see this post. You’ll also be gaining career capital for being one of the first employees of a growing organization that achieves great things such as getting half a billion in pledges and advising the World Bank, 10 Downing St and the WHO.
Anything else that would be useful to know?
Job openings generally get many applicants, but few with substantial amounts of experience. Good all-rounders with experience are hard to find and should feel especially encouraged to apply. That is especially true for older applicants with 10-20 years of experience.
Also worth noting, some people think that GWWC is for those who mainly want to support the cause of global poverty. However, even the existing staff are in many cases agnostic about causes and the cause-neutrality of the pledge reflects that.
Let’s finish with one last thought from Jon Courtney:
If I had to give one piece of advice on how to get ahead in these applications - I would say go out and do something awesome. Seeing that an individual has competently executed a project on their own in the past, through their own initiative is really appealing for employers (in EA organizations and elsewhere). It also has the added benefit of getting to do something awesome!