There is a lot of discussion in effective altruism about how to use one's career to do good, either through earning to give as a donor to effective charities or organizations, or with your time through direct work at one of those organizations. In geographic hubs like Oxford or Berkeley there are opportunities to volunteer at an effective altruism organization in person. However, worldwide, there are now thousands of effective altruists, and their spare time is an under-utilized resource by organizations in the effective altruism ecosystem. 80,000 Hours rightly point out using your spare time to upgrade your education or learn transferable skills to further your career. However, effective altruism is a community attractive to people from all walks of life. This leaves EA with a lot of community members whose time for a variety of reasons goes unused:
- Students seeking to build their skills through volunteering, or want to volunteer as an effective non-profit as an extra-curricular activity.
- Individuals at later stages of specialization in their careers, when acquiring new skills is less valuable at the margin than leveraging the valuable skills they already have with high-impact volunteering opportunities.
- Unskilled individuals who for whatever reason don't have the opportunities for higher education or skills-building to lead a high-impact career available to them, but are nonetheless eager to volunteer their time for a high-impact cause.
- Homemakers, stay-at home parents, retirees and other supporters of effective altruism who have time to spare but aren't seeking to (re-)enter the workplace for the foreseeable future.
There are also several organizations part of the effective altruism or allied movements focused on causes common to EA which primarily focus on research, outreach and advocacy, Often these organizations depend on volunteers to keep costs low, spread awareness, raise funds, and run their projects. The EA community actively grows through word of mouth and on the internet to a degree many organizations may not notice, and there is consistent demand for volunteer opportunities. They're out there, but they're not written down all in one place. I've surveyed organizations in and around EA for volunteer opportunities, and I've compiled them below. For the purposes of this master list, "volunteering" is broadly defined as a designated activity or task an effective altruist can take up in their spare time.
How to Read This List
For Aspiring Volunteers
On this list are volunteer opportunities in the following focus areas across 16 different projects and organizations:
- Global Poverty Alleviation
- Farm Animal Welfare
- Wild Animal Welfare
- AI Safety & Existential Risk
- EA Community (Movement-Building, Education & Outreach)
For students and other EA community members at the beginning of their careers, all these organizations provide the opportunity to learn new skills and gain experience and contacts with EA organizations and at non-profits working on high-impact causes. For volunteers without much non-profit experience or who are looking to build their skills, several of these organizations provide the opportunity to learn and develop skills which are not only invaluable in volunteering but can be transferred to professional work on any cause. In descending order of availability, these skills include:
- Writing, Editing, Proof-reading and Translation
- Social Media Engagement/Management
- Public Speaking & Presentation
- Event Planning & Organization
- In-Person and Online Advocacy & Activism
- Information Searches & Research Assistance
- Project Management
Several of the organizations on this list are seeking volunteers with prior experience or expertise with the following skill sets. These include:
- Web Design & Management (WordPress, Google AdWords management, SEO optimization)
- Public Speaking & Presenting
- Teaching & Education
- Professional Editing of Research Publications/Articles
- Activism & Advocacy
- Social Science Research
- Photo & Video Editing
- Graphic Design
Feel free to search this list using these terms, or to browse the list until you find a volunteer opportunity fitting your skills and interests.
For Meetup/Community Organizers
One idea for a meetup is to have an EA volunteer opportunity presentation & sign-up party. Another volunteer opportunity as a meetup organizer is to run events for effective altruists or other groups to raise awareness of effective altruism and related causes. The last section of this list is 'Volunteer to Organize A Local Event', including lists resources for EA meetups, and non-profits supporting the independent organization of advocacy, outreach, and fundraising events.
If you know of a volunteer opportunity for effective altruists not on this list, please let me know so I may add it. Please provide the name of your organization or project, the area you're focused on, the skills or requirements for the volunteer role you're seeking to fill, contact info, and if possible a webpage where prospective volunteers to learn more about the opportunity.
Ongoing Volunteer Opportunities
Global Poverty Alleviation
The Life You Can Save (TLYCS) is an EA organization focused on raising awareness of effective giving and fundraising for several recommended charities working in global development, public health and poverty alleviation, including Givewell's top recommended and standout charities. TLYCS is currently seeking volunteers for their social media team. TLYCS also provides resources for how to run Giving Games for global health and development charities, as well as materials for charities in other focus areas such as farm animal welfare and global catastrophic risk reduction.
The Missing Maps campaign Humanitarian OpenStreetMap is an online, easy, direct volunteering initiative aimed at helping a variety of local charities and NGOs around the world become more effective through using donated satellite imagery to build open-source maps. The local teams working with this campaign can then immediately use these maps, and local people can take on and enhance them. Initiatives supported include disaster response as well as longer-term poverty alleviation, health, and human rights interventions. You can get started directly at Missing Maps website, or ping effective altruist @jamiewoodhouse on Twitter to learn more.
Farm Animal Welfare
Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) offers research internships every quarter, and has a research volunteer opportunity of writing detailed but readable summaries of conversations based on audio recordings or transcriptions. You can apply to an ACE research internship here, and apply to be a research volunteer here.
The Humane League (THL) is an ACE-recommended charity. THL runs the Fast Action Network, an online group which sends out easy, one-minute actions two or three times per week, including signing petitions, posting on social media, or emailing decision makers, as part of campaigns to mitigate factory farming. You can sign up to join the Fast Action Network in the United States here, in the United Kingdom here and for a Spanish version of the Fast Action Network here.
Mercy For Animals, an ACE-recommended charity from 2014 through 2016, runs a similar program called Hen Heroes.
Animal Equality is an ACE-recommended charity providing opportunities for volunteer and online activism in the following ways. You can find out how to get involved at this link. Animal Equality has the following volunteer opportunities available:
- Street demonstrations
- Information stalls
- Free vegan food giveaway
- Distribution of leaflets
- Office work
- Translating or writing
- Taking photos or videos at our events
- Giving talks on animal rights and veg-eating
Faunalytics is an ACE standout charity, and a non-profit research organization providing information resources to enhance and empower the effectiveness of animal advocates. They're a small organization which depends on all kinds of volunteers: library assistants, statisticians, WordPress developers, AdWords and SEO experts, professional editors, expert social science researchers, and graphic designers. You can sign up to volunteer with them at this link.
Sentience Institute (SI) is a non-profit think tank doing evidence-based research on movement-building and values-spreading for the purposes of anti-specieism and moral circle expansion. You can sign up here to join their volunteer research network. SI focuses on social movement research broadly benefiting many focuses in effective altruism, so the benefits of joining their research network are not limited to anti-specieism or farm animal welfare.
Wild Animal Welfare
Animal Ethics is a non-profit organization researching and advocating on the subject of animal welfare, including wild animal suffering due to both anthropogenic and naturogenic causes. They have volunteer opportunities for street outreach work; online outreach work; research and dissemination of information; and hosting talks and events. Animal Ethics could use the help of volunteers with technical skills in the following areas of online outreach:
- Web design
- Graphic design
- Video editing
- Motion graphics
- Applying new technologies to online activism
Volunteer roles for research and dissemination of information with Animal Ethics include:
- Information searches
- Writing & Editing texts
- Translating texts into other languages
- Photo & Video Editing
You can contact Animal Ethics through their website about volunteering with them.
Utility Farm is an organization doing research and advocacy for gr assroots movement-building to reduce wild animal suffering, and is currently seeking volunteer writers (in English). While a basic understanding of the issues of wild animal suffering is required, no particular technical knowledge or background is required. Writers will be working on digestible and accessible blog posts and essays for Utility Farm's social change project. Sign-up information for volunteering is provided at this link.
AI Safety & Existential Risk
The Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI) is a pioneering organization in AI alignment research which provides support and funding for satellite research workshops through their MIRIx workshop program. MIRIx workshops help create exposure and spread thinking on AI alignment problems, and help MIRI identify researchers and potential hires interested in AI alignment. From MIRI's website:
MIRI wants to support AI safety research around the world. Our MIRIx program encourages mathematicians, computer scientists, and formal philosophers to organize their own workshops, and offers to reimburse the organizers for expenses.A MIRIx workshop can be as simple as gathering some of your friends to read MIRI papers together, talk about them, eat some snacks, scribble some ideas on whiteboards, and go out to dinner together. Or it can be a multi-day research workshop pursuing a specific line of attack on a particular problem. It’s up to you.In some cases we’ll be able to send a MIRI research fellow to your first meeting to give tutorials and answer questions, or perhaps they’ll Skype in to your workshop to do the same. We’ll work out the details, and send you some tips on how to organize the workshop.
The Road to AI Safety Excellence (RAISE) is an initiative to create an online course to improve the development pipeline for AI safety researchers. Those eager to volunteer with RAISE to develop the course can sign up here, and you can also join their volunteer study group.
The Foundational Research Institute (FRI) is a non-profit research institute focusing on AI alignment from an ethical perspective focused on suffering reduction. Volunteer opportunities at FRI include independently researching and publishing on one of FRI's research subjects to be hosted on their website; fact-checking and proofreading draft papers; helping manage FRI's Google Grants AdWords campaigns; translating essays and articles into English, German and other languages; and recording episodes of FRI's podcast.
The Existential Risk Research Assessment (TERRA) is a project by the Cambridge Centre for the Study of Existential Risk combining volunteer efforts with machine learning. TERRA accesses a searchable database of academic research, and uses human feedback on the relevance of the research to existential risk studies to train an ML "recommendation engine" to do the job of automatically constructing x-risk bibliographies. You can sign up here to join TERRA.
Allfed focuses on creating solutions to feed everyone in the event of catastrophes both local and global in scale, and so is focused on both extreme global poverty alleviation and existential risk reduction. Since they are working in so many countries around the world, and the scope of their work is constantly expanding, they need researchers, developers, clerical assistance, and specialists in different countries and major languages. You can apply by contacting Allfed.
EA Community (e.g., Movement-Building, Education, Outreach, etc.)
Students for High Impact Charity is an international organization teaching students how to think critically about charity through their educational program with modules focused on effective charity, rationality, animal welfare, global catastrophic risks, and other topics at the heart of effective altruism. SHIC has run a very successful volunteer program within the EA community, with over 100 volunteers, several of whom have gone on to do paid and professional work with EA organizations. SHIC has opportunities for volunteering and internships both seeking in or teaching volunteers the skills of project management, copy writing and editing, web development, web marketing, outreach, communications, donor stewardship, and more! Teachers and students can also respectively sign up to become a SHIC teacher or a SHIC student leader at their own schools.
Rethink Charity (RC) is an EA community organization focused on movement-building and other high-impact projects such as SHIC, the Local Effective Altruism Network (LEAN), Rethink Priorities and the annual Effective Altruism Survey. RC has similar volunteer opportunities to SHIC. From Rethink Charity's website:
As member of the Rethink Charity team, you will wear many hats. Although we try to match tasks with skill level, you will regularly be given the chance to try new things. You have the potential to get familiar with project management, copy writing and editing, web development, web marketing, outreach, communications, donor stewardship, and more!
Check out their website to get involved. RC also provides support for online fundraisers for high-impact charities such as the Against Malaria Foundation, the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, GiveDirectly, Cool Earth and Project Healthy Children, including as a birthday fundraiser.
The Effective Thesis is a project by the Czech Effective Altruism organization and the Effective Altruists of Berkeley club at UC Berkeley aiming to focus research on areas that have the potential to greatly improve the world. They're currently seeking volunteers to help promote the Effective Thesis project via social media, to help with content creation or volunteer programmers to help with redesigning their website.
Life Extension & Anti-Ageing
The Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF) promotes the advancement of biomedical technologies which will increase the healthy human lifespan. By sponsoring and democratizing research efforts through crowdfunding and engaging the public in thoughtful dialogue, LEAF aims to accelerate the achievement of milestones in anti-ageing research. LEAF is seeking volunteers who are specialists in:
- IT and web development
- Social media team
You can fill out a form to join LEAF as a volunteer at their website.
Volunteer to Organize A Local Event
One way to volunteer outside of any organization is to run a reading group for your local effective altruism group, community or university club. Here is a link to an EA Reading Group Guide and a folder of EA discussion sheets on topics such as personal and financial decision-making; the basics of EA; outreach topics; and various causes.
Organizations supporting local events focused on various causes include:
- The Life You Can Save provides resources and materials to organize Giving Games for dozens of different charities.
- Animal Equality provides resources and materials for leaflet distribution, information stalls, and public demonstrations around the world.
- Animal Ethics provides resources for hosting talks and events based on raising awareness of the causes of suffering for domesticated, farm and wild animals.
- You can volunteer to organize meetings for a local study group with RAISE.
- You can contact the Machine Intelligence Research Institute to get in touch with or start a MIRIx workshop in your city.
Please see the profiles of these organizations to learn how to get in touch with them regarding support, resources or materials for organizing local events and activities.