Hide table of contents

When speaking to people who are interested in but new to EA, I have gotten questions about advice for what to volunteer for on their free time. I am unsure about the best response to this and would like to hear your thoughts!

Approaches I have thought of:

- Suggesting volunteering for local EA group/community building: For my own part this is what I prioritize when I have time to volunteer, but I am not sure this is the best recommendation for someone who hasn't yet fully bought into EA. What do you think?
Another reason why this is not always a great alternative is if there is no active local group where the person lives.

- Trying to find EA organizations/effective charities that work with volunteers (e.g. remotely): Suggestions? Maybe this fits better for people with certain skills than others, if so - which?

- Explaining that EA focuses more on impact through career or donations, since this tends to be a lot more impactful than volunteering: This is my general impression, but I haven't read anything specific about it that I can remember. Thoughts? Any good articles on this?




New Answer
New Comment

6 Answers sorted by

I wrote up some thoughts on this after getting this question a few times recently ( taking from some of the previous posts mentioned).


With volunteering it will depend on the motivation behind wanting to volunteer, which can be one or more of the following.

  • Giving back outside of work/donations
  • Having impact
  • Connecting with a community
  • Career capital/building skills
  • New experiences/friends/having fun


Once you know what the main driver is, that can determine the best ways to search for a role. If thinking about impact there are some useful heuristics from this 80,000 Hours article.

  • Volunteer for cost effective, labour constrained organisations
  • Use your skills
  • Don’t do replaceable tasks

For career capital it will involve staying up to date with the fields/organisations you're interested in, seeing if volunteering opportunities open up, contacting them to see if there is a way you can help, or spotting a way that you can help them independently.

For connecting with a community it will depend on the community, if you want to connect with your neighbourhood there are organisations like Do It to help match volunteers to opportunities in the UK.

For EA London here is a post by one person on how they decided to find an impactful role in this space. Here are their suggestions

  • Consider how you’d like to weight Direct Impact, Self Care, Career Capital, and any other criteria you’d like to focus on.
  • Identify your personal fit/comparative advantage by looking at past achievements and asking a friend or colleague.
  • Make a list of a wide range of opportunities.
  • Seek out opportunities that will do well on specific criteria.
  • Ask around about opportunities.
  • Consider independent projects that may be high-impact.
  • Make a copy of our spreadsheet (in linked post) and use it to narrow down your options.
  • Create a short-list of the best opportunities. (These might not be the highest-scoring opportunities on the spreadsheet.)
  • Try to get more information about your top options e.g. by talking to someone you’d be working with.
  • Make a consistent, long-term commitment. Volunteering can be net negative if it wastes the time of a staff member or another volunteer at a high-impact charity.


If you're interested in supporting an EA group it may be worth considering the following options.

  • Is there a task you enjoy doing/have experience in that is currently missing in your group?
    • Social media
    • Intro conversations
    • Event organising
    • Giving talks
    • Web design
    • Interviewing people
  • Is there a cause/career area you want to explore more? You could create your own subgroup for others in that community to get together and share ideas


A few other posts on volunteering and EA

I'll be a bit forward and recommend my own article on volunteering: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/ScLHyCY6JCr5FtuiY/effective-volunteering

It doesn't tell you where to volunteer, but it does walk you through some useful considerations when you're deciding what volunteer opportunities to take on.

Thank you, that's great!

SoGive offers volunteering opportunities doing charity analysis. If you're interested, get in touch with me via sanjay [at] sogive.org

I'm rather late to the party, but just adding some resources in case other people stumble upon this post in future too:

I think a local opportunity is a nice way for people to meet people around them (e.g. be on welcoming duty at a local meetup) and then remote can be valuable if done well.

We're currently taking volunteers at Giving What We Can also 😀

Here's the expression of interest form: http://bit.ly/gwwc-volunteer

Yes I think including them in the local activities is the optimal start - just harder remotely and especially now during the pandemic. Thanks for the GWWC-suggestion, that could be a great remote alternative!

Curated and popular this week
Relevant opportunities