“Animal Advocacy Careers” do not need to be only careers in animal advocacy organisations
This is the first piece of AAC's new “Impactful Animal Advocacy Career Paths” series (more posts coming soon).
Animal advocacy organisations play a vital role in creating a compassionate world for animals, but they face significant challenges in securing adequate funding. Almost all organisations need financial support in order to sustain and expand their programs. Many of these organisations are funding constrained.
Providing these resources creates an essential, indirect yet major impact for animals through empowering the organisations helping them.
Why Donations For Animals Are Crucial
Almost every advocacy organisation would like to:
- hire more staff who would work on important tasks,
- create more advertisements that would raise awareness about animal rights,
- start more programs to grow and strengthen the movement.
None of these things are free.
It is simply unrealistic and unfair to expect individuals to selflessly work for animals without any compensation. It is also hard to attract skilled, and competent individuals to work on animal advocacy without decent salaries.
There are 3 main problems limiting our progress in putting an end to animal suffering:
Lack of funding in nonprofits
Animal advocacy organisations listed a lack of funding as the single most important thing that limited their organisations impact.
For these reasons, organisations require extensive and stable funding.
Unless animal nonprofits are adequately resourced, they cannot create meaningful impact for animals. While some organisations also earn money by selling merchandise or event tickets, they simply cannot function like a for profit company.
Nonprofits primarily depend on donations to cover their expenses.
Uneven distribution of funding
The problem is not just the limited amount of money in the animal advocacy space, it is also about how the funds are shared and distributed.
Farmed and wild animal welfare organisations receive significantly fewer donations compared to organisations working on companion animals, animals used in labs, and captive animals. Yet, the number and suffering of farmed and wild animals are much higher than these other groups.
Farmed and wild animal advocacy is relatively more neglected than other animal advocacy fields, in terms of both public attention and funding.
While “for every one dog or cat euthanized in a shelter, 3,400 farmed land animals are confined and slaughtered”, farmed and wild animal organisations receive about %1 of total donations to animal charities (which also include shelters, organisations that focus on companion animals, etc.).
Struggling Against Powerful Institutions
Finally, the institutions that these organisations are struggling against are extremely powerful. The annual donations to farmed and wild animal advocacy organisations is approximately 200 million dollars.
Animal agriculture industry, on the other hand, is a billions of dollars worth industry where tens of thousands people work each day.
The animal advocacy movement, farmed and wild animal advocacy in particular is miniscule in terms of financial power compared to the institutions it is positioned against.
When animal welfare organisations stage campaigns against corporations like McDonalds or Kroeger in order to achieve institutional welfare reforms, they struggle against organisations that have hundreds, even thousands times more financial resources than they do.
Is Alt Protein the Solution? Exploring Ambitions and Challenges
The alternative protein sector has much more investment and market capitalisation than animal charities, due to its profit prospects. But it is also much smaller than the animal agriculture sector that it aims to substitute.
We need to develop new technologies to produce food that is as tasty and cheap as animal products, which is not an easy task. We also need to change consumer attitudes and behaviour towards animal products, which is also very difficult.
All these things require vast amounts of resources that need to be used in areas like research and development, management, and marketing.
Earning to Give: How Does Earning to Donate to Animal Charities Work?
The idea is simple: earn money, save some, and donate to animal advocacy organisations.
We understand that not everyone can choose this option due to family responsibilities or limited opportunities for higher salaries. However, we believe it could be a practical and impactful choice for many advocates, contributing to reducing animal suffering.
Step one: Discovering a Career with Adequate Income
Assess the salaries in different sectors, occupations, and companies.
Certain sectors, occupations, and companies pay significantly higher, particularly for senior positions, and especially in certain countries that have higher GDP per capita.
For example: jobs in finance, traders, surgents, programmers, managers, and successful startup founders typically have higher incomes, especially in developed countries.
Of course, these are challenging.
It is not an easy task to graduate from a difficult program, get a job in a major company and move up in the corporate career ladder. But if you can overcome these challenges and reach a position of financial power, you can use this power (i. e. your high income) for the good of the animals.
Another important factor to consider is your personal fit. You'll do well in a job when you have the right skills and preferences that align with the occupation. Success comes when you're good at what you do.
For example, even if trading in a big bank is potentially impactful due to its high pay, it is not necessarily the best career path for you. This may be because you do not have the necessary skills or you simply do not like that work to start with. On the other hand, if you are really passionate about something, and excel at it, you can still earn a lot (even more than the options that “on average” pay better), even if most people in that sector or occupation do not.
You might also have other goals than helping animals, which is totally legitimate. In those cases, it may be reasonable to choose from options that fit you better. For example, if you have a passion for academia, arts, or a certain trade, these may still be the best path for you.
Putting aside exceptions, you should be open minded and well informed in order to assess the potential income levels of different job opportunities, and your fitness for these roles.
Some occupations may appear more rewarding than they seem at first glance, and with time, most people can develop new skills and preferences that make them well-suited for these career paths too.
Step two: Save Money
The second stage of this approach is, of course, saving the money. You can set targets like %1 or %10 or %50 of your earnings, depending on what you make and your needs. This can be done by cutting unnecessary spending like luxury items, or opting for more affordable choices.
We are not advising that you should be extremely frugal, because that may not be sustainable.
Your biggest impact will likely come in the long term, likely as a result of your higher earnings as you progress in your career, and not as a result of how much you save by cutting back on your consumption.
Focusing too much on small savings for donations might take a toll on your mental well-being. Instead, concentrate on advancing in your career, which can lead to much bigger contributions.
Fanatically thinking about the potential impact of an additional small donation that can be done by not buying a cup of coffee and using that money to donate, can disturb your mental health and distract you from more impactful actions like progressing in your career that may allow you to earn much more than the price of a cup of coffee.
It is also helpful to have a long term view of your financial situation.
For example, buying a house (or getting a mortgage) may increase your expenses and leave less for donations for some time. But in the long run, this type of investment (if done well) may allow you to be more generous, since it increases your overall wealth and relieves you from paying rent.
Another example might be to use some of your savings for starting a business or simply for skilling up or taking some time off to prepare and focus on your job search and applications. These may increase your expenses and decrease your donations in the short term, but may very well increase your income and donations in the long run.
Step three: Choose Which Organisations to Donate To
When people decide to donate to animal charities, they often search for the best animal charity to donate to. There’s no single best answer. You can choose from two options here.
Option one: Donate to funds
You can choose to donate to funds managed by people who claim to have experience and expertise in assessing organisations. These funds pool various donations and then make grants to individual organisations.
This is a reasonable approach if you don’t have the time and knowledge to research into different organisations and explore the potential impact of your donations, and you generally agree with the grant making strategy of the fund (and its managers).
Option two: Donate to animal charities directly
This is the best approach for you if:
- You have the time and knowledge to research into the tactics of various organisations and understand the potential impact of your donations, and
- You have a different viewpoint(s) than these funds (and its managers) about the value of different types of advocacy work (We intend to publish resources on how one might do this in the future).
Regardless of which option you choose, deciding which organisation (or funds) you donate to is very important. This will determine the majority of the impact of your donation.
For example, you could donate to organisations who are helping individual animals, which is great. But you could also seek a potentially broader impact, such as donating to organisations who are advocating for policies that positively affect thousands of animals.In the end it’s up to you, but it’s important to identify the organisations whose tactics align best with your vision of creating impact.
Empowering Progress: How Donors Drive Change in Animal Advocacy Organisation
There has been great progress in terms of financially empowering animal advocacy organisations over the past decades.
In the past, most organisations primarily relied on volunteer work, which limited their potential and created fragilities. Today, while funding-constraints are still a big issue, there are many animal advocacy organisations worldwide that can employ numerous full-time staff with adequate pay. This lets organisations hire and keep skilled people for challenging projects and campaigns.
This progress happened thanks to large and small donors. Large donors like Open Philanthropy, which is primarily supported by Dustin Muskovitz (co-founder of Facebook and Asana) and Cari Tuna, annually provide more than 8-digit grants to various organisations. Funds to which thousands of donors pool their donations, also annually provide grants which amount to millions of US dollars. Farmed Animal Funders is another community of large donors who aim to impact farmed animals.
Giving What We Can community, is a good example of how ordinary donors can collectively make an impact using their donations. This is a community of individuals who pledge to give at least 10% of their income to “organisations that can most effectively use the donations to improve the lives of others”. To this day, the Giving What We Can community has donated more than 100 million dollars in total to both humanitarian and animal charities.
There are also many anonymous donors who are essential for the success of the organisations they support
Supporters of farmed and wild animal welfare have managed to maintain their donations over time. The level of donations is either increasing or remaining stable each year.
Thanks to these efforts, there are now hundreds of advocates worldwide who are working to help animals as their job.
This financial support is one of the main reasons why in the past two decades farmed animal advocates achieved tangible results like corporate animal welfare reforms, and the growth of the alternative protein sector.
Without adequate funding, these wins probably wouldn’t have happened.
Upsides: The Power of Donating to Help Animals
As explained above, the need for more financial support is very high in the animal advocacy movement and every donation would help organisations to sustain and expand their work.
You can calculate your impact by comparing the impact of an organisation (such as number of animals impacted, welfare gains, expected progress in the future) and the expenses of the programs that deliver these impacts (such as salaries, necessary equipment, office rents, advertisements, etc.).
You can then compare your donation amount to these costs, which at the end allow the organisations to deliver impact for animals.
Let’s imagine that you get a very high paying job: software engineering at Google.
You can earn approximately 250.000 US dollars (or even more) annually if you achieve this. Since this is a lot of money, you can cover your expenses very easily with even half of this amount. Imagine that you decide to donate 50% of this amount each year. 125.000 US dollars annually may cover 2-3 full time staff of an animal advocacy NGO in developed countries (4-7 staff in developing countries).
You would probably impact more animals by following this approach than directly working in a software development role in an animal charity.
Note that, the real difference of directly working in animal charities, instead of earning and donating, boils down to your “replaceability”.
If there are other people who have similar skills, experience and motivation as you, organisations can easily hire them as well, and your impact via your direct work in these organisations can be replaced. Under these circumstances, your counterfactually adjusted impact would not be that high if you choose direct work in animal charities.
On the other hand, we believe that a lot of people also underrate their capabilities for direct work as well - so they may very well not be that replaceable. And a lot of animal charities report that they are also talent-constraint as well as funding-constraint. More on that below.
As a donor, you have the option to have a portfolio of organisations that you support. This way, you can support a wider range of advocacy activities.
If you happen to change your mind about an organisation, you can choose to donate to another organisation as you see fit.
This flexibility does not exist in direct work career paths. You can’t work in multiple organisations at the same time. Some part time work opportunities exist but it is unlikely that you can simultaneously work in more than three organisations. You can’t also quit one job in one kind of advocacy approach one day and get another job in another organisation the other day.
The importance of recurring donations
But note that, while exercising some flexibility is fine, donating without any predictability and stability would limit the impact of your donations.
Organisations can use donations in the best way when they can make long term plans (like hiring a permanent additional staff). They can only do that if they can count on the continuous support of their donors. If not, they can only use money for short term projects since they can’t be sure about the long term.
For that reason, making recurring donations and establishing some form of donor loyalty with the organisations is on balance much more impactful than donating one off sums each year without any pattern.
Wide range of opportunities
Limitations to direct work at animal advocacy nonprofits
Direct work in animal advocacy organisations is hard, and everyone may not be fit for these roles (although we believe that a lot of people also underestimate their fitness for these roles too).
- Some may lack the necessary skills and credentials.
- Some may find it difficult to adapt to the culture and workload of certain organisations.
- Some may find it stressful to indefinitely commit to activism.
- Some may be uncomfortable with uncertainties or financial risks associated with direct animal advocacy.
So while we think that more people should seriously consider doing direct animal advocacy work in animal charities, research institutions or alternative protein companies, we are still aware that these options do not fit well for a lot of people.
In addition to these limitations, there are relatively few opportunities in the existing impactful organisations. Some major organisations in the animal advocacy space employ about 100 people but typical farmed animal advocacy organisations employ around 10-20 people.
The alternative protein sector is relatively larger in terms of employment opportunities, but even these are generally smaller in comparison to other for-profit companies. Barring some exceptions, research, community building and other types of organisations also typically employ less than 20 people (our own organisation currently has a team of 5 people).
And as you can imagine, the demand for working in these organisations is high and most hiring rounds are generally very competitive.
Advantages of pursuing other career paths to donate for the animals
However making an impact by structuring your career to make more and better donations, is not affected by these limitations.
You can pretty much work in any sector or field, earn money, save some for giving and select effective organisations for your donations. For this reason, there is a wide range of opportunities for work. And in almost all sectors, if you work hard and succeed, you can earn much more as you progress in your career. These earnings can later be used for even more generous donations.
An important advantage of working in fields and institutions that are not doing direct animal advocacy work, is being able to develop skills and credentials.
These can be later used in your career even if you decide to switch to direct work for animals in advocacy organisations.
For example, if you take a management career track in a for-profit sector, you would be likely to learn management skills and competencies which can also be used in advocacy organisations if you decide that you want to transition to work at these organisations. Similar dynamics also play in academia, marketing, operations, policy, etc.
You can safely develop these skills in your field of choice, and impact a lot of animals with your donations.
Additionally, training is relatively resource intensive, so many animal advocacy organisations are not able to afford to provide the same quality of training as other sectors, and using external resources to upskill and train also saves the animal movement money.
Also, having a list of credentials and decent savings can also allow you to be more risk tolerant in the future. At that point, you can more easily consider options for more radical career changes like founding a new animal charity, or writing a book, or moving to another country or a region to work in another animal advocacy organisation, or trying something completely new.
While other career paths in animal advocacy can be impactful and fulfilling, they can also be financially less rewarding, involve career risks and can be seen as less valuable by your peers and family members.
On the other hand, this approach is not affected by these downsides and risks. By taking this career path, you can pretty much continue as you would in your default option, and still create a lot of impact for animals.
If successful, you can achieve your other personal career goals, earn and save decent amounts of money, and satisfy the expectations of your peers and family members (if this is an important issue for you).
This career path is also flexible. You can manage the amount of your donations depending on your current and future financial earnings, needs and expectations. While it might be much harder to take a career break or transition from direct animal advocacy work, it is very easy to make adjustments in this career path.
For example, if you need a break, you can transition to a less demanding role with a more modest pay. If you need or want to spend more on yourself or your loved ones, you can lower your donations for some time. These would, of course, affect your impact but would probably not drastically affect your daily life and personal welfare. And you can always compensate for these downfalls by donating more in the future.
Navigating Uncertainties and Risks: Donating for Animals with Awareness
Uncertainties about impact
- While this path seems straightforward, its impact rests primarily on your judgement about the effectiveness of the organisations you are donating to.
If these organisations are less impactful than you believed them to be, due to lack of information or the uncertainties around their interventions, then the impact of your donations can be lower.
- Just “aiming” to earn more in order to donate more does not immediately guarantee that you will succeed in earning more.
There will be professional challenges that inevitably involve uncertainties about your chances of succeeding in moving up in your career path. It may also be difficult to save money due to the expenses related to social expectations of your professional setting, like living in a prestigious neighbourhood, driving an expensive car, and wearing luxurious clothes, etc.
- The impact of this career path is also dependent on your commitment to continue your donations too.
Not only it may be hard to simply earn money, it may also be tempting to discontinue donating large amounts of money to charity after some time and use that money for your own pleasures and needs.
- In order to have a high impact in this career path, you should be cool with donating more than socially acceptable or conventional.
A lot of people find it odd to donate a significant portion of their income (like 10%) to charity.
Although there will always be a lot of people (especially the organisations that you support) who support and appreciate your generosity, there will also be some people, including people who you are close with, who will disapprove and criticise your choices. This may create discouragement over time and might lead to lower donations. (But note that these instances of disapproval and criticism to your career choices would probably be even higher if you choose to work directly in an animal advocacy organisation).
A lot of donors start with very high motivation and commitment but some lose their motivation and commitment over time and thus their impact is not as significant as they planned at the beginning.
- Impact of the work you’re doing to earn money:
If the activities involved in earning money for donations are harmful (e.g., working for a tobacco company or a fraudulent crypto currency exchange), it may raise ethical concerns about supporting animal advocacy through such means. This act may help animals, but it would be at the expense of people who are harmed in this process. Making good moral judgments about the impact of the job you are paid for is crucial in this approach.
This is especially important for the “optimising” strategy where you pursue the highest paying career opportunities. Narrowly and shortsightedly optimising for the highest paying job or position may end up being in a place where one makes shady businesses, or exploiting workers and customers.
While it is more likely than not that most high paying jobs are legitimate and legal, there may be cases where these are illegitimate and even illegal. We clearly advise not to take these paths, even if it might increase your donation amounts.
Uncertainties about opportunity costs
Even if your donations are effective and legitimate, it may be the case that you are taking a suboptimal career path because other career options may be more impactful.
For example, even if you are donating 5-digit or even 6-digit amounts annually, the value that you might create for animals may still be higher if your talents and skills are more suitable and needed in animal advocacy organisations. This may also be true for high-earning careers too.
If you work as a manager in a financial institution, it is more likely than not that your skills, experience, and competencies may well create a lot of impact in an organisation.
Andres Jimenez Zorrilla, for instance, was working in a high paying position in finance and real estate sectors, before he co-founded the Shrimp Welfare Project with his co-founder Aaron Boddy. Even if he was to donate a portion of his earnings to various effective organisations, it would have been unlikely that the impact of his donations is greater than the impact of the foundation of a high impact organisation.
So when considering the impact of your donations, don’t do this in isolation.this judgement is better made in comparison with other options, including direct work in advocacy organisations.
A helpful question to ask is: would organisations prefer me to donate a certain amount of money each year, or would they rather have me work for them? If you believe your skills are better than others and you can make modest donations, direct work may be a better approach.
Organisations are also constrained for talent
A lot of animal advocacy organisations also report that talent constraints are more serious than funding constraints, especially for roles that are harder to hire. A lot of advocates also underrate their potential at direct work in animal advocacy organisations. So don’t just write off direct work by just looking at your donation opportunities.
While it may be more convenient for most people to stay in their “normal” career path, or to generally aim for high-paying positions, this may also be unsatisfying or even highly stressful for some.
Doing direct advocacy work in organisations may be significantly more fulfilling than doing work that you don’t enjoy doing, even if this may allow you to donate lots of money. This may be even worse if you optimise to get the highest-paying work.
These sectors and positions typically come with huge responsibilities and workloads which are usually very demanding.
For these reasons, we suggest that you seriously evaluate your personal fitness before making career decisions. While our general information and advice on career paths and strategies may apply for some cases, it may work out very differently for individuals who have diverse views on animal ethics, social change and have different personal goals, traits, and talents.
On average though, we believe that this career path is less uncertain and risky compared to other career paths.
People who are less comfortable with uncertainty and risks may find this career path more suitable for them.
On the other hand, the upward impact potential of this approach may be relatively lower than other career paths for most people.
Advocates in crucial positions in advocacy organisations can have a tremendous impact and make a huge difference if they can perform well. For this reason, you should also be open-minded about taking more risks and assessing possibilities in direct advocacy work.
Finally, remember that these considerations would mainly depend on your personal fitness and career options. So we highly recommend that before making any drastic decision, you seriously consider your own conditions and values, rather than acting based on our content alone.
If you’ve read this and think you can benefit from more information and guidance about your career options and donation opportunities, we are offering a small number of 1:1 career advising calls.
You can fill in this form to apply for career advising. Please note we have limited capacity and might not be able to offer you a call.
We are also considering starting an initiative for increasing the number of people who pledge to donate a certain percentage of their income to impactful animal charities. If you are interested in this, we would love to hear from you so we can understand how much potential room for growth exists in this area and what would be our potential impact.If you’re interested in joining, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.