Psychology student wishing to one day be a professor of neurosociopsychology in order to provide broad and specific consulting for nonprofits.
I have a simple list of powerful actions you can take right now. Because I'm in the same boat, even though I study psychology in uni, I have been thinking of how to do more good every day. I think the EA Forum can get a bit theoretical and I hope to change that because, indeed, we need practical activities to do in order to effectively be altruistic.
It seems like another lame piece of advice, but if you ask what the biggest challenges a charity/person faces, you can attempt to do some legwork for them. I learned how charities wanted help with getting their fundraising known and so every day I sent a single email to a different editor to let them know about the fundraiser campaign the charity was holding. 1:10 got back to me, but within the month that meant the charity had three new media articles written about them which they wouldn't have without my simple outreach.
This one makes charities really thankful! First, make sure the charity IS effective and that you DO like them. You can raise money for a charity via your own job, a small fundraising campaign (look up 'fundraising ideas') or something outside the box (I participated in a low-risk, paid clinical research trial to get money for a charity).
There's heaps. Recently, with covid, I have been thanking any essential workers I pass, "Thank you for being an essential worker." I have also tried complimenting all of my friends, family and strangers with something positive about them.
This is a type of action in business which secures a market, as if you hold a monopoly over it, think of it like cornering a chess piece. In person, it simply looks like sharing time with a powerful connection. If you have any career dreams or even passing interests in a hobby, reach out to pioneers of that field and let them know that they inspire you. If they reply, you can get to know them, as if you can have a short call/interview and then as they begin to like you, let them know about a charity you love. If they seem happy about it, ask if they might donate to complete a specific project (make sure you've done your research) of the charity's or, if the person doesn't seem interested, you can organise a few weeks later to do a fundraising idea and then ask for them to donate anything they can afford! It works!
My personal suggestion is to spend those five hours as a freelancing nomad by giving unsolicited support to any charity, business or individual which can provide career capital or simply philanthropic results from your work.
A project which both does good while also allows for the flexibility of reconnoissance and growing career capital. It sounds like you might be best freelancing. The book Surrounded By Idiots puts forth four professional personality types (https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/2019/jul/surrounded-by-idiots-personality-types-at-work.html - a great system for simplifying choices and predicting business interactions!). I suspect you are mostly blue, in which case simply doing some freelance, unsolicited market research, data analysis or trend analysis for a charity are your best bets in terms of doing good while also maintaining the flexibility of growth (career capital) and autonomy (reconnoissance). You can freelance simply by researching -as you already are doing to answer your question- areas of interest for charities. You can make some assumptions (such as 'all charities need market analysis' and 'all charities lack effective partnerships', both have held true in my experience), or you can outright ask any of your favourite charities and give examples of what you might do for them.
However, if you/your friends are mostly yellow, like me, don't settle on one project; you won't thrive with repetition!
As someone who changes focus more frequently than is effective, I found traditional volunteering didn't work for me and, as I was finding my skills, I couldn't commit to long project stints. So I made my own opportunities by doing small favours for my favourite charities. Whatever interest I would be focused on at the time, be it journalism, networking, businesses analysis, marketing or graphic design, I'd do a piece of work for my favourite charities and email them my efforts. At times this wasn't well received but it was no effort on their part to say they didn't want my output. On the other hand, I found some great opportunities to do other odd jobs for charities and businesses and it lead to forming my identity as a networker of c-suite members and free gamification provider for charities; neither of which you can learn if you're committing to a single project for another organisation. However, being your own boss isn't for everyone.
I truly want Effective Altruism to flourish, but I am concerned with the EA handbooks, the backbone of the EA community, being too theoretical.
Donating and volunteering aside, there are be driving principles of EA which are not summarised as daily practices, and thus the EA community merely the theorise about them. Práctica principles such as decision making ratios between income, expense and donations or the exact tenants of thinking globally and acting locally (such as being aware of what actions will/won’t make positive/negative change). These are actionable practices distilled from the EA theory and they may go a long way towards helping individuals live altruism effectively and not just think about it.
The practice of the giving pledge, a daily practice distilled from an EA principle, is among the most galvanising and wide-spread ideas even beyond the EA community. In my undergraduate study of both marketing and psychology, I am learning the power of distilling theory into simplified, actionable steps. For this reason, it is no surprise the giving pledge is talked about in new cycles, suggested by celebrities and understood by the average person. On the other hand, I find it personally hard to keep up with the evolving, contrasting theory of EA’s global catastrophic risks, highest priorities, socialism vs capitalism debates and general philosophical questions. Reading about how nuclear weapons are an issue we should be aware of for half-a-dozen reasons doesn’t give me any idea as to what to do next. On the other hand, I’ve sent messages to my local MPs in Australia about investing in the Adani coal mines and have genuinely make a difference; I didn’t need to read an article to understand why and the practice seemed obvious, simple and easy to do.
Any shortcuts past the barriers to entry in humanitarian volunteering? It seems like a catch 22 to need experience to get experience. I’m studying for a bachelor's degree but in the meantime want to provide value to awesome causes!