Good People Can Be Hard To Find
Billions of animals are killed each year for food. Millions more suffer in laboratory cages. Wildlife are under siege. As animal advocates, we work hard to fix these problems. But obviously, we still have a long way to go, and we need more data to better understand what impedes the effectiveness of the animal advocacy movement. To that end, the organization Animal Advocacy Careers (AAC) conducted its second survey to learn about talent bottlenecks that hinder organizations’ success. While the project was designed primarily to inform AAC’s work, it may also be useful to other animal advocacy organizations as well as individuals considering careers in the movement.
“Effective altruism” (EA) principles guide AAC’s efforts. Its survey reflects this, particularly in its attempt to quantify the “direct work vs. earn-to-give” tradeoff. For the survey, AAC sought input from two different groups. Leaders and hiring managers at effective animal advocacy nonprofits constituted one set of participants (the “direct work” survey). To be included, a nonprofit must have been rated as a “standout” or “top” charity by Animal Charity Evaluators. Alternatively, a charity must have received $50,000 or more from Open Philanthropy or be known to have high alignment with the ideals of effective animal advocacy. AAC drew the other set from the research community, grantors, and others working in “meta” or movement building capacities (the “meta” survey).
Questions focused on staff counts, salaries, challenges of finding and retaining capable applicants, cost of acquiring talent, and staff development. The survey also inquired about public awareness of organizations and organizational knowledge of available talent, as well as lack of funding, Given the small sample size, AAC did not perform rigorous statistical analyses of the results. However, they did calculate means and weighted percentages for responses.
Both sets of respondents identified funding shortfalls as their key bottleneck. Not far behind was a lack of qualified and capable applicants for paid positions. Roles in leadership and senior management, fundraising and development, and government, policy, lobbying, and legal tasks were reported as the hardest to fill. However, the type, size, and location of a given organization had some effect on these results.
How organizations valued the tradeoff between direct work and earning to give is less clear. AAC asked the following question to gauge how participants evaluated the tradeoff:
Imagine that someone has been working for 10 years building up experience and expertise that would make them an excellent candidate for one of the roles that is *hardest to hire for* in your organisation. Would you be more excited about that person applying for one of those roles at your organisation, or donating money to your organisation that was the equivalent of 50% of the salary of that role?”
This question, and one other like it, was framed around the EA concept of direct work vs. earn-to-give. If respondents weren’t familiar with these ideas, their confusion may have led to invalid responses. The vote was in favor of direct work, but the question didn’t explain that the donation amount was an annual one. Whether results would have been different with a clearer question is unknown.
Participants suggested headhunting and training as possible solutions to the talent shortage. Again, type and size of the organization affected the responses. AAC noted a long list of potential limitations to the survey results. Chief among them was the selection of survey participants. If an organization fell outside the EA world, its views likely wouldn’t have been represented. This limits the generalizability of the survey. That said, animal advocates can still use the outcomes to inform discussions within their own organizations to improve recruitment and retention of employees.