Giving money where it’s needed – An interview with Conservation Allies’ Executive Director
Dr Caitlin Eschmann is Executive Director of Conservation Allies, a small non-profit organisation based in America that offers a true and unique partnership for local conservationists who are unable to easily tap into the donor world.
Conservation Allies works with vetted partners in Madagascar and Latin America to support their critical work of conserving endangered species and essential habitats. Using Conservation Allies’ online donation platform, 100% of donations go directly to the partner organisations as unrestricted funding, making donations even more impactful.
However, Conservation Allies’ work doesn’t stop there. They are also conservation grant providers and work in collaboration with the IUCN to develop and support The IUCN WCPA International Ranger Awards, an award that highlights and facilitates the extraordinary work that rangers do in protected areas worldwide.
What are the main activities of your job?
Being the Executive Director, Caitlin oversees the whole organisation: “As we are a small organisation, I wear many hats. Sometimes I’m HR (Human Resources); sometimes I have to help figure out social media.”
However, she primarily is responsible for the financial side of the non-profit: carrying out due diligence, ensuring funding is going where it needs to go, carrying out compliance audits, and generally “being aware of what is going on at any given time” within the organisation.
What’s the best part about your job?
Caitlin enjoys working for a small non-profit like Conservation Allies as they can make the funding processes much quicker and easier for conservation organisations. This allows her to build relationships with partners, observing the impact of donations on each organisation’s longevity first-hand.
Another aspect that Caitlin greatly enjoys is being able to support the emergency response for disasters such as wildfire season in Madagascar. These emergency funds help increase rapid patrols in protected areas that are considered high risk due to extreme drought and political unrest.
During this year’s fire season, Conservation Allies was able to provide over $150,000 in rapid response grants to 27 additional organisations.
How has your career lead you to this job?
Caitlin has always had an interest in wildlife, which later developed into a passion and drive for conservation. Unsure of how to start her career, she first obtained her master’s in primate conservation and then later diverted her focus to science education.
Caitlin found that the latter did not suit her but enabled her to build new skill sets that would be of benefit in the future. Eventually she decided that a doctorate was necessary.
This led her to Madagascar, which wasn’t somewhere she initially thought to conduct her PhD research, but it was a location that would prove to have a profound impact on both her personal and professional life. After this, Caitlin “applied for everything and anything that was out there” related to conservation.
With use of this mindset, Caitlin was successful in securing a part time job with Conservation Allies as part of the fundraising team, which later lead her to the role of Executive Director with the organisation.
Caitlin firmly believes perseverance, an open mentality to new experiences, and a dose of luck has led her to where she is today and urges everyone to be open to experiences and roles that aren’t necessarily their dream jobs to help build new skill sets.
What are your career highlights or proudest moments?
Including studying for her doctorate and watching her own self development throughout her profession, Caitlin is immensely proud of where she is in her career today and at the same time extremely excited about the future of the organisation.
Caitlin also included some of her personal highlights of seeing wild primate species, including Bornean Orang-utans, and experiences gained through her various degrees, jobs, and personal vacations.
What advice would you give someone following in your footsteps?
Something that Caitlin very much sees as being central to finding your place in conservation is “Being open to experiences.”
Caitlin recommends a person early on in their career journey be open to a variety of traditional and non-traditional conservation sectors such as research, fieldwork, program management, grant management, ecotourism, fundraising, communications, etc. Each of these areas allows you to gain different skills and experiences that could help narrow the focus when searching for an ideal conservation role.
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Author Profile | Danielle Thatcher
Danielle Thatcher is a zoologist with a decade of experience working in zoos within the United Kingdom and keen interest in nocturnal mammals. She is passionate about conservation of the natural world and getting involved in research to better understand it which has led to her studying an MRes (Master of Research) in Applied Science on Aye-Aye Sleeping Behaviour and UV exposure.
Connect with Danielle on LinkedIn.