Money Matters: 6 tips on how to fund Volunteer work
The most common advice given for seeking a career in wildlife conservation is to gain as much experience and as many new skills as you can, often through volunteering and internships. For many people the main concern with this advice is money; paid placements are few and far between in the conservation sector and volunteering for free is unfeasible for most. It’s common for people to believe they just simply can’t afford to get the experience needed to pad out their CV, but there are a lot of ways to partake in volunteering without breaking the bank. Here are 6 tips to get you started…
Look for volunteering opportunities near where you live, study or work. Staying local allows you to cut transport costs and be more flexible with the time you can commit to volunteering. For people who are fitting volunteering around their studying, a few hours a week can be much more manageable and there is the added bonus of being able to keep up a part time job alongside it, so you don’t have to survive on no income. Take advantage of the university years, you can spare a few hours a week without going bankrupt thanks to your loan!
Ask your university or workplace
If you’re pursuing a full time volunteering role and therefore won’t be able to work for money at the same time, look to see if your university or work organisation offers any funding you could be eligible for. For example, the University of Exeter run a funding scheme that provides employers with a subsidy that covers the student’s wage and their employer on-costs, enabling students to secure (usually) unpaid internships whilst earning money to live off. Some universities also offer course modules with opportunities to gain work experience for credits where funding for transport may be available.
Look at charities
There are many charities that have pots of funding available to help with conservation related activities. This can include local wildlife trusts: the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust runs an annual program that provides funding for individuals wishing to carry out nature conservation projects. Charities can also help people who seek funding for international volunteering. The Alisdair Downes Memorial Fund, a charity that gives grants to help people get involved with marine conservation, has enabled people travel and volunteer all over the world, from rescuing sea turtles in the Cape Verde Islands to monitoring reef ecosystems in Fiji.
The best way to find these sources of funding is simply to browse around charity websites to see what is available, remember that programs and funding will vary from year to year. The WWF’s website also provides this useful list of resources:
- The Kathryn Fuller Science for Nature Fund
- The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund
- Chevening Scholarships
- Alfred Toepfer Natural Heritage Scholarships
- Terra Viva Grants Directory
Professional societies are a particularly good source of funding if you’re interested in conservation research. Many societies offer short term studentships that enable students to conduct projects during university holidays, with funding that covers research expenses and a small stipend to live off. A comprehensive list of many funding opportunities for research can be found on both the Conservation Leadership Program’s website, and the Society of Biology’s website. Professional societies can also sometimes be good places to search for paid part time jobs in the science sector.
Although this is a fairly ad hoc resource, it’s still one to bear in mind. Voluntary positions (especially work as research assistants with wildlife projects) are often advertised on twitter and Linkedin. Many of these positions have expenses covered or provide a small living allowance.
Conservation Careers has an abundance of helpful advice about how to find and fund volunteer positions.
In reality there are many ways to get volunteering experience without having to survive with no income. The best advice is to volunteer a few hours a week alongside your other commitments, and to keep your eyes peeled around the range of resources listed above for possible funding.