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Supporting conservation as an individual with no money

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 29 May 2013

In today’s world I find we are surrounded by charity adverts ready to make us feel bad for not immediately delving into our wallets for our credit cards. I’m fairly certain that the vast majority of people would make the world a better place (in the traditional sense) if they could, but in today’s economic climate (man that phrase is getting old), the weight of the world’s problems can feel like too much to bear but are all too easy to ignore. Fear not, I have a plan…

Let’s say that after you have budgeted for the essentials each month; rent, electricity, dinosaur lego, wifi, food; you decide that you can commit £2 a month to saving the world one species at a time. How and where will you spend said precious mound of pennies?

1. Pick Your Passion

The first and most important step to saving the world single-handedly is to discover that particular species, area/environment, human ailment, some such other worthy cause, that gets your juices flowing. Either in a passionate way; like getting goosebumps over mountain gorillas, or in an appalled way; such as your blood boiling at the thought of sharks being hacked to pieces alive and left to die in pain for the SAKE OF STUPID SOUP, uh um, for example. Don’t worry, you don’t have to choose one at the exclusion of all others, we all know primates aren’t naturally monogamous creatures, but I do suggest you limit yourself. I, for example, have 27 favourite animals (I have an illustrated and laminated list) but sat myself down a couple of years back and chose three causes to actively support and this seems to be a healthy and manageable number. It was hard to choose between them, like choosing your favourite child, but it’s also a really fun process because you essentially get to sit and think about all your favourite things. Super.


2. Choose Your Charity.

To illustrate this conversation, I shall use ‘species on the verge of extinction’ as a Case Study for ease of writing flow, but this thought process can be applied to anything. Once you have a cause in mind, you need to consider the best way forward from here. For any given endangered species there will normally be a number of charities that are working to protect it either directly, or in a round-about way such as by protecting its habitat. I suggest you do some internetting and make a list of all the charities that are involved with the kind of work that you want to see done. Once you have your list, you need to shrink it down to that lucky charity of choice that you can throw the name around of whenever you’re asked to say something interesting about yourself. Two important questions I used for my list were:

– What do they fund?

There is no point throwing your precious £2 a month (or whatever your budget is) at a charity that aims to save your chosen species but in reality funds something that you are morally or ethically against. In a world full of charities fighting each other for funding, many find they have to be flexible in their approach which can result in undesirable small print. And I think it happens a lot more than people realise. It’s not to say that they shouldn’t do this necessarily, but deciding on your moral stand-point is a good way of shrinking that list.

– How effective are they?

Equally as little point there is (I may have been watching Star Wars last night), in funding a project that may look all singing, all dancing, but in reality achieves diddly squish. Or worse, achieves something negative. Yep- this happens regularly too. All you need to do to discover this information is doing some web-stalking of the charity in question.


3. Watch Your Wages!

This is a pseudo-warning point. A number of charities are unfortunately run by either super amazing people that don’t have a clue about running a business and with the financial sense of a baboon, or by folk that, are well-meaning I’m sure but, don’t understand you wish your hard earned £2 a month to literally be turned into physical in-the-field anti-poaching equipment, rather than pay for the charity’s MD to upgrade his/her sports car. It’s tricky to weed out the charities that spend in these undesirable ways but a quick look over their expenses will give you a heads up.


4. Exert Some Energy

The best thing about being a frugal philanthropist is that technically you can do it for free. There are ways to help charities further their work without spending any money at all. For example, you can spend other people’s money. Which personally, is one of my favourite ways of saving the world. Here are some examples of ways in which you can donate money for free:

– Organise a fundraising event; Wine tasting is one that just randomly comes to mind

– Stand somewhere prominent rattling a tin; Permission may be needed, and it is always a good idea to speak to your chosen charity first

– Donate your time; Many UK based charities, or charities with UK branches, seek volunteers to help keep their wheels turning and you could be their hamster with all manner of skill sets. A couple of hours of your week could make all the difference. A single grain of rice can tip the scale after all…


5. Finally…

Sit back and feel chuffed with yourself for being a veritable world-saver.

Emma-Louise Nicholls is the Museum Assistant at the Grant Museum of Zoology

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