What it’s Like Working for a Conservation Charity
I’m very proud to work for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), a wildlife conservation charity with a bold vision: a world where nature is protected, valued, and loved. RZSS has pledged by 2030 to reverse the decline of at least 50 species, create deeper connections with nature for more than a million people and enable more than 100 communities to better protect nature.
Getting into fundraising
I’ve worked in the charity sector since 2018 and began my fundraising journey as an alumni fundraiser while at university. After graduating with an English and History degree, I worked in the education team for education charity Edinburgh Science. I was then a communication and fundraising officer for social care charity Carr Gomm, followed by a position at Music in Hospitals and Care as a trusts and foundations fundraiser.
I’ve always believed in the missions of the third sector, have felt connected to nature and seen the value in protecting it. I wasn’t good at science and so never dreamed that I’d be able to work for a conservation charity, but I’m so glad that my career path led me here.
As a development officer, I fundraise for both national and international conservation, learning, and community projects. The development team at RZSS enables individuals, companies, and grant-giving organisations to support these innovative programmes and help to protect threatened species from extinction.
The projects I fundraise for are incredibly varied, inspiring, and exciting to share, from pine hoverflies and wildcats in the Cairngorms National Park, to chimpanzees in Uganda, giant anteaters in Brazil and many more. RZSS provides expertise, skills, and action to conservation projects in Scotland and in 20 countries around the world, including carrying out cutting-edge science at its dedicated Wildgenes genetics lab.
An optimistic, accommodating culture
Many of my colleagues, as well as RZSS volunteers, members and patrons are passionate about wildlife, their place in it and how to better safeguard species. I’ve been in this role for almost a year, and what has been a breath of fresh air is the appreciation of new ideas and opportunities to participate in the delivery of projects. This makes me a better fundraiser and a better advocate for RZSS and all the organisation is working to achieve. I like to visit staff delivering projects and my colleagues have been incredibly receptive to this.
As a result, I have:
- participated in community sessions at Edinburgh Zoo
- fed giraffes and rhinos
- gone out with Conservation Field Officers into the Cairngorms to collect data
- had behind the scenes access to the RZSS WildGenes laboratory
- assisted in building pre-release enclosures for wildcats in the Saving Wildcats conservation breeding for release centre at Highland Wildlife Park.
I’ve had the privilege of meeting individuals making strides in conservation. These are both internal staff and individuals from other international environmentally-focused organisations. At a wildlife conservation charity, you’re likely to work with likeminded people; those who love, value and work to protect nature.
During the height of the pandemic in a previous role, I worked completely remotely for over two years. So, when I started at RZSS, the team were really accommodating and happy for me to work hybrid, usually two days based at Edinburgh Zoo and three days at home.
There are internal staff awards, training opportunities, staff events all year round and other great benefits such as staff discounts, and membership of Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park. This enables me to enjoy our animals and see the results of our work.
A busy work environment
Wildlife conservation is an incredibly busy area and is showing no signs of slowing down. With our planet facing an extinction crisis, everyone involved in protecting nature has ambitious targets to reach. Many of these are inspired by the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. It has been non-stop since I began, and with exciting pledges announced in the RZSS 2030 strategy, there is much more to do!
There are many opportunities for cross-department collaboration and partnerships with other organisations, in a joint effort to better protect species and the habitats they call home. This can lead to many satisfying and fulfilling days at work. However, working for a wildlife conservation charity takes hard work and commitment to the cause. Being aware of your mental health, and how to balance workloads is crucial, otherwise it may lead to burnout.
Many conservation organisations are involved in projects located all over the world. RZSS are no exception, with direct involvement across twenty countries. It’s a privilege to raise awareness and fundraise for vital projects all over the world. On a personal level, it has widened my horizons and I feel more connected to nature than ever.
I have learnt about the importance of:
- genetic testing in Siamese crocodiles
- species-friendly honey for anteaters and armadillos in Brazil
- snare removal in the rainforests of Uganda to protect local chimpanzee populations
- monitoring Pallas’s cats across Mongolia, Iran, and China
- translocation of giraffes across Africa.
Hopeful and inspirational work
Working for a conservation charity like RZSS means seeing change happening right in front of you. In 2021, 3,000 larvae of the pine hoverfly, a virtually extinct species in the UK, were released into the wilds of Scotland. This invertebrate has an important role to play, and the active conservation work is both inspirational and motivating.
The RZSS-led Saving Wildcats partnership is another great example of hope for a species on the brink of extinction in Britain. This year, we’re working with partners to release wildcats in a carefully selected area of the Cairngorms National Park and it has been brilliant to see other milestones already reached in this project. Part of my role is to be an advocate for important work which is happening every day.
If you want to work in a role that makes a difference, a conservation charity is the way to go. There are such a variety of roles on offer—ranging from welcoming customers as a visitor experience assistant to working with animals as a zoo keeper or a vet. There are some great opportunities at conservation charities—the difficult part is choosing which one!
Looking for a job in wildlife conservation? Browse available roles.
Jessie Sheridan has worked in the charity sector for more than five years in various roles, from learning delivery, event assistance, marketing, communications and fundraising. She currently volunteers for Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home and works as a Development Officer full time for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. Jessie likes to get involved in conservational causes in any way she can, by raising awareness and funds to better protect, love and value nature. You can get in touch with her via her LinkedIn profile.
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