In honor of Giving Season 2023, we sat down with Anne Schulz to discuss her transition from a career in consulting to co-founding Effektiv Spenden, a German giving platform that has raised over 50 million euros for effective charities in less than 4 years!
Thanks for speaking with us, Anne! Can you tell us about how you were first introduced to Effective Altruism (EA)?
It’s great to be here! Well, I always knew I wanted to do “good in the world” with my career, especially given my position as a privileged, well-educated white woman. But I had studied business. So my first step towards leveraging my business background with my desire for social impact was to complete a master thesis in international development followed by a year of volunteering in Guatemala for a large German NGO. I still felt I needed some more career capital which prompted me to join BCG before fully diving into the international development sector.
In 2015, I left BCG and started working at a family foundation in Germany. It was at this foundation that I was first exposed to Effective Altruism. As the organization’s team and I strived to increase the foundation's focus on impact and effectiveness with the projects we funded, I became increasingly familiar with the broader global health, development, and randomista movement. I even had the opportunity to collaborate with EA-aligned organizations such as GiveWell and GiveDirectly while setting up a randomized control trial for a coffee smallholder training program with Nobel laureate Michael Kremer.
That sounds like an incredible opportunity! Which factors and resources prompted you to increase your engagement with EA?
Since my first encounter with EA in 2015, I have been a supporter of the global health and development cause area as a donor. Specifically, the book ‘Doing good better’ by Will MacAskill has always and still does resonate with me. I am a huge fan of GiveWell-recommended charities, and I have expanded my donations to include additional cause areas such as climate change, animal welfare, and global catastrophic risks. For a long time, my engagement really centered around me being a donor and supporter of the principles, rather than active engagement with the community.
Makes sense, I think that is true for many folks who are earning-to-give. Zooming out a bit, when you first joined BCG, what were you hoping to get out of your time there?
Honestly, it wasn’t a super strategic choice. At the time, I felt I was playing to my strengths and had the vague idea that BCG would be a great first step in building career capital that I could leverage later in my career.
My instincts proved correct; BCG provided a steep learning curve, a competitive environment, and a range of projects and clients which helped me better understand what I really wanted to focus on. An added benefit was the educational leave they granted me to do my Master of International Affairs at Columbia University.
In what ways did your experience meet and differ from your expectations of working in consulting?
I had a great time at BCG. I met smart colleagues and clients, learned a variety of topics, and traveled to Latin America and Southeast Asia while on sabbaticals. But I did not have the impact I was longing for, and it was mainly my inner compass that led me to leave. I never expected BCG to really be the place for me to do good in the world; I basically “used” consulting for skill-building, and stayed way longer than expected. I even anticipated it on day 1, mentioning to my colleagues that I would leave one day to work in the international development sector. It did eventually happen, it just took me 8 years.
What was it that eventually pushed you to leave consulting and work full-time towards impact?
My active engagement with the EA community started when I co-founded Effektiv Spenden back in 2019 with some of my colleagues from the German family foundation. After realizing the growth potential for an effective giving platform in Germany, I quit my day job as a consultant and joined Effektiv Spenden full-time as Managing Director in 2022. Now, my primary EA community consists of the broader effective giving community, our grantees, the EACN, and everyone in the EA co-working space in Berlin.
Could you tell us about Effektiv Spenden’s mission and theory of change?
In short- We want to contribute to a world that is doing good better.
Effektiv Spenden is the preeminent German effective giving platform, active in Germany and Switzerland. We’re trying to promote effective giving by educating the wider public about cost-effectiveness and high-impact charities; and by raising more money for those organizations. We are currently raising money in four cause areas: global health and development, climate change, animal welfare, and global catastrophic risks. Effektiv Spenden is currently the most impactful giving platform in Germany, and we have been growing every year since our founding in 2019. Since our inception, we have raised $50 million euros for effective charities. By focusing on effective giving, we hope to reach many donors in Germany beyond the EA community. Many Germans give, why not give more effectively?
What a terrific organization! I’m curious to know, what are your goals as the founder and Managing Director of this organization?
Our main goal is to encourage more people to donate effectively. In 2023, we improved our approach through more proactive outreach/marketing and an excellent front-facing product (our website, plus philanthropic advisory for as many donors as possible).
What does your day-to-day look like?
Internally, I am currently focusing on COO / CFO-related tasks to ensure we have robust and smooth internal processes and overall operational excellence, preparing us for further growth. Our team expanded from 1.5 FTE to 8 FTE in the last couple of months, which is why we need to ensure sustainable organizational development. I am also working on building our online and offline community of donors through events, outreach, and advisory services.
Externally, I spend most of my time engaging with the effective giving community, ensuring we are aligned, leveraging synergies where relevant, and making the co-working space in Berlin a thriving hub for EA professionals.
What do you think is most valuable about having a global network of EA-aligned current and former consultants?
Having a network of like-minded people with similar ideas and backgrounds makes it easier to connect, whether it be to discuss alternative careers, effective giving, or high-impact work in consulting!
How do you think consultants' skill sets can best be leveraged for solving the world's most pressing problems?
Consulting skill sets can help EA organizations to grow and deliver impactful results. Particularly, project management and general management skills are valuable; the bias towards action helps growing organizations to deliver (when sufficiently challenged and balanced).
As a whole, the EA community at its current stage of maturity/development would benefit immensely from “doers” like consultants, leading to a higher impact and a stronger community in the long term.
What advice would you give to those with a passion EA who are considering working in consulting?
It might be a great opportunity if you want to build your career capital and are not considering a research career. But you should consider whether the perceived lack of impact is “bearable” for you when working in consulting, as it's quite probable that you'll find yourself involved in typical consulting projects in the financial services, automotive, or energy industries.
And what advice would you give to consultants who may be thinking of exiting to an EA-aligned organization or role?
It could be a great opportunity and an excellent choice! One note of advice is: assess whether the organization you’re considering joining values your consulting skills and does not hire you for a role that is “below your intellectual capacity.”
Great advice! Anything else you want to add?
I’m always happy to talk more about my journey, particularly as a female ex-consultant now doing direct work! Feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com!