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Survey Results: Org & Leadership Needs in Animal Advocacy

Scarlet Spark exists to accelerate the speed-to-mission of organizations that help animals. Our team has an extensive background in organizational psychology, organizational development, and leadership development, but we wanted to make sure our insights from other industries transferred well into the animal protection world. So we asked you all for your input, and you were kind enough to share it!


Below, we summarize what we’ve learned so far, in case anyone else in the movement finds these insights useful.

METHODOLOGY: We invited leaders in the animal advocacy community to complete an online survey about their biggest leadership and organizational needs to inform the skill-building curriculum Scarlet Spark should offer.


Note: the survey is still open here. We’d love to hear your thoughts if you haven’t yet responded.


PARTICIPANTS: As of January 30, 2023, we had 63 responses across 60 different organizations.



Nearly all respondents were in leadership roles, with most titles indicating C-suite or executive-level positions.

Organization Sizes

The vast majority (>75%) of respondents come from organizations of 30 people or less, with 46% of these being from organizations with 10 or less.

Organizational Pain Points

Of the options we provided (based on common organizational difficulties across different industries), respondents most frequently selected: 


  • Not enough time (70%)

  • Burnout (41%)

  • Miscommunication (35%)

  • Unclear priorities (30%)

  • Lack of diversity (27%)

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While these responses are relatively similar to what we’ve seen across other industries, the perception of insufficient time and burnout are higher than average. 


There are many reasons this may be the case: genuine underfunding, too many organizational priorities, a lack of prioritization skills, a culture of overwork, a sense of urgency and duty to do more for animals, or a combination of all of these factors and more. Whatever the cause, we’re eager to help companies address these challenges since a chronic sense of time scarcity and risk of burnout limits the effectiveness and sustainability of the movement. 


Desired Skills

Respondents were given a list of skills and asked which would make them more effective and fulfilled at work. The most desired skills included:


  • Systems-level skills: including strategic planning (52%) and equity & inclusion (32%)


  • Leadership skills: including feedback skills (43%), team building (40%), coaching skills (40%), strategic thinking (33%), and delegating (32%)


  • Self-management skills: including prioritization (40%) and time management (38%)

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The responses in this section are similar to leader self-perception across other industries. That said, fewer than 50% of participants selected skills that we suspect will have the biggest impact on the largest organizational pain points selected, specifically: question skills, coaching skills, prioritization, and strategic thinking. 


These answers may represent an over-emphasis on doing individual contributor work rather than leadership work, which could perpetuate time scarcity and burnout. They may also reveal a gap in self-perception or awareness of the skills that are most useful to address org pain points. It’s also possible that there is a limitation in our survey design in that there is not widespread agreement on the specific names of each skill.


Desired People Systems Improvements

Aside from asking about desired skills, we also asked which people systems participants would most like help improving. The greatest areas of need are:


  • Employee development (56%)

  • Strategic planning (54%) 

  • Performance assessment (41%)

  • Role design (40%)

  • Company-wide goal-setting (37%)

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We perceive the responses to these questions as more informed and strategic than is typical across other industries. Survey participants demonstrated an astute understanding of the systems-level structures that will alleviate their pain points and enable organizational stability. 


Given the similarities across animal advocacies and their organizational needs, we’re particularly eager to help co-create and share best practices, tools, and templates to make each of these people systems easier to develop and scale. 


Desired Learning Formats

Lastly, we asked respondents what kind of format they would prefer for our upcoming leadership skill-building curriculum, with the option to choose multiple formats:


  • 76% of respondents indicated interest in hands-on workshops, making this the most popular format

  • 65% indicated interest in digital tools and templates

  • 60% indicated interest in informational webinars

  • 37% indicated interest in group office hours


While we will provide each type of resource throughout this year, we are particularly excited to see participants’ interest in live learning experiences. Not only will live learning give us an opportunity to provide real-time feedback and contextualized guidance, it can also serve as a catalyst for strengthening community and peer-to-peer learning within the animal protection movement. 


What to Expect Next


  • Survey: This survey is still open here, and we’d love to continue gathering your input.


  • Office hours: We have already begun to offer live leadership office hours, every other week – open and free to all animal-centered nonprofits. Sign up here for a specific date and to get access to our Google Calendar of all upcoming events. Bring your leadership questions and challenges for rapid relief.


  • Workshops: In June 2023, we launched our free live workshop series, People Skills for Animal People.

If you have suggestions, questions, or insights in response to this survey summary, you can always contact us here. We’d love to hear from you!

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