Who wouldn’t choose a career which offers high job satisfaction and stability and gives you the chance to improve the lives of others while enriching your own? That’s what working for a charity can do.
It’s not always easy to find charity jobs, in London or elsewhere in the UK, but there are some steps you can take to help you on your way.
1. Get an understanding of the third sector
Working for a charitable organisation is hugely rewarding, but it’s still hard work and never an easy option. Just because it’s “non-profit” a charity still has salaries and bills to pay and plenty of regulatory hoops to jump through.
Modern charities are usually highly professional and efficient. They have to keep a close eye on their income from donors, fundraisers, merchandise, bequests and grants. They must also plan, monitor and report on their expenditure. They must be as rigorous in their choice of staff and suppliers as any commercial enterprise.
You can get a deep insight into how charities work and develop skills necessary to move into the third sector or progress within it, by studying a specialist postgraduate course, such as those offered by Cass Business School.
2. Decide if you want to work for one particular charity or cause
There are more than 200,000 charities in the UK – ranging from the well-known and well-funded ones like the RNLI, NSPCC and Cancer Research UK to tiny one or two-person local charities.
If you are motivated to work in charity because of a specific cause that you care about, then one way to find a job could be to target that charity or all the charities related to that cause. Taking on a voluntary role will allow you to understand more about what that charity does and meet some of the people who work in it.
You might also follow and interact with the charity, its leaders and celebrity supporters on social media. Try to attend fundraising events and keep an eye on press coverage. too.
Contacts, networking and personal connections are invaluable for advice on your chosen career and eventually may lead to your first role. Be flexible – it may not be in the department or at the level you’d hoped for, but once you’re are established there may opportunities to change roles.
3. Consider why you want to work in a job which does good
Is your aim to work for a non-profit because you want to make a difference? That’s admirable and a brilliant first step, but it’s probably not enough to get you a job with a charity.
You may find it useful to gain specific business skills and then apply for charity jobs within that function. Charities need accountants and business managers, marketing executives and HR specialists, lawyers, procurement managers and events organisers.
As with any sector, you’ll need to demonstrate the value you bring to the role. Skills, qualifications and experience are invaluable, but an affinity with the aims of the charity is important too. Many senior employees in charities have worked in the private or public sector first and bring with them knowledge that they can adapt to the third sector.
4. Think about what role would be right for you
As well as the usual functions of an office, there are charity-specific roles which require particular skillsets. Some can be learned or developed. Others are more about the sort of person you are and your working style. Whatever role you aim for adaptability, teamworking and commitment are essential.
Volunteer managers need to be good with people, of all ages and backgrounds. You’ll need plenty of diplomacy to recruit, train and manage a diverse workforce of unpaid workers. You’ll also be extremely organised and good at organising others.
Policy researchers and developers are fundamental to charities who are lobbying government or trying to build public awareness of the issues they tackle. This is a great role for people who are committed to the charity’s cause, good at research and persuasive communicators.
Working in the fundraising team requires sales and marketing know-how and project management skills. You could be responsible for encouraging supporters to leave a legacy to your charity, or convincing public figures, philanthropists or company bosses to support your cause – and that takes excellent communication skills.
Or you could be investigating and applying for grants and funds from other bodies, where you’ll need to be good at research and written communications.
A career in the charity sector can be as demanding and frustrating as any private or public sector career. But knowing that you’re making a difference and working with others committed to the same cause, can be both inspiring and rewarding.