Finding your place in the charity sector
The Charity sector, covers a vast range of areas which include; housing, human rights, community development, health, medicine, conservation and environment. Securing a position within the charity sector can be challenging as charities are exceptionally careful in selecting the right person and ‘best fit’ for the job. But finding the right job for you in the sector is possible.
So why work in the Charity Sector?
There is a deep sense of caring about social justice and having a connection to the charities cause as well as having a desire to rectify some of the many issues that we face in the world today.
People often describe enjoying that they’re focussing on “value-driven tasks” and express the feeling of gratification in what they are doing as it makes a difference.
Charities are mission-driven and without new talent, specialist expertise and the right sort of compassion to work in this sector, these organisations wouldn’t be able to continue to thrive in the way that they do.
It’s worth remembering, that like any company or workplace, you are a reflection of them and represent that organisation. Your actions and behaviour should reflect as such and be appropriate to reflect the plight of a charity. If you are asked an opinion on a topical matter, your charity may have a view on this, familiarise yourself with their stance on the matter before potentially responding inappropriately.
Entry Points into the Charity Sector
Ideally, you will have thought about pursuing a career in the voluntary sector and a good recommendation is to initially volunteer at the charity, possibly whilst studying. Volunteering definitely has benefits; it allows you to get a feel for the charity, meet the people working there and get advice and feedback on why they enjoy their job and what aspects they’d like to improve. You will gain insight into the various teams and establish where you might best fit and you may also get the chance to interact with those whom the charity actually helps.
Charities exist because they are often supported by a number of different funding streams, some may apply for government grants or private funding, trusts, private donations, legacy funding or fundraise by hosting events. The nature of being funded in this manner means there is a keenness to tell people about all of the great things they’ve managed to achieve. If this is something that you’re drawn to then, maybe fundraising or accounts could be the charity career option you’re looking for.
Charities are very accountable they have a positive public reputation to maintain and are often under scrutiny to justify spending and evidence their need for recurring money, therefore administrative and compliance type roles are also essential.
Raising the profile and spreading the word of a charity is essential. We can all name a few very large charities that almost everyone will be familiar with. Similarly, one amazing idea is all it takes for a charity to get hundreds of thousands of people to support them (just think of the “Ice Bucket Challenge”). So maybe you are ideas orientated? You could work in fundraising, events, or media.
Social media is another big influence in the sector and there can be times charities are a little bit ‘behind the curve’ when it comes to technology, in comparison to commercial enterprises who have massive IT teams (and budgets). Charities tend to focus more on good news stories and getting the word out to people. They want people to know how they can help and similarly how to get in touch if support is required – so if you’re tech savvy and are a great communicator, this could be a role worth exploring.
Campaigning and Social Policy plays a big part in influencing government and engaging political figures – so this is another very interesting aspect and career path, should politics be your specialist area. Often charities will campaign on the back of certain bills and proposals being announced. This is especially true if they feel this will be detrimental to the people affected by the cause the charity supports. So you’ll see charities raise public awareness about a number of issues and injustices happening across the globe.
Care and Advice
Advice related roles are imperative. Charities help people in a number of different circumstances to cope by providing information, practical support and aid and a safe environment to deal with what is often a turbulent time in people’s lives. This advice may take place via telephone, face to face or on specialist travel missions. If you cope well in a crisis and are a good communicator, this may be a route you pursue.
To sum up…
Finding a charity job that’s right for you will take time. And in many cases, there will be a chance for the role to change and you’ll need to adapt to a new environment as well as a new way of thinking. There is often a desire to ‘muck in’ and help in numerous ways, so displaying flexible skills will be a bonus. But whatever you decide to do, it will definitely offer you a more meaningful and fulfilling career.