Why You Should Consider a Charity Finance Career
It’s estimated that last year, the UK donated about £10.1bn to charitable causes. That’s a huge display of altrusim, which is why it’s so important to have the right financial minds working with these funds to ensure they’re going to the right places and being used in the most effective way.
So if you work in finance, there are plenty of opportunities for you to work with charities and truly make a difference. Being part of the finance team will put you at the very heart of operations. You could be processing invoices, dealing with monthly or annual reports, managing budgets, working with gift aid and donors, managing payrolls or even helping to make strategic decisions.
The people working in these roles are great at liaising with people across different departments, ensuring that things are running to plan—and within budget. Professionals working in charity finance tend to be very analytical, as they need to analyse both costs and income, ensuring that the latter is invested wisely, promoting the success of the charity.
Think this may be the right career move for you? Here’s a quick overview of finance jobs in the charity sector.
What kind of opportunities are there?
Whilst some positions will require specific finance qualifications, there’s lots of different opportunities available. Here are just some of the roles you could come across:
- Financial Accountant
- Payroll Manager
- Credit Controller
- Funding and Budget Manager
- Contracts Executive
- Bids and Tenders Officer
- Project Accountant
We asked Donna, Head of Global Donor Reporting & Billing at Marie Stopes International, for her advice:
Begin with a small NGO so that you can understand every aspect of the business and how they all fit together. Spend time in the field, it is good to show empathy with the challenges colleagues in the field are dealing with. Get involved, you don’t necessarily need to take a voluntary position but do take part in other activities that show you are passionate about the sector.
How can I get into charity finance?
Firstly, make sure that you have thoroughly researched the different types of organisations in the sector. You should have a good idea of the kind of the kind of cause that you would like to promote through your work. Perhaps you are passionate about youth work? Or maybe you’re fascinated by International Development?
The next step is to look at your skills and experience. Do you have relevant experience for a finance role? This is a good moment to stop and consider your transferable skills too, as these can help you to prove that you’re a great fit for a role. In order to boost your relevant experience, consider becoming a volunteer. There are lots of volunteer finance positions that will throw you into the heart of an organisation, and give you a great taste of what it’s like.
If you already have finance experience, but haven’t worked in the sector, you might like to boost your CV by becoming a trustee. Many trustee boards are keen to count finance professionals in the number.
Do I need a qualification?
Bear in mind that many positions will require you to have specific qualifications, for instance CIMA or CIPFA, so make sure you look at job descriptions carefully.
A full qualification will really help you to stand out. However, if you’re still pursuing a CIMA, CIFPA, ACA, ACCA or similar qualification, you’re likely to be attractive to recruiters too. Actively pursuing one of these shows dedication and commitment to the field, and may even attract a higher salary.
If you are not a qualified accountant and have not yet started, you may find that certain organisations are willing to give you study leave, and even fund your training.
But a lack of qualifications should not deter you. Not all charity finance professionals are qualified accountants, and you may have other great attributes that catch a recruiter’s eye. If you’re lacking experience, then it’s well worth giving some of your time to volunteering. This will show charities that you are dedicated to the sector.
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Really want to stand out?
Finance roles require some very specific knowledge.
Make sure you research the laws that affect charities and finance. A good place to start is the charity sector’s updated Standard of Recommended Practice (SORP). This explains a lot of the specific rules that you will need to understand. You might also want to familiarise yourself with common accounting packages, such as Sage.
Highlight your communication skills.
It’s very important that you are able to liaise comfortably with all departments in a charity. You need to be able to translate finance into a language that the whole organisation can understand. In turn, you need to have a good understanding of the entire organisation in order to help it reach its goals.
You may also need to be comfortable working with very senior members of staff, as it is often important to Chief Executives that they maintain a strong connection to the organisation’s finances.
And be prepared to ask questions.
Charity finance should be clear, not something to be feared. Every now and again though, you might find that you need to think about risk. Don’t be afraid to ask ‘what if?’ and weigh up different possibilities in a rational manner.
Think you’re ready to dive straight in and find that perfect charity finance role? Find out what charities are hiring finance professionals today.
This post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated to ensure relevance and to reflect the current job seeker experience.