How to Get Into Charity Work

4 minute read

Who wouldn’t want a job where you feel satisfied at the end of each day, knowing you contributed to something greater? The charity sector provides many opportunities for fulfilling work.

But if you’re trying to get into charity work from a completely different industry, you might want to build up some experience before applying. This is particularly true if you’re relatively early into your career.

Do you know how to get into charity work? Here are eight ways to gain valuable experience for the charity sector.


1. Volunteer

Volunteering is incredibly rewarding and it’s a great way to get into charity work. It can also provide you with a greater understanding of the skills required to work for a particular organisation or in a particular role.

Some organisations will provide references for volunteers who’ve stayed for over three months, which can be really beneficial if you’re new to the working world. It shows future employers that you’ve put in the effort to gain the experience you need and that you have a team of people who can provide an honest account of your performance.

So why not research your local volunteering opportunities and get started by contacting the charities whose work you’re most passionate about?

How to beat burnout in the charity sector

2. Work in a charity shop

If you’re interested in working for a specific charity, working in a shop is a great way to get your foot in the door and gain experience that applies to the charity’s values and mission.

When you already work for a charity, you’re often among the first to hear about upcoming positions and vacancies within the organisation. Jobs aren’t always posted online and organisations may prefer to hire internally.

Working in charity shops is something you can do alongside other roles on a part-time basis. It’s a great option if you’re in the early stages of switching careers and still need to maintain your other job while you build up your skills and experience.


3. Use your network

Networking is still a great way to get into charity work. Begin by following charities you’re interested in. Build up your network of contacts by adding people you may know who work for charities you support, then expand your reach to cover the relevant individuals from their networks.

This way, you’ll also be aware of any positions each charity is recruiting for as soon as they’re posted.

charity shop work experience

4. Don’t focus just yet

You might have set your sights on a particular cause in the charity sector. But it’s actually more valuable to gain experience in a wide variety of charity settings before you narrow your focus.

Having experience in various areas can put you in a better place to get the position you’re working towards later on. You’ll have a broader skill set and knowledge of how the charity sector works as a whole.

You may also find that an area you previously overlooked, such as working with animals, is actually something you’re really passionate about once you’ve worked for the charity. It’s always worth keeping an open mind.


5. Get proactive

Don’t just wait for charities to post vacancies or volunteering opportunities―approach those in your local area and ask them if they need help. They can let you know about upcoming vacancies or they might be able to use your help as a volunteer, even if they weren’t actively looking for someone to fill a position.

Charities, much like traditional businesses, often prioritise hiring volunteers and employees who have a proactive approach as it shows initiative and tenacity, which are valuable skills in the workplace.


6. Try some charity fundraising

Another way to see a different side of the industry and learn about how an organisation operates is to get into charity work through fundraising for a certain cause. There are different types of fundraising, from being out on the streets interacting with the public and raising awareness, to being based in an office or organising events.

Depending on your interests or where your skills lie, you can find a fundraising opportunity that works well for you and also helps your chosen organisation.

networking in the charity sector virtually

7. Get the right qualifications

Some charity jobs require specific qualifications, which might be academic or vocational. Whether or not you need a degree depends on the type of role you want to do within the charity sector. IT and development, for example, may require certain skills and qualifications that a degree can assist you with. Other roles, such as fundraising and marketing positions, are less likely to require degrees.

Some courses offer work experience or work placements, which can be a great way of combining first-hand experience with academic knowledge. Graduate schemes and apprenticeships also offer a chance to achieve the qualifications you need and charities sometimes run their own.


8. Get relevant experience in other sectors

The charity sector hosts a range of different jobs. Organisations require everything from HR specialists and accountants to fundraisers, web designers and marketing professionals. Experience for all these jobs can be gained in other industries first, so don’t be afraid to showcase the skills you’ve gained from other jobs.

Find a career with meaning

Building your charity experience is easier than you think

It can be tricky to get into charity work. But with the right experience and guidance, it’s absolutely possible to build your career in this rewarding field, whether as a young graduate or as someone who wants to switch career paths.

There are plenty of paid and unpaid opportunities to make the most of. It’s all about using the skills you have, gaining as much knowledge of the charity and its values as you can, and putting your network to good use.

Ready to get started? Take a look at our range of amazing volunteer opportunities, or see if there’s a paid role out there for you.


This post was originally published in 2021 and has been updated to ensure relevance and to reflect the current job seeker experience.


Daniel Groves

Daniel Groves achieved a 1st class honours degree in Business Economics. Since graduating, Daniel has collaborated with a number of online publications and charities to further develop his knowledge and share his experience with like-minded entrepreneurs, business owners and growth strategists.