The Interpersonal Skills Needed for Charity Work
With nearly half of charities now working remotely at least some of the time, we’ve all come to realise that effective communication has never been so important. The same interpersonal skills apply over video calls and email as they do face-to-face. And all charities place a high value on these. But what are the key interpersonal skills needed for charity work and how can you showcase yours to a potential employer?
Strong teamwork skills are highly valued by many employers, but in the charity sector they’re arguably even more important. The sector faces a range of unique challenges, including having to adapt to frequent changes in government policy and the need to take into account the views of trustees, employees and volunteers who often have strong, passionate views. Charities are also particularly impacted by resource scarcity.
An important element of teamwork is reliability. You want to be a reliable team member so that your co-workers can trust you to deliver projects on time and on budget and to complete the tasks that you’ve set out to do. Sticking to deadlines will help you gain your colleagues’ trust.
Active listening also comes hand-in-hand with teamwork. Always ask questions for clarification, help your colleagues build on ideas that they put forward in meetings, and prepare to change your perspective on a given project, even if you feel strongly about something.
Leadership is definitely one of the top skills needed for charity work―it’s part of the charity sector’s DNA. Think about all the changes made by grassroots self-starters, campaigners and change-makers in this industry. Any situation involving organising and guiding others towards a common goal requires good leadership.
There has been an increasing focus on leaders in the public and private sectors learning from each other and sharing ideas. There are naturally differences in the regulatory, funding, and strategic challenges, but the business skills of private sector leaders can help develop innovative fundraising streams and digital solutions.
Empathy is another key interpersonal skill needed for charity work. Often referred to as ‘emotional intelligence,’ empathy plays a big part in creating a pleasant working environment. You’ll need it for the cause that your charity supports, but also the ability to understand others who are in need so that you can work with them in a sensitive way. You’ll do best in our sector if you’re an empathetic person ready to learn from the life experiences of others, which might be very different from your own.
Empathy applies to all roles in the workplace but is particularly important if you’re a team leader. An empathic leadership style can increase productivity, morale and loyalty. As an empathetic manager, you’ll know that success is only reached through and with people. Therefore, an attitude of openness towards understanding of the feelings and emotions of your team members will be highly valued.
4. Conflict resolution
Some level of conflict in the workplace is inevitable and, in particular cases, it can even be positive, such as a healthy amount of competition between team members to reach goals. But negative conflict can harm your colleagues and weaken teamworking.
In some cases, disputes between staff, volunteers, management boards and trustees can cause permanent damage to the vital work a charity does in the community and negatively affect those who use their service. That’s why conflict management is one of the key interpersonal skills needed for charity work. Being able to prevent and defuse conflict using diplomacy, negotiation, assertiveness and respectfulness is a very highly valued asset.
5. Giving and receiving feedback
Feedback is an essential part of any employee’s growth and development, and many charities now have a 360-degree feedback system to support their staff to thrive. But feedback has to be given constructively to be effective. It should be timely, specific and respectful, and offer actionable suggestions for areas of improvement.
It’s also essential to be able to receive feedback in the right way, without getting offended or discouraged. See it as an opportunity to improve your skills and performance and ask for support in reaching the goals that you’ve set for yourself.
How you can demonstrate these skills to an employer
Make sure that you demonstrate your interpersonal skills to potential future employers at every opportunity, beginning with your CV. This is usually the first thing that a recruiter will read, which makes it the perfect opportunity to introduce your skills right from the start.
In your work experience section, embed interpersonal skills into the goals that you achieved within each role. If you’re writing a student or a graduate CV, the same point applies to your education section, particularly when it comes to extracurricular activities.
At an interview, you’ll get the opportunity to bring these skills to life and the interviewer may well ask you to describe situations in which you used a particular skill to good effect. Have scenarios prepared in your mind which you’ll be able to discuss in detail.
Don’t dismiss the importance of interpersonal skills
Interpersonal skills are in high demand in the charity sector. Regardless of what stage of your career you’re at, take the opportunity to practice and perfect them. They will definitely benefit both you and your colleagues in the long run.
And finally, for the perfect CV, weave in examples of the interpersonal skills needed for charity work in each section.
Ready to show you have the interpersonal skills needed for charity work? Search for a new role today.
This post was originally published in 2021. We’ve updated it to ensure relevance and to reflect the current job seeker experience.