Why Language is Important in the Non-Profit World

3 minute read

There are hundreds of thousands of non-profit organisations in the UK, each providing crucial (and often life-changing) services around the world. Working for these organisations means you’ll be part of that change, and who wouldn’t want to spend their days making a difference?

With an increasing number of people looking for charity jobs, the sector is becoming more and more competitive. But there are ways to stand out from the crowd—and speaking another language is just one of them. Whether you’re working in animal welfare, human rights or international development, the way you communicate and use language has a direct impact on the work you’re doing.

Not everyone who works in the charity sector needs to be bilingual, but it does help. The charity sector (much like the rest of the UK) is a diverse and multicultural environment. And being able to speak to your colleagues, donors and beneficiaries in a clear and engaging way can really make a difference.

Let’s take a look at how a strong understanding of language and communication is fundamental to the work the charity sector does every day.

Why Language is Important in the Non-Profit World

Language creates opportunities

Back in 2006, Dame Suzi Leather deemed communication as the biggest challenge faced by the third sector. Nearly thirteen years later, we’re still having the same conversations around how we communicate our mission and connect with our beneficiaries. Charities deliver a range of public services, and many of the roles within these charities require direct communication with the people we’re helping.

Let’s look at this from the beneficiary’s perspective. If you speak another language, you’ll be able to work and volunteer in multiple countries, and you’ll have a better chance at making connections with local residents and other volunteers who don’t speak your native tongue. But not only that, you’ll make them feel supported and understood. It gives you a better insight into what they’re going through and how you can help.

If you’re working more with donors and governing bodies, the bilingual aspect is less important. Instead, the challenge is to shape your communication in a way that’s clear and concise, highlighting everything that sets your organisation apart. Share your ethos, emphasise your purpose. The more they understand what drives you, the more invested they’ll become. This builds trust, loyalty and can draw more funding to your cause.



Language makes you more adaptable

The charity sector is full it’s challenges—whether that’s down to funding, legislation or recruiting volunteers—and having the right communication skills can help you face these challenges head-on. One day you may be speaking to volunteers overseas, the next you could be appealing to your local government. It’s all about being adaptable and tailoring your communication to the people you’re corresponding with.

We all know the non-profit job market is competitive. Having a diverse range of communication skills can set you apart from other candidates. It’s all about proving you’re the sort of candidate that thrives when challenged and has the language to deal with changeable situations and a whole host of personalities.

It also means you could work in a variety of roles, and your skills will be valuable to several different departments within the organisation. A willingness to travel and make contacts in other regions where the charity operates shows not only dedication but flexibility.

Why Language is Important in the Non-Profit World

Language helps you to make connections

Building trust and relationships is vital in non-profit work, and your language skills will be enormously helpful in this. When you create meaningful connections with people, you’ll be able to carry out informed work that will make a real difference.

Working on an international scale means you’re frequently communicating with people whose native language may be different from your own. Of course, making connections with local leaders and residents is easier when you speak their native tongue. You may need the support of international leaders and understanding how to build dependable relationships is a big part of that.

Ultimately, all about establishing lasting connections, both with the people you’re helping and the people that can help your cause. And if learning a new language is the best way to help you achieve that, maybe it’s an investment worth making.

Think you’ve got the sort of language skills that can change the world? Find out what charities are hiring today.

Kaplan International Languages

Kaplan International Languages offers students the opportunity to study English, French, German or Spanish in over 10 countries around the world.

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