5 Top Tips for Switching to a Charity Job from the Private Sector

3 minute read

The pandemic might have left you re-evaluating your priorities and potentially even making some fundamental changes to your working life. With the job market in turmoil for much of last year, we’ve all had to adapt. You probably know somebody who has been on furlough or lost their job, perhaps even changed sectors if their previous industry was struggling.  

Has the past year made you want to pursue a job that you’re more passionate about? Perhaps you’ve considered working in a charityBut how difficult is it to make the switch from the private sector to the third sector? And what can you do to give yourself the best possible chance of success? Here are our top tips for what you should do before your start applying.  

1. Consider volunteering 

If you haven’t worked in the charity sector before, one of the first things that an employer is likely to look at is your motivation for joining their organisation. And there’s no better way to demonstrate commitment than through volunteering. A surprising number of candidates forget to include volunteering on their CV, yet it’s such an important part of their experience.  

Don’t worry if your volunteering isn’t directly linked to your employer’s work – the most important thing is that you’ve devoted time and energy into supporting a cause you felt passionate about.  

If you’re looking to switch to the charity sector and haven’t done any volunteering in the past, it’s never too late to start. It can be a great way to get a foot in the door with your dream employer and might even lead to some paid work with them further down the line.   

Why not take a look at some of the volunteering opportunities available in your local area? 


Have you considered becoming a trustee? It’s a great way of getting insight into how charities operate. You might not be aware that you can become a trustee at any age. If you’re still near the beginning of your careertake a look at the Young Trustees Movement 

2. Think about your skills in a different way 

It’s likely that you’ll be competing against candidates with charity experience, so your focus should be on demonstrating why your skills are transferable and beneficial to your employer.  

There are some roles such as finance, HR and software development which are pretty much the same in any sector. Others are trickier. Fundraising is possibly the most difficult to get into if you don’t have a charity background, simply because there is no direct commercial equivalent. But, it’s not impossible. If your dream is to become a fundraiser, break the job description down into different elements. It’s about building relationships, driving engagement and generating revenue and these are all skills that you’re likely to have in abundance if you have a background in marketing or business development. Be sure to give concrete examples for each.  

3. Check out training courses 

If you’re looking to switch to the charity sector, you might want to brush up on your skills. For example, if you’re looking to become a fundraiser, it’s worth getting up to speed with the basics of the role. The Institute of Fundraising offers a variety of fundraising courses and the Directory of Social Change runs training in a range of areas including campaigning, charity management and lobbying.  

4. Understand the difference in how success is measured 

Coming from a private sector background, you’re probably used to success often being measured by profits. But in the charity sector, things are a little different. For some, fundraising targets will be a big measure. For others, particularly those that operate as foundations or trusts, success is linked to achievements in research, or the number of beneficiaries supported each year.  

One thing that almost all charities have in common, is that fact that they operate on tight budgets, which is why you’ll need to get used to trying to achieve the maximum possible impact at a spend that is perhaps lower than what you are used to. Of course, there is a very positive side to this, as it encourages innovation and motivates employees to consider new ways of doing things.  

5. Be realistic about your pay 

Moving from the private sector to the charity sector almost always involves a slight pay cut. But you might well find that the increased career satisfaction and better work-life balance outweigh any drop in salary. Want to know how much you should expect to earn at a charity? When you upload your CV to CharityJob’s tool, we’ll match your job title and work history with thousands of CVs and job listings in our system to estimate what you could be making in the sector.   

Remember that where a salary range is given for a role, you shouldn’t automatically assume that you should be offered the higher end of the scale just because you’re a private sector candidate. Be prepared to start low, before you’ve gained a couple of years of experience in the sector. 

develop skills during job hunt

Ultimately, it’s about demonstrating passion and transferable skills. 

While you’re likely to come across a few challenges, don’t let these put you off from making the switch to the charity sector. Remember to focus on demonstrating your passion and showing how your skills can benefit the work of your chosen organisation. Good luck! 

Ewa Jozefkowicz

CharityJob's Content Manager Ewa Jozefkowicz has a passion for all things digital, particularly when it comes to UX and writing engaging copy. In her spare time she likes to travel and devour huge quantities of books.

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