Looking for a career that’s emotionally rewarding with job satisfaction to spare? Think about working in the charity sector…
Do you feel a regular pay packet is no more important than working for a group which is campaigning for positive change? If so, you might be one of those people who is suited to embarking on a career in the charity sector.
There are certainly no shortage of charities to choose from: in England and Wales there were more than 165,000 registered with the Charity Commission at the end of last year.
The work is roughly divided into paid positions and voluntary roles. For a paid career in the charity sector, especially if you’re after a technical or executive role, you usually need a degree or a formal qualification.
But volunteers make up a huge chunk of the charity sector, and without dedicated and enthusiastic people giving their time free, many good causes would be forced to close.
Many of the volunteers have a personal interest in the issues affecting a particular charity, but even if you don’t, lending a hand can be a great way to position yourself for when a paid role comes up. After all, it’s far easier to make the transition to full-time or paid work if you’re known and have previously volunteered there.
Getting the opportunity to make a difference every day at work means there’s great satisfaction to be had. Other perks can include a passionate and positive working environment, flexible hours and lots of scope for training and career development.
Many charities are known for being great employers and command long-term loyalty from staff.
What are salaries like?
While the pay may be a little lower than in the same jobs in the private sector, salaries in senior positions in larger charities are generally competitive. Pay rates tend to depend on the size and nature of the charity.
However, many people aren’t attracted to this kind of career by the thought of giant salaries. What really makes them tick is that the work is meaningful and they’re doing something worthwhile to improve society.
Different areas of the charity sector call for different specific skills, but generally speaking, if you’re hardworking, proactive, dedicated, resourceful and driven, this can bring benefits.
Great communication skills are vital, too, particularly on the frontline of charity work. You may be working with vulnerable people or in stressful situations with probably a very limited budget at your disposal.
There’s nearly every career choice available if you choose charity as your path. These may include administrative, campaigning and lobbying, marketing and PR, financial management, fundraising and policy development to name a few. Here, we look at some of the roles which go to make up this diverse and exciting sector…
Government cuts to charity support mean fundraising has never been a more vital role. Professional fundraisers try to fill that gap, providing the cash for frontline care and services to help a charity operate smoothly.
Fundraisers are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to make money. Tasks might involve setting up corporate partnerships, liaising with major donors and trusts, organising events to bring business and your good cause together, and writing bids to ask for funding.
You can also get a foot in the door in the charity sector as a community fundraiser (also known as a direct fundraiser). If you decide to go into this field full-time, it’s hard work and you’ll face rejection, so you’ve got to be pretty thick skinned and positive.
But imagine the sense of achievement when you score a massive donation for
your chosen cause.
For all charity fundraising jobs, you’ll need the drive, creativity and enthusiasm it takes to motivate people – often quite reluctant people – to donate.
Earn: from around £8 an hour for street canvassing; from £18,000-£40,000 for a full-time position. As head of fundraising in a large charity you could earn £50,000 or more.
PR and marketing
Raising awareness of your organisation is vital for its success – and this is doubly so for charities. In a nutshell, the better known your charity is, the more donations, support and backing it will get.
PR and marketing is about spreading the word about the latest campaign across media outlets, getting coverage (in the printed and digital media as well as broadcast and radio) and making sure your charity is at the forefront of people’s minds. There’s a crossover here with a campaigning role (see facing page).
Finding and interviewing real-life case studies – people who have been directly helped by your charity or have experienced first-hand the issues you’re raising awareness of – is also a vital part of this role. For this, sensitivity, tact and compassion are key, as you may find yourself consoling someone over the phone and trying to persuade a reluctant interviewee to tell their story to the media.
To get into marketing or PR in the charity sector, it can help to have a relevant qualification. The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) offers training courses.
On-the-job experience can be useful, as can voluntary time spent helping out raise awareness of a local or grassroots campaign.
Earn: from £12,000 as a junior press officer.
Are passion, drive and determination your calling cards? Then here’s the area of charity that would suit you.
This important part of the industry would see you help develop and launch the all-important campaigns that will make your charity stand out from the rest and make a real impact.
To achieve this, you would be working with policy makers, researchers and press officers or public relations people.
As well as tip-top communication skills, a knack with digital marketing and social media is becoming increasingly important these days – and here’s where the campaign department really crosses over with PR and marketing. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are now where a large part of charity campaigning takes place.
Not only that, but email and direct marketing still play key roles in spreading awareness of campaigns.
You can start as a junior officer and then work your way up to campaigns manager, where you’ll also be responsible for analysing and reporting on campaign results and developing future strategies.
Earn: £20,000 for a junior, up to around £40,000 for a campaigns director.
Digital skills needed
Charities are becoming increasingly technology-driven, and social media is now a vital way for them to connect with supporters – and convert new ones.
Result? Jobs in digital marketing and social media marketing now enjoy a prominent role in the charity sector. From visually-engaging content on Instagram, shareable key messages on Twitter and emotionally hard hitting posts on Facebook, social media channels have played a part in spreading the word about all sorts of good causes – and stirring an army of armchair ‘clicktavists’ across the nation to donate, fundraise, network and volunteer.