If job satisfaction and doing something meaningful are top of your list of priorities, consider a career in the charity sector
You may only be one person, but you can still make a massive difference in the world. If you believe that, and care strongly about equality, animal welfare, or the environment, then working for a charity could provide you a satisfying career.
There are charities in all sorts of sectors, including childcare, illness, animal welfare, homelessness, overseas aid, and ecological issues. You could join an organisation with values you believe in, such as Unicef or Greenpeace.
With more than 160,000 registered charities in England and Wales, the work available in this sector is varied and widespread. Work is roughly divided into two areas: volunteer roles and paid positions. Paid employment roles, especially technical and executive jobs, often require a degree or formal qualification in their area of specialism, while for more junior roles, or volunteer positions, showing commitment, enthusiasm and an interest in the issues affecting the particular charity will usually get your foot in the door.
And while many people join a charity because they want a worthwhile career, it’s a myth that roles within a charitable organisation are poorly paid; generally, salaries are very competitive, especially for senior positions in larger companies.
Another valid reason to go into this sector is charities have a reputation for being good employers, and consequently have high staff-retention rates. Many companies also offer flexible working options and good opportunities for career development and further training.
The skills you’ll need will very much depend on which area you go into but, in general, you need to be hardworking, dedicated and proactive, with excellent communication and organisation skills.
If you’re savvy with social media, that’s a huge plus – the charity industry greatly benefits from social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, as they enable fast, effective targeting of potential donors, volunteers and contributors for fundraising and campaigns.
Variety of roles
There are many charities doing valuable work raising funds and awareness in specific areas, such as the RSPCA. Other charities, such as Children in Need, concentrate solely on raising funds for other charities to spend.
Many charities derive income from sponsorship, trusts, benefactors and fundraising. Bid writing, where you put together the proposals asking for funding, is an important role.
You can specialise in many fields, including: administrative; advisory; campaigning and lobbying; financial management; fundraising; policies; public relations and branding.
Here are a few in more detail...
Behind the frontline care and services provided by any charity lies the vital fundraising department.
This is staffed by the hard-working folk generating cash to ensure the smooth operation of the charity’s work.
Roles are available as both full-time and occasional Fundraisers, with the latter seeing you thrown into the deep end on high streets up and down the country. Yes, those people with the clipboards that bother you in the street. If you decide to go into this field full-time, be prepared to work hard and you will face rejection, so you’ve got to be pretty thick-skinned. But imagine the sense of achievement if you scored that massive donation for your chosen cause.
Earn: Around £9 an hour for street canvassing, from £20,000- £40,000 for a full-time position.
Public relations and marketing
This is an important part of any organisation, and even more so for charitable ones. The better-known a charity is, the more likely it is to get donations from the public.
Your job would be to promote your charity and its good work across media outlets, getting press coverage for your campaigns and keeping the name of your charity in people’s minds, so they remember you when they put their hands in their pockets. A PR or marketing qualification will stand you in good stead, but so will marketing experience in another sector.
Earn: From £15,000 as a Press Officer.
This is the area for you if you have passion, drive and dedication. It’s a hugely important part of the industry, and you’ll be working with policymakers, Researchers and Press Officers to help develop, launch and promote campaigns. You’ll need to have excellent communication skills and be confident with using online tools, as you’ll be promoting campaigns via email, social media and direct marketing methods.
You can start as a Junior Officer, working your way up to Campaigns Manager, where you’ll also be responsible for analysing and reporting on campaign results and developing future strategies within your organisation.
Earn: £20,000 for a Junior Officer, up to around £40,000 for a Manager.
‘I’m proud to be part of this organisation’
Laura Vallance is head of public affairs at Dogs Trust
‘I’ve been at Dogs Trust (dogstrust.org.uk) for five years and I oversee all of our government relations work and politician engagement across the UK and in the EU; knocking on doors keeps me busy.
‘I get to speak to a huge range of people about Dogs Trust and dog welfare issues. One day it can be a serious meeting with a Minister talking about changing legislation and the next it can be speaking to a TV Interviewer about the importance of picking up dog poo – so it’s a very diverse job, and certainly not all glamour!
‘I’d always wanted to work at Dogs Trust because I’d worked in the charity sector previously and had always admired Dogs Trust’s ethos. The organisation also has a huge drive to put dog welfare at the very heart of what it does, which I’m proud to be a part of, and it has a non-destruction policy , which means we never put a dog down – it’s the heart of everything we do.
‘This job allows me to combine my desire to make a difference in the world with my love of dogs, particularly my own, Florrie, who is a very small crossbreed with a big personality. She can regularly be found rummaging through bins or lapping up attention at our Head Office.
‘I work in the Head Office, but the heart and soul of our charity are our rehoming centres. I’ve got a huge amount of admiration for everyone who works in them. They go to extraordinary efforts for the dogs in their care – they are the ones with the hardest jobs.’