What is it like to work for charities? A career guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 27 October 2022

Published 6 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

It is widely believed that charity work entails volunteering at or running a charity shop. Many people are unaware of the skills and abilities they may offer the industry, or the variety of paid positions available that could utilise their strengths. With thousands of charity positions available at any one time, you may find one to suit your skills and experience. In this article, we answer a wide selection of frequently asked questions, including 'What is it like to work for charities?', outlining the roles available within the charity sector and more.

What is it like to work for charities?

Working for a charity offers several benefits, including the opportunity to develop transferable skills, the opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life and the opportunity to support your favourite causes. Charities pride themselves on being able to demonstrate their influence and the excellent work they undertake. It's an undeniable personal reward to see such outcomes and understand how you contribute to them.

Charity recruiting remains competitive, as organisations seek excellent applicants. In the nonprofit sector, retaining personnel who share the same beliefs and aims as the organisation remains critical. Therefore, charities frequently place a high value on continuing professional development. You can accomplish this through official qualifications or voluntary workshops, both of which assist you in seeing the larger picture of your job.

Related: Project management skills and how to improve them

Why should I work for a charity?

Many people choose to work for a charity because they aspire to make a difference. Charities carry a clear sense of purpose, which they may articulate in a mission statement that aspires to effect change and improve the world, whether that is locally or nationally.

It can be motivating and fulfilling to log off every day with the knowledge that you have helped to improve someone's situation or worked towards completing a larger project which can provide you with the feeling of professional fulfilment. When you ask most charity employees what they enjoy most about their work, they may tell you it's the people who benefit from the charity's work. Not only do you meet people from diverse backgrounds and with interesting stories to tell, but you may also find that you share similar views and motives in supporting a cause which has a particular meaning for you.

When can I start working in the charity sector?

Begin your research into a career in the charity sector by becoming acquainted with the different types of charitable organisations which might lead you to employment opportunities. Some of the organisations committed to assisting charity employees to develop their knowledge are:

  • National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO): This organisation promotes the voluntary sector by linking charitable organisations with people looking for paid or volunteer employment along with partnerships and tools that can help them make a positive impact when in a role. Their website is kept up-to-date with charitable sector news and information. Search their website for your nearest branch.

  • Chartered Institute of Fundraising: This professional membership group for UK fundraising offers training, subscription and annual conferences to help fundraisers succeed in their role on behalf of their charity. It is a good place to go to learn all there is to know about fundraising both as a beginner and when you are developing your fundraising skills.

  • CharityConnect: This is a social networking site for people who work in the nonprofit sector. If you want to connect and collaborate with others who work in the sector, this is the site for you to have your questions answered and share experiences with other charity employees.

What steps can I take to start a career in the charity sector?

Consider why you want to support a charity as an employee and think about alternative options for achieving your goal. You are likely to have specific charities you prefer to support and these may help you choose which one to approach for employment either on a paid or voluntary basis. Some companies support their employees to devote some of their time to working for a charity and this may be a good way to combine voluntary and paid work. Another possibility is to gain experience, abilities and professional qualifications in the public or commercial sector before transitioning to charity work later in life.

Related: How to improve social skills and highlight them to find work

What can I do to get work experience?

Making a firm decision about the type of charity you would like to work for presents you as a compelling candidate for a charity to employ since your passion would become clear during the interview. Use the internet to research charitable organisations that interest you the most and then prepare to contact them personally. If you want to work for a charity within a short commuting distance from your home, a good place to find them would be the NCVO who have branches locally. Another approach would be to select a potential charity employer based on the work experience opportunities it presents and to search by type of charity and the services it provides. Volunteering for a charity is a way to develop your expertise, make valuable contacts and develop transferable skills.

Related: Work experience: definition, importance and tips

What are some roles in the charity sector?

Charities, like other organisations, require people with financial, managerial, marketing and information technology skills. Several of these types of roles may be carried out by one person or by a team of people depending on the size of the charity. Many organisations like to hire persons with a diverse set of abilities from different fields to make sure they have the maximum skills the charity needs. Examples of roles in the charity sector include the following:

  • Fundraising and campaigning: Charities hire people to work on their fundraising campaigns and to continuously attract funds into the charity. In a fundraising role, you would contact members of the public to raise awareness of the charity and use your influencing skills to encourage people to make regular donations.

  • Marketing, communications and public relations: Larger charities recruit marketing professionals to educate the public about the work they do and encourage more support through donations and campaigns.

  • Technology and IT: Charities use computerised systems to manage their accounting, financial, marketing and communication processes and in the day to day running of the charity.

  • Volunteer management: The charity sector relies heavily on volunteers, who require management and a community structure. Volunteers work alongside paid employees who may manage them and for which effective leadership skills are beneficial.

  • Policy, development and research: Larger charities run projects and campaigns to promote awareness. In this type of role, you would network to make connections and build relationships with stakeholders and people within the community to raise awareness of your charity and help it expand.

Related: 10 examples of charity organisation jobs (plus salaries)

What skills are important to excel in the charity sector?

Working for a cause you believe in, taking on a wide variety of responsibilities and having a good work-life balance make up just a few of the perks of working in the charity sector. Skills and qualities beneficial in the charity sector include the following:

Communication skills

Being able to effectively convey your thoughts and opinions verbally and in writing is beneficial to charity professions, from writing content for a stakeholder presentation to advising a caller over the phone in a helpdesk capacity. Many roles require people who are good at communicating sensitively, especially when giving advice is part of the role. Whether you're dealing with donors or with people who are receiving the charity's services, building a sense of trust encourages them to return to your charity.

Related: What are verbal communication skills? (With tips)

Teamwork skills

Excellent team working skills are as important to charities as they are for a business. Paid employees, volunteers and people who receive the services the charity offers come from diverse backgrounds and teams may be made up of individuals from different ethnicities, cultures and religions. Charity employers value experience in working well both as a team and individually and these are good to mention in your CV. If you have collaborated on a group project during your studies, offered to help people with a heavy workload by taking on some of their responsibilities or worked with other fundraisers in a volunteer role, such experience is valuable to a charity.

Commercial skills or business awareness

Charities require money and donations to operate successfully on a day-to-day basis and need individuals who are comfortable working with budgets and sponsors. All charities find themselves competing for limited money, whether it comes from a corporation, the government or privately. Therefore, it's important to remain aware of factors that may impact a charity's capacity to generate donations and to adapt to changes in the economy such as the 2008 financial crisis when charitable donations decreased overall.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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