A career in the charity sector

Charisma have been recruiting for the charity sector for 20 years and I’ve been a director in the business for the last 3 years.  I work on placing trustees, chief executives, directors, heads of, managers, executives and officers – people right across the charity sector.

One thing I hear time and time again is this – “I never even considered a career in the sector; I sort of just fell in to it!”.

I totally get it.  My careers advisor at secondary school put some things in a computer and told me to become an RSPCA Inspector, despite not having any pets at the time or any idea about animals whatsoever.  My heart was set on a career in radio sports journalism.  A large salary.  A big house.  A fast car.

However, I ended up working for a church in South West London when I left University.  We worked with local charities to run football sessions for disengaged young people, we had drop-in sessions for the homeless and led support sessions from those struggling with drug abuse.  My eyes were opened to a whole new world.

After 5-years in that role the opportunity arose to become the Charity Manager of a young people’s charity in Hampshire.  It was a small charity with a turnover of under £500k, but it actively worked with thousands of young people each year.  We ran a youth café, delivered mentoring programmes, working with teenage parents and partnered with a local college to deliver counselling sessions to young people.

Alongside this my role was about raising the income to make all of the services possible.  I got to meet with top executives from some of the largest business in the UK, building relationships and building mutually beneficial partnerships with household name organisations.  I got to meet regularly with our local MP and the senior executives of the local council, all raising the profile of the charity and delivering financial support of our cause.

Fundraising through traditional routes was also important, from running gala dinners to signing people up to undertaking personal challenges and raise funds.  I was even fortunate to receive National Lottery funding to setup up a Bike Recycling and Servicing business, training young people in basic mechanics and then being able to sell the bikes to raise much needed funds for the charity.  We even ended up having an ITV filming crew with us for two days that created a short showcase of our project, that was broadcast nationally in prime time viewing on a Saturday evening.

My work in this small charity led to an opportunity to join an international welfare charity as a director.  Raising income across the world to fund welfare projects in some of the poorest communities across Europe, Asia and Africa.  This role gave me some incredible experiences!  I took 75 corporate supporters and trekked part of the Great Wall Of China, I ran a gala dinner in Mumbai, I visited North America at least three times a year, I fundraised in Vietnam and I went on a tug boat in a port just outside Accra in Ghana.  Experiences and opportunities that I certainly never envisioned when I fell into the sector!

Don’t get me wrong, working in the charity sector comes with some of the greatest of challenges, and you live and work in a space that is very hand to mouth.  At times you’ll be working long days and hours for a lower salary that what you could command for the same role in the commercial sector.  But you are making a difference, no matter how small.

I talk with people regularly who are trying to transition into the charity sector after years of working in the commercial or private sectors.  People no longer wanting to be in the rat race, people who haven’t found satisfaction in the salary, large house and fast cars.  A deep-rooted realisation that they want meaning in their day-to-day life.

I believe the charity sectors gives you this because it is a values driven sector.  Whatever the cause, the charity is trying to do some good or eradicate something bad from the world.  My reflection is that working with the sector, on the whole, puts you alongside great people who are also motivated to do good.  For me, this is no bad place to be.

You’ll be surprised by the breadth of roles that the charity sector has to offer also.  No matter your qualifications, skills and experience I can guarantee that there will something suitable for you and a career path to follow.

Here at Charisma we offer support to individuals looking for roles and we’re very happy to provide 30-minute online careers clinic free of charge to prospective candidates.  In these sessions we’ll get to know you, spend some time talking about your CV and can offer advice on interview techniques.  We’re here to help, if this is something that you are interested in then please visit www.charismarecruitment.co.uk to find out more and contact us to get a date in the diary.

I feel very fortunate with how my career has panned out, much by chance than my design!  The advice I give to jobseekers now as a recruiter in the charity sector is this; no matter what you do you’ve got to be excited about getting out of bed in the morning.  What I mean is, try and work towards being in a job and sector that motivates you.

Be in a role that when you finish at the end of the day you can feel like you’ve made a difference, some how and some where no matter how small.