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A career in the charities sector offers a way to earn while also supporting a good cause …
The charity and voluntary sector, also sometimes referred to as the ‘third sector’, ‘not-for-profit sector’, ‘community sector’ or ‘civic sector’, aims to create social rather than material wealth. There are almost 200,000 registered charities in England, Wales and Scotland, ranging in size from the very biggest household names like Age UK, British Heart Foundation and the RSPCA, through numerous schools and colleges, hospitals and trade benevolent societies, to small regional funds, perhaps to support an independent animal rescue or the victims of a one-off local disaster. The industry needs a range of skills, and if you have a desire to help make the world a better place the charity and voluntary sector offers you plenty of opportunity to do so.
It’s an extremely wide-ranging area, so it’s worth taking a look at Third Sector – the UK’s leading publication for people wanting to know everything that’s going on in the voluntary and not-for-profit sector – click here to find out more.
Skill up while serving
There are hundreds of Services-related charities. A number of Service people also become involved in the management of charities as part of their duties – acting as museum trustees, managing funds and running large fundraising occasions. Some Service people also wish to continue working for some ‘higher cause’ when they leave the Forces, and a second career in charity management can help them to achieve this.
Service charities are largely staffed by ex-Forces people, although some posts that require specific expertise are filled from external sources. Appointments may be made on the basis of Service rank. While very senior officers are still recruited to head up non-Service charities on the basis of their leadership, organisational and administrative skills, many such charities now recruit people with valuable commercial experience, who may in turn be looking for more altruistic avenues for their talents.
WHAT MAKES A CHARITY?
To qualify as a charity under Charity Act legislation, an organisation has to be involved with:
- poverty relief
- health or saving lives
- citizenship and community development
- culture, arts, heritage or science
- amateur sport
- human rights, conflict resolution, reconciliation, religious/racial harmony, equality and diversity
- environmental protection or improvement
- relief of need through youth, age, ill-health, disability financial hardship or other disadvantage
- animal welfare
- efficiency of the Armed Forces/Police/Fire & Rescue/Ambulance Services
- other purposes currently recognised as charitable.
TRANSLATE YOUR SKILLS
Skills and attributes that are important in charity sector employment include:
- interpersonal skills
- oral and written communication
- presentation, talking to groups of people
- persuasion, management and leadership
- tact and patience
- organisation and administration
- numeracy, for accounting and budgets
- drive, enthusiasm and commitment to the cause.
It is important to distinguish between the paid employees of a charity and its volunteer workforce. The former generally cannot be members of its governing council, while some of the latter may be on the council, and all will have a view on its activities.
Charity management is not an easy job and often involves out-of-hours work. While it may be personally satisfying to serve a good cause and be motivated by something other than money, charities can be complex organisations with challenging ‘people issues’. Some large charities have management training schemes consisting of a series of placements in different parts of the organisation. There are courses for beginners, and others for people with some experience.
Apart from general and financial management, those thinking of working for a charity might consider roles that involve:
- organising volunteers
- case working.
We will now look at each of these in turn.
Fundraising managers are responsible for the various ways that charities collect money, and for organising staff and volunteers. In small charities, fundraising managers will probably run all the different revenue-collecting activities; in larger ones they may be responsible for only one or two. Methods of raising funds include:
- direct marketing
- corporate fundraising
- working with high-level donors
- promoting legacies
- regional fundraising
- special events.
Many fundraising managers are graduates and mature people who have previously worked in relevant areas like marketing, PR or sales. Working in other charities or as a volunteer are also ways to enter the profession.
Volunteer organisers recruit, train and manage unpaid volunteers. They interview, match candidates to vacancies, and organise training and ongoing support. They will probably supervise the volunteers in a particular geographical area, so the work involves administration, budgets, record keeping, report writing, applying for grants and organising fundraising. Some posts are part-time, depending on the size and location of the charity. Entrants are often mature people with experience in other fields. Experience as a volunteer, or of organising people, committee work or fundraising can be an advantage. There are courses and qualifications available in this specialism.
Case workers help individuals and groups to find assistance and relief from their problem. They may be specially trained – like nurses or welfare workers – or lay people. They are often involved in assessing individuals’ needs and directing them to the appropriate source of help, which may be their own charity, another charity or state assistance. They will often become involved in counselling, and helping with tribunals and paperwork to assist in getting the right result, and will often need to understand complex laws and regulations. There are no set entry requirements except that some case workers may need to be professionally qualified. Training is often on-the-job, although some large charities run courses.
Use your ELC
Under the ELC scheme, a wide range of learning can be taken, provided it is offered by an approved provider listed on the ELCAS website and is at level 3 or above. For full details of how to make the most of your ELC, refer to the in-depth features elsewhere on the Quest website
What can you earn?
Because of the very wide range of different charities that exist, as well as the current financial climate, it is quite difficult to give an accurate picture of average salaries, but the following guidelines from prospects.ac.uk may help.
- Salaries vary significantly depending on the size and location of the charity and the type of fundraising involved. Salaries at some levels and for particular jobs may be good, but pay in the charitable sector does not always reflect pay for equivalent private-sector jobs.
- Starting salaries for an assistant role can be as low as £15,000, but could touch £22,000, and with more experience could rise to between £25,000 and £40,000.
- Charity officers (usually administrators, community liaison officers or project development officers) earn between £16,000 and £25,000, while starting salaries for volunteer coordinators range from £15,000 to £26,000.
- At senior management/director level, salaries are usually around £40,000 to £50,000, though a small number of very senior directors receive salaries up to and in excess of £100,000.