Raising funds, awareness, standards, hackles… charities and not-for-profit organisations often grab media attention. What you may not find out from the news, however, is how the charity and not-for-profit sector is structured, how organisations within it differ and how you could secure yourself a paid position. Competition for jobs can be stiff – after all, who doesn’t want to change the world? Use this advice to keep one step ahead of the competition and find paid work in the sector.
What is the charity and not-for-profit sector?
It’s tricky to define the charity and not-for-profit sector in a way that reflects its diversity. Not all voluntary organisations are run by volunteers, for example, and many charities are also registered companies operating on large budgets. In its broadest sense the sector includes small community groups, housing associations, social enterprises, environmental groups, universities, colleges, schools, places of worship, trade unions, NGOs and sports clubs.
Why should I join?
With such a diversity of job options available in the sector there’s bound to be a role that appeals to you. As well as contributing your skills, however, you could experience greater job satisfaction than people working in the private or public sector because there is the opportunity to do work in tune with your values and to see the results of the work you do. In addition, the not-for-profit sector offers comparatively flexible working conditions with many employees taking advantage of part-time working and job-sharing. This means you are able to balance the competing elements of work, family, leisure and participation in community activities.
What will I be doing?
Anything and everything. Smaller organisations are likely to want to recruit generalists – people who can turn their hands to a number of jobs – while larger organisations will have the resources to employ people to do more specialist tasks.
What could I earn?
Salaries tend to be lower in the not-for-profit sector, reflecting the need to use funds for the benefit of the community. But that doesn't mean you'll be working for free – larger charities in particular often offer more generous salaries to attract the best candidates.
How can I find a job in the charity sector?
Speculative applications and flexibility are the key to getting a job in the charity sector as vacancies in small organisations may only be advertised locally or in specialist publications. Larger organisations are likely to have the resources to advertise more widely. Whatever kind of organisation you'd like to work for, it's always helpful to get your name known: consider volunteering or doing temporary work for an organisation or simply get in touch and ask how and where they advertise.
Specialist and general recruitment agencies may also be able to help. Most specialist agencies are based in London but some hold information about charities all over the country. Other more general recruitment agencies may put candidates forward for work with not-for-profit organisations, particularly people able to do short-term contracts or part-time work.
Where else could I work?
If you're committed to making a difference you could also consider working for a political party, a pressure group or an environmental organisation. Like charities, these organisations try to change things for the better. As in the charity sector, competition for jobs can be stiff and there are few graduate scheme-style jobs available.
How else can I make a difference?
Working for a charity isn't the only way to start changing the world. You could consider combining paid work in another sector with voluntary work, or explore corporate social responsibility and employee volunteering schemes run by commercial organisations, many of which are now keen to do their bit.