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Getting into Charity Finance

It is important it for a charity to have a strong financial
and technical infrastructure, with a high calibre of staff, to help increase the organisation’s efficiency and effectiveness. This means there is a constant flow of finance opportunities and a demand for Accountants who have a genuine interest in the sector.

Many finance professionals who work in the charity sector claim that job satisfaction, a good work life balance and the chance to give something back to society are just a few of the many perks that keep them motivated and happy in their roles. The sector offers a huge variety of organisations with different working environments, some of which can be just as demanding and fast paced as the commercial sector.

What Can I Expect?

Being part of the finance department within the charity or not for profit sector puts you at the heart of the organisation. Whether you are working in a team processing invoices, managing gift aid and preparing donor reports, completing the monthly management accounts or financial year end to SORP, this is a very crucial part of any charitable organisation.

Candidates who work in finance are able to support and liaise with various departments such as fundraising to ensure that projects run within budget, analyse costs and ensure that any income received is invested and used to allow for the growth and success of the organisation. The way in which an organisation’s finances are run, allows for its objectives to be met and for its good work to continue and reach as many people as possible.

Job Options within the Charity Sector

The larger charities run their organisations in just the same way as corporations. Career progression opportunities are available within finance departments and there are different financial jobs available to qualified individuals.

Typical jobs will include:

• Financial Accountant
• Finance Director
• Qualified Accountant
• Management Accountant
• Bookkeeper
• Payroll Manager
• Finance Officer
• Accounts Assistant
• Project Accountant

• Accounts Payable/ Accounts Receivable 
• Auditor
• Financial Development Director
• Finance Manager
• Finance and Administration Director
• Business Development Manager
• Finance and Corporate Service Manager
• Funding and Budget Manager

This is just a sample of the many finance jobs available within the charity sector. Salaries and benefits will depend on the size of the organisation and the geographical location.

What Do I Need?

These are TPP’s top tips for preparing yourself to work in the charity sector:

• Ensure that your skills are relevant and transferable to the roles you are applying for in the charity sector.
• Do some research on the various types of not for profit organisation within the sector and decide where you would most like to work, for example in health or children's charities, international development, etc.
• Drawing up strong supporting statements to provide evidence of your genuine interest in the sector and the aims of your chosen organisation.
• Do some voluntary work, particularly with similar organisation.
• Work as a Treasurer or Trustee – almost all charities require finance professionals on their board. You can search for opportunities through NCVO’s Trustee Bank.
• Familiarise yourself with the Charities SORP, or Statement of Recommended Practice. Courses are available to bring you up to date.
• Being part- or fully-qualified in either ACA, ACCA, CIMA or CIPFA is a requirement for most roles within the sector.
• Study information provided the charity commission and familiarise yourself with charities finances through year end accounts.

Qualifications and Experience

Fully qualified Accountants are in high demand within the charity sector. However, if you are not yet fully qualified, pursuing an ACA, ACCA, CIMA or CIPFA qualification can be extremely beneficial and really set you aside from some of the other candidates. The charity sector is highly competitive, and in the current economic climate, many not for profit organisations will only consider candidates who are dedicated to securing a qualification, but are often willing to pay higher salaries for them.

Many organisations offer study support and study leave as an added bonus although this is not always the case.

If you are looking for a graduate- or trainee-level role, you will probably need to apply directly to an organisation. Some charities offer internal training programs, so it is worth doing some research to seek these out.

A good way of getting a foot in the door if you have limited charity experience would be through gaining voluntary work within a finance department or as a Treasurer and temping could be another avenue, clients do still frequently request previous sector experience, particularly for more senior roles.

The charity sector is often overlooked by finance professionals, but it can provide extremely rewarding careers, as well as the increased satisfaction of knowing you are making a valuable contribution towards society.