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Kick starting your career in data

Posted on 29/11/2018 by

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Data roles may not be the most obvious jobs in charities, but they make up an extremely important part of the voluntary sector’s effectiveness. With over 60% of adults in the UK donating to charity and over £9m in donations and legacies from individuals annually, it’s extremely important for charities to keep track of their supporters.

Charities are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their use of new technology and it’s possible to build an extremely rewarding career and learn highly specialised skills working in data.

How do charities use databases?

Originally, charities simply used databases to store the name and address details of their supporters and service users, but technology has moved on and voluntary organisations are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their approach to data.

Some of the ways the use data include:

  • Managing customer relationships (CRM)
  • Profiling donors and creating targeted fundraising campaigns
  • Managing events and fundraising activities
  • Keeping records on service users and improving service delivery
  • Logging and sharing scientific research
  • Collaborative working with other organisations

Until fairly recently, the expense of maintaining a huge database meant only the larger charities tended to invest in data managements, but advances in technology and cloud software mean that smaller organisations are also increasing using databases.

There are a huge variety of databases out there, but some of the most common include:

What kind of roles are available?

There are a wide variety of data management and analysis roles within charities, ranging from Assistant to Director level. Typical job titles include Database Manager, Data Analyst, Research Manager, Insight Analyst or Database Transition Manager.

Database assistants, officers and managers manage the entry and maintenance of records, reporting on data and handling specific requests for information and managing third party suppliers. Analysts and Insight officers and managers generally focus on analysing large volumes of data to produce findings that will direct research, service delivery or fundraising activities.

What skills do I need?

Obviously, you need an extremely good level of computer literacy, with previous experience of using relational databases.

Knowledge of programming languages such as SQL, SQL scripting and report writing are also extremely useful skills.

You’ll need to be logical and methodical, as well as comfortable managing projects. Good communication skills are also important, particularly for the more senior roles.

Data is a constantly evolving area, so you’ll need to have a willingness to learn and the ability to share best practice.

Getting into data management

The key thing you’ll need in order to secure a job in charity data is previous experience of working with a database. Fortunately, this is something that’s relatively easy to gain; charities and their suppliers are always looking for volunteers and entry-level staff to help them with data entry. Once you’ve got some initial experience under your belt, you can look at temping for different organisations to give yourself a broader range of experience.

Useful resources

TPP host regular forums for Data, Prospect Research and Supporter Care, chaired by a sector specialist. Contact Chloe Hill for further information if you’d like to attend.

The ICT hub, part of the Home Office’s ChangeUp initiative, supports local charities with ICT guidance, good practice, advice and support.

IT for Charities is a free resource guide offering information on on ICT products, services and technology for charities.

The Institute of Fundraising runs several useful special interest groups, including Information Technology, Researchers and Insight in Fundraising.

The Small Charities Coalition offers a list of useful resources on databases.


If you’d like an idea about the kind of salary you could expect for roles in data, why not have a look at the results of our 2018 Non-Profit Salary, Rewards & Retention Survey.