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Getting into Charity Finance

Posted on 17/12/2018 by Jo Hodge

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Finance roles may not be the first job you associate with charities, but they are definitely vital to the smooth running of not for profit organisations. Without finance professionals managing budgeting, donations, invoices and payroll, not for profit organisations simply wouldn’t be able to continue delivering their vital services.

Working in a charity is a great opportunity to use your skills in finance and accountancy to support a cause that you are passionate about. There’s a huge variety of organisations with different working environments in the third sector, some of which can be just as demanding and fast paced as the commercial sector. However, there does tend to be more opportunities for flexible working and a better work life balance.


What skills do charity finance professionals need?

Obviously, you’ll need great numerical and analytical skills, but you’ll also need to be a team player and willing to take on a variety of responsibilities. Charity finance staff, particularly at the senior level, will often also oversee IT, HR, facilities and other back office functions.

Communication skills are essential for charity finance professionals, as you need to be able to explain accounts and financial concepts to people with a non-financial background. You’ll need to be able to work with and understand employees from all other departments. Empathy and a passion for the cause are also important characteristics.


What are the key responsibilities for charity finance roles?

Being part of the finance department within a charity puts you at the heart of the organisation. Ultimately, you’ll be responsible for keeping track of income, ensuring projects stay on budget and investing any surplus income to provide for the charity’s future.

Key responsibilities include:

  • Keeping financial records and preparing reports and year end statement
  • Financial planning, budgeting and forecasting
  • Processing invoices and managing payroll
  • Managing gift aid
  • Analysing costs and income generated for fundraising campaigns
  • Keeping up to date with any changes in regulations


What types of finance roles are available in the third sector?

Not for profit organisations vary greatly, so you could be a sole finance professional for a smaller charity covering everything or a dedicated specialist as part of a team in a large organisation.

Typical jobs will include:

•           Accounts Assistant     
•           Finance Officer
•           Accounts Payable/ Accounts Receivable   
•           Financial Accountant
•           Auditor          
•           Head of Finance
•           Bookkeeper
•           International Accountant
•           Finance & Resources Director
•           Management Accountant
•           Finance Analyst
•           Payroll Manager
•           Finance Business Partner
•           Project Accountant
•           Finance Director
•           Systems Accountant
•           Finance 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.

For more information on salaries, see the results of our 2018 Non-Profit Salary, Rewards & Retention Survey.


Can I transfer to a charity finance job from the private sector?

Charities are much more open to candidates from the commercial sector as they become increasingly professional in their approach. It’s definitely possible to transfer, although there are some key differences: restrictions on funding means it sometimes has to be kept in different ‘pots’ and allocated in a specific way, VAT is much more complicated and the charity sector also has its own Standard of Recommended Practice (SORP), regulations and terminology. Finances are generally much more transparent in the third sector.

If you are looking to move from another sector, you’ll need to show you have the relevant skills and aptitude for finance, but it’s also important to show your commitment to the sector and the organisation’s cause. Volunteering or becoming a trustee is a great way to do this.


TPP’s top tips for getting into charity finance

  • Most roles require you to be part or fully qualified. Entry level roles will require at least an AAT qualification and for anything more senior you should be working towards ACA, ACCA, CIMA or CIPFA.
  • Read Civil Society’s Charity Finance magazine to keep up to date with news in the sector.
  • Visit the Charity Finance Group (CFG) website and have a look at their specialist introductory courses for the charity sector.
  • You’ll need to demonstrate a passion for the third sector and the charity’s mission. One of the best ways of doing this is to volunteer as a bookkeeper or treasurer for a charity. It will also give you some valuable insight into the workings of a not for profit.
  • Draw up a strong supporting statement to provide evidence of your genuine interest in the sector and the aims of your chosen organisation.
  • Do your research and be realistic about salary expectations – charities do not generally pay as well as the private sector, but better flexibility and benefits can often make a huge difference.
  • Make sure you are familiar with the key areas of finance specific to the charity sector, including SORP, restricted funds and institutional donors


TPP can help

When you’re ready to make your move, TPP can help. Our Finance, It & Facilities team are dedicated specialists in recruiting high calibre candidates to temporary, contract and permanent vacancies across a range of non-profit organisations. We recruit for all levels within Finance starting from Administrator up to Director.

Get in touch on 020 7198 6050 or finance@tpp.co.uk.