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Myths about working for charities

Posted on 16/05/2019 by Gemma Hannington

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The charity sector is often overlooked by jobseekers when considering their future career options. Even though many young people volunteer on a regular basis, they wouldn’t necessarily think about working for a charity.

In fact, over 850,000 employees work in the voluntary sector, according to the 2018 NCVO Civil Almanac. The sector offers an extremely wide variety of interesting, challenging and rewarding roles and many charity workers go on to build a lifelong career.

So what stops people considering the third sector as a career option? In this article, we look at some of the most common myths that put people off working for charities and why they simply aren’t true.

  1. Salaries are too low to build a career

While it is true that salaries in charities are generally lower than those in the public and private sectors, and bonus payments are rare, that does not mean that they are too low to live on. Charities have to compete for staff like any other organisation.

The upside of this is that charities generally offer better benefits and more holiday allowance than other sectors, in order to make their roles more attractive. There are also more opportunities for flexible working in the third sector – 36% of paid roles are part-time, as opposed to 29% and 25% in the public and private sectors respectively.

The third sector also offers extremely fulfilling careers, with the opportunity to literally help change the world. Many people choose to transfer from the private sector to charities specifically looking for a more meaningful job.

Finally, charities are usually very collaborative environments, with less hierarchical structures and more opportunities to get involved in different areas.

  1. There are no opportunities for career progression

Charities usually prefer to focus publicly on the work they do for their beneficiaries, rather than their worth as employers. This can lead to some jobseekers assuming that charities are dead ends for careers, where you’ll get stuck in the role for which you were initially hired.

In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Many people stay in the third sector for their entire working lives and there are plenty of opportunities for career progression. As charities are generally run with a minimum number of employees, it’s easy for employees to offer to take on new projects and responsibilities. This means you can learn new skills, gain experience and work your way up the career ladder.

There is also some evidence that the voluntary sector offers young people more opportunity to progress to leadership roles than other sectors. Some charities are now choosing to appoint younger CEOs, in an effort to bring in new and innovative ideas. Many charities are now actively recruiting younger trustees, who are more likely to appoint younger executives. There is also a growing number of female charity CEOs and many of them believe there are fewer barriers to a woman becoming a leader in the third sector.

  1. Jobs in charities aren’t interesting or challenging

Jobs in charities are sometimes perceived as “easier” and filled by people who failed to find employment in the private sector. The truth is that third sector employees actively choose to work for charities and are generally passionate and committed to their organisation’s cause. Many charity roles need a highly specialised skill set and an extremely professional approach.

Most charities operate in a very transparent way and are publicly accountable for the money they spend. This means they have very rigorous standards and a moral imperative to get the maximum value from their funder’s money. If you’re looking for a job in which you can sit back and coast, this isn’t the sector to choose.

  1. Charities are behind the times

The public perception of charities is often that they are sleepy and old-fashioned in their approach. The reality is that many not for profit organisations have become much more sophisticated in recent years. Out of necessity, charities need to be agile, nimble and innovative so they can quickly respond to changes in demand for their services or sources of funding.

While they may not have the big budgets available to private sector companies to invest in the latest technology, their limited resources have forced charities to become much more innovative and find new ways of working.

  1. They won’t have the right job for me

The most visible charity employees are those who work directly with beneficiaries, but like any big company, there are actually hundreds of different roles involved. Charities offer opportunities in accounts, marketing, HR, administration, fundraising, volunteer management, IT and many more areas.

There are nearly 170,000 charities registered with the Charity Commission, covering a huge range of causes and activities. Many of these organisations have specialist roles relating purely to their mission, such as medical research or environmental protection. Somewhere out there is bound to be exactly the right role for you.

When you’re ready to make your move into the charity sector, TPP Recruitment can help. We’ve been dedicated to helping job seekers find their ideal charity job since 1996 and can give you tailored advice on how to secure the role of your dreams.

Get in touch on 020 7198 6000 or