7 Types of Roles Within the Charity Sector

If you're thinking the charity sector could be for you, take a look at the seven main types of roles you could do after graduating.  

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others - Mahatma Ghandi

Firstly, it's worth noting that larger charities such as Cancer ResearchOxfamTeach First  and Age UK tend to provide graduate training programmes, internships and structured career development opportunities. Compared with smaller charitable institutions, they have highly complex structures with very specific and specialist job functions comparable with those found in the commercial and public sectors. Smaller organisations are likely to want to recruit generalists so be prepared to turn your hands to a number of jobs.

Carve out a successful career with charities such as the National Trust. From conservation management to operations you could become an expert in a particular field.

Some of the most frequently advertised roles in this sector fall into the following groups... but one thing that they all have in common is that you'll be willing to get stuck in from the start. 

1. Management / Administration / Operations

Like all good business, charities need a strong administration and operations management team at its core. If operations is for you, you'll need to be someone who is logical, process-driven and likes to be highly-organised. You do not need to begin your career in this sector, as many operations specialists might move across after a stint in the private sector. 

2. Personnel and Human Resource

People, employees and volunteers are crucial to the success of any given charity. In the Human Resource and Personnel department, you'll be responsible for making sure the charity looks after its people and their wellbeing, along with training, development and contractual arrangements. If you love working with people, this is a good area for you. 

The charity who receives the most donations in the UK is Gavi Alliance: a charity which draws together major international bodies to fund immunisation programmes.

Source: Charity Aids Foundation

3. Marketing, Communications and Campaigning

Raising awareness of the charity in the hope that more people donate to it is vital.  This can come in the form of publicity, marketing and communications, representing the organisation at events, organising large-scale fundraisers and awareness campaigns or liaising with benefactors who will be making substantial donations.

The voluntary sector is benefitting hugely from social media, as it enables fast, effective targeting of potential donors, volunteers and contributors for fundraising and other campaigns aimed at internet users. This area is growing all the time and there are now dedicated digital jobs available in this sector.

To succeed in these fields, you'll need superb communication skills, both oral and written and be able to influence others.   You'll need to be really passionate about your cause and excellent at demonstrating that through the work that you produce.

Click here for an introduction to Marketing and PR

4. Volunteer Management

Volunteer Managers tend to be responsible for recruiting, interviewing and managing a charity's volunteer network. You'll help devise and implement training programmes and deliver awareness initiatives to drive volunteer numbers upwards. You could find yourself working on a local, national or even global level and helping to drive a charity's strategy.

You can undertake a volunteer management qualification to help you in this role, but rarely is it a prerequisite. You'll be good with people and possess exceptional organisational skills to excel. 

5. Policy Development and Research

Charities need to raise their awareness - and part of this is providing the research, insights and analysis required to influence the debate.

You'll be part of a team to help implement a charity's strategy and be expected to build relationships and influencing stakeholders and organisations alike. You'll have excellent communication and research skills, with a keen eye for detail and an ability to think quickly on your feet. For more insights into public affairs, read our snapshot guide just here. 

Successful graduates need to be really passionate about your cause and excellent at demonstrating that through the work that they produce.

6. Fundraising

Every charity exists to raise money for its cause through fundraisers but there is more to charity work than calling door to door rattling your tin! Fundraisers, or trust fundraisers, will have to apply for funding from large organisations by putting together funding proposals.

It's a real blend of marketing and sales in a business environment. There is a wide range of specialist fundraising roles in charities these days: community, corporate, direct marketing, events, legacy, major donor, regional, statutory, and trust.

For Corporate Fundraising and Major Donor fundraising you will need to be comfortable dealing with a whole range of people, some very high profile. You will need to be comfortable chatting at a party with celebrities, or with the head of a large company. Project managing is also very important and you will have to juggle a million things at one time and keep track of anything that could go wrong.

7. Grants Officers/Advisers

As a Grant Officer and/or Adviser, you'll tend to work with the fundraising departments to contribute towards the overall fundraising targets of a charity and to ensure the long term sustainability of the charity's work. You'll work to produce high-value successful applications to new and current UK and/or international trusts and statutory funders and, if required, produce documentation to help do this.

You'll need superb communication, strong leadership and organisational skills. You'll be required to build relationships internally and externally. Sometimes you'll be required to work to tough targets so you'll be someone who thrives under pressure and working to tight deadlines. 

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Of course, every charity is structured a little differently, but almost all of them no matter how big or small require experts. These could be scientific researchers, lawyers, human rights specialists and so on. If you're particularly interested in a particular area, you might look at gaining the required training you need first and then move across to the charity sector when the time is right. It's an equally valuable route - and potentially a better one if you want to build up a particular area of expertise. 

If you decide a role in the charity sector is for you - click here to see our article on getting into the charity sector.