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Working in the third sector/charities.

(15 Posts)
EarlessToothlessVagabond Mon 09-Oct-17 10:15:15

My experience of it so far (in 2 charities, one big national, one small) is that it is often a shambolic, badly organised mess. In the national charity there were a huge amount of 'managers' with permanent contracts while all the project workers who were actually working with vulnerable people had short term contracts that could go poof at short notice. Funding is obviously scrabbled around for desperately given that statutory services are barely funded. There is such a mish mash of people working there on separate projects that there's no sense of team work or support. In the last job I had o was working with extremely ill and vulnerable people with no real support and a manager who'd worked in housing all her career and thought mental illness was mostly made up and attention seeking.

I went into the third sector hoping I would be able to use hcp skills in a more flexible way but my experience of it has been eye opening. Also come across a fair amount of people just coasting until retirement. I know you get this anywhere (and in the NHS) and I have been hopelessly naive about working in the charity sector but I find it so depressing. AIBU to think this is third sector working or are there well organised charities out there who value and support staff. Just so down about it.

Creambun2 Mon 09-Oct-17 10:17:10

Agree and the way charities, especially the large national ones, exploit interns is discusting.

ujerneyson Mon 09-Oct-17 10:28:28

In my personal opinion you've been unlucky. There are many well run efficient charities with great team working and a real dedication to the cause. You sound like you weren't working for any of those. You do however, make some interesting points. Some charities aren't well run, especially smaller ones and that's often because they have grown from a single cause and the person running it may have been there from the start and may not have the skills to run it effectively. However, there should be a board of trustees who can address this.

This point is also interesting
all the project workers who were actually working with vulnerable people had short term contracts that could go poof at short notice. The way that many charities are run is that they are funded to run specific projects and the funding is given for a fixed amount of time. The role of the project worker is often linked to the project they're working on, if that project lasts 2 years then that's the length of the contract and it may well not be renewed. They would know this when they took the role on. The contracts would never go poof at short notice. If they're delivering on the terms of the project then it would be safe until the end of the project but yes, it might not be renewed if funding isn't available to continue. That's the nature of projects.

What was your role in the charities you worked for? Some of the ones I work with are doing incredible work with some outstanding staff. There are those have staff who aren't great but they should be performance managed the same as in any other industry.

ArcheryAnnie Mon 09-Oct-17 10:33:00

I've worked in the voluntary sector my whole life, mainly in small or very small organisations, and my experience is of very highly-qualified people working very hard, for pay much below what they'd earn in the private sector, and delivering results way above what the budget would lead you to believe was possible. Oh, and spending considerable time and effort training the next generation up.

Perhaps I've been lucky!

EarlessToothlessVagabond Mon 09-Oct-17 10:44:00

Yes I understand the nature of projects and I wasn't being accurate about contracts going at short notice in that context, sorry. It's more the empty promises I received after the funding came to an end about finding more funding or providing internal funding but being expected to continue to support people when they could give me a months notice at any time. They knew the work I did was often longer term and planned out.

I do think you have to expect some uncertainty because of the nature of projects. But it's the way it's handled by managers which can make all the difference. My current role is only funded until early next year. I took it on knowing that and because i needed a job - however they are treating me like a temp, dumping extra work on me and expecting me to work at times when longer serving members of staff don't want to.

MargoLovebutter Mon 09-Oct-17 10:49:26

I work for a national charity and it is very well organised. The majority of staff are permanent employees but we do have project staff who join on contracts but they are given regular updates on whether or not work will continue and some will be taken on permanently and others given lots (at least 6 months notice) of when the contract will run out.

If you think mismanagement is going on and you have raised it with HR, then you should consider raising it with the board of trustees. They are ultimately liable and should be made aware.

ujerneyson Mon 09-Oct-17 10:54:45

From what you say about empty promises that really doesn't sound good at all, they need to be completely transparent and their working practices don't seem up to par at all. I agree, if you've concerns then you should definitely raise your concerns and take it to the trustees if necessary

scottishdiem Mon 09-Oct-17 11:02:05

Charity funding is month to month, year to year or project to project or client to client. I dont think I have ever been given an empty promise - I have been given lots about "if we get the funding".

I have been in the sector about 15 years and in 6 different jobs cause thats how it works.

And being a badly treated temp is down to how managers and organisations are. Nothing to do with the sector. Although the sector is also full of people willingly working hours way beyond what they are paid for because that what they want to do. Managers need to be on top of that as well.

CottonEyeJosephine Mon 09-Oct-17 11:12:25

I think you've been unlucky, although I certainly know of charities that are not run well. I've worked for a medium sized national charity for over ten years now. Very few managers, the focus is very much having as many people as possible 'on the front line'. We're lucky (although hard work goes into it) in that we really split or fundraising base so can weather a lot of the peaks and troughs of funding so the vast majority of staff are on permanent contracts.

GilligansKitchenIsland Mon 09-Oct-17 11:15:13

I worked in a religious (Christian) charity for a number of years and also left feeling incredibly disillusioned. Most of the workers "on the ground", doing the grunt work of achieving the charity's stated aims, worked full time but received no salary - they had to raise their own funds. Many of them lived below minimum wage. For tax purposes they were classed as "self employed" even though they were clearly working for this organisation. They also had to give 10% of their funds raised back to the organisation to pay the salaries, pensions etc of the managerial and admin staff, who were all regular employees with the associated benefits. These employees IME had little to no understanding of the values and aims of the organisation and little to no respect for the dogsbodies (known as "members" lol) doing the grunt work. As you can tell, I became quite bitter and left, but many people poured their whole careers into the charity and received nothing but disdain from management.
I'll never work in the third sector again - totally lost faith in it.

londonrach Mon 09-Oct-17 11:19:30

I agree from what my sil has told me. Shes worked in two large charities and one small one. Alot of wasted money, no long term plan.

JaceLancs Mon 09-Oct-17 11:22:07

I've been in the voluntary sector for over 20 years and fortunately don't recognise the scenario you describe
It's not an easy area to work in for anyone and is vastly underpaid - most people have a high level of commitment and work miracles with ever dwindling resources
However a lot of the work is project led and when the project funding ends often the workers on that project have to find other employment - my first priority is always to help then with that especially if they can be moved onto other areas of work within same charity
I do find that some of these people don't always see the bigger picture and work in their own little silo, not considering that some of the extra things they are tasked with may actually contribute to things like funding applications which could increase their own longer term job security
The ones who do get it and help out - sometimes going above and beyond are the ones I do my utmost to try and retain or re employ in future

FittonTower Mon 09-Oct-17 11:25:07

I've worked for a few charities and some have been fabulous and some dreadful. The one I work for now is pretty good, the structure is pretty ok and the contracts are all structured to give people job security (pay is a bit rubbish but that's the nature of the job).
The last place was awful, it was a national charity and had soooooo many managers and it was badly run with very unrealistic expectations of what funds could be raised and work could be done etc. I was bullied, staff were treated really badly if they weren't part of the right group and it was miserable. Shut down now, which was inevitable, it was a just exsisting to keep the people that worked there in their jobs and that's not unheard of in the charity sector but it's not representative of the whole sector.

Junebugjr Sat 18-Nov-17 19:32:30

I know what you mean OP.
I still can't get over the amount of money wasted in the last Charity I worked with.
It was shambolic, New computer systems set up for no reason, about 4 different admin systems to record info on, so no one had a clue which bit of info went where.
The sheer amount of paperwork all duplicating another bit of paperwork , and then pressure to come up with miracles with no resources or support.
Also constantly trying to cut wages and benefits.
I assume the above exists in other sectors as well, but it put me right off!

RemainOptimistic Sat 18-Nov-17 19:37:11

Typical sadly.

Often the Trustees are the most incompetent of the lot, deluded megalomaniacs with no training, no experience and no one keeping an eye on their crazy decisions.

They go on all expenses paid jaunts while staff on the front lines doing the actual work are treated as replaceable automatons.


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