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Moving into the charity sector

(14 Posts)
britgirl1982 Thu 13-Jan-11 20:38:25


I was wondering if I could get some advice from anyone who knows more than I do...

I'm currently on ML from a City law firm. I've decided that law is not for me, and that I ultimately want to work in the charity sector. From the research I've done into the roles, I think I'd be most suited to either fundraising or policy/research, but that's as far as I've got.

I've had a look at jobs websites/recruiters etc, and all I can find are either starter level jobs which are pretty poorly paid (even to those not used to a City salary), or 'managers' (or the equivalent), which require a lot of experience. I've only been working 3 years, so am obviously not going to be suitable for the manager roles, and whilst I appreciate that starting at the bottom may well be necessary despite my legal qualifications and (admittedly limited) experience, I can't really afford to do so since DD's childcare costs will have to come out of my salary.

So my question is this. Would it be better for me to take an entry level job and just suck up the poor pay and being at the bottom again, or would I be better off trying to get some experience in industry/private sector roles and trying to move over into the charity sector when I'm a lot more senior?

Any advice on my next move would be massively appreciated! Thanks.

BeattieBow Thu 13-Jan-11 20:51:20

one way is to a lawyer in the charity sector and then try to move across to another part of the charity when you are there. You might find that being a lawyer in a charity fulfills you enough - it is very different from being a lawyer in the City (I have made that move).

I would suggest volunteering for a charity (while you are on maternity leave) and then you can see what it's like, find out what experience/qualifications you need - ime for both reasearch/policy and fundraising you would need other qualifications.

do note though, salary even as a lawyer, is rubbish compared to the City

hairyfairylights Thu 13-Jan-11 21:24:41

With the way funding is at present in the third sector I would be wary if this sector at present. Ther is less and less funding around and this year it's really hitting hard with big cuts!!

hatwoman Sat 15-Jan-11 15:16:37

ime transfer from industry/private sector to the charity sector tends to happen mainly at the mid-level. Most senior managers have substantial charity experience - the one possible exception might be at the absolute top level - very senior managers (I'm taking people in their 50s) being appointed CEOs of charities. I'm assuming you don't want to wait til you're 50.

I think, then, in some respects there's actually not that much difference between your 2 proposed plans - switch now, starting off at, or near, the bottom or switch in a few years. If you switch now and you're good you may well find youself a few levels up in, say 3-5 years. If you get a relevant job you could likely do the same, iyswim.

One main difference would be the pay for the next 3-5 years. Another difference is, that imho, the longer you've been in the profit sector the harder the switch is: the working cultures are very different and I've seen people switch in their 30s and find it really hard. Many of them (and I'm not saying you would do this) have terrible illusions of superiority - they think they have so much to teach, so much to give and nothing to learn hmm. Lots of others, of course, are better at achieving a happy medium of bringing skills and adapting them to a new environment.

I would suggest looking - in detail - at adverts for the kind of job you'd like to be doing in 5 years. The charity sector rarely recruits by cv or in ad hoc ways - any jobs advertised will have very detailed job descriptions and person specifications. Compare these with jobs you could get now (either lower-level charity jobs or non-charity jobs) and ask yourself which route will equip you best for the jobs you want in the future.

Sign up to Charity Jobs - which is the best source of jobs, also Third Sector, and the Guardian (in paper form charity jobs are on Wednesdays).

Another idea is to look for a trustee position (there's a website just for trustees, can't remember the name) - they often want lawyers (though they also often want older people - but certainly worth a go)

from a chaity sector person contemplating a switch to law grin

hatwoman Sat 15-Jan-11 15:22:18

just thought of another thing that might be useful: on the whole the sector has rigid grading systems for jobs - and there are suprisingly few steps from the post-room staff up to the CEO. as in any industry there's a bit of a cut off point half-way up the grades - where the number of people in the next grade is much smaller. many many excellent people stay at this mid-point - often, in part, out of choice - because they get to do the job they always wanted to do without getting bogged down in management - but, on the other hand, their experience, longevity and the quality of their work gives them gravitas and influence. I guess I'm saying that whist there are grades they're not the only measure of seniority.

BeattieBow Sat 15-Jan-11 17:24:59

Totallylegal (a website) is another good site for in-house charity jobs.

Jcee Sat 15-Jan-11 21:54:02

Hatwoman speaks sense - the charity sector is facing an uncertain future as statutory funding streams end so it might not be the best time to move.

I'd second the idea of becoming a trustee if you want to get some experience in the sector. I've been a trustee for the last 4 years and it's been a great opportunity to learn about the sector, how it operates and the key issues - It's also been good fun and hugely rewarding and great experience at things I'm not normally involved in at my day job.

People with a professional background are highly
sought after as trustees for the experience they can bring but to be honest you just need enthusiasm, an interest in the charity and its aims and an ability to commit to attend meetings etc

NCVO have more info about being a trustee and also advertise vacancies.

BeattieBow Sat 15-Jan-11 22:19:44

I know that some of the larger charities are still recruiting lawyers.

On the one hand there may be alot of competition for those jobs, on the other, the pay is pretty crap compared to the private sector, so maybe it won't be so difficult to get a job.

my charity (a large one) is recruiting lots of other posts too. it isn't bad across the board.

(I should add that I had experience as a trustee and a volunteer of another charity before I moved into the sector professionally - that would always stand you in very good stead).

the other route in is to find out about internships or volunteering opportunities - unpaid, but would be good for you to find out more about charities and perhaps get a foot in the door.

BreastmilkDoesAFabLatte Mon 17-Jan-11 11:06:54

Agree with the above. Especially that volunteering is usually the best route in.

It's maybe also worth highlighting, though, that whatever your role, the drop in salary will be unavoidable!

nomoreheels Wed 19-Jan-11 08:20:57

The charity I work for pays senior lawyers around £40-45k inc. London weighting. They're making redundancies but specialist positions tend to be left alone. However, we've not had a cost of living increase in 3 years (despite union pressure) You would still be one of the best paid staff though - apart from a few very senior managers & the CEO.

Fundraising is the other good vol sector choice at the moment, especially if you are good at networking with (persuading!) major or legacy donors.

I am up north where the voluntary sector has much slimmer pickings than in London. Tbh I feel quite stuck these days, with charities losing funding all around me, so nowhere to move on to. London is likely a different story.

britgirl1982 Wed 19-Jan-11 15:18:40

This is all so useful - huge thanks

nicecupofteaplease Mon 10-Oct-11 21:03:55

britgirl1982 Have you had any luck? I am in almost exactly the same position, and would love to know how you got on.

Bugsy2 Mon 10-Oct-11 21:15:43

I moved from corporate finance to a large national charity about 3 years ago. I do project managerish kind of stuff now. I found it a ginormous cultural change to go from the Profit is Everything Sector to NFP. People's motivations are so different. Also you get alot of public sector cross over and the mentality is very different. However, I love it.
Fund-raising is very tough at the moment, so unless you could sell ice to Eskimos or are planning to work for a charity with huge emotional appeal (cancer, dying children, starving orphans etc) I'd give fund-raising a wide berth.
Also, although there have been Govt cuts to charitable organisations, alot of them are not & were not funded by Govt - so are still in good shape. If we are to believe that the Big Society is the way forward, then it is likely that the 3rd sector may well grow considerably. Hope it worked out for Britgirl & you too Nicecupoftea.

nicecupofteaplease Tue 11-Oct-11 19:28:12

Thanks Bugsy, it's always good to hear what someone else's experiences are. Not so great to hear that Fundraising is in dire straits but I guess that's common sense. Sadly it's too late for me as I've already accepted the job. Fingers crossed it turns out ok!

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