Careers and Employability Service
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Charity work


The charity sector, also often described as the 'third sector' or the 'voluntary and community sector' comprises a wide range of large and small organisations.

Charities work with issues affecting our world and aim to improve the environments around us. The main types of organisations that contribute to this sector are described below.


The different types of organisations


Charities are organisations that are established to provide funding and support for a particular cause.

These include large, well-known organisations such as Barnardo's, Cancer Research UK, The Samaritans, and the RSPCA, and smaller, local organisations such as The Renewal Trust in Nottingham, The Mustard Tree in Manchester or The Old Enfield Charitable Trust in London.

The vast majority of the charity sector – over 70% – is made up of smaller, local organisations and this is often where graduates will find work or internships.

More information can be found on Prospects sites, overview of the charity sector and working for a small charity.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs)

NGOs are private or voluntary organsiations that are united in a purpose. They can also be charities.

Examples include the International Red Cross, Greenpeace and Medecins Sans Frontieres. Websites such as Bond (British Overseas NGOs for Development) can give an overview of the sector more widely.

Social enterprises

Social enterprises are businesses trading for social and environmental purposes who re-invest their profits to further their aims. 

Examples include The Big IssueThe Eden Project and Cafedirect. To find out more, you can visit the Social Enterprise Commission.

Covering the issues

The issues covered by the charity sector are huge, from poverty to cancer and from animal welfare to human rights. Some organisations focus on regional issues, others national, and some have an international focus.

Examples of small, regional organisations are St Ann's Allotments and LAM Action, whereas bigger, national focuses include Prostate Cancer and international focuses such as Action Against Hunger.

Charities rely on grants and fundraising which means that many jobs are not permanent. They also rely heavily on volunteers, and volunteering is a great way to see if you like a particular charity or role.

You can find volunteering opportunities throughout the UK at Do-it.


Hot topics in the sector

There are many hot topics, but particular websites or newsfeeds may help you to stay on top of the latest issues.

For example, there has been a lot of interest by the media in aggressive fundraising tactics and more specific issues faced by certain parts of the sector, such as the smaller charities surviving in a saturated funding market.

Try the Charity Commission or sector-based websites such as the Third Sector and Charity Times for email updates about news and issues affecting organisations, as well as news sites like The Guardian.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations champions the voluntary sector and lobbies Government so it is also a good place to see what topics are relevant.

What roles are available?

There are many different roles available within the charity sector. Some you may be more familiar with such as working in fundraising, volunteer management or international development.

Others may be more focused on the operational side of the charity such as HR, finance, PR or legal roles and others on service delivery such as service managers, helpline/advice managers, and support workers.

If it is the sector that you're interested to work in, think creatively about the roles that are available and which would be best suited to you.

Websites such as Prospects and Third Sector provide a good overview of roles and responsibilities.

What are the entry routes?

The vast majority of people, prior to working in the sector, will have done volunteering or internships.

There are lots of opportunities for unpaid experience in charities, although fewer with paid contracts. Some unpaid opportunities are flexible so that you can also find part-time work to supplement income.

Vacancies may be advertised on an organisation's website or national websites such as Do-it. There are lots of opportunities to work and volunteer, both in the UK and internationally.

Employers will be looking for a wide range of skills depending on the role that you are applying for. However, many rate extracurricular activities and key skills such as adaptability and innovation as imperative for working in the sector.

It's common for employees in charities to be involved in lots of aspects of the organisation, particularly if the charity is small. It's important to show a commitment and passion for the work a charity carries out.

There are a very small amount of graduate schemes for the sector, and as a result these are highly sought after. 

CharityWorks offers a 12-month paid graduate scheme for the non-profit sector. Others are more tailored, for example Cancer Research Graduate Programme allows you to specify a stream of work within the charity and intoUniversity Graduate Scheme allows you to train as an education worker in centres across the UK.

The British Red Cross has a part-time, unpaid internship programme and there are details of other schemes on the TargetJobs website.


What type of contracts are offered?

Due to the nature of funding, a lot of the roles offered may be fixed-term or temporary. Average pay is likely to be lower than that offered within the private sector.

The average pay is £25,000 and a detailed analysis of pay in the sector can be seen on the Third Sector website. Job satisfaction is often rates higher within the sector and there are lots of opportunities for flexible working.

To read more about working conditions in the charity sector, see Prospects.

Where to look for job vacancies

Vacancies are advertised on these websites. Third Sector, The Guardian and Charity Job

Also, take a look back at the entry routes for this sector for further information.

Specific recruitment advice

Charities look to employ people who have a commitment to and interest in their aims and ethos; researching a charity is important to demonstrate this. Flexibility and adaptability are also important.

Opportunities for work experience

There are a limited number of internship programmes offered by charities, so one of the best routes to gain experience is through volunteering.

We have a number of programmes that offer both paid and voluntary internships and projects. 

The Nottingham Internship Scheme has some paid internships with local charities, and the Undergraduate Community Internship Programme provides unpaid part-time, term-time, internships with Nottinghamshire charities.

The Nottingham Consultancy Challenge involves groups of students acting as consultants for charities as well as businesses over a month. While you wouldn't be based with a charity, it can be a great way of gaining experience and insight into the sector.

The Student Volunteer Centre and student clubs and societies also offer many opportunities to volunteer with a wide range of charities and can even support you to develop your own ideas.

Enactus is a student-run organisation that supports charities and can be a great way to gain insight and experience of the sector. Do-it has thousands of volunteering opportunities across the UK.


Get involved at Nottingham

Attend relevant Spotlight On... events to hear from Nottingham alumni working in the sector

Take a relevant Nottingham Advantage Award module (e.g. Save the Children)

Join relevant Students' Union societies

Join the Student Volunteer Centre

Apply for the Nottingham Internship Scheme

Register for the Undergraduate Community Internship Programme

Watch a video about the Undergraduate Community Internship Programme


Careers and Employability Service

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