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.
Different types of organisations and hot topics
Charities are organisations that are established to provide funding and support for a particular cause.
Large well-known organisations include:
Smaller local organisations include:
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.
Websites such as Bond (British Overseas NGOs for Development) can give you an overview of the sector more widely.
Social enterprises are businesses trading for social and environmental purposes who re-invest their profits to further their aims.
Examples include The Big Issue, The 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.
Keeping up to date with the issues in the sector is important. You may get asked a question about a sector hot topic or an issue for a particular charity at an interview.
One hot topic covered by the media recently is around aggressive fundraising tactics. There has also been comment about 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 and what are the entry routes?
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.
Attend our Spotlight On: Charity Work to hear from Nottingham alumni working in the sector
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.
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 few graduate schemes for the sector, and as a result these are highly sought after.
Where to look for vacancies? What types of contracts are offered?
Where to look for job vacancies
Vacancies are advertised on:
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.
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.
Employers will be looking for a wide range of skills depending on the role that you are applying for. Many rate extracurricular activities and key skills such as adaptability and innovation as imperative for working in the sector.
What types of contracts are offered?
Due to the nature of funding, a lot of the roles offered may be fixed-term or temporary.
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.
Work experience opportunities
Spotlight On: Charities
Sarah Hancock, philosophy and theology alumna, works for The Challenge.
She gives advice on how you can stand out in the recruitment process, the skills charities look for and the evidence that you will need to demonstrate.