|Charity Leaders’ Exchange|
Earlier this week I spoke on a panel at a GoThinkBig event about careers in the social sector alongside representatives from Charityworks (where I am a mentor), Worthwhile and Year Here. If you haven't heard of any of these organisations, they are well worth checking out.
The audience was a diverse range of young people eager to get a few tips and pointers around a career in the sector. They were particularly interested in understanding what they could do to prepare themselves for a charity job and how volunteering, particularly Trusteeship would be a way that they could contribute and at the same time build up their skills and experience.
Do you remember why it was that you joined the charity sector in the first place, or why you first became a volunteer? Is it the same thing that motivates you now and do you use that to motivate other people in your organisation? My first memory of doing something charitable is probably helping to run a jumble sale for a youth organisation I belonged to, the Nautical Training Corps. In fact, I remember a specific argument I had with a lady who thought paying 5p for a dog bowl was too much!
At school I continued with some charitable endeavours- 'Swallow's Stationery Stall' where I sold discount pens etc was a particular highlight- and the same at university. However, I can never remember thinking of the charitable sector as a viable career. It was only years later, in London, wanting to get the sort of job that would make the sacrifices of internships and living on a low income in an expensive city worthwhile that I tried for a charity role. Many of my friends in the sector similarly 'fell into' their first charity jobs, with an ambition to do something socially conscious but a lack of understanding of how the sector might help them to do that.
I wish that children were taught more about charities in schools. They form an essential part of the social fabric and historical context of the country. Many people will turn to a charity for advice or support at some point in their lives, whether for themselves or for their families or friends. I sometimes feel that the sector is poorly understood by the wider public. I have seen many views expressed online that no charity should have staff and of course the pay of charity leaders has been an issue in the past few years. An interesting argument is put forward by Dan Pallotta from the US in this famous speech many of you might have seen and recently his campaign has kicked up a notch.
I am not trying to present the argument that charities have a monopoly on virtue or that they always get things right. However at the moment it feels like there aren't enough clear routes into the sector or through the sector for young people. Even when I joined the sector it felt like I had to work very hard to reach outside the small charity that I worked for and meet others working on similar issues and involved in similar debates. It seems almost ludicrous now with the amount of people that I have had the pleasure of meeting who work for a charity, but I remember how excited I was the very first time I was able to meet other fundraisers and to see that some of the issues we had were in common.
So, next time you have the opportunity to speak to a young person about the sector I urge you to share the information with them that you wish you had when you started off. Give them the warts and all story but please let them know the difference they could make if they spent their time helping to further a charitable cause.