The charity and voluntary sector, also referred to as the 'third sector', 'not-for-profit sector', 'community sector' or 'civic sector', aims to create social rather than material wealth.
Many charities are run as professional businesses and carry out functions including research, lobbying and the raising and redistribution of funds, so you may work in operations, fundraising, policy, communications and marketing, events, administration or research.
Issues that charities campaign on include social services, housing, education, human rights, community development, international development, health and medicine, and conservation and environment.
In a small organisation, you may need to be a jack-of-all-trades, while larger charities look for employees with specific professional skills and experience.
Where can you work?
- Social enterprises – by selling goods and services in the open market, social enterprises reinvest the money they make back into their business or the local community. This allows them to tackle social problems, improve people’s life chances, support communities and help the environment. Social Enterprise UK explains further.
- Non-governmental organisations – voluntary groups or institutions with a social mission, which operate independently from government. The World Association of Non-Governmental Organisations provides a list of NGO’s, searchable by geographical and policy interest.
- Charities – in the UK, familiar names include health charities, such as Cancer Research UK, Macmillan and the Wellcome Trust; global development groups, including Save the Children, Oxfam and the British Red Cross; and animal charities such as the RSPCA and the RSPB. Charity Choice provides a useful directory of charities in the UK, searchable by specialism and region. Wikipedia provides a list of international charities, including Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), UNICEF and CARE. To find out more about international development charities, visit our Careers in International Development page.
- Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) –organisations with fewer than 250 employees. Often routed in the local community and regularly involving staff in CSR activities.
What’s changing in the sector?
The sector is benefitting hugely from social media, as it enables fast, effective targeting of potential donors, volunteers and contributors, for fundraising and other campaigns aimed at internet users. This area is growing all the time and there are now dedicated digital jobs available.
Following some major scandals and negative press coverage, charities are under intense public scrutiny for their ethics and how they deliver their charitable purpose. To re-build public confidence, they increasingly need to demonstrate that they are using funds in the best way to support the people on whose behalf they operate. Effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms are key to being able to show return on investment.
There is also a shift to greater focus on innovation and a growth of the ‘challenger brand’; fundraising will become more competitive as the market becomes more diversified and will centre on personalising messages to prospective audiences and supporters.
CareerHub – jobs board targeting LSE students, including events and networking opportunities.
CharityJob – a well-known charity vacancy website.
Charity People – specialist recruiters for the sector.
Third Sector Jobs – charity jobs in the UK.
Global Charity Jobs – charity jobs worldwide.
Guardianjobs – a key recruitment site in the UK.
Building your experience
Moving from corporate to charity sector – useful advice from charity recruiter Charity People.
Becoming a charity trustee – advice from CharityJob on how to secure a trusteeship.
From volunteer to employee – advice from CharityJob on how to convert your volunteering experience into a paid role.
LSE Volunteer Centre – advice and support for LSE volunteers.
Tips for getting into the charity sector – blog from LSE Volunteer Centre Manager David Coles.
Getting your first role in the charity sector – blog from LSE Careers Consultant Garcia Williamson.