Mark Flannagan: We are the third sector - we should be bold and confident

Without us many will have a poorer life, we make a huge difference to a huge number, writes the chief executive of Beating Bowel Cancer

Who of us came back from our summer holiday raring to go and excited to be back?

The expected answer is all of us. Because we work for a charity we should be especially keen to get back to doing good and to serve the cause. It wouldn’t be right, would it, if we faced our first day back after a pleasant holiday with a wish for more time off?

Well I, for one, would happily have had a longer holiday. Two weeks plus the August Bank Holiday Monday was restorative, but it reminded me of the wider world of family and friends. It reminded me that work/life balance is often talked about but very hard to achieve. Holidays remind us that there is a wider world out there that is "normal" and less intense.

I was also reminded that the charity world that we live in is not really understood by those around us. I am not sure that our nearest and dearest know what it is we do. True there are some who have said to me that it must be particularly scary and tough for charity in the current economic climate and with Brexit looming. But they often think that all we need to do is work harder, ask nicely and focus more on the beneficiary stories and all will be fine.

I have also had quite a few conversations whilst I was away about why I chose this job and there was some surprise that this is actually a career, much like any other. A couple of people even asked if I was paid!

Now most of us are back from holiday we should be determined to be bold and confident about our chosen career. We are the third sector, a particular and necessary part of our society. From the roots of charity in medieval hospitals to Victorian philanthropy to today’s diverse and dedicated sector our charities help people every day, in the UK and right around the world. Charity, like "the poor", will always be with us if there are problems to be fixed and people concerned enough to try.

For most of us our next break will be Christmas, just around the corner really. Watch out for Christmas products in the shops soon. Just between now and then can I suggest that each day we get up and go to work with the following in mind:

  • Without us many will have a poorer life. We make a huge difference to a huge number
  • Despite some negative headlines – and there will be more to come – the individuals we meet every day admire our dedication. They often don’t fully understand it, but that doesn’t mean they don’t value what we do
  • We are a diverse sector, but we do have more in common than divides us. I would personally rather be in a room full of charity staff than in a room full of other professionals. I like the people we work with and think we are, mostly, good people
  • Whilst our sector may be made up of organisations, some frighteningly large in size, we are all people with essentially the same values and motivations

If we can just get to Christmas with these in mind then I hope we can then reflect back on what has been an interesting 2016 and look forward positively to 2017.

Mark Flannagan (@MarkFlannCEO) is chief executive of Beating Bowel Cancer

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