OPINION: Working for a charity has its own rewards

GERALDINE PEACOCK, chief executive of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association

"You must find it so worthwhile.

If I had £1 for every time I'd heard that, I'd be very wealthy indeed. It is always spoken in slightly hushed tones and follows the question about what your job is. And, while nearly always sincere, it often harbours an unspoken assumption that we do what we do mainly because we are altruistic and our rewards should have nothing to do with financial remuneration. A recent newspaper survey showed that a majority of those questioned would like to work in the voluntary sector, if money were no object.

Of course, there is a lot of truth in that comment. There is huge satisfaction to be derived from working in the voluntary sector.

Most obvious is the commitment of staff to achieving their organisation's charitable aims by working with service users to identify solutions to major social issues which threaten individuals and society. There's a passionate energy about the sector which, although a little unruly, drives people on to attempt the impossible. This generates creativity which, combined with the comparative lack of "red tape", encourages lateral thinking and innovation.

What ignites commitment and creativity is the real possibility of changing things for the better. Whether it is through the provision of services, campaigning, or even helping people realise their potential.

The continuing evolution of the voluntary sector brings increasing rewards for those of us working in it. The opportunities presented by cross-sector partnerships, the development of new income streams and social entrepreneurialism, present us with new ways of achieving our charitable aims.

The increasing acknowledgement by Government and other sectors of the voluntary sector's pivotal role in society, gives what we do a new urgency and relevance. With our growing role and confidence has come a recognition that we need to attract the liveliest and most creative staff if we are to do our very best by our beneficiaries. While pay levels may not yet reflect those in the private sector, they are significantly better than they were - and rightly so.

So next time I'm told our jobs must be so "worthwhile", I'll agree but point out that, while we may be hoping for rewards in heaven, the sector holds plenty for us here on earth.

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