People Management: The myths about working for charity

Misconceptions continue to hamper the recruitment drive, writes Indira Das-Gupta.

Working in the voluntary sector is still not seen as a viable career option by many, according to a survey that reveals 47 per cent of charities have problems in filling vacancies.

The findings, by FutureSkills 2003, prompted umbrella body the NCVO to organise a focus group at the end of 2004 to look into the problem and suggest ways to promote the sector. The group comprised charity recruitment agencies and sector experts, and was headed by the Voluntary Sector National Training Organisation, a body responsible for promoting skills development across the UK. It is also leading the ChangeUp Workforce Development Hub.

Janet Fleming, head of VSNTO, said: "There is still a phenomenal number of people who do not realise that you can get paid for working in the sector, so it isn't something a significant number of people consider as a career. This is changing, however - for the first time last year, Universities UK included a section on the voluntary sector on its graduate website. We hope to get hub funding to allow us to work with other charities and target more young people."

The Russell Commission recently found that a surprising 41 per cent of young people are involved in activities which count as volunteering, such as helping in a community centre, but don't actually call it volunteering.

This may explain why few consider it as a career when they leave education.

Mo Kanneh of YouthNet UK, where most members of staff are under 30, said: "I saw an advert for a youth journalist that sounded interesting, but then I saw it was for a charity. I presumed that would mean working in a drab office and the job wouldn't be very exciting. It turns out I was wrong."

In some cases the will is there, but not the means. Evelyn Kirby, a partner at recruitment agency the Kage Partnership, said: "There needs to be more entry-level jobs. We come across a lot of young people who want to get into fundraising, but charities are often only interested in experienced fundraisers. Demand at entry level is outstripping supply."

It isn't just young people that the sector is failing to attract. Another issue VSNTO wants to address is movement between sectors. Fleming said: "It's important to realise that people from the private and public sectors often have transferable skills - for example, somebody who has worked in marketing is a natural-born fundraiser."

KEY POINTS

- FutureSkills 2003 shows that 47 per cent of charities have trouble filling vacancies

- The NCVO set up a 2004 focus group to research and address the problem

- Russell Commission found that 41 per cent of young people are involved in volunteering, but don't all define it as such

- A lack of entry-level jobs means it is difficult for young people to get into fundraising.

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