Having experience of working in all of the sectors – private, public and voluntary – gives you the advantage of "helicopter view", according to Emily Robinson, director of fundraising and campaigns at Alcohol Concern.
Robinson joined the charity in January last year; she had previously been head of public affairs and campaigns at the Local Government Association and her career began in the private sector at a public affairs company.
Alcohol Concern, which campaigns for improved services for people whose lives are affected by alcohol, is a small charity with 10 staff and no other directors. "You can have more responsibility and more variety working for a charity as they tend to be smaller organisations," she says. "My role covers fundraising, policy, communications and research, and I also deputise for the chief executive."
She leads the charity's campaigning and public policy work – for example, it is campaigning for minimum pricing for alcohol and it has recently finished its successful Dry January campaign, which persuaded drinkers to be sponsored to abstain from alcohol for the month, gather sponsorship and donate to the charity.
Her other major duty is to help the organisation to raise funds. "We lost core Department of Health funding when the coalition government came in," she says. "So we raise funds through foundations, trusts and individual donations, and we also run training services."
Robinson’s career began at a public affairs company, Citigate. But it was skills acquired here that led to her being drawn into the charity world: she joined the special care baby charity Bliss in January 2005 as campaigns and policy manager.
"The chief executive wanted to bring in someone from the private sector, because Bliss was starting to do campaigning work," she says. "I was its first appointment – it was felt that, because I had come from the private sector, I had a wider experience of tasks such as liaising with MPs. A broader experience gives you a helicopter view."
She then spent a year as campaigns manager for the global campaigning non-profit group Consumers International. "But I found I didn’t enjoy travelling – especially in economy class," she says.
So she moved to the public sector, taking up the job of head of public affairs and campaigns at the Local Government Association in July 2008. She was at the LGA for three and a half years, but then made the decision to move back to the third sector and join Alcohol Concern.
"In the public sector, one does not have such a strong campaigning voice," she says. "The LGA does a lot of lobbying, but it’s all behind the scenes. Also, I think in some ways the voluntary sector is more prepared to take risks."