Career ladder: Stephen Steele of ABF The Soldiers' Charity

The digital communications manager at the armed forces charity talks about his career so far

Stephen Steele
Stephen Steele

Stephen Steele used to work as an iPad specialist for the computer company Apple at its HQ in Regents Street, London, but decided to move into the charity sector because he saw it as more creative.

"I had always wanted to work for a charity because the sector has some very creative people," he says. "Charities might have smaller budgets, but they come up with some very innovative campaigns. Many people think charity is just holding out a bucket, but that’s not the case."

He joined ABF The Soldiers’ Charity as digital communications manager in February 2011, a year after the charity – formerly known as the Army Benevolent Fund – rebranded.

When the opportunity arose to join, he was keen to work with a military charity. "After 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, military charities have had a much higher profile," he says. "In some ways, such charities are seen as old and stuffy, so how do they respond to new challenges such as gaining supports online?"

Steele has been involved in the charity's recent campaigns such as Thanks, Soldier, in which people posted Facebook messages in support of armed forces personnel, culminating in a projection on the White Cliffs of Dover on New Year’s Eve, 2011. "It’s a nice, simple idea and it’s good to see how far it can be taken," he says. "The charity has allowed me to grow awareness of the brand."

As someone who has worked in both the commercial and charity sectors, Steele says there isn’t a great difference between the two. "The main difference for me is that at Apple we were selling a product – that’s the end goal, and it’s very focused," he says. "In a charity, you are working to generate donations and support but there is a ‘heart’ element – a person at the end of it who you are trying to help."

Unlike Steele, most of his team have worked primarily in the charity sector. But he says they could pass muster in the commercial world. "It’s a misconception – one that I previously held to some extent – that charity workers could not be suited to work in a more commercial environment," he says. "In fact, the required skillset is not that different."

Some believe that the commercial sector scoffs at the appearance of a charity on a CV, but Steele disagrees. "Firms are increasing their corporate social responsibility and trying harder to emphasise their links with the charity world," he says. "I think a charity adds benefit to my CV. If I returned to the commercial sector, I think I would have more value than somebody who had never worked in the charity sector."

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