Stepping or falling into the Third Sector
Reflecting back on my journey into a career in the third sector, I realise how interesting a path I have taken. A path, which was not without frustrations, but one which brought me to where I am today, and more importantly, affirmed my belief in the sector, and my place in it.
So with this in mind, I’m going to touch on some of the work happening to encourage and support people into the third sector, and highlight a couple of reasons why even more support from the more “traditional” careers support services could help the work force of the third sector grow and develop even more.
I have realised over the years that I am probably in a minority within the third sector. Yes, I purposefully decided by the age of 19 that charity work was for me. Let me tell you why.
The Guardian media section had done a feature on fundraising which I read in my first year of university. What it showed was that fundraising offers everything I was looking for; people centred, opportunities to get out and about, and a job that genuinely contributes to wider society – I was hooked!
In the years following, I volunteered, arranged my own work experience placements, got elected as president of my university’s Raising and Give Society, and got onto Macmillan Cancer Support’s internship programme for after I graduated; I was on my way.
At this year’s IoF Fundraising Convention (#IoFFC), one speaker Lucy Gower asked delegates for a show of hands for how many had ‘fallen’ into fundraising. At least two thirds of the room put their hands up. While the majority would now never consider working in a different sector - after all charities have so much to offer in terms of nurturing talents, I wasn’t surprised that so many had not started out on that path.
I never heard charities discussed as a profession at school, I don’t remember a single careers fayre pre-university that included charities, my university’s careers service couldn’t advise me on how to get into charity work or gain the right skills beyond volunteering. Even post-graduation, I found that most recruitment agencies out here in the regions are too expensive for the majority of charities to make use of and so were no use to me.
That said, the whole sector is growing and changing, arguably becoming a more visible and attractive place to work, with flexible working opportunities, competitive salaries (to varying degrees) and visible value to the work being done beyond large profit margins.
When I first told my grandparents I wanted to go into fundraising, they wanted to know why I thought I should get paid to do that (they were involved in YMCA as volunteers in the 50s and 60s). If they asked me that question now, I could tell them that the third sector alone represents 6.8% of Wales’ GDP, with 33,496 people employed by the third sector (2.5% of all employees in Wales).
Yet, there is still work to be done. While the employed workforce is predominantly female, they are still not well represented in senior positions. At entry level, there are too few males entering the sector. And there simply needs to be more diversity on trustee boards and in the general workforce.
Amanda Bringans in her maiden speech as new Chair of the Institute of Fundraising identified that a particular area of interest for her will be to increase the number of younger men entering the sector at entry level. Lizzi Hollis, presenting a Fundraising Convention session discussing diverse trustee boards, suggested that presenting the sector as a valuable and viable career choice at an earlier point, might attract more individuals from ethnically diverse backgrounds who traditionally favour other white collar professions such as medicine, law and engineering.
With so many talented and passionate people in the sector, there is hope. And now, more than ever work is being done to address the issues. More charities and volunteer centres are attending careers fayres at universities and colleges, and schools are engaging with charities beyond the volunteering sector of the Duke of Edinburgh Award.
In Wales, Tenovus Cancer Care has started a programme of engagement with Cardiff University and Cardiff and Vale College to give their students an insight into third sector careers.
Chichester University is also now promoting its BA Charity Development degree programme; and the CharityWorks graduate training programme has grown since its inception in 2009, with over 100 trainees working in charities in 2014/15.
I now work for the Institute of Fundraising, an organisation that works tirelessly to support fundraisers to grow and develop within their career; something which particularly attracted me to them. Raising awareness of the third sector as a career option is very important to me as I believe this is one of the best ways to combat the issues at hand. I’ve worked with a local school in Cardiff to give pupils in years 8 and 9 an insight into charities. I will be attending Tenovus’ engagement events in the future to talk about my journey into the Third Sector, and will take any opportunity to encourage, support and guide others into this frankly magical industry.
Alison Pritchard, Project Coordinator, Institute of Fundraising Wales/Cymru
Follow Alison on Twitter: @alippritchard