Do short term roles help or hinder your career?
We know the charity sector is no stranger to short-term contracts, this is even truer when it comes to fundraising roles. Just how much of an impact does the commonality of six and 12 month contracts have? Are they negative, a lifespan of the role, or a chance to develop a broad and diverse skill set to continually improve your career?
Short term contracts in fundraising and the charity sector
Staffing is almost always dependent on funding, the existence of short-term contracts can be caused by lack of secure funding (or funding guaranteed only for a limited time frame), in some cases it is related to the charity in question’s funding stream. However, this is not always the case, a charity may run a project of fixed length, or a short term campaign, meaning that contract length can be tied to a project or campaign time frame.
Research from the NCVO, reveals that 67% of temporary workers are on fixed-term contracts, showing that a perception of work being less secure is broadly true. For example, of the more than 2200 jobs live on CharityJob, 350 are fixed term contracts; around 15%, these kind of roles prove to be a small amount of overall jobs but are still significant. So we may concede that job security might not be the most solid compared to other sectors, but how about positives?
A series of short-term contracts is also an opportunity to gain new skills which would prove difficult to obtain by remaining in the same job for a few years. Not only will you learn about different organisations but potentially different areas of fundraising. There is also the chance to test drive an opportunity at a new organisation, see if the place is right for you. After all, as a fundraiser, if you really bring in a significant amount more income, then it is likely that the temporary contract could become permanent, or at least a longer-term contract. This is another benefit of temporary or shorter-term contracts in fundraising: if performance improves then it becomes much easier to justify your salary to the charity.
A chance to gain experience
Experience counts for a lot in fundraising, a job path that often prizes it above formal qualifications, this is mostly true of the charity sector in general. However, though staff development and learning is of increasing importance in the sector, staying at the same organisation for a long time cannot yield the same opportunities and wealth of experience that a fundraiser could develop over a series of short-term contracts. The abundance of these contracts allows fundraisers to develop an extremely broad and varied skill set, which is hard to find in other industries. Though the tendency towards these shorter contract lengths can mean that developing a specialisation within, or moving up the seniority ladder, in your area of fundraising, could prove more difficult within a shorter time frame.
There is an argument that employers who offer these contracts may not see their employees as an investment in the way that a corporation might, therefore being more reluctant to offer training and development. Such ongoing career development might have to be taken in your own time and pursued outside of the charity’s pocket, but who knows, it may help towards securing a permanent role, or working your way up the career ladder with your next contract.
Look at the positives
It is worth remembering that temporary and short terms roles can also be a chance to build your CV. A CV can look a little bare to some employers if the standard route of education, entry-level job, permanent job at desired organisation, etc is all they can see. Rather than seeing you as a job hopper, employers in fundraising and the charity sector value the skills and experience you bring to their organisation. Charity sector employers are often aware of the challenges and demands of the sector and will recognise an experienced candidate when they see one. It’s always a good idea to make sure your CV is presented in the best possible way, and that your cover letter presents your suitability and experience in the best possible light.
The instability of work can lead to uncertainty in other parts of life, but it is important to overlook such negatives when considering the long term. It is unlikely that the dominance of short-term contracts in fundraising is likely to change anytime soon. Instead, considering the positives of these roles is essential for a long term career in the sector. Short-term roles can be a boost to career development, rather than a hindrance. If you’re starting out in your career, then consider the abundance of these roles as a chance to boost your career and CV, developing excellent experience you wouldn’t otherwise gain. If you’ve been in the job for a while and suddenly find yourself thrown into a world of short term, insecure work, then consider it an opportunity to expand your knowledge of fundraising beyond the bubble of a single charity. Our advice would be to not be put off by short term contracts, instead seeing them as a chance to expand your horizons and broaden your career. The glass is half full right?
As the official partner of the IoF, CharityJob has more than 500 fundraising roles currently available, both contract and permanent positions.