Getting into the Charity & Volunteering Sector
There are more than 180,000 charities registered in the UK, with each one aiming to help others by providing aid, healthcare, food, support … whatever people in their specific part of society need. The most commonly supported charities are involved in healthcare, hospitals or children’s welfare, but there are many others, with causes touching on the environment, poverty, human rights and more.
What can I do?
Chances are, if you want to build a career in this sector you want to help other people. The good news is that when you’re working for a charitable organisation, in whatever role, that’s just what you’re doing: from front line staff in the community to office personnel taking care of admin, everyone is contributing to the work of the charity.
As an apprentice on the campaigning side of things, you’ll be helping to carry your particular charity’s message out into the world, raising awareness of the issues. That might mean going out on the street and engaging with members of the public, but it also means trying to get media coverage through press releases and articles; representing the charity in meetings with the business community or politicians; or perhaps travelling to protest, help people or deliver aid anywhere in the world.
None of this is possible without fundraising. Work in this area could also mean pounding the pavements looking for donations, but that’s just one aspect of it. Charitable fundraising also involves huge events (like Comic Relief or Children in Need), all of which require armies of people to work on them; or carefully-managed relationships with major donors, which means building a one-on-one relationship with them.
Levels of Apprenticeship
There are generally two levels of apprenticeship offered in these areas. The one you choose will depend on your previous experience and qualifications:
Intermediate – equivalent to GCSEs / Standard Grades Advanced – equivalent to A Levels / Highers
An intermediate apprenticeship takes two years to complete, then you can continue for another year to achieve the Advanced level; a Higher Apprenticeship will then require additional time. If you don’t have the qualifications you need yet, a Traineeship can help fill in the gaps in your learning.
Life as a Charity Apprentice
The things that cause people to need help from charities – poverty, famine, disease, abuse and more – don’t keep office hours, so in many cases neither do charity workers. If you’re working on campaigns you might work in the evenings and at weekends in addition to more regular hours, for example; you might also have to travel as part of your job.
Your working day will vary according to the charity you work for and the Apprenticeship you choose. So you might be helping to write a fundraising proposal; sending out information on why the charity is recommending people boycott a product; or working with a team of volunteers to organise their work schedule. Charity work behind the scenes can also involve a lot of research or meetings to try and influence people. Charities react to developing situations but they also need long term plans, so as part of your Apprenticeship studies you might spend time looking at strategy, along with things like marketing, fundraising tactics and how to manage people.
‘People’ is perhaps the key word here, as in the end all charity work comes down to making life better for people, and also involves working with them, a lot – so you’ll need to be a people person, every day, while you balance your work and study commitments. Happily, many people in this sector love what they do and take enormous satisfaction from knowing that their work is making a difference; which is always a good thing.
To get started in the sector you’ll need a few things on top of your enthusiasm for the work. Being a capable, confident communicator is one of them as many of the tasks involved in charity work require lots of talking to people. If you’re working in fundraising or on a campaign you’ll also need good reading and writing skills to help you prepare information and send it out to people.
The different roles available have different requirements – if you’re out on the streets campaigning you’ll need to be fairly fit, confident and even thick-skinned, with the ability to think on your feet. In admin roles you’ll need good ICT skills and a good grasp of social media (but then, you probably have both of those things already, right?). Charity work is a team effort, so you’ll definitely need to be good at working with other people, taking direction and being flexible as the demands of the job can vary from day to day. Finally, you’ll need deep reserves of patience for the days when the work is tough.
Routes into Charity Apprenticeships
To find out what’s available near you, speak to us or search for charity vacancies. You can also head to Skills Platform, which has information on apprenticeships in the industry, or try investigating individual charities to find out more about how to get involved – the Charity Commission has a useful search function as well as info on the sector. Routes into the charity sector include:
- Vocational qualifications / A Levels
- National Diplomas and Certificates
- Higher National Certificates (HNCs) and Diplomas (HNDs)
- Foundation Degrees (England and Wales only)
- Bachelors Degrees