How to get a great job in the not-for-profit sector

Over the past five years, charities and not-for-profit organisations have had to become more commercial and innovative as the competition for funds has increased. The recession arrived at the same time as demand for charity services increased. In particular, it has been the marketing and fundraising departments that have had to develop the most because of the need for increased funding. Charities have been rebranding and refreshing to make sure they stay competitive in the market place.
This need for change and increased marketing resource has led to a lot of charities starting to look for people outside the charity sector and moving away from the stereotypical view of the way a charity works. Both fundraising and digital areas have been growing quicker than charities can develop talent and so they are having to look for transferable skills from the private sector even though they may not have the ideal background.

Commercial sector professionals want in

We have seen more and more candidates from the commercial sector wanting to work within the NFP/charity sector for a number of reasons:
  • Big brands with high profile campaigns eg. Cancer Research/ Macmillan – professionals are looking for responsibility and recognition.
  • A desire to work for a good cause – making a difference.
  • Work/ life balance - charities do tend to be more flexible around working hours/ working from home etc to attract the best candidates because they can’t compete with the top salaries.
It can often be difficult for commercial sector candidates to make the move to NFP organisations because:
  • Charities are wary of the differences – NFP organisations tend to have lots of different objectives and it can be difficult for an FMCG product brand manager, for example, to demonstrate the variety of experience and handle the large amount of stakeholder management involved.
  • Charities really want people who are passionate about what they do.
  • The bigger, more corporate charities will expect tier 1 candidates.
  • Salary and unrealistic expectations - ultimately you need a LOT more experience to earn the same money.
  • Budget management – charities need people with very good budget skills and in particular people who can get a lot out of a small budget.

Budget management – charities need people with very good budget skills and in particular people who can get a lot out of a small budget.

  • Most charities will expect a degree but won’t specify a subject.
  • Experience – NFPs will acknowledge charity and private sector experience but still see a preference for charity experience, ideally within the same area.
  • Personality is key as lots of stakeholder management is needed internally and externally. The perfect candidates with regards to skill can still miss out on the job if they don’t have the right personality.

Current demand

The demand we are seeing at the moment is predominantly for digital talent. Charities are increasingly trying to integrate digital across all areas. Social media and e-fundraising are becoming whole new teams in NFP organisations.
Fundraising is a skill set that is always in demand within the NFP sector. Corporate, major donor and direct marketing are especially hard to recruit therefore looking outside the sector for top talent is often necessary, as is a good staff retention strategy. Good candidates in this area are seeing big pay rises and getting snapped up quickly.
We are continuing to see a demand for temporary and interim staff as the sector lends itself well to this type of employment with lots of campaigns, funding for a limited period of time and corporate partnerships.

How to tackle an interview at a not-for-profit/charity

Most charities will carry out competency based interviews at the first stage. The competency questions will relate very closely to the job description and the best preparation you can do is to make sure that you have at least two examples prepared for each of the job description requirements. There will normally be a more informal second stage to get to meet the line manager and team in a more relaxed environment.
If you’re a marketing professional who is thinking about moving into the charity or not-for-profit sector, contact Victoria Dhillon, operating director at Michael Page Marketing now.
T: +44 20 7269 2491