The charity, not-for-profit and volunteering sector is a diverse employment area both in terms of working environment and job role. There are opportunities to work anywhere in the world in hands-on roles, fundraising and campaigning or behind the scenes in finance or administration.
Increased emphasis on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has resulted in the creation of CSR roles within large companies as well as investment in volunteering opportunities for staff, and therefore volunteering coordinator positions.
There has also been an increase in graduate fundraiser positions and the Institute of Fundraising now promotes fundraising as a career path, offering a range of courses up to International Advanced Diploma level.
Competition for roles can be high and even though the pay is usually low in comparison to the private sector, this is offset by higher than average levels of job satisfaction and the ability to make a significant difference in the lives of others.
Where do I start?
Within the charity, not-for-profit and voluntary sector you could be looking at a wide range of occupations. Prospects has a useful list of job profiles each containing relevant information about key responsibilities, skill requirements, starting salaries, entry requirements, career prospects with links to major employers and current graduate vacancies.
Job roles in this sector include (but are not restricted to):
- Advice worker
- Charity fundraiser
- Charity officer
- Community arts worker
- Community development worker
- Community education officer
- Emergency planning/management officer
- International aid/development worker
- Policy officer
- Public affairs consultant
- Public relations officer
- Social researcher
- Volunteer coordinator
- Youth worker
As part of your job-hunting strategy you will need to keep up to date on developments in this sector and keep track of any vacancies that are coming up. Below are some key resources to help you research the opportunities available. The knowledge gained through your research may help you to target your applications and will help when preparing for interviews.
- Prospects – The charity and voluntary work sector guide is a useful starting point with an overview, graduate job profiles, case studies and graduate job hunting advice.
- TargetJobs – Find out about salaries, types of jobs and employers and making applications in this sector.
- The Guardian – Latest news and features on the voluntary sector, socail enterprise and the Guardian's voluntary sector network.
- Third Sector Jobs – Charity work, not-for-profit and voluntary sector news.
- Charity Times – Charity Times online complements the printed publication, offering breaking news, a fortnightly email newsletter and in-depth features to offer comprehensive coverage of all the financial. legal, fundraising, marketing and technology management issues facing this sector.
Competition for jobs in this sector is fierce and work experience could be the deciding factor to securing a graduate job. Undertaking work experience is invaluable in developing expertise and the all-important transferable skills, which will help you demonstrate your motivation and commitment to this area of work.
However finding experience will take time and effort; employers receive many CVs every week so you will have to work hard to stand out from the crowd. You can find out more about how to create a targeted CV through our website.
Work placements can provide you with an invaluable insight into working life and offer you the opportunity to apply the industry knowledge you are learning as part of your studies. Placements will also enable you to develop transferable skills in the workplace, such as communication, team-work and time-management, in addition to finding out more about a specific job role or industry, which will lead to more informed decisions upon graduating.
On some degrees work placements are part of the programme, whilst on others you can choose to complete a placement as one of your modules. Many courses at the University of Portsmouth enable you to complete a year's work placement or self-employment placement should you choose to.
Your first point of contact to arrange this will be your placement office in your Faculty; you should aim to see them and start looking for a placement position early in your second year. Find out how to contact your Placements Office and research general placement opportunity sources by visiting our placements page.
A number of larger charities and NGOs offer internships (either paid or unpaid) and some may also offer open days or taster experiences. The charities and NGOs offering internships, listed below, will give you an idea of the opportunities that may be available; you will need to do thorough research to identify further specific opportunities:
- Cancer Research UK
- International Crisis Group
- British Red Cross
- World Land Trust
- Amnesty International
- Global Justice Now
When looking for volunteering opportunities, think about local social enterprises and groups as well as the larger charities and Non-Governmental Organisations. Our international volunteering guide contains links to relevant resources. In addition the Careers and Employability Service offers current students and graduates access to a Virtual Volunteering Bank which provides local opportunities to undertake alongside your studies. Similarly you can access these opportunities through the paper-based bank located at the Careers and Employability Centre. Please be aware that some international volunteering opportunities may have costs attached so it is important to check all details thoroughly. Find out more about how the Careers and Employability Service can support you with your voluntary work experience.
Create your own experience
This can be a difficult field to create you own experience in, however there are a few ways you could consider doing so:
- Start up your own social enterprise – if you have a practical idea on how to help your community, protect your local environment or solve a problem in society then setting up a social enterprise might be a great way of showing your proactive and charitable attributes. A social enterprise is the ability to do good through doing business rather than through charitable donations, for more information make an appointment to talk to one of our student startup support team.
- Online activism – there are conflicting views on the efficacy of online activism with Forbes, the Independent and the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs being some of the many voices discussing its virtue. If used in a considered manner then online activism can be an effective way to gain experience of campaigning for change, whether you start an online petition for a particular issue, write a blog series to raise awareness of a cause or organise and build a movement.
- Get involved in community events and initiatives such as beach cleans, street parties or fundraising festivals.
Key considerations before starting your search for work experience
- What are your career goals and aspirations? How might the opportunity help you work towards these?
- Think critically about gaps in your skill set that need to be addressed. How might an opportunity enable you to fill this gap?
- How much time can you commit to work experience? How will you fit it in with your plans and other commitments during term time or over the summer period?
- What type of organisation would you like to gain experience with? A community venture, charity, NGO or pressure group? What sector of charity and volunteering work would you like to gain experience of - human rights, animal welfare, international development or social change? Would you prefer to stay local or volunteer abroad?
Tips for success when looking for experience
- Research charities and NGOs offering summer internships, vacation placements, taster experiences or volunteering opportunities.
- Explore the various areas within the charity and not-for-profit sector before you apply for work experience; knowing what you want to specialise in will help you focus your research and ensure you gain the relevant skills.
- Get involved in University extra curricular activities related to your interests such as with the Students' Union or with University clubs or societies; here you can develop transferable skills and experience such as communication and teamwork.
- Create a Linkedin profile to network with sector employers - see our Networking and Social Media section for further guidance.
- Speak to your tutor or other members of Faculty staff to identify potential networking or research opportunities that could lead to work experience.
- Make the most of opportunities to meet sector professionals at events both within the university and externally to build your network of contacts.
- Be proactive and make direct contact with organisations that interest you and apply speculatively; send a targeted CV and a cover letter focussed on why you are interested in them and why they should be interested in you.
Finding a job
There are many different areas within the Charity, Not-for-profit and Volunteering sector and work can be varied. You could get involved in: campaigning and lobbying, international development, community development, human rights, fundraising or volunteer management, so some thought as to which area(s) you are particularly interested in will help you to target your job search.
Employers who recruit in these areas
- Small and medium sized enterprises
- Social enterprises
- Voluntary Organisations
- Non-Governmental Organisations
- Pressure groups
- Think Tanks
Useful websites to help you start your job search
Tips for finding a job
- Keep up to date with charity and not-for-profit news and trends by following interest groups and organisations on twitter, this information might help you identify opportunities to network and tap into the hidden job market.
- Keep your on line job search flexible as some employers might use different titles to describe the same job role.
- If you are keen to focus on a specific area within the charity and not-for-profit sector then check out the specialist websites for these areas for current vacancies.
- Most companies have a Twitter and/or Facebook account, register with them as this is often a place where new opportunities are posted, and where you can keep in touch with their current activities.
Useful social media feeds
Follow Twitter or Facebook feeds to receive news and information about current projects for the areas/organisations that you are interested in. Most charities and NGOs have a twitter feed and a Facebook page and this is a good way to start networking with an array of people.
You can find information on the most innovative and followed accounts through the following links:
The Careers and Employability Service offers support to students throughout their studies and provision for graduates up to five years after graduation, with advice and guidance on:
- Career options
- Further study
- CV and covering letters
- Application forms
- Job search
We have an online jobs board advertising a variety of graduate jobs across different sectors and locations. We also have a dedicated in-house Graduate Recruitment Consultancy that delivers a personalised job matching service.
You can also access our services by calling or emailing us:
Email us: email@example.com
Phone us: +44 (0)2392 842684