Considering a career in charity?

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The charity sector was once overlooked by trainees searching for roles. However, the perception has dramatically changed away from being considered the ‘poor cousin’.

Organisations within the ‘third sector’ are often exciting, commercial and fast-paced and can offer a rewarding career. As a result, trainees are steadily making the move from corporates into charities and not-for-profit organisations.

Working in a finance charity role allows trainees to get the best of both worlds – it is an opportunity to utilise commercial experience, while making a real difference in society.

Lee Owen, director at Hays Accountancy & Finance, comments: ‘There are lots of opportunities for finance professionals who want to work within the charity or non-for-profit sector. Similar to any other organisations, there are clear career paths through management accounting, finance director or specialist advisory roles.

‘Working in the charity sector can also provide a better sense of purpose for some professionals – knowing that you are helping an organisation that makes a difference.’


Not-for-profits (NFPs) have become much more sophisticated in recent years. They increasingly look and operate like corporations, eager and able to nimbly respond to opportunities presented by the market.

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Whether it is a natural disaster half the world away, or local donors who want the organisation to think bigger about its programmes, many NFPs are employing new thinking, technological advances and a more entrepreneurial approach to become more agile, adept and prepared.

For example, a number NFP organisations now have trading companies underneath them selling a product and using the money from sales to invest back into the organisation’s valuable work.

Even smaller charities also often have a commercial function to maximise the impact of donations and funding towards the core goals of the charity. UK-based care charity Marie Curie invests profits from sales and retail operations and it generates over £150m a year from fundraising, with over £16m coming from retail. From this, it invests over £100m a year into the National Health Service (NHS) and hospices.


While three corporate employees may be assigned to one project, it is often the case that, at NFPs, one employee can find themselves assigned to three projects. This additional responsibility and exposure can lead to faster career development and more varied job responsibilities for those looking to get ahead quickly.

In addition, with generally fewer staff in the finance department, NFPs often look to employees to multi-task. Because of that, as an environment, they can offer the opportunity for employees to learn new skills and gain experience in a wide variety of areas.

Similarly, employees at NFPs can take advantage of less hierarchical structures, which means trainees are likely to enjoy the benefits of greater interaction with senior management.

This article was first published in Student Accountant in December 2021

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