Working in a finance role in the charity sector offers you the opportunity to use your skills in finance and accountancy to support a cause you are passionate about. Many finance professionals who work in the charity sector note that job satisfaction, a good work-life balance and the chance to give back are just some of the benefits of working for a Not-For-Profit organisation. The third sector offers a huge range of opportunities, from varied roles to different working environments, many of which are just as exciting and fast-paced as the commercial sector.
Considering a career change? Our specialist charity finance recruiters have provided insights as to why you should consider moving into a finance role in the charity sector.
Joining the finance department of a charity or Not-For-Profit organisation puts you right at the heart of the organisation. Working in finance in this sector offers variation - you could find yourself working to raise the profile of fundraising projects one week and ensuring donations are accurately recorded the next. It is important for charities to have a strong financial infrastructure as well as committed and motivated employees to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the organisation, all the while contributing towards its cause. Whether you are managing gift aid, maintaining financial records or developing profit projections, the way in which an organisation’s finances are run allows for goals to be reached and for invaluable work to continue successfully.
Due to the importance of an effective finance department within charities, there is a constant demand for finance professionals who have a genuine interest in the sector - or even better, a genuine connection to a charity’s cause. Moving from a finance role within a large corporate company to work for a smaller charity is incredibly beneficial, as you can use your commercial background and awareness to add value to a non-profit organisation.
While the emphasis in a purely commercial organisation is on profitability, the focus across many NFP organisations is now on surplus and return on investment. There are many ways in which the knowledge that comes with having a commercial background can be utilised in the charitable sector. NFP organisations often have trading companies underneath them selling a product and using the money from sales to invest back into the organisation’s valuable work. For example, the income of the British Council is projected to being in the region of 2 billion by 2020, the majority of which is going to come from commercial activities. This is similar for a charity like Marie Curie, where profits from sales and retail operations are invested back into funding care and support. While these are examples of larger organisations, smaller charities also often have a commercial function to maximise the impact of donations and funding towards the core goals of the charity.
This is why charities and Not-For-Profit organisations need finance professionals who have a commercial background, as having commercial awareness means that you appreciate profit and loss, ROI, scenario planning and dealing with commercial products and sales. Salaries and benefits will depend on the size and location of the organisation, and while larger charities may have the means to offer larger salaries, smaller charities will have smaller finance departments which means more responsibility and the chance to make a big impact.
Laura de Poitiers, Finance Manager at Belu Water Ltd surmises, ‘the best part of my job is seeing the work I do have a real impact on the profits we can make, the carbon savings we can deliver and the transformations these actions can effect on the world and its inhabitants.’ The main reason many people choose to work in the charity sector is wanting to give back and make a difference, as opposed to benefitting shareholders. As cited by the ICAEW, whether you want to support your local community, the natural environment or causes that affect people all over the world, you can work for an organisation and a cause that means something to you.
The charity sector can be overlooked by finance professionals searching for roles, but no longer is the charity sector seen as a dusty old sector or the ‘poor cousin’. In reality, organisations within the third sector are often exciting, commercial and fast-paced and can offer a rewarding career, and you often see people who have this ‘world first mentality’ move from corporate organisations into small charities and Not-For-Profit organisations. Working in a finance charity role, you get the best of both worlds! It is an opportunity to utilise your commercial experience as well as making a real difference in society.