From presenting volunteering experiences to demonstrating the impact you’ve had as an employee, Clare Whitmell reveals all the essentials for writing a charity CV.
The charity sector is currently experiencing growth, according to panelists on a live Q&A on job market predictions. Typical entry-level roles include Adminstrator/Office Assistant, Fundraising Assistant, Marketing/Communications Assistant and Campaigns Assistant, says Georgina Anstey of NCVO.
Within fundraising are roles in direct marketing and corporate fundraising, trust and statutory fundraising, legacy fundraising, major donors, and events. Not all roles are face-to-face: behind the scenes roles exist in communications, database management, research and analytics, and donor stewardship.
To gain an entry-level role in the sector you’ll need experience, with voluntary work particularly valued. Cat Powell of The Children’s Hospital Charity says,”The more …voluntary experience you add to your CV, the more viable a candidate you are.”
Try smaller charities, grassroots organisations or umbrella organisations to make contacts, gain experience and build skills. Smaller charities are less likely to be inundated with applications (as they often lack the budget to advertise nationally) and can be more flexible with hours. Matching services can put you in touch with charities needing pro bono help, says Elizabeth Hudson of BTCV in Ask the experts: working in charity communications.
You can find roles on charity websites and specialist job sites or through speculative applications. Adrian Salmon suggests asking people doing the kind of fundraising you want to do which small charities to target. Then work out what skills you offer and make an informed speculative approach. “You’ll have proved you can do some of the things fundraising requires: building relationships geared to what you want to achieve. That’s really the single most important skill a fundraiser can have.”
If you’re moving from another sector, try a sideways approach. Take a job in a different department for a charity you feel strongly about, advises Liz Jones at UNICEF UK. This gives you the chance to network and demonstrate your commitment. Alternatively, go in at a lower level. A contributor says you need patience and flexibility about the jobs you will and won’t consider.
Keep your CV concise and focused, matching your skills, experience and achievements to the needs of the organisation and to the role.
For example, in events management, Rosie Myres at St John’s Ambulance identifies time management, organisation abilities, and effective communication strategies; while for donor roles, Teresa Forgione of Parkinson’s UK looks for the ability to manage complex and demanding relationships, as well as good record-keeping and attention to detail.
Don’t neglect ‘soft’ skills. Kate Hunter of CASE Europe says, “Front-line fundraisers need to be good communicators and above all, good listeners. It’s really important that they can respond to donors and understand what motivates them to support an organisation.” Other important traits are a can-do attitude, good judgement and intuition and a commitment to the institution.
Digital skills can put you ahead, according to Catherine Cottrell of the RSPCA. “As social media is opening up new opportunities to engage with younger and more diverse audiences, this area is becoming increasingly important as a cost-effective communication tool.”
Quantify your achievements. Paul Parker of Charity Fundraising Ltd says,”Stating you have certain skills is one thing, but actually evidencing the positive impact they have had makes a real difference.”
Suggested CV layout
CV heading (i.e. the job title you’re applying for) with a brief sentence underneath describing what you do.
12 months’ experience coordinating fundraising activities and events for a regional charity.
Link these to the role requirements. Include specific PC or software skills for technical or back-office roles.
Treat voluntary experience in the same way as paid employment. Susan Simmonds advises, “Candidates undersell the experience, usually by failing to analyse its value strategically and by not demonstrating the value it can bring to a role.” Give the dates of your involvement, a brief paragraph on the organisation and your responsibilities, and then list your achievements and impact. If you’re a career changer, consider splitting this section, leading with voluntary experience, then giving the most relevant details of previous employment.
Fundraiser at (organisation) (dates)
Supported the development director of a regional charity, using a range of fundraising techniques including corporate sponsorship, digital fundraising and community events.
* Identified and developed corporate sponsorships, raising 15% extra revenue in six months
* Generated 40% extra traffic to website through conducting campaigns across social media channels
* Coordinated community fundraising event, liaising with a large network of volunteers
Include relevant training courses (along with dates, details of institutions.) You may need a degree for some roles, while for others this won’t be as important as your ability to interact with people.
Include a cover letter to explain your personal motivations for working in the organisation.
The original version of this article can be found on Guardian Careers, along with loads more tips, chats and career advice.