Saturday, August 19, 2006

How to make it as a charity manager: Part 2 Why Do People Want To Work For A Charity?

The following extract is from the book, 'How to make it as a charity manager' by Anthony Gibbs published by Volsector.

There are many more reasons why someone may be drawn to getting a job with a charity rather than work in the private sector:

• It could appear to offer better career development opportunities and in fact depending on your personal ambitions and skills this may well be the case. My own experience is that with a good commercial background you can do well for yourself in the voluntary sector – providing you accept the need to make allowances for the differences and don’t expect too much too soon.

• You may agree with the philosophy or aims of the charity. After all, it’s not got quite the same appeal to find empathy with a widget manufacturer.

• Perhaps you used to work as a volunteer with the charity and are keen to dedicate your career to the same organisation.

• Equally, either you, a friend or a relative was, could be, or may have been a beneficiary of the charity which you would like to work for.

• Maybe you regard working for a charity as a cushy number? Perhaps getting a job in the voluntary sector seems a better bet than a real job? If this is what appeals to you about working for a charity, for what it’s worth please don't delude yourself - you'll probably work hard for a charity than just about anywhere else!

What sort of people will you find already working for a charity? I’d group them as follows:

1. The Obsessives

These are the people for whom working for a charity is more than just a job. It’s a crusade, a deeply held belief which manifests itself as much more than mere enthusiasm. In some cases these people can take intensity to new extremes and there are some in every charity. Those who passionately extol the underlying aims of the charity at every opportunity and defend its values and principles at all costs against all–comers. There won’t be many of them but you’ll spot them instantly in presentations or meetings as these are the ones who will always expect everyone else to live breath and sleep the work of the charity just as they do and inevitably have little conversation other than the work of the charity.

It’s always worth having someone like this on your side but they can be wearing. You’ll know the type, they’ll always want to start a conversation just when you’re about to go home, or suggest that you join them for some quality time together on a Saturday morning or one evening. Well–intentioned but difficult to shake off if they sense you may be a potential convert to the cause.

2. The Mean-Wells

The Mean Wells are those who genuinely believe in the work of the organisation but may not appear to possess the same drive and zeal as the Obsessives. The Mean Wells can however be relied on to give you support when you need it and can often provide you with valuable background about the charity you are working for.

3. I know what it’s like

Easy to confuse with the obsessives, there are those who work for charities who have a vested interest. It may well be that this individual suffers from or knows someone who suffers from the particular illness or disability which the charity is concerned with, or maybe has a close personal link with the aims or values of the charity in question.

The problem with this type of person is that they will often try and persuade you that their own views and opinions are shared by all the beneficiaries of your charity who may not have the same inside track. Be careful. These people can create a false impression just to suit their own ends sometimes intentionally, sometimes not.

It’s always worth remembering that if your charity meets the needs of say a hundred thousand people but ten of them work for your charity, don’t be swayed by the minority view.

4. The Jobsworths

This might come as a shock to you – it did me, but there are people working for charities who regard it as a cushy number, far better than having to work for a living.

Jobsworths include those who love having a report to write as they can make that fill their time for weeks on end, or even better be part of a project team with lots of meetings to go to. The common denominator though will be the precision with which start and finish times are observed and references to job descriptions when you start asking them to do that little bit extra.

If you decide to work for a charity, you can make a difference and help wheedle out the Jobsworths – personally I maintain that a charity most of all can least afford passengers. It’s not always a popular view but it depends on your own outlook. Let’s face it, if you’re a Jobsworth yourself you probably wouldn’t be reading this book, would you?

5. What about overtime?

What about it, I hear you say. Well, another surprise to me was to discover that many charities pay staff overtime and that the availability of this extra income does attract some people to work for some voluntary organisations.

This was a really strange concept to me in that I genuinely believed that no one working for a charity would ever be a clockwatcher and that if a job needed completing out of normal working hours it would just get done. Especially when you consider that many of those same organisations work with volunteers who give their time up without any payment at all. How wrong I was.

You could find that depending on the salary grade or job title that some staff in your charity are paid at agreed overtime rates for working unsocial hours or beyond the normal working day.
The difficulties arise when you find yourself managing staff who base their outgoings on regular overtime payments as though overtime is an accepted part of their remuneration.

My view is that the question of whether or not overtime is required should be a management decision and not based on custom and practice.

Inevitably you may find that overtime is acknowledged in a charity – it may be that time off in lieu (often known as TOIL) is given instead of additional monetary payment. Either way, it’s a good question to ask at a job interview with a charity and to find out just what, if any, overtime practices are in place as they could have been an influence in attracting some of your colleagues – who may be some of the people you could find yourself managing one day.

6. The Career Charity Workers

Now this surprised me. You will encounter career charity workers who get on a fast personal development track with one charity and then move on to another and then another. You may be one yourself, and there is nothing whatsoever wrong with it, just as long as you remember that before moving on it’s just as important to make sure that what you leave behind does not suffer from your departure.

If for example you’re working in the private sector and having gained some skills or expertise working for one company you may well go and work for a competitor and in turn take some customers and business with you, or even potentially cause some damage to your previous employers. Working for charities is not like that, but if you leave one charity to go and work for one doing similar work you may inadvertently leave a vacuum behind which for some small charities could be potentially more harmful than you imagine.

If you’re a career charity worker it’s worth remembering that others rely on you – perhaps more than you think.

7. It’s just a job

Thankfully the majority of people you’ll come across are just doing a job. It doesn’t matter to them whether it’s a charity or a plc, they just get on with their job. Increasingly the perceptions about working for a charity are regarded as the same as working anywhere else. The only thing to bear in mind here is that generally speaking charities don’t pay as well as the private sector and so if you need the money and have the choice the same job will pay more in the commercial world than the voluntary sector.

Make it as a manager # 2

People are attracted to the voluntary sector for many more reasons than you might imagine. As a manager this will stretch your people management skills as you can’t necessarily apply the same techniques to all your staff as you would perhaps do in the private sector. It will help you be a better manager in the voluntary sector if you can find out what appealed to the staff working for you in the first place.

What they also don’t tell you about working for a charity is that you should perhaps take some time to ask yourself what appeals to you about working in the voluntary sector. Whether you’re a student or working for a commercial organisation, there’s a very good chance that you will be asked that question at a job interview.

“How to make it as a charity manager’ First published in Great Britain in 2004 by Volsector © Anthony Gibbs 2003 ‘How to make it as a charity manager’ by Anthony Gibbs is based on the content of the web site, ‘What they don’t tell you about working for a charity’ © 1999 Anthony Gibbs The right of Anthony Gibbs to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1988. British Library cataloguing in publication data. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN 0-9546657-0-8 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission of the publisher.


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