A charity officer works for, or is a trustee of, a charitable organisation. The job title can refer to personnel in several roles within a charity. Roles vary considerably depending on the size, aim and type of organisation.

Charity officers may also be called charity administrators, community liaison officers or project development officers.

Types of charity officer

In larger organisations, charity officers may focus on a specific area, such as:

  • project management;
  • business development;
  • finance;
  • marketing;
  • public relations;
  • fundraising;
  • volunteer management.

In smaller charities, the charity officer may undertake multiple tasks. Common activities range from applying for grants or managing volunteers to providing advice and information.

Responsibilities

Tasks vary according to the organisation and the individual role. A charity officer in a global charity will have a different experience from a charity officer in a small, local charity.

Limited funds and staffing usually mean charity officers in small charities carry out several functions within a small team.

Despite diversity in roles, there are typical tasks that a charity officer undertakes, including:

  • marketing and public relations to raise the profile of the organisation's services and campaigns;
  • designing fundraising materials such as leaflets and flyers;
  • creating and organising fundraising initiatives and events;
  • approaching potential donors and maintaining donor lists;
  • liaising with external agencies, including voluntary sector organisations, the media, local authorities, business contacts, trustees and other stakeholders or clients;
  • recruiting and coordinating the work of volunteers;
  • lobbying government and other policymakers on behalf of a cause or a client group;
  • administrative tasks such as applying for grants and other sources of funding, managing budgets, gathering data, preparing reports, database management and clerical work to meet the charity's needs.

Salary

  • Charity administrators usually earn £16,000 to £25,000 a year.
  • Salaries for specialist/professional posts range from £20,000 to £32,000.
  • At senior level, typical annual salaries range upwards from £30,000, reaching over £65,000 for senior posts in the largest charities.

Some charities use NJC salary scales (used by local government), but there is wide variation depending on the size of the organisation and the nature and responsibilities of roles. Larger charities usually pay more than smaller charities.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Core working hours are usually 9am to 5pm, five days a week. This may vary according to the requirements of the role. Some flexibility may be required if a job involves attending events, as these may occur during evenings and weekends. Flexible working patterns such as part-time work or job sharing may be available.

What to expect

  • Work is often office-based, but may involve travel to meet service users, deliver off-site service provision, attend promotional events and campaign for the charity. Some charity officers cover a large territory or even a whole country. Depending on the focus of the charity, overseas travel may be involved.
  • Some charities second staff to another part of the organisation or similar organisations. International charities sometimes let staff volunteer abroad to develop their knowledge of the organisation's beneficiaries. There are opportunities for paid employment overseas, but these may require specialist qualifications and experience of working abroad.
  • There are currently more women than men employed in this role.
  • Job opportunities exist throughout the UK.
  • Fluctuating funding means that many jobs are on temporary contracts, typically from six months to two or three years. The lack of job security can have financial and lifestyle implications.
  • Responsible roles may be stressful, but many professionals consider their work extremely rewarding.

Qualifications

Entry requirements differ according to the type of organisation. Some will expect relevant qualifications and/or considerable work experience, whereas others simply want evidence of genuine passion, commitment and relevant skills.

While this area of work is open to all graduates, a degree, HND or foundation degree in the following subjects may increase your chances:

  • business studies;
  • community development;
  • community studies;
  • economics;
  • finance/accounting;
  • law;
  • marketing;
  • public relations;
  • social policy and administration;
  • sociology;
  • voluntary sector management.

Several UK higher education (HE) institutions offer qualifications focusing on the voluntary/charity sector. Postgraduate qualifications are becoming desirable as the sector grows in popularity with graduates, but are rarely essential unless a job involves a great deal of research.

Entry without a degree, HND or foundation degree is possible. Employers are interested in a candidate's voluntary experience, personal qualities, commitment and knowledge of the organisation's work.

Skills

You will need to show:

  • excellent oral and written communication skills;
  • well-developed interpersonal skills and the ability to build successful partnerships;
  • flexibility and time management;
  • commitment to, passion for and belief in the organisation's aims;
  • good understanding of the charity and voluntary work sector, and its relationship with other sectors;
  • appreciation of marketing and PR methods along with commercial understanding;
  • strong administrative skills, possibly including numeracy;
  • initiative, creativity and ability to be forward-thinking;
  • research, analysis and planning skills;
  • ability to multi-task and prioritise;
  • understanding of the important role of volunteers;
  • ability to learn quickly and adapt.

It is also important to keep up to date with the latest news and developments in the sector. The following bodies have lots of useful information:

Work experience

Charity work is a popular career choice and is, therefore, competitive. Voluntary experience is an advantage as it demonstrates to potential employers your commitment to, and understanding of, the sector and individual charities. It also shows that you have initiative, are developing relevant skills and are not solely motivated by money.

Work shadowing, setting up a community group or student society, or organising fundraising activities will impress employers and give you something extra to discuss at interview.

Volunteering opportunities can be found at:

Many HE institutions have student community action groups, offering voluntary experience with a range of client groups.

Historically, the charity sector was often a second career choice, but now there are good opportunities for those starting out with larger charities, which offer internships and graduate training schemes such as:

Internships and other volunteering opportunities are often advertised at careers services' work experience fairs and on their websites.

Employers

Charitable organisations are the largest employers of charity officers. These include local, regional, national and international charities, ranging from small-scale groups with a few paid staff and volunteers to large, prestigious, international charities with thousands of employees and volunteers.

The charity sector also includes:

  • philanthropic organisations;
  • housing associations;
  • trade unions;
  • educational institutions;
  • think tanks;
  • NGOs with charitable status.

In recent years, opportunities within the sector have increased in areas such as:

  • social and community work;
  • housing;
  • disability;
  • diversity-related issues;
  • environmental campaigns.

For details of more than 2,000 charitable organisations, see:

  • Charity Digest - printed publication
  • Charity Portal
  • The Voluntary Agencies Directory - printed publication

More than 70,000 agencies worldwide are listed through the Directory of Development Organizations. The directory is updated as and when sufficient new data is received and was last updated in 2011.

Many small charities provide a range of services within their local area. These are unlikely to be sufficiently well funded to employ many staff, but they can be a good source of voluntary work experience.

Training and security vetting, undertaken when working for small charities, can reassure larger employers of your commitment to the voluntary sector.

All but the smallest charities must register with a regulatory body. Check the following websites to find out if a particular charity is genuine and to find useful background information on its finances and staffing:

Increasingly, large and multinational commercial companies are fulfilling their corporate social responsibility by having at least one designated person to liaise with local charities and community groups. Their role is often to advise on internal fundraising activities and staff volunteering, and to deal with media enquiries on community-focused initiatives.

As more sectors are encouraged to address the significance of sustainable communities and with the recognition that there is a need to give something back to the community, the number of charity officer positions may increase.

Look for job vacancies at:

Some charities advertise jobs in their own newsletters and on their websites.

Temporary and permanent charity positions are advertised through specialist recruitment agencies such as:

Specialist roles are also found in professional journals. Networking is a good way to find out about job opportunities.

Voluntary sector exhibitions and recruitment fairs are a useful way of learning about organisations and available positions. Events include:

Some of the larger voluntary sector organisations recruit at fairs organised by careers services.

Get more tips on how to find a job, create a successful CV and cover letter, and prepare for interviews.

Professional development

Charity officers receive most of their training on the job. Gaining membership of professional associations, registering with local, regional or national networks, attending training courses and conferences, and networking with people in similar roles from other organisations are all excellent ways to keep up to date with developments in the sector.

Some employers encourage staff to embark upon a relevant professional qualification by funding study and allowing study leave.

Some organisations specialise in training courses for charity and voluntary sector workers. These range from one or two-day programmes to courses consisting of several modules.

Courses are available at centres throughout the country and by distance learning through the following providers:

Information in a range of training providers is collated by VolResource.

Some higher education (HE) institutions offer qualifications related to the charity and voluntary sector and these are often available as flexible part-time study and distance learning options.

Career prospects

Opportunities for career development vary depending on the size of the charity and the budget available for staff training and development, the aims of the organisation and the determination, ability and willingness of the individual to learn.

Since charities depend on income generation, it is helpful for many senior posts to have experience in fundraising.

In terms of career development, there are advantages and disadvantages of working for different sizes of organisation.

In larger charity and voluntary sector organisations, bigger budgets and larger remits often mean more travel, professional qualification opportunities and training prospects. There is usually a structured route of promotion.

Roles within these organisations are relatively defined, with specific people and departments undertaking specific tasks. Individuals may therefore develop a specialised skill set.

Although smaller charity and voluntary sector organisations often lack the same level of structure and resources, charity officers are exposed to various aspects of the organisation's work, can undertake multiple roles and can develop a wide range of skills and experience.

This may provide opportunities for gaining promotion more quickly. However, limited resources and short-term contracts may mean a move to a different charity is necessary. In some cases this may mean relocation.