What skills do charities want?

Dominic Claeys-Jackson, Editor
May, 2016

We asked three leading charities - Cancer Research UK, The Wellcome Trust and IntoUniversity - about the key qualities they look for when recruiting graduates

Creativity and innovation

Whichever charitable organisation you work for, creativity and innovation will be central to your role.

For example, graduates at Cancer Research UK are tasked with developing new fundraising initiatives, with the aim of helping the world's leading cancer charity continue its ground-breaking work in preventing, diagnosing and treating the disease.

Ventures such as the 5k Race for Life - which now attracts 500,000 participants and £50million in donations every year - had a low-key beginning. Since the organisation receives no government funding and relies entirely on public support, it's incredibly important that employees are capable of out-of-the-box thinking to come up with similarly successful proposals.

'We expect our graduates to be brave and challenge,' says Rachel Howard, resourcing business partner at Cancer Research UK. 'Question and try new ideas - the more innovative the better.'

Another organisation that desires graduates who can offer new perspectives is the Wellcome Trust, an independent charitable foundation dedicated to improving health and wellbeing.

In her mission to recruit individuals who are excited by the opportunity to suggest new and improved ways of doing things, Natalie Hannan, graduate manager at the Wellcome Trust, urges applicants to evidence situations where they've positively impacted an organisation, project or colleague by sharing knowledge or improving a process.

Jenny James, senior HR and executive support officer at IntoUniversity, is similarly emphatic when it comes to the importance of graduates possessing bags of creativity.

IntoUniversity runs local learning centres to support disadvantaged young people, and Jenny says, 'Whether it's an improved resource for our young people or a new way of recording our data, we're looking for graduates who have lots of ideas.'

Flexibility and adaptability

Working for a charity, you'll need to be able to perform in multiple functions, and the Wellcome Trust's recruitment scheme certainly stretches its graduate cohort. Participants change departments every six months, allowing them to sample diverse roles rather have their career path decided from the outset.

Natalie explains that working with different people, undertaking varied work and developing new skills requires enthusiasm and flexibility, adding that the candidates who get the most out of the programme are those who seize opportunities and leave their comfort zone.

'We're keen to hear about how applicants manage a busy schedule, and are able to flex their style to work with a range of people and deal with a changing environment,' she explains. 'We also like to hear how potential recruits have taken the initiative in their previous roles, how they've learned from their experiences, and how they're always seeking to improve and develop.'

Commitment to the cause

Being passionate about the cause that you're championing is arguably the most important factor of all. This is at your job's core, and it's important that you can work with similarly minded colleagues to achieve a common goal.

Rachel says that graduate projects at Cancer Research UK require collaboration with different teams and departments across the charity. Recruits must therefore be sharp and inquisitive, not to mention always looking to learn and pursue new opportunities.

'Graduates need to be excellent team players who can build exceptional relationships,' Rachel continues. 'We want our graduates to have long careers with us, so that means continuously developing and challenging themselves, and stretching their potential.'

Jenny highlights that previous experience working or volunteering in a similar environment can help you stand out from the crowd. Applicants need to demonstrate that they care about IntoUniversity’s mission, and that they’re committed to helping the charity achieve its aims.

'We look for people who can demonstrate a real passion for our work with disadvantaged young people,' says Jenny. 'We're on the lookout for candidates who can get things done as part of a team, while bringing out the best in their colleagues.'

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