Looking for a workplace with a genuine team spirit, flexibility and diverse career opportunities? Working for a charity like Compassion Australia has been one of the best career decisions I’ve made. To get your foot in the door, here are some helpful tips on working for a charity.

Whenever I tell someone I work for a charity, I get asked what it’s like to be part of a nonprofit. My answer is always the same: nothing beats knowing your work is making a real impact. I’m part of the ‘millennial’ generation, marked by our uncompromising desire to rally behind a purpose and contribute to the world around us.

But according to research, millennials are becoming increasingly disillusioned with today’s job market. When given a choice, 49 per cent would quit their current job in the next two years, partly due to diminishing trust in companies and their impact on society.

If you’re a millennial with an itch to be part of something greater than a pay check or you’re eager to invest your time where your heart is, take a fulfilling career step into the nonprofit industry. With over 56,000 registered charities in Australia, the third sector continues to offer viable career opportunities for a range of causes. So, to get you started, here’s your guide to working for a charity.

Millennials Guide to Working for a Charity

What is a charity, anyway?

The ‘charity’ label is loosely applied to organisations that work for humanitarian or environmental causes but there are clear guidelines for registered charities. A registered charity must*:

  • Be not-for-profit
  • Have only charitable purposes that are for the public benefit (eg. advance health and culture or promote human rights)
  • Not have a disqualifying purpose
  • Not be an individual, a political party or a government entity

Three perks of working for a charity

Working for a nonprofit organisation or charity is immensely satisfying on a professional and personal level. Here are just three of the many perks of working for a charity:

1. A genuine team spirit

It’s an understatement to say that the team you work with largely determines the level of satisfaction in your day job. Over half of the respondents in a 2018 survey said that meaningful relationships at work are more important than salary or pay rises.

Working at a charity provides employees with a genuine sense of team as colleagues are united by a common cause that surpasses office politics and supersedes individual goals.

Colleagues at a charity have more opportunities to share in the joy of seeing a home rebuilt, a child sponsored, or a family’s needs met. Every day is a chance to see the best in humanity and when you work with a team that genuinely wants to be there, the energy and motivation is contagious.

2. Flexibility and care

Across the nation, workplaces are adjusting to the changing needs of the workforce through flexible and remote working arrangements.

Charities have long provided flexibility and care for their employees. Only 37 per cent of charity staff in 2017 were employed full-time, the remaining majority were part-time or casual employees.

This creates an environment where it’s normal for employees to voice their unique needs and work in a flexible arrangement that includes working from home, arriving after childcare drop off, and more. The option of salary packaging is another financial incentive and added benefit of working for a charity–with a lower taxable income, what’s not to love?

In my case, the sense of freedom and dignity I get from working at Compassion derives from the organisation’s genuine care for people. Whether it’s a child in Ethiopia or a staff member in Newcastle, Compassion provides options for flexible working arrangements, mental health and counselling services and support for your needs.

3. Diverse career opportunities

In 2018, ten per cent of the Australian workforce was employed by a charity. Working for a charity is mostly associated with fundraising roles and activism but charities offer a variety of roles and opportunities.

Most charities are understaffed but the challenges and injustices affecting the world continue to expand and diversify. In such a climate, the job descriptions and department functions within a charity can be diverse and widespread.

Working for a charity provides employees with opportunities to dabble in a variety of tasks, combine traditional roles into a unique offering or experiment with new ideas. Just like the dynamism of a startup, working for a charity enables employees to pick up a variety of tasks and become an instrumental part of an initiative from beginning to end.

Millennials Guide to Working for a Charity

Most charities operate with a mix of full-time, part-time, casual staff or volunteers. Even the breadth of arrangements attracts a diverse group of people across all walks of life. The opportunity to work with a mix of different people gives you an experience you won’t find elsewhere.

“Compassion has given me the opportunity to combine my passion, experience and skills in pursuit of a cause I feel incredibly moved by—changing children’s lives.” – Nickey Bright

Getting a job at a charity

Across industries in Australia, it’s getting harder to find the right talent for a role and charities are no different. Although job sites such as Seek.com can attract over 1 million visits a day, the average time it takes to fill a position has increased from 42 days to 68 days in the last five years.

At Compassion Australia, there are almost X new roles and nine months ago, I was fortunate to land one of those roles. My career has never been more fulfilling so to make the hiring process easier to navigate, I asked my colleagues to share their tips on how to get a job at a charity.

1. Know your 'why'

When you work for a charity like Compassion, it’s more than just a job. Every day is an opportunity to contribute to something larger-than-life. In our case, it’s helping release children living in poverty.

While there are plenty of incredible charities such as the Thankyou Group, UNICEF and The Fred Hollows Foundation, finding a charity that best aligns to your unique vision is the goal.

Before the job hunt begins, engage in a little soul-searching to identify what causes you care most about. When your ‘why’ is clear, it’ll be easier to find the right charity to rally behind.

When you’ve got a clear handle on your unique ‘why’, the values will resonate throughout your cover letter, resume and interview. Discover your motivation and purpose with introspective questions such as:

  • If you could fix one thing in the world, what would it be?
  • What forms of injustice in your community anger you?
  • Are you interested in working with causes relating to the environment, animals or people?

Tip: If you have a charity in mind, take a peek at their mission statement and look for ways your personal interests align. Don’t shy away from highlighting this parallel in your cover letter or CV.

2. Know where to look

If you’re planning to transition into a charity role, you’ve got to find job applications in the right places. Start by making a list of the top charities you’d want to ideally work for and inspect their website to find a job opening section.

Connect with relevant charities via social media as organisations will mostly share a post to announce a new job opening. In the instance where you can’t locate the relevant page, do a quick online search with specific phrases such as:

  • 'Jobs at Compassion Australia'
  • 'Work for Compassion Australia'
  • 'Employment at Compassion Australia'

See what else is on the job market by browsing aggregate listing sites dedicated to charities such as:

  • Ethicaljobs.com.au
  • Nfpcareers.org
  • Probonoaustralia.com.au/jobs/
  • Ngorecruitment.com
  • Christianjobs.com.au

Tip: Don’t forget to sign up for newsletters or job alerts on relevant job posting boards.

3. Introduce yourself

Sometimes, waiting for the perfect job advertisement can be a long game but there’s plenty of groundwork you can do to give yourself the best chance at success.

By checking the charities’ website or LinkedIn page, do some research to find and connect with hiring staff or the manager you’d most likely be reporting to. Be upfront and genuine with your intentions and don’t be afraid to ask them if there are any roles open. Offer to send your CV so managers can keep your contact details on hand should a relevant job opening arise.

Tip: There might also be opportunities to engage with the organisation on a contractual or freelance basis so it’s worth saying hello!

4. Volunteer

The best way to get your foot in the door of the charity you’d love to work for is to volunteer!

It’s not always easy finding the dream job at a charity on first go so if you’re in it for the long haul, consider volunteering for the organisation. Whatever tasks you engage in as a volunteer, the time invested allows you to build up your experience in the nonprofit sector, learn the ropes and network.

Volunteering places you in a low-risk position where you’ll gain plenty of new skills and also be exposed to internal recruitment opportunities.

Tip: Incorporating your volunteer experience into your resume also provides you with an awesome experience to talk about in your interview.

At Compassion Australia, there are over 150 committed team members and many more volunteers who offer their time, energy and skills to help fulfil our mission. If you’re interested in working for a charity like Compassion, you can stay updated with our job openings here.

Words by Shona Yang

Photos by Compassion Australia