What it’s really like to work in the charity sector (interview from a UK charity)

Considering working in the charity sector?

If you’re looking for a profession that really makes a difference to people’s lives, finding a job in charity and fundraising could be your key to career happiness.

We spoke to Elizabeth Banner, Development Adviser at Clean Break, to find out more about what life’s really like when you work in the charity sector:


The Big Interview

Q: Hi Elizabeth. So what is Clean Break?

Clean Break is a theatre company founded by two women prisoners in 1979. Our professional theatre productions share the often hidden stories of women and crime with audiences across the UK and our specialist theatre education programme helps transform the lives of women with experience in the criminal justice system.


We’re the only organisation of our kind in the UK, working in the community and prisons to give women the confidence and skills to make positive choices, break away from crime and build brighter futures.


Q: What does your role involve day to day?

Every day is different. One day I might be inviting our donors to see a production created by our students at the end of term, and the next I could be writing an application to a potential donor, telling them about the lasting changes we are bringing about to women in prison.

Other times could include designing and producing a newsletter to keep our donors in touch with our latest news and promoting our next theatre production, like ‘Joanne’, which recently showed at Soho Theatre.

Ultimately my role is to ensure that every supporter or potential supporter feels engaged with our work and truly understands how important their support is to Clean Break and the impact on the women we work with.


Q: What’s your favourite thing about your job?

Seeing the transformation and the friendships women make, the visible increase in confidence and new found passion are the most rewarding parts of my work. Knowing that I helped introduce a funder to the incredible talent across Clean Break and being able to show that their support is truly making a difference.

I also love meeting new people and finding out why they give to charity, be it a donation of £10 or much larger. There are so many reasons and it is wonderful to hear what Clean Break means to people.


Q: What’s the most challenging part of your job?

We’ve seen a huge increase in demand for our Education Programme over the past few years – we’re working with 80% more women than we were four years ago, and the current climate (with cuts to services and benefit changes) has meant that women with experience of the criminal justice system often need much more support from us (e.g. around housing, debt support, poor mental health).

At the same time the cuts have meant there is less funding out there and fundraising is getting harder, more competitive if you like as the pot needs to spread wider.

Individual support and fantastic initiatives like the Big Give’s Christmas Challenge, which encourage more people to support charities and help raise their profiles, are hugely important to our future.


Q: What advice would you offer to someone looking to get into the charity sector?

Working in the charity sector, opens you to an incredibly diverse opportunity to see, learn about and influence so many different things.

In fundraising in particular, there are clear paths for personal development and expertise. The career path might start as a support role to the fundraising team or Chief Executive and then in larger organisations moving into a specialism such as focusing on engaging individual donors and then onto becoming a Manager to Head of Department.

What’s more, as a fundraiser your skills are highly transferable, which means across your career you can work in very different organisations, satisfying your own varied interests and beliefs across the sector for example, from theatre and the arts, to homeless charities, to museums and universities. Charities will always want to make a positive difference and you can be a part of that.


Q: If you could do anything else as a job, what would it be and why?

As a fundraiser I watch and share the work individuals across the sector are doing, directly making a difference or changing policy for the better. It would be wonderful to be part of the delivery, being directly involved in the changes that take place. Perhaps one day I will find the time to learn those specialist skills or volunteer.


The Big Give’s Christmas Challenge

Clean Break is taking part in this year’s Big Give Christmas Challenge, joining over 250 other charities aiming to raise vital funds and double their donations on 4th & 5thDecember.

This year, their Champion is the Reed Foundation who, along with some match funds sourced by Clean Break, are doubling donations made online as part of the Christmas Challenge campaign.

To help Clean Break achieve their target, and to double your donation, donate via the Big Give from midday on 4th or 5th December.

Courtesy of Michael Cheary

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