Charity Work and Management Experience: A Case Study
Jennifer had worked in IT as an analyst for a number of years and was interested in moving into a management position. The difficulty she had was getting experience in the company she worked for. It was a small IT consultancy with only a few management positions. She knew that she’d be waiting a long time for a position to come along and that there were also other people, more senior than her, also vying for the scarce positions. She also liked the company and really didn't want to leave.
"I was discussing this dilemma with a friend and she suggested I gain some experience working for a voluntary organisation."
Where to Start with Volunteer Work?Jennifer approached some organisations that connect volunteers with suitable charities and causes. She discovered that there are a number of such organisations set up to support voluntary groups by recruiting volunteers with business, management and technical experience and finding the best fit between skills, interests, expectations and needs.
Before making any commitments Jennifer wanted to understand what she was letting herself in for. She knew that volunteer work would be unpaid and part-time, but with a full-time job already she wanted to understand how much time she would need to commit. After a number of phone calls she discovered that she could specify how much time she was willing to dedicate to her volunteer work.
"They actually recommended I review my work load and come up with a realistic estimate of the amount of time I would be able to spend."
While many people like the idea of getting experience with a charity, the full impact to their time can some times be more than they'd anticipated, as is the on-going commitment. Jennifer needed to decide if she was serious and really prepared to set aside an amount of time each week to her volunteer work. She decided that she would be able to spend a number of hours in the evening on a weekly basis.
Working for a Volunteer Organisation
"I have young children and was interested in helping a children’s charity. After searching through possibilities for volunteer work I selected a charity that provided help to needy children."
The charity was trying to implement a number of IT software applications and were struggling with a lack of project management skills. Jennifer had experience both in the technical aspects of the project, as well as some elementary project management skills, and these were both greatly appreciated. Jennifer ran a number of small projects for the charity, unpaid and in her own time (outside of work hours), and had the responsibility of managing some other volunteers on the project as well as resources. Jennifer enjoyed the opportunity to gain skills working in an area very different to that of her full-time job. There were moments when she found it difficult to find the time, particularly when her full-time work became busy, but she found that her project team on the charity were very supportive and helpful.
"In my experience, most of the work could be done from home remotely and there were only a few occasions I needed to go into the charity's office. That's not always the case so you need to find out what is required before you start."
Combining Volunteer Work with your Regular JobJennifer discussed her volunteer work with her manager and discovered that her company were very supportive of her volunteer work and agreed to give her some days off when she needed to go into the charity. They were also very impressed with her proactive approach to gaining management experience, and this was viewed very favourably some time later when a manager position became available.
Volunteer OrganisationsThese are just a few organisations that match volunteers with charities and causes:
- REACH: recruits professionals and experienced managers to assist voluntary organisations. www.reach-online.org.uk
- Do-it: This is part of YouthNet. They provide an online database of volunteering opportunities. www.do-it.org.uk
- National Centre for Volunteering: England’s volunteer development agency www.volunteering.org.uk