Can You Afford to Work For a Charity?

6 Minutes Read

With over 195,000 registered charities to choose from, it seems it would be easy to find a job in the voluntary sector. From helping out in animal shelters to donating time to helping children to read, there’s no shortage of charities in the UK. Most people take on voluntary work as a hobby in their area of interest – but can people afford to work for charity as their main job? How does a charity employ people? Do charities pay their employees? Find out here as we explore what it’s like to work for a charity.

How charities are funded

All charities have to prove their income will be over £5,000 per year in order to register it with the Charity Commission. But some may choose to raise the money before they become a registered charity – just as a boost before they become officially registered.

Charities in the UK collectively spend around £80 billion per year – but where do they get the money from? Of course, they receive donations from people all over the country – and even the world. In fact, those with a low income tend to be more generous in their charity donations! Professor Yaojun Li, from the Institute of Social Change, discovered the poorest 20% of the people he spoke to gave around 3.2% of their income to charity and the richest 20% gave just 0.9% of their charity. So we can safely say that it doesn’t matter what someone’s income is – they’ll donate to charity regardless! Some may also choose to leave money in their will to a charity that means a lot to them.

There are a number of government funding schemes and grants available to charities in the UK such as the National Lottery’s Big Lottery Fund or the Arts Council. Charities can also give people the option to donate via Gift Aid. You’ve probably seen this when you’re buying tickets at somewhere like the zoo, as well as online. The charity can claim tax back – for every £1 that’s donated they will get 25p in return.

What is the funding used for?

As well as their actual cause, charity funds may be used for business costs such as office space, travel and admin. Some charities will pay their non-voluntary employees a salary – which is also classed as a ‘cost.’

In general, for every £1 donated approximately 65p will go towards the charity’s actual cause. The remainder goes towards a variety of things. Here’s a quick breakdown of how the typical large charity spends its funding:

  • Support and governance
  • Salaries
  • Merchandising
  • Education, marketing and awareness
  • Fundraising
  • Investment and management
  • Resources
  • Development work
  • Shops (if applicable)
  • Healthcare services (if applicable)

This is just a general rule of thumb – the amount a charity spends can vary greatly depending on which sector they’re working in. For example, healthcare charities such as the Good Shepherd’s Hospice, Macmillan Cancer and the British Heart Foundation have to pay for things like shop premises, hospices, care services, health equipment and more – so they may incur bigger costs.

How do charities employ people?

At the moment, there are over 800,000 people employed in the voluntary sector. But how do charities employ people both as volunteers or as paid employees? It’s pretty similar to a regular business advertising for a job vacancy. You’ll find the paid vacancies on the charity in question’s actual website in the ‘Careers’ or ‘Work With Us’ section. They’re also likely to advertise on regular job websites such as Indeed or Total Job. If you’re looking for a paid position then it could be a great idea to sign up to a charity’s newsletter as they are very likely to advertise job alerts.

Can people afford to work for a charity?

In short, yes there’s always a way. It’s just a matter of working out how much time you can donate so you can gain a bit of experience in your chosen sector. Some charities, such as the Samaritans, require you to go through some training before you can volunteer. But once you’ve gone through training you can choose as little or as many hours as you want. It’s all about fitting volunteering around your life. It can give you invaluable life experience, you’ll meet new people, learn new skills and you could end up with a paid job! One of our favourite volunteering vacancies is Do-It – it has hundreds of volunteer positions to choose from.

If you’re working full time, it’s also worth asking your employer if you can condense your working week. For example, if you just want to volunteer for a couple of hours in the afternoon, most employers will be happy to negotiate (especially if you’re learning new skills relevant to your job).