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Charity Interns: how is it going?

By Maya Bhose, founder, Charity Interns.

In May last year I wrote a blog for ACEVO outlining an idea to address the skills gap in the voluntary sector.  Almost half of UK charities report hard-to fill-vacancies, yet there are many people who want to extend their careers by switching to the voluntary sector. They are unsuccessful because they have no charity experience. It’s a catch-22. You cannot do one thing until you do another thing, but you cannot do the second thing until you do the first thing.

If you’ve worked in a non-profit for most of your career you may not realise how hard it is to make the leap from the corporate world.  Many of the people who finally manage it, do so because someone gives them a chance. 

The idea behind Charity Interns is simple. Create a stepping stone into the voluntary sector for people with skills and experience from outside. 

Fast-forward to today and we are midway through a six-month pilot proving that commercial sector skills are transferable.  I have been lucky enough to find five amazing, trail-blazing charities to trial this initiative. 

Dee, Stella, Kaz, Caroline, Mills and Christina are in paid placements at Alzheimer’s Society, Disability Equality Scotland, Age UK, Age International and British Heart Foundation.

They are working in fundraising, corporate partnerships, trusts and bids, volunteering, political campaigning and corporate membership. All struggled to switch to the voluntary sector, and those who had interviews usually lost out to someone who’d already worked in a charity.

They are all loving their new roles. One claims the experience has changed her life. They are making a valuable contribution including writing bids, developing corporate partnerships, devising a member survey and implementing the learning to deepen member engagement, redesigning and writing copy for web pages aimed at volunteers and looking for innovative ways to fundraise.

Their commercial experience and their wisdom give them a different perspective.  As one of them said recently, “I  am seasoned enough to not just sit about waiting for things.  If I think this needs to be done, I just crack on with it”. They all want to stay in the sector and I feel confident they will.  

Their managers are just as enthusiastic about their new reports. “It’s so lovely to have a voice in the team who has lived experience.” “Having a fresh set of eyes, that has never worked in the charity sector, has been really refreshing for us.” “She comes with experience I don’t think we’d be able to find in the charity sector, because she’s worked across so many different organisations and companies.” 

There will be a second cohort autumn 2024, with recruitment starting in June.  Given the recent media reporting that the skills shortage in the voluntary sector is driving up vacancies, the need for this programme is clear. 

If your organisation would benefit from transferable skills and a corporate perspective please contact me.

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