I have one of the most exciting jobs in the world – Marketing and Communications Director at the technology for poverty reduction charity, Practical Action. My job is amazing, frustrating, pressured, creative, and emotionally rewarding – often all at the same time.
So what’s the cause of these contradictions?
- Great stories – technology that changes people’s lives – from pod casts in Zimbabwe skilling up rural farmers, to flood-proof housing on the banks of Bangladesh’s rivers, via small-scale hydro schemes powering hospitals in Malawi and sexed semen for cows in Nepal.
- Little money – compared to the communications spend of the big charities we operate on a very tight budget yet our ambition is huge!
- Fundraising – underpins everything we do. Without public funds we would struggle to invest in innovation, run our hugely impactful knowledge sharing service Practical Answers, and keep our programme work going. Raising money is incredibly hard work and the market feels daily more competitive. Last year we grew our unrestricted income by 10% – it took a huge amount of work and dedication from the team to make it happen. This year the target is even higher!
- Everyone can do it! – the perception that often taints marketing and comms – I once had a very well-meaning, senior guy ask me if I had thought of sending letters to donors – he had seen lots drop through his door and thought it would be a very good idea for us! I didn’t have the heart to tell him how much direct mail we do and how we had been expert at it for quite a number of years.
- Passionate team – who want to make a difference and are fun to work with.
- Forms, rules, key performance indicators, reports etc – all absolutely vital but ……
- Seeing the difference together we make in the world. I was in Nepal in March and talking to the people we work alongside and who have often had their lives transformed, this is the most inspirational part of my job.
So if you want to work in marketing and communication for a charity be prepared for masses of hard work, expect to be asked to deliver results on tight budgets, but also anticipate financial rewards and benefits that are okay and emotional rewards that are huge.
It’s not easy to work in the charity sector – you will need experience. Working as an intern for a small to medium sized charity can be a good start. Alternatively corporate experience supported by a demonstrable commitment to your chosen cause gives you a strong story to tell in your application. Marketing and communications are two functions where it is easier to move sector and a wide variety of skills are needed and valued. It’s also great, so if you are interested in working for a charity do persevere. And do have a look at our website you never know what opportunities may be there. www.practicalaction.org
If you’re interested in finding out more about a career in a charity, you might be interested in this event on 14 May – https://charitycareersconference2.eventbrite.co.uk/.