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FRESH FRIDAYS: Strategy within Charity - Would you test your mettle?

At the moment here at FreshMinds, we’ve been meeting with a range of charities to choose our official CSR partner for 2015, and as we’ve been immersing ourselves in this world, I thought I’d explore what it's like to work in the third sector...

A passion for charitable work is something that we come across a lot in our candidates, and if they can incorporate this into their role it can often be a deciding factor during a hunt for their next job. However, as appealing as making a difference may sound, there are lots of problems and strategic headaches to face within the third sector. This means that the consulting skill set that we look for in FreshMinds candidates comes into it’s own in charitable organisations.

Strategy and consulting

We often find that the idea of working for a charity really resonates across all levels of top-tier strategy consultants and investment professionals. Regardless of the stage of their career, this group often want to turn their hand to something that has a tangible SROI (Social Return on Investment), making charity a no-brainer! It's an area where people can see their added value and where they can really get behind a brand, as well as a good cause.

Unfortunately, there's still a little bit of stigma attached to these type of roles and the words fluffy, hazy and nice are often bandied around as well as a constant iteration of the "soft skill set". However, having worked with the CEOs and strategic heads of numerous charities at FreshMinds we've found that this is often very far from the reality of the challenges faced, which can seem, from an outsiders' perspective, entirely insurmountable.

The Challenges:

Lack of resources
Without the resource pool of a big strategy house, rafts of Oxbridge candidates banging on the door or the largest of budgets, charities have to tackle some hefty problems, often in what can be ethically/politically sensitive environments.

Sensitive campaigns

These are the sort of meaty strategic battles that attract some of the strategy world's top talent into the third sector:

  • How can you get PR and marketing campaigns to work with little or no money...?
  • How do you set up strategically sound money raising initiatives without losing the core cause at the heart of a charity, whilst still actually achieving end goals...? 
  • How do you get the friends and family of grieving/ill/affected people i.e. your most obvious "customer base" (if such a harsh business-like term can be applied) to donate for the continuation of your cause without causing offense?
  • How can you drive loyalty from the masses?

Although there are some perceived downsides to roles in charity, they’re very definitely balanced out by the positives! The moment that you overcome these challenges (which, as I mentioned, can often seem insurmountable!), you’ll not only get the feeling of a job well done, but that you’re actually making a positive impact on your chosen cause in the process. Aside from this rather elevated sense of job satisfaction, from a career building point of view you’ll be challenging yourself like never before and gaining a whole host of transferrable skills in the process.

So if it's the testing of mettle in a stripped-down, high exposure environment that you’re after a charity can often be the best place!