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The Three Problems Facing the Charity Sector

One of the most common questions that charitable organisations are asking future employees at interview is. Yes, there are the answers that everyone gives, such as, but I like to think out of the box. Here are the answers I like to give.

One of the most common questions that charitable organisations are asking future employees at interview is "what do you think are the biggest challenges facing the sector at the moment?". Yes, there are the answers that everyone gives, such as "we're just coming out of a recession. There is no money", but I like to think out of the box. Here are the answers I like to give.

1. There is a lack of Graduates entering the industry

The third sector isn't attractive to graduates who are being overwhelmed with a plethora of graduate job offers from conglomerates who can pay amazingly well and offer structured progression (and offer world domination, obviously). There are no well known graduate schemes in the third sector that even attempt to rival those of the multinationals.

Contrary to popular belief, the perfect graduate job isn't all about salary any more - graduates know that future employers don't just want qualifications, they want experience. Due to the lack of any structured graduate development programme within the third sector, the sector as a whole is not attractive to graduates. To a graduate entering the industry, there are - on first sight - no professional development options, no career progression opportunities, and no structure. Subsequently, the third sector lacks the je ne sais quoi that youths (i.e. younger graduates) offer in an industry. Youths bring new ideas; youths bring excitement and empowerment; youths bring youth to any industry. The third sector is missing out on the talented graduates because the sector as a whole isn't structured enough to cope with them.

My theory is that this is because the money in the third sector nearly always belongs to someone else, third sector organisations need to be able to show they're being responsible with the money they have (or are being given). Surely trusting a newly-qualified, non experienced graduate with someone else's money spells a recipe for disaster? (That's sarcasm, by the way.) We'll never know until we try - if we don't trust the graduates of today with the sector's money, where are the leaders of tomorrow going to come from...?

2. The "we're a charity" mindset

This one has become especially apparent during, and following, the recession. Charities think they should get things from businesses (or, even worse, other charities!) for free - or cheaper than advertised - just because they are a charity. No. That's not how business works. Stop being silly.

Businesses, just like charities, have to survive, too. Granted, if they're a big conglomerate (who are stealing all of our graduates) then they might be able to knock off 5%. Small, local businesses can't afford to do that.

Everyone is struggling after the recession, not just charities - charities need to keep that in mind. If charities want something then there is often funding out there to get it. The same cannot be said for businesses. If businesses can offer charitable discounts, they often advertise it or mention it first. Charities need to stop chancing their arm with honest businesses, just because they have the guilt factor. If you don't need the discount, don't ask for it - just because you're a charity, you don't have a right to free stuff!

3. Unwillingness to invest in marketing trends

"You want to spend HOW MUCH on a video for YouTube?!" [insert inevitable heart attack from the board of trustees here]. Does that sound familiar? Of course it does. The third sector (especially in the penny-pinching area of Scotland) is infamous for cutting the marketing strategy first. This is the wrong thing to do! But, worse - in my opinion - is to not jump on the marketing trends as soon as they appear.

Often the third sector likes to wait and see if it works before it uses it. We wait and see if it works in the private sector then, depending on the outcome, we either shake our heads in slight amusement at the failure or we adopt it straight away, 2 years after it was popular. In order to reach out to the right people, we need to get the marketing avenues launched in a timely fashion. We shouldn't wait to see if it's going to work, we should be part of making it work. That's how it'll work best for us. It's not all about print media any more (although I strongly believe it still has its place). We need to be inventive with our promotional tools and keep the public's attention. Anyway, who doesn't love an opportunity to make their CEO wear a silly hat?

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