Thoughts on Working in the Voluntary Sector

This is addressed to those contemplating taking the plunge into paid employment in the voluntary sector. Those of you already working in charities, community organisations, campaigning groups etc. need read no further. Otherwise…..


  • Working for a Charity, NCVO, Regent’s Wharf, 8 All Saints Street, London, N1 9RL, phone 020 7520 2512 / 2493, email: A training body for people wishing to transfer their skills to the voluntary sector.

Our thoughts

The first thing to point out is the massive diversity here. Large household name charities have employees in the thousands, while a self-help group may just have a part-time admin worker, with all the possibilities in between. Terms and conditions can range from close to the average for that type of job (perhaps even above in terms of maternity leave, pensions or total leave entitlement) to the very minimum allowed (and if you are unlucky, below). Many organisations expect their staff to be committed to the cause to the extent of being self-exploiting – the sector incurs an above average number of industrial tribunal cases which may well be due to employees burning out or no longer being willing to do this. On the other hand, job satisfaction can be massive and in smaller organisations learning opportunities many and frequent.

Changing (or getting) a job normally requires careful thought if it is to be successful – changing to the voluntary sector even more so. Be clear why you want to make the move, what terms and conditions you would be happy with, how much commitment you are prepared to give. The latter is usually quite obvious at interview, but there will be friction if you accept a job which takes too much out of you. It can be tricky finding out in advance what the work ethos of an organisation is, and senior staff can live in a different world from everybody else, but be suspicious if you aren’t given an opportunity to look round at some point in the recruitment process.

Trade Unions are even less in evidence in the sector than the commercial world. There is also often not an obvious career structure – to progress you may need to move organisations fairly frequently, and for many this will mean across to the public sector (local authority, government quangos and the like) and back. In smaller organisations, moving on every 3 to 4 years is pretty normal.

Particular parts of the sector have their own characteristics. For instance, conservation organisations often expect you to have experience as a volunteer in a similar organisation before you get your first paid job, community groups are likely to mark you down for being too nicely dressed, and campaigning groups will fairly obviously prefer it if you can show an existing interest in the subject they campaign on. Some of this is common sense, but not all. Get an idea of the style of an organisation from its reports, web site, media coverage, contacts, whatever.

Don’t expect a job in the voluntary sector to be less demanding than one in the commercial world, even if it pays less. There are some jobs where this holds true, but pressures are increasing to do more for less, here as elsewhere. The better employers recognise the effort being put in, and reward it as best they can – maybe more flexibility in working hours or tolerance of odd habits and enthusiasms, chances to get involved in ‘fun’ events – but very rarely extra pay. ‘Professionalism’ is increasing, which sometimes just means appointing the person with the flashiest qualifications, but more positively is about recognising that employees are there to develop their professional skills as well as graft hard.

Other thoughts

Prospects, the graduate career advice web site, has some pages on what is involved in various fields. Look under Explore Types of Job, and then for example: Social and Pastoral Care – Community Work for advice worker, community worker, youth worker, etc.

Volunteering Opportunities

UK volunteering agencies and ideas

  • NCVO (merged with Volunteering England) can put you in touch with your local Volunteer Centre if you can’t find it in the phone book. The network is over 400 strong, and the local organisations have registers of volunteer openings for their area.
  • Volunteering Wales from WCVA is a bi-lingual web site to help prospective volunteers in the country.
  • Volunteer Scotland has a volunteer activities search facility online. Also check Volunteer Centre Edinburgh.
  • Volunteer Now is Northern Ireland’s version.
  • Do-it online database of volunteering opportunities has thousands of vacancies available across the UK.
  • vinspired is the volunteering site for 16 – 25 year olds in England set up with government support.
  • Step Together Volunteering “using volunteering to increase integration into communities and improve well-being and employment prospects”.
  • TimeBank Volunteering mentoring projects, youth, employee volunteering.
  • What was Join In, the London 2012 Games legacy charity, connecting people with local community sports clubs across the UK who need their help.
  • Charity Choice has a volunteering section which allows you to post details of skills, availability etc.
  • For an alternative to ‘straight’ volunteering, check out the TimeMoney and LETS concepts under our Social Economy listings.

Professional/employee volunteering

  • REACH “the skilled volunteering charity” for experienced managers and professionals.
  • Career Volunteer identifies “highly skilled and capable professionals with time available to help charities with discreet, one off consultancy style projects on a pro bono basis”.
  • neighbourly is a “social network which connects community projects and charities with companies ready to help” – time as well as money.
  • Benefacto has the sole aim of getting more employee volunteers contributing to the community, by making it easier to match volunteer and charity.
  • Other employer supported volunteering schemes exist around the country. See other ‘pro bono’ projects on the Consultancy page.


Mainly through UK based organisations (generally those featured here are charities or non-profit businesses – there are quite a few commercially run companies offering ‘volunteering’).

  • Read the International Volunteering report on T0urism Concern archive to avoid being part of the problem, rather than actually helping.
  • VESL, a registered charity sends volunteers on 4-24 week projects in Asia (Sri Lanka, India and Thailand), on education and community development projects.
  • People and Places emphasises responsible volunteering, in Peru, India, Indonesia , Nepal and The Gambia (not currently Pakistan). Their work is externally audited and has won a responsible ttourism award.
  • Challenges Worldwide recruits, trains and manages volunteers with professional business or legal experience to undertake 3 to 6 month placements with partner organisations overseas.
  • UNA Exchange, based in Cardiff, has a number of different volunteering programmes open to UK residents, including international and leadership opportunities.
  • Online Volunteering is managed by United Nations Volunteer programme, and allows volunteers to help organisations that serve communities in developing countries.
  • Inter-Cultural Youth Exchange, a registered charity, has a range of NGO projects requiring long-term assistance, from working with street children to protecting indigenous people’s rights, in Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and other countries around the world. A participation fee applies – ICYE will support you in fundraising for this cost.
  • Cross-Cultural Solutions. Volunteer placements with “dynamic and inspiring community-led Partner Programs” across 12 countries, with year-round start dates and from 1 to 12 weeks long.
  • Lattitude Global Volunteering (was GAP Activity Projects) organises gap year work placements for 17 to 25 year-olds in 34 countries. Volunteers can take part in caring, conservation, teaching, outdoor, schools and medical projects for between 4 and 12 months. Phone 0118 959 4914.
  • Also See: Guardian Travel section gap year pages, including list of useful sites.
  • Year Out Group has a section giving advice on gap year planning.
  • Working Abroad humanitarian, teaching and environmental volunteer projects worldwide.
  • The Project Trust is aimed at ‘gap year’ volunteering.
  • Idealist (American based) has links and search facilities on international volunteering opportunities. Can sign up for info on/post volunteering opportunities directly.

Organisations with frequent
Volunteering Opportunities

These can include work experience or short-term (low paid) assignments.

  • Conservation in the field with TCV (The Conservation Volunteers).
  • Chance UK London based mentoring organisation for children from 5 – 11 years old who are at risk of school or social exclusion. Train men and women of all backgrounds to build on the child’s strengths and listen to individual needs. Volunteers are police checked, closely supervised and supported.
  • Citizens Advice is the largest independent advice-giving network in the world (the CABx). They provide free, confidential, impartial, independent advice to everyone and have volunteering opportunities in a wide range of roles – advisers, campaigners, trustees, IT, admin, fundraising, PR – across England and Wales.
  • Crisis, the homelessness charity, has volunteering opportunities around the country, all year.
  • Greenforce Always need volunteers for help with (international) wildlife survey work.
  • Kith and Kids needs volunteers to support children and adults with a range of disabilities to take part in a fun leisure and creative activities.

Overseas placements

  • VSO Voluntary Services Overseas have various opportunities, such as managers to help people in the world’s poorest countries build successful organisations and businesses.
  • Inter-Cultural Youth Exchange “offers exciting voluntary work placements in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe. Projects include orphanages, human rights organisations, arts, education and environmental work. For those between 18 and 30, available July / August for 6 or 12 months.” You should apply 4-10 months before departure. Placements are self-funded – help with fund-raising is given. More information on website.
  • International Voluntary Service Volunteering opportunities on more than 800 short term workcamp projects in more than 45 countries including UK, North Africa, USA, former Soviet Union, all of Europe, Australia and Japan. Volunteers work in international groups on projects of importance to local communities for 2 to 4 weeks. Food and accommodation provided but volunteers must organise and pay for their own travel.
  • RedR (Engineers for Disaster Relief) maintains a register of professionals who can respond to short-term needs of relief agencies.
  • Skillshare Africa is a charity currently working in six African countries – Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa – with the aim of sustainable development. One of the ways in which they work towards this is through the sharing of skills (hence the name).
  • Village Africa Volunteering in Tanzania.
  • Restless Development is a “youth-led development agency” (previously.Student Partnerships Worldwide) based in Africa and Asia working with and for young people.
  • World Youth International (Australian but operating internationally) offers a range of overseas volunteer and exchange programs for people from 14 up for periods from 1 month to a year, in Asia, Africa, North and South America. Volunteers can work on community development projects, teach English or help create income generating projects in villages.
  • Department for International Development Web site includes, under Working with NGOs, contact details of the volunteer programmes they support.

Charity Recruitment Agencies

Help to find not-for-profit jobs/recruits

Also see: Sector/specialist job sites.

Charity-specific recruitment agencies have been largely concentrated in London, but there are some national agencies with charity/not-for-profit sections, and those based in London do often work outside the capital.

Some agencies specialise in particular types of post, senior executive or fundraisers for instance, which is indicated where known. There are also specialist agencies for activity areas such as Residential Care staff – generally not listed by us, although some may appear via the job sites (online vacancy listings) page.

Working For a Charity is a training course for those wanting to move in to the voluntary sector.

  • Aquilas Charity recruitment consultants specialising in fundraising, marketing & communication appointments. Based in St Albans, Herts. Phone 01727 375361, email:
  • Attenti “core business is the recruitment of Chairs and Chief Executives within the Not for Profit Sector”.
  • Charity People.
  • Charisma Recruitment Offices in London and Hampshire. Phone 01962 813300.
  • Eden Brown Phone 0845 4 505 202, email:
  • Executive Recruitment Services has a charity and not-for-profit team.
  • Flow Caritas charity recruitment consultancy has been supporting charities since 2004. Areas include F2F fundraisers for leading charities, office jobs for small to medium charities. Offices in London and Manchester, phone 020 7089 2644, email:
  • Harris Hill “deal with charities and the non profit sector. The jobs we handle range from the basic admin position up to Directors and the Senior level. We aim to provide long term solutions to individuals and organisations employment needs with an emphasis on building long term relationships with clients.” Phone 020 7820 7300.
  • Hays Accountancy and Finance, a large national agency, has some charity opportunities.
  • Langton Not 4 Profit charity, arts, not for profit. Phone 020 7643 1794.
  • Kage Partnership Recruitment consultants specialising in fundraising, PR and marketing appointments within the not-for-profit sector.
  • Morgan Hunt has a charity and fundraising section.
  • NFP. Recruitment support, executive search and selection, media and campaign management and full response handling.
  • Oxford HR recruiting in international development, ethical trade and social enterprise sectors. Phone 01865 403298.
  • Prospectus ‘a professional, well-informed and cost-effective service to the charity, university, public and voluntary sectors’. 20-22 Stukeley Street, London, WC2B 5LR, phone 020 7691 1925.
  • The Right Ethos Specialise in recruiting for campaigning organisations and campaigning teams of charities. Based Whitstable, Kent, phone 01227 277754.
  • Third Solutions Phone: 020 3008 4386.
  • TPP Not for Profit “Finding positions for CEOs, Directors, Fundraisers, Marketers, Accountants, HR Professionals and Medical and Teaching Staff within the third sector” since 1996.
  • Inspired People specialises in recruiting face to face (street) fundraisers. Based Bristol, phone 0845 838 5501.


  • AWS is a consultancy based in Edinburgh, with another office in London.
  • Bruce Tait Associates is a voluntary sector specialist in Scotland, particularly for chief execs and fundraisers.
  • EVH (was Employers in Voluntary Housing) ‘Supporting social employers’ – HR support, training, as well as recruitment.

Also consider

  • Reed. Reed Employment has many guises, and has various charity related initiatives. Try your local office to check out charity discounts.
  • Recommended by others in the sector in online discussions: Forties People ‘provider of mature office personnel’; Wrinklies Direct ‘dedicated to finding employment for women and men of advancing years’.
  • Other employment agencies often have some charity deal.
  • The government’s Job Centre service.

Jobs in the Voluntary Sector

Locating sector job adverts

General and specialist charity job sites.

Charity Recruitment Sites

Please let us know of any link changes, updates or suggested additions.

Run by the sector

  • GoodMoves is a ‘careers hub’ for the sector, set up by Scottish umbrella body SCVO. Also has some vacancies for England, and see its Third Force News publication too.
  • For vacancies in Wales, bilingual site recruit3 listings are collated by Welsh umbrella WCVA.
  • Northern Ireland jobs on CommunityNI.

Regional listings

General third sector job sites

Also see our info on recruitment agencies specialising in the charity sector, which often have their own online vacancy listings. You could also try various listing aggregation sites, which arequite  likely to have a charities category.

Publications in print and online

  • The Guardian Society pages every Wednesday have the widest range of charity sector jobs.
  • Third Sector magazine online jobs section is ThirdSectorJobs.
  • Civil Society Media publishes various sector titles, with online jobs section.


Charities’ own web pages

Voluntary organisations with dedicated web pages for their own vacancies. This will usually be the larger charities and campaigning groups.

National/London Organisations

On VolResource: