Careers advice was a bit lacking at my school. By the time I reached Sixth Form I had decided uni wasn’t for me, and I think that really threw the teachers. I hadn’t got a clue what subject I’d even study, so it baffled me all the more that I was expected to go, if not for the benefit of getting a degree, then just for the experience?! Thankfully my parents backed my decision, and I left school with three average A Levels, and a vague idea that I wanted ‘do something good in the world.’ I took a gap year which I spent working, and then travelling – one of the best times of my life so far! I have always loved travelling, and on this trip I was lucky enough to do some spontaneous volunteering, in Fiji and South Africa. I think this was where I really realised that any work or career I had in the future, would have to be for the benefit of others.
Having reached the decision of wanting to join the charity sector, with a strong interest in International Development, I set about browsing job opportunities, and any charity that caught my eye. I soon determined that an Internship would be a great way for me to gain valuable experience, increase my knowledge of the charity sector, and hopefully give me something to put on my CV that would compete with all the graduates out there!
I started a six month, unpaid internship with Age Concern Hampshire in January of this year. I work just two days a week, which allows me to do paid work around it, an arrangement which I am really happy with! I work in the Fundraising department, we are a small team – my manager, our Community Fundraiser, and little ol’ me! I work at the Head Office in Winchester, which is a lovely place to work, and Age Concern Hampshire cover my travel expenses, a deal which I think is very fair. I have really, really enjoyed my internship, and six months is passing by all too quickly!
So, what has my role involved?
- I have written several funding applications to Grant Making Trusts, as well as attending a training event for application writing (paid for by ACH) this is invaluable experience, as writing strong, convincing proposals is useful across a broad range of industries and jobs.
- I have learnt the importance of research! From finding potential funders, to looking up open events we can get involved in, tracking down venues for hire…etc!
- I have helped implement a brand new fundraising database and make sure all transactions, donors, volunteers, business contacts are recorded correctly.
- I keep our social media updated with our latest events, and list them on various other websites such as newspapers and councils.
- I am continually chasing supermarkets for the opportunity to hold collection days, a fairly tedious job, which makes it so much more worthwhile when I finally get a go ahead!
- I work with the Community Fundraiser to plan our brand new events, designing promotional and marketing material, contacting possible sponsors, finding suitable venues, and hopefully attending the events when the time arrives!
- I set ACH up on JustGiving, and JustTextGiving.
- I booked ACH into several vintage markets, a great opportunity to sell some vintage wares, and promote our work across the county!
And what have I gained?
As you can see from the (very condensed) list of jobs above, I have gained experience across a broad range of fundraising activities. I have no doubt that these will all go towards helping me secure a job in the charity sector. I recognise that I have been lucky, my manager at ACH has worked with interns for years, and is completely aware that being an intern is not just cheap (or free!) labour, but should be a real learning opportunity, and that is exactly what is has been for me. I have been supported and encouraged, and allowed to follow up my own ideas ( within reason obviously!). I have also been able to pick the brains of an experienced fundraiser, and been offered advice and guidance for my next steps. It has cemented my desire to continue working in charity.
So to any students unsure of what to do next, not keen on the idea of university, or looking to explore a particular sector before launching into your career, I’d highly recommend an internship. It is a great opportunity to get a taster of the industry, gain real hands-on work experience and determine your interests.