Working hard or hardly working? The truth behind working in a Charity.

I’ve been at my job for over a year now, in that year I’ve learnt about myself as an employee and the trials and tribulations that a Charity goes through on a daily basis in order to continue to provide support and service to those in need.

This isn’t a love letter to my job, because I hate it. It isn’t about me bashing the job that gave me an opportunity to prove myself when I was a new graduate. This is what I think is a fair evaluation and explanation for what we do to keep our Charity going.

I work for a charity in London, I’ve talked to just about anyone who will listen
about my journey to and from work and the countless miles I travel for meetings, reviews, interviews. The hours I loose, unpaid, commuting is something I feel I give back to my work. It’s my way of saying, I believe in this cause, so here is my many hours of non-work to you. You’re probably thinking, big deal? But I spend a minimum of 4 hours a day travelling. Think about what you get done in those 4 hours, think about the number of tweets you could read or funny cat videos you could watch.

But it’s never an easy way to begin your day, the struggle to go through what feels like the entirety of London doesn’t always make for the best way to begin your working day, I manage though, for the good of the Charity.

On a daily basis we get a lot of applications come in and phone calls and inquiries we have to follow up, because we have standards and regulations we follow, it also means we have stacks of paperwork we have to get through. Before you even get through one stack, more come in and it’s a never ending cycle of paperwork and zombie like computer screen stares. Sometimes like some sick joke, someone finds it would be for the benefit of me to create MORE paperwork, adding to the already packed schedule. But that’s only office administration. Because in a Charity, you don’t get to have as much freedom with recruitment, you can’t just decide that you need an extra pair of hands, if there’s no budget, then your pair of hands will have to be enough. You have to jump through hoops to get the kind of support you want and even after being as compliant as you think you can be, it doesn’t always mean that will be enough, often it isn’t.

Our Charity is not-for-profit, meaning every penny we get from clients goes straight back into the Charity for it to grow, improve, so that hopefully in time we can help more people and become more Charitable. Our line of work often get publicised, and attacked by people who just don’t understand what we do or how we work. People think we extort money from innocent/vulnerable people, if this was the case then surely I’d be paid more? You can look at my pay check for all you sceptic ungrateful idiots. I feel so angry when I read articles or comments about my job and it’s clear to me this ignorance is through lack of understanding and unwillingness to learn. People are too afraid to be innovative and find it hard to believe that while they want to follow like a “sheeple”, there are others looking for alternative solutions.

I will tell you outright now, I don’t get paid enough for what I do, and I know a lot people say that but well and truly I do not. I get paid £7,000 less than the basic for someone in the same position I am. But in this job you can’t do it for the money, if you were doing it for the money you’d be in the wrong job.

The usual tasks we do include visits with clients, monitoring their experience, paperwork, follow up, travelling, marketing, communication (I’m trying to be as vague as possible but also trying to get you to visualise our daily routine). We spend hours for every client and even once we’ve successful found them a person, we continue to spend hours of time, and effort and care into giving them the best and unique experience. In our field of work, uncertainty and surprise is our worst enemy. We can spend over 20 hours on a client, we could spend months and months working hard to give them the best service, but anything can happen and we can lose that client just like that, we don’t get money for the charity, not even payment for the work we’ve already done, and for those of you who know what I do, I’m not talking about losing a client through death! I’m talking about losing a client because they either decided to go with a competitor, or they decided just not to go through with it at all. You see to decide not to go through with our service is a quick decision, and it bears no reflection on the work we did. To them it was just a decision they made, to us it’s many wasted hours of work, travelling we had to do to keep them happy.

Even though we’re a Charity, we also have targets to strive for, bosses like to know you’re working for your money, and boy do I work for it! Before I came to London I had a list of things I said I would NEVER do.

I broke every single one of them in this job.

When we lose a client, our numbers drop. If we don’t hit targets, it looks bad on us. The numbers don’t reflect how hard we work. They don’t show the number of late nights or over time we do. It doesn’t highlight how creative we were or how we spent a lot of time building a rapport with the clients. The numbers show how many we had last month, and how many we had this month. If the numbers decrease or don’t change at all, then it’s like we never did any work, and the only ones who really witness the work is the co-ordinators who do the work. We’re a very small team but we work hard, we go above and beyond our call of duty, hell I even sourced a free bed for a client once! We pay ourselves on the back for a job well done even if there is little to no appreciation for what we do. In fact it’s often that a client will say “what is it I’m paying you for again” my smile says gratitude, my mind says “you don’t pay me.”

The problem is, working in a Charity gives people a higher expectation, which makes being a success that much harder. You have to think about being sustainable whilst also doing right by the client, who are the main reason why your Charity exists in the first place, the balance between doing both can be difficult and often it’s the middlemen (me) who get the brunt of the failures, and who benefit the least when it succeeds.

Now you’re probably thinking, then why do you do it? Why don’t you just get another job?

Well like I told you, you don’t work in this industry for the money. Unless it’s the position of a CEO of some massive, international, celebrity favourite Charity, the salaries won’t be spectacular. The hours won’t be friendly and the benefits are basically none existent.

I came to this job out of sheer desperation to not be an unemployed, newly graduated woman who had no other idea what to do. I stuck around because the truth of the matter is, I love the cause behind what I do. I have a lot of belief in my job, my role, my Charity. I believe that when done right, this programme can help a lot of people.

All my life I searched for a meaning, for a purpose, for a path. When I had my first win in this job, I felt this sense of achievement and it was so rewarding to see the difference I had help make in someone’s life. I know smiles can’t pay for your livelihood, but it almost gave me something better.

Charities are hard work, they are hard to succeed in, sometimes you can work 7 days a week without any results showing but when it does…well its priceless.

Working for this Charity has taught me a lot about integrity and the kinds of responsibility you have over your fellow men, secretly it also made me appreciate other charities and my parents a lot more. In a slightly negative stance, I have also had my eyes opened to some truly nasty and evil side of a human being. I think people who send hate and anger towards something they don’t understand is cruel. To this day I am still not used to the amount of people who tell us that we’re just another greedy business pretending to be a Charity when I bet they’ve never researched into what we do and how we operate. I do believe there is no such thing as a ‘free lunch’ meaning nothing in life is free, but Charities need money to be able to run, when your local Charity have all their employees driving expensive foreign sports cars and living in mansions then maybe you can question it. If you’re so bothered by how much a Charity run for certain services then ask them instead of clouding others with uneducated judgement. Often these same Charities have open forums or meetings where anyone can attend and ask the questions you want answered, they happen so often that there’s no excuse for you to say, well I don’t have time. If you have time to pass judgement, then you have time to sit and listen. Maybe enlightening you in how hard some of us work can make you see that there is such a thing as Charitable Charities and that just because we’re a Charity doesn’t mean we don’t deserve a salary.

Working hard to us, or hardly working to you, we’re still a Charity and we still care, we want to make a difference and someday you’ll see that, so we’ll continue to make noise about our cause, and if ever you need us, we’ll be there to help you.

Do something to make your parents proud today, your kids proud someday and you proud everyday.

Peace and Love,
Jessy X


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