A charity spokesperson is a professional who speaks on behalf of a charity, announcing and propagating news and events from a charitable body to the public and press, as well as handling incoming media requests. They act as a front or face of an organisation and help control the image given, as well as promoting the charity and its aims.
A charity spokesperson is a particular type of media professional, who acts on behalf of an agency or organisation to communicate with “stakeholders”. This includes both the people that work there and people who want to gain information from whatever charity the person is representing.
With the explosion in new media that was brought about by the Internet, the role of a charity spokesperson has diversified somewhat into social media and similar in the past decade. In larger organisations, there may be multiple spokespersons working on specific areas, such as PR or fundraising, whereas in smaller charities one person may do all the work.
By and large, the work of a charity spokesperson will be office-based. However, as the job requires a lot of liaison work with external agencies, there may be a certain amount of travel involved in meeting with them as well as holding press conferences and briefings too.
There are a number of routes into becoming a charity spokesperson, though it has become, in some ways, a job that requires certain qualifications, usually a degree or HND. There are even postgraduate qualifications available now that are particular to this area of work though some smaller charities may offer positions to those who show a demonstrable passion for and/or experience in the charity sector, so it really is quite open.
The working hours tend to be office hours, that is, the standard nine to five. A charity spokesperson will have to be aware that some out of hours work will be required, especially at busy times or if there is some form of crisis that requires their attention. Furthermore, attendance at important conferences and other related work events might require weekend or evening work, so flexibility is key.
Finally, jobs in this area are allocated purely on merit, and are open to both males and females of all ages. However, statistics suggest that the job is one that is done by women more than men.
Like many jobs, experience and position, as well as the size of the company, dictate what salary a spokesperson can expect. The average for a basic charity officer will usually begin around the £18,000 mark, with specialists able to command anything up to £30,000 per annum.
Senior management can usually receive up to £50,000 per annum, but to reiterate, these are rough guides with individual charities having different payment structures.
Below is a list, not necessarily exhaustive, of the type of things you would expect to do as a charity spokesperson –
- Being available to take media enquiries and give out information
- Helping formulate a marketing/PR plan and coming up with ways to enact this strategy
- Writing and distributing statements, press releases and other material in support of strategy
- Attending meetings and conferences to represent your charity
- Assisting with fundraising by giving speeches or distributing promotional material
- Public relations work to raise the profile of the chosen charity
- Other administrative work, such as maintaining a media contact list or donor information, for example
As mentioned before, there are a few different ways to become a charity spokesperson. For instance, you can go into it through journalism, as the media skills learned in that field are highly transferable. Degrees in subjects such as law, marketing, PR, community studies and/or voluntary sector management are advantageous although this type of work is open to all graduates, with postgraduate qualifications becoming more desirable as the competition for jobs becomes more fierce.
Furthermore, you can occasionally get into this line of employment without a degree at all if you can show significant relevant work experience and/or a passion or flair for the work.
These are some of the aptitudes you will need to display or develop in order to excel as a charity spokesperson –
- Superlative communication skills, written and verbal
- Interpersonal skills
- Time management and project management skills
- The ability to make a firm commitment to the aims and goals of the charity
- Administrative skills, including numeracy
- Creativity and initiative
- An understanding of the voluntary/charity sector and how it works
A charity spokesperson will spend the vast majority of their working time in their office, as a lot of the work they do can be carried out there. Not all the important aspects of the job can be done there though, and as it is part of the role to represent and promote their charity a certain amount of travelling and attendance at important meetings, conferences and events will be essential.
As the lion’s share of the work is conducted indoors, the working environment for a charity spokesperson is very safe, with no real dangers apparent bar the normal health and safety concerns in an office.
Although not essential in some cases, a background or experience of the voluntary sector will show a demonstrable commitment to charity work and show that you are not purely motivated by the salary! This could be anything from working at Oxfam to volunteering to collect money; there really is a lot of scope as charities always need help.
As alluded to before, any jobs that require media skills can be seen as a solid bedrock of experience for those thinking of this type of employment too.
In this age of information at our fingertips and with avenues for publicity more numerous than ever before, spokespersons and related professionals can be found at almost every type of company.
Charities in particular, however, need to push their agenda in order to raise their profile and hence gain more money for their cause, so jobs are plentiful, though the competition is fierce as the sector becomes more attractive. Major employers will be the biggest charities, Barnados, NSPCC, RSPCA and the British Red Cross for instance.
As with salaries, this depends a lot on the size of charity a spokesperson is working for. Larger charities will have larger budgets, meaning more international travel, opportunities for networking and membership of different industry organisations. There will also tend to be a clear structure for promotion, meaning you could possibly ascend to managerial roles within the media, PR or fundraising areas of the charity.
That said, smaller charities will often be keen to reward people who show the requisite amount of talent and commitment, even if the promotion structure seems a little less fixed.
Due to the nature of charity work, it is prudent to mention that a lot of the jobs are offered on a contract basis, so it can at times be a worry to find work before one contract runs out. This is something to note if complete career stability is vital to someone wanting to be a charity spokesperson.
Also known as…
- Media Officer
- Publicity Officer
- Press Secretary
What’s it really like?
Colin Bain, 53, is the commanding officer at the Coventry Salvation Army Corps, and is able to give an insight into what working for a charity is all about.
How long have you been in this particular job?
I took on this job in September last year, so about five months.
What kind of things did you do before this job?
With my wife we had three previous appointments with The Salvation Army in Canada, in Fernis, British Columbia, Red Deer, Alberta and Owen Sound, Ontario. Before that I was a trained pharmacist in both the UK and Canada but I wanted to commit to the charity so I left that behind.
What kind of things do you do in a typical day at work?
With my wife, I oversee all aspects of the community ministry at our Church in the city. We run a cafe, see walk-in clients, host various programmes such as ESOL, a crèche, Parents and Tots etc. We also run various church programmes such as Bible study and Sunday worship too. We provide pastoral support, and also work to promote the charity, giving interviews (such as this one!) and being a point of contact for those wanting to learn about the Salvation Army. There is also an element of fundraising and promotion in these events, which is something I also take care of.
And what does The Salvation Army do? That is, what is its aim?
We exist to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and to serve suffering humanity. The Salvation Army is the second largest social services provider after the government in the UK (and also North America), and I feel this makes my job extremely important, as we are helping the most needy people in society.
Would you say you get a lot of satisfaction from your job as you are working to help people?
There is an immense amount of satisfaction to be gained from seeing people succeed and realising their potential. Sometimes you see people at their lowest ebb, and helping them turn it round gives me a feeling that you just can’t get from the majority of other jobs.
What specifically do you like about the job?
Put simply, I like the variety of demands in a day, which can range from fundraising to leading a prayer group and, as mentioned above, the satisfaction of being of service.
What do you dislike about the job?
Without meaning to sound too preachy, the inability to change the greed in the world! But we do our bit.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of doing this job?
Not to approach it as a job, but as a vocation or calling. With charity work you need to have a commitment to what you are doing and really believe in it, otherwise you won’t have the correct motivation.
What job(s) do you think you might do after this role (i.e. career progression)?
The Salvation Army appoints us to the places we serve, so we go! The plan is to return to Canada after our three years in England. What we will be doing next is unclear, so we’re not going to worry too much about that yet!
Lastly, is there any other inside information can you give to help people considering this career?
Know God, know yourself, and know your mission. This was the theme during our seminary training and it has stuck with me as being entirely motivating and sustaining, and can apply to almost any charity job too, not just religious ones such as my own. If you care for a cause then you will find extra drive to do well, I feel.