Working For a Charity

Today I started a Foundation Course on working for charities. Run by Working for a Charity (part of NCVO) in London it helps people who are interested in voluntary organisations to understand more about them and to apply for jobs successfully. The course runs for seven days from now until the end of June.

I have been working for charities (CMS and the Church of England) for some while, but feel that I lack an appreciation of some of the differences between charities and commercial businesses. I hope that attending the course will be enjoyable and “sharpen me up” as I look for work.

The first day has been enjoyable with good company and good teaching. Most of the participants are middle-aged: coping with redundancy or returning to work after looking after children.

I was amused to listen to some of the particular characteristics of charities, for example a passion for the work (good) and too many meetings (not always so good!).

Still in Research Phase

Is the job hunt working?

I seem to be finding people to network with and jobs to apply for, and I'm even being invited to interviews. However nobody has offered me employment yet! Maybe I shouldn't be impatient – I'm only 27 days into unemployment. (May be I should have a counter in this blog – but that's the problem: I want it to be counting DOWN not UP!)

I do feel that I am still in the Research Phase: learning from the experiences that I have as I meet people to discuss work. This is shaping my ideas of what work I want to do, and I continue to consider self-employed options too.

I feel that words of St John of the Cross are helpful, as I sail into uncharted waters. (Yes, this blog is supposed to have a nautical theme.)

The lost art of Marketing

Conversations that I have been having in connection with my search for work have reminded me of my interest, and skill, in strategic marketing.

Marketing is defined as matching the resources of the organisation with the needs (or “wants”) of the customer. This is what I had practised in my industrial career, and the question of how to match organisational resources and customer needs is foundational to business strategy.

What puzzles me is that in the charitable sector marketing seems to be used in a much-diminished way: not referring to business strategy but to particular communication activities such as “marketing campaigns” (which the industrialist would probably call advertising, or publicity, or mail-shots).

I think, sadly, that such misuse of the word marketing contributes – in some not-for-profit organisations – to a real lack of strategic thinking about how to match creatively the resources of the organisation, which include its supporters, with the needs of its beneficiaries.

“Unemployment” approaches

I got excited at the thought that I may leave CMS and go straight in to another job, however it is now clear that I shall enter that state called “unemployment.” I like the idea of a rest, however my diary already seems full of appointments with people I feel that it will be useful to connect with. While waiting to see whether God may guide me to more full-time employment (whether in another mission agency or elsewhere) I am exploring management consultancy and interim management, as well as opportunities within the church.

I should enjoy some overseas work. I should like to renew friendships in India, and explore more, and I have an unfulfilled yearning to spend time in Africa.

My redundancy notice ends on 18th May, but I have negotiated an earlier departure on Friday 30th March.

Our family are feeling a lot of grief at the moment, with bereavements in the family as well as that of leaving work and freinds made at CMS.

How’s the job hunt going?

Thanks to all those who are supporting me in different ways as I look for new work.

Today someone reminded me that Charles Handy recommended that people have a portfolio of work. I wonder whether I am heading in that direction, which has the potential to be particularly adventurous, as the jobs that I have applied for so far may be either full time or part time.

I have been invited to second interview by a UK mission agency who are seeking a collaborative Chief Executive.

I am also exploring the possibilities of management consultancy, having responded to an advertisement from The Management Centre, London, who specialise in working with not-for-profit organisations.

Job Change Update

It feels strange to be having to change jobs within two years of joining CMS. Ironically, in my earlier work in Sales and Marketing, I was used to such a pace of change and always being on a steep learning curve. I must have got out of the habit!

The time at CMS has been largely exhilarating, and I choose to see the experience as a springboard to something even more suitable. So my Christmas vacation has been invaded by some groundwork on this. It is a challenge, though, to remain optimistic and not get depressed about “job-hunting.”

On the practical side, CMS have kindly lined up an executive coach: Nick Isbister of SIMA UK. We have worked together before, in a different context, and we have now met up again which is helpful. With him I am thinking through what work I should like to do next, which includes the question of whether to apply for the jobs which replace mine in the new CMS structure. (They have now been advertised. I have not yet been given the formal letter telling me that my job is redundant.)

On the emotional and spiritual side, I see my present work as a bridge between my recent work as a church minister, and the team leadership work that I can see myself continuing to do. So I am looking for a restoration of the sound path that is being upset just now. I was encouraged by part of letter in the Bible which I read on Friday (1 Peter 5:10): “The God of all grace… will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you.”

Happy New Year!

CMS Redundancies

My job at the Church Mission Society has been made redundant.

News has gradually been seeping through CMS over the past three months: firstly that budget cuts are needed into next year; then that redundancies are likely; then – in particular – that the part of CMS' British work that I am a team leader in (Mission Movement) will have to 'lose' around five staff. Financial difficulties have precipitated a revision of a 'provisional' organisational structure.

This is in addition to those job losses which result from the move of CMS Britain's offices from London to Oxford in mid-2007, because everybody does not want to relocate.

I now have an e-mail telling me that my post is one of those that has been made redundant, and await formal notification and clarification of timescales. There may be other vacancies within CMS that I can apply for (but do I want to?), however it's clear that it is time to start 'job-hunting.'

I have not been with CMS long (since May 2005) however it has been enriching to be part of a mission agency, to build new friendships with colleagues and others, to have my horizons expanded through international and multi-cultural work, and in particular to spend a month in India and Sri Lanka as part of my induction process. (My journal and photos of that visit will get posted on this new web-site when I have the time.)

That is part of the positive side. When I share the situation with friends they find it difficult to understand how a well-managed organisation can recruit for a post in one year, only to make it redundant in the next. There have been redundancies before at CMS, and (who knows?) more may happen next year. Perhaps this is a good time to leave!

I have compassion not only for those whose jobs are affected by this, but also for those (particularly the directors of CMS) who have difficult decisions to make. It is not an easy time for charities to raise funds for mission work, CMS is seeking to invest more in its fundraising, and to recruit more people into that team. They will also have to find new people to do the work that they are raising funds for.

It is natural to take redundancy personally, to feel discouraged or that one's work is not valued. On the contrary, a friend said to me encouragingly lately. Briefly: if your post is made redundant you should not assume that you have been doing bad work, because if you had been you should have been sacked. Taking this to its logical extreme: those of us whose posts are being made redundant should pat ourselves on the back, becaues we are clearly the ones who have been doing good work!.

'Everyone who seeks, finds.'

Be encouraraged, and may God bless you in your search for pastures new.