Charity events organisers work in the charity sector organising fundraising social events and concerts.
Charity events organisers plan and manage parties and fundraisers for charities in order to raise the profile or boost the budget of the charity concerned. In the case of certain arts and theatre charities, promotional arts or theatre events are an intrinsic part of the sponsorship of struggling artists for which the charity was founded.
The job involves many of the same elements of work as party planning or PR, but because the work is undertaken for a charity, a good knowledge of the third sector is also a requisite of the job.
In an increasingly media-powered society, the importance of the events organiser as someone who creates the public image of the charity and oversees major fundraising drives is rising.
Because events management is a role born of a world of commerce and celebrity, a world far from the stereotypical image of charity work, there can be a negotiation of different professional roles in this job which many find exciting and challenging.
Unfortunately, charity events organisers rarely earn the high salaries that their peers in the commercial sector command, with salaries starting at zero for volunteers.
Salaries for junior events assistants at small charities can be anything from £17,000 to £20,000, rising to £25,000 for those with more experience. At the very top end of the job market, the handful of events managers who head up the large international operations of bigger charities will be earning executive salaries, from £40,000 to six-figure sums.
The responsibilities of a charity events organiser vary greatly depending on the charity. Events organisation and management for larger charities will involve greater quantities of work with a press team and with the media, while events for smaller charities will involve a wider scope which could involve anything from writing funding applications to setting out the chairs prior to functions.
Jobs can include any of the following:
- brainstorming events ideas
- contacting artists, venues and agents
- working with PR, marketing and press teams to ensure that the charity’s public profile is being developed according to plan
- planning the logistics of events: venue, food, seating and so on
- dealing with health and safety
- writing press releases
- attending industry functions
- making funding applications
- necessary administration and record-keeping
- managing teams of assistants and volunteers
Specific qualifications are rarely compulsory for events organisers, though most are educated to degree level.
Charity events organisers need the following skills and qualities:
- Sociability (essential)
- Enthusiasm (essential)
- Good communication skills, both written and spoken
- Office skills such as time management and computer literacy
Charity events organisers, like all events organisers, are sometimes expected to work beyond normal office hours, including at weekends and, particularly, late nights. Many charities will offer Time Off In Lieu (TOIL), in which hours off during expected working hours are substituted for extra work at evenings or weekends.
In smaller charities, the events organiser may be held responsible for health and safety requirements. Working for small charities may also involve a degree of physical work, such as moving furniture or equipment, if the work-force is not large enough or rich enough to hire specialist professionals to undertake this task.
On the other hand, organising events can also mean being office-bound for weeks at a time, with the attendant stress or boredom of being constantly in front of a computer.
Charity events organisers can come from many different sectors, though most come from within the third sector. While some experience organising events is desirable, it is not always necessary for those who have been working in related positions that involve events management.
Some events organisers cross over from commercial work for PR firms into charity work.
Some experience in events organisation, as well as some knowledge of and a genuine enthusiasm for the charity for which you’re working, are essential.
Larger charities such as Amnesty or UNICEF have whole departments dedicated to fundraising events, while music and theatre charities have one or two members of staff whose jobs involve scheduling concerts. Some charities contract their events management to commercial PR firms.
Charity Choice (see links, below) is a database of all UK charities, to which you might apply for voluntary experience.
It is increasingly necessary to gain experience as a volunteer before candidates are considered viable for a paid position. Almost everyone who works for a charity has had some experience at the unpaid end of the ladder.
On the plus side, many charity workers are dedicated to the cause for which they are working and do not begrudge finding the time, money and enthusiasm to complete a period of unpaid work.
Other events organisers start their careers in commercial PR events or party planners before crossing over to the third sector.
Charity events organisers usually go on to other jobs in the third sector, working in other departments such as marketing and fundraising, or moving up the rungs of larger events departments of the big charities. Some events organisers go on to found their own events companies, or even their own charities.
Also known as…
- Events Organiser
What’s it really like?
Charlotte Dove, 26, from Greenwich, South London
I’ve worked here at the London Diaspora Network for a little under a year now, and before that I worked in marketing for another arts charity for three years.
At university I’d helped the Royal Shakespeare Company promote trips for students, as well as doing some promotion for student radio. After graduating I did a two-month internship working as an administrator for a charity. This, combined with my English degree and experience in promoting the arts on a voluntary basis, stood me in good stead for a position organising events for an arts charity.
Our aim is to facilitate cross-cultural communication by promoting the work of artists living in London who originate from different countries and whose art draws on the traditions of other places. We hope that by doing this we can educate, communicate and promote cultural understanding, as well as helping struggling artists who are finding it hard to get a platform for their voices.
My job is to run the network of artists we have on our books, which involves organising smaller events, gigs and shows in town and on the radio, as well as our biggest event, a bi-annual free festival in Hyde Park, at which most of our artists will perform.
My job is very diverse. As we’re a small charity, it can involve researching grants that might fund our next event, writing proposals for funding or for events, devising programmes and keeping in touch with the artists on our books.
It’s really important to keep up with what’s going on in your area of charity work – whether that’s development, healthcare, politics or, as in my case, arts.
Specifically, it’s really important for me to be in touch with our artists, to know their genre and what their work is like. This helps me know who to put together for an event, and who’s keen on the different kinds of work we can offer.
As you might expect, a typical day involves a lot of emails and phone calls, as well as keeping the website updated, planning press items and marketing tactics, sending invitations and writing and sending press releases. When an event draws near, I have to deal with the venue and technical team, make sure the running list will run smoothly and make sure everyone’s going to turn up!
Our admin assistant and interns are really helpful dealing with things like food and seating.
Working in a small charity has its frustrations, which are often the financial and professional limitations imposed on us as a company. This can mean that I don’t have the freedom to make improvements to the running of the network in all the ways I would like. A lack of IT support and resources as well as a constant pressure to fundraise are all tiresome aspects of my job. We’re very dependent on funding.
People looking to work in this profession should know that the salary isn’t high – mine is £20,000, and I’ve been working in this area for nearly four years now – and the hours are erratic and occasionally exhausting.
Evening and weekend work doesn’t just take place during events for your own charity: it’s also required for other networking evenings and fundraisers. It’s essential to be sociable and it’s very useful to be well connected in your sector.
Out-of-hours work is not an option – it’s an expectation. However, if you’re lucky you’ll be able to get Time Off In Lieu (TOIL) as part of the package.
The events themselves are the most rewarding part of my job because that’s where I see the impact the network has – seeing the reaction from audience members, getting feedback and especially hearing about the effect that the network can have on the careers of the artists we represent are all really positive aspects of my work.
I’d love to run a community-based festival somewhere outside London one day. For me, events affirm why I do the job in the first place.