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Accountants & volunteering — debunking some common myths

At Charterpath our mission is to chart a path between accountants and non-profits to create a stronger society and more fulfilling careers. Finance is one of the most critical areas for non-profits, spanning everything from fundraising to financial reporting and controls. Yet charities often struggle to recruit these skills.




We know it is a daunting prospect to commit to volunteering. But we also know that some of the reasons we give ourselves about not wanting to volunteer are myths that need to be busted! We are confident that aside from the unrivalled feel-good factor, the benefits of volunteering are so great, once you start, you won’t look back.


1. I don’t have the time to volunteer


Volunteering need not be a big time commitment. Volunteer roles can range from being Trustees, Governors, and Committee members with fixed time commitments and meeting schedules, to ad-hoc project work. The time needed will vary by role as well as the size of the charity and nature of its activities. @Reach Volunteering and @Do-It Org are both great sites where you can search for a role to match your available time.


We frequently hear from small charities that any single day volunteered can make a difference. Following a recent Charterpath connection, a volunteer accountant used one of their corporate charity days to prepare draft accounts for the charity Ella’s, saving them vital costs. Does your firm offer charity days which you could put towards volunteering without using your holiday allowance?


Of course the most important things is to be transparent up-front about how much time you expect to be able to commit to the non-profit so that expectations are aligned. From our experience, volunteering is such a humbling experience that once you get started you often find more hours for it than you originally anticipated!


2. I don’t know how charities work — how can I add any value?


The joy of accounting is that it is a very transferable skill. Whilst there are some differences in accounting treatments between companies and charities, there are many resources and guides which provide a simple overview (@NCVO Know How is a particular treasure trove of information). Furthermore, the training accountants undertake is so broad that there are many areas where you can contribute beyond book-keeping and financial statements — whether strategy and budgets, policy and processes, risks and controls. In the same way that your accountancy training allows you to support companies of all different types, the same principles apply to charities. As the accounting training expands to include other areas such as climate change reporting, the value for charities of having an accountant on their team continues to increase.


3. I am no longer an accountant


We know many accountants move out of practice into industry (some on qualification day!) and many move away from a finance role. That said, if our PwC training is anything to go by, it stays with you for life. If you maintain your CPD then great, however even if your accounting skills are rusty, you are likely to still know the best places to refresh your memory and have a network of other accountants for advice if you get stuck. For many small charities resources are so tight that employees often double-hat, performing multiple different roles. As a result, any volunteers with accounting qualifications (however out of date) tend to be a value-add.


4. I don’t have enough experience


Alex, my Charterpath co-founder, and I both started volunteering as trainee accountants and were surprised at how much value we could add at this early stage in our careers. Don’t forget that diversity of age is another important dimension for boards and non-profit management teams. I have a particularly vivid memory of advising a Risk & Audit Committee on a new IT policy — at c. 30 years younger than the other committee members I was the only one who had real-time experience of using computers day to day.


5. It will get in the way of my job


Studies have consistently proven that volunteering produces significant career benefits. To quote from a recent article in the Harvard Business Review: “Finding the right engagement outside your day job isn’t always easy. But once you do it, it usually opens the door to many other opportunities. And it’s those experiences that will become your personal competitive advantage.” https://lnkd.in/g_riSkM



Right now that’s cleared things up, what are you waiting for? Please follow us at Charterpath for more inspiration and get in touch if you need any advice.

 

If the idea of volunteering your skills with a non-profit has caught your imagination - follow these 3 simple steps:

  1. Follow Charterpath on LinkedIn for all the latest news, inspiration, and roles

  2. Have a look around our website at www.charterpath.org.uk for case studies, helpful resources, and live volunteer opportunities

  3. Sign the Charterpath pledge to show your support for our mission and volunteer your skills for at least 2 days each year

About Charterpath

Alice Clementi and Alex Marsh co-founded Charterpath as a community interest company in 2020, with a mission to increase the proportion of accountants volunteering from 10% to 50% - inspiring more accountants to volunteer their time and expertise, connecting them with non-profit opportunities, and engaging with a wide range of organisations so volunteering is a core part of an accountant’s career. For more information, visit www.charterpath.org.uk.

 

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