The Next Generation of NFP Enthusiasts – Part One

It’s been a while, it’s been incredibly busy. Sadly, this is a rubbish excuse because part of my job role is to offer insight about hiring trends and to offer information to NFP leaders, that they can take away into their day to days.


I didn’t think that this article would be inspired by a BBC Bitesize article that popped up, which I was compelled to read. The article was titledTop 10 jobs teenagers want when they’re older are revealed’. Oddly, I didn’t see recruitment on this list…


The article discusses the roles that teenagers want when they become an adult, furthermore, it highlights what is most important to them when looking for a job in the future.


…why am I talking about this? How does it apply to the NFP sector? Why do I think this is important to share in this newsletter?


Here are the two key reasons why:

  • All of the roles that are in the top ten are people-focused disciplines.
  • Teenagers want to be in roles when they grow up, to feel like they are helping and making a difference…and they want to be happy.


As the Head of Merrifield Consultants, a NFP specialist recruitment agency, it is my job to understand the challenges and opportunities for the organisations in this space. Further, to analyse and listen to the different organisations we work with and offer some advice to them on how to counter these challenges, and maximise the opportunities. Yes, my primary focus is around recruitment and offering recruitment solutions to these organisations, but there’s much more to what I/we do than placing a person in a role with a NFP.


I’ve done a significant amount of work about what is most important to people when looking for a new role. The leading motivator is a ‘good culture’. Defining a ‘good culture’ is incredibly tough, culture is different to different people. However, as the famous saying goes ‘from the mouths of babes…’, we can look to our teenagers to simplify this for us.


There will be two parts to this article:

  • The Third Sector and Teenagers looking to make a difference.
  • Teenagers wanting people-focused roles, and current working from home culture.


Part One: The Third Sector and Teenagers looking to make a difference.

I wanted to be a Lawyer. When I was in my teens, I was obsessed with legal programmes, a particular favourite of mine was Boston Legal. I admired and wanted to be like Denny Crane and Alan Shore. At the time, as a teen I was interested in rugby and impressing people I fancied. I looked up to Denny and Alan as they exuded confidence, and intelligence. They were admired in their field and weren’t too bad, romantically. Looking back, I now see that the programme was incredibly misogynistic and wouldn’t see that light of day, today. I studied law, but it didn’t go any further past that point.


I fell in love with the third sector, I worked for two charities and found this beautiful space in between my love of charities and NFP’s and my desire to be in a role where the success of myself and the team around me comes down to how you are with people, and how hard you work. It’s very simple, there isn’t a magic formula.


This is all a prelude to what I am going to share now, and I will go into detail about why I am sharing this. Here is a graphic to share:


This chart above shows what is most important to Teenagers when they are thinking about their jobs in the future. For me, this is such good news for the third sector for a number of reasons, but I do not have the time to list all the reasons. But I wanted to focus on a few:

  • As a sector, we offer more opportunities to ‘feel good about what you do’, than any other sector.
  • We offer more opportunities for teenagers to ‘feel like they are helping people’, than any other sector.
  • As a sector, if we get the culture right, we can offer more of a chance at ‘happiness’, than any other sector.


The data suggests that the third sector is the primary sector to attract young people going to work in. The data suggest we can offer more to young people than any other sector. As a sector, based on the data, we should be celebrating the fact that young people want to prioritise the charity sector.  Which means I wouldn’t be as busy as I am!


But I know with certainty, that we lose a lot of young people to other sectors, and we have more problems attracting young people…why?


Please appreciate, there will be a multitude of differing opinions on this. As we are such a diverse sector, different causes will have different experiences around this. But, from what I have been a part of during my time in the sector, I can confidently discuss two areas:

  • Knowledge and understanding of what the sector can offer as a career.
  • A perception that the third sector isn’t catered to a younger person.


Knowledge and Understanding of what the sector can offer as a career.

The main points on this subject are below:


Perceived Lack of Prestige:

Many young people may perceive working in the charity sector as less prestigious compared to corporate or government roles. This perception can be influenced by societal attitudes and the emphasis placed on more traditional career paths.


Limited Visibility of Opportunities:

The charity sector encompasses a broad range of roles, from fundraising and marketing to program management and advocacy. However, these opportunities may not be well-publicised, making it difficult for young individuals to discover the full scope of careers available. There would need to be very positive strides taken to attract a more junior candidate base to the sector.


Misconceptions about Job Roles:

There may be misconceptions about the nature of work within the charity sector, with some assuming that roles primarily involve volunteer management or administrative tasks. Highlighting the professional and impactful aspects of these roles is crucial to dispel such misunderstandings. We know, that there is a huge amount of intricate, rewarding and specialist roles to be had – but communicating this to a younger audience has been missing.


Educational Gaps:

The education system may not adequately inform students about career opportunities in the charity sector. There might be a lack of specific courses or workshops that focus on nonprofit management or social impact careers. The third sector tends to be over-looked when talking about ambitious routes to take to build a career.


Limited Networking Opportunities:

Networking plays a vital role in career development. The charity sector may not be as well-connected to educational institutions or youth-focused events, hindering the sector’s ability to engage with and attract young talent. 


Financial Considerations:

The perception that working in the charity sector may not be financially rewarding can discourage young people. However, emphasising the social impact and personal fulfilment gained from contributing to meaningful causes can counterbalance these concerns.


My team and I look to diversity the candidate based where possible, looking at people from outside the sector, differing skillsets and backgrounds ensure there is wider representation. However, there appears to be a big drop in teenagers looking to do good, feel good in a sector that can provide that for them, as they are only really educated on more traditional paths. Marketing a career in Fundraising (as an example) could happen at an earlier point. Work could be done to educate a younger audience to pursue a career in the third sector, showcasing careers at universities and colleges etc.


This is something that isn’t going to change any time soon. But, we should be encouraged that there is a generation of people who have the right intentions and desire to be in a fulfilling career. How we attract that talent is part of my responsibility and of those who hire into the sector.


The second part of this article will discuss the perception that the third sector isn’t catered to a younger person.


With such changes since COVID, are a lot of the organisations in the sector able to attract younger talent?

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