What motivates people to work for a charity: is it the organisation or the cause?

Today I read a very provocative article by Alex Swallow entitled ‘5 Reasons Why You Should NEVER Get A Job In The Charity Sector’.

At first, from the article’s title, I didn’t grasp what his angle was.  But it soon became clear.  Alex makes five basic points:

1- If you want to do things for people (rather than work with them)

2- If you think it is all about you (it isn’t)

3- If you think the charity sector is an easy option (it isn’t).

4- If you care only about a particular charity, not a cause (not the right attitude)

5- If you think that working for a charity makes you virtuous (it doesn’t)

Alex describes himself as “a massive advocate of careers in the sector”.  It is worth reading the whole article.

I can wholeheartedly endorse what he is saying although one of his five points I find challenging: about the charity, not the cause.

I had to think about what really motivates me: is it BHT for whom I have worked for almost 30 years and in whom I believe passionately, or is the cause, combatting homelessness, helping people overcome additions, cope with mental health problems, get housing and jobs?  I had to ask myself if my passion for the organisation is greater than my passion for the cause.

I recalled an incident a number of years ago when I felt that BHT had failed a client who was found to be living in squalor.  When I asked for a report about how this had come about, I was told that the project had done everything right, that they had followed all the correct procedures.  I almost resigned on the spot.  The cause is more important than everything else.

BHT’s Life President, Patricia Norman, at our 40th birthday celebrations in 2008, said that 40 years was no cause for celebration.  She said it was so sad that, after 40 years, there was still a need for BHT.

She was right. Unfortunately, the need is greater than ever before. Perhaps one day, I hope in my lifetime, there will be no need for organisations like BHT.  We are a wealthy country.  Surely we can do better than having men and women living on the streets?


2 thoughts on “What motivates people to work for a charity: is it the organisation or the cause?

  1. BHT bought the Regency Hotel [which became Phase One] in 2002. Andy Winter ran it for three years as a derelict, rat-infested B and B.:‘’One of the most run-down, flea and rat infested hovels in Brighton-a scandal in a civilised country, with fleas, rats, four kinds of bed bugs, no working bathrooms or toilets, and an inadequate fire detection system.’’ [His own words].

  2. Your account isn’t accurate. BHT certainly did not run it as a “derelict, rat-infested B and B”. My words that you quote are how it was run before BHT took responsibility for the building in 2002. Within days of BHT taking over for the Regency House Hotel (the Regency Hotel is an entirely different business) all beds and bedding were replaced, the building fumigated, emergency repairs made to bathrooms and toilets, and tens of thousands of pounds spent on installing a fire detection system. We then decanted half the residents while half the building was completely gutted and refurbished. We then moved the residents into a state of the art, safe, clear, secure building. We then refurbished the other half of the building. How it was run before BHT took it over was a scandal in a civilised society. I am proud of what we and our partners have achieved.

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