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Why I chose to work for a charity

Meet Liv, she works at Dreams2Live4 which is a nationally registered charity, making dreams come true for patients whose cancer has spread.

Q: What drew you into the non for profit industry?

A: Working in the industry had always been something I wanted to do: but I thought it would come a lot later in life.

I had imagined working for a big corporate or PR firm then moving to non-profit: taking with me everything I had learned along the way. I was drawn in by an unexpected opportunity and I am so glad that window opened for me.

Interning in corporate and commercial public relations was quite a turn off: realizing that the entry-level tasks lacked meaning and the chance to be creative. At uni, you spend a lot of time on learning to create campaigns and write media releases. But in many entry-level roles: there’s no chance to be nearly as creative. You are really just executing the plans and ideas of others.

But working at Dreams2Live4 is completely different. The most amazing thing is the rewarding nature of the industry and the happiness and fulfilment I get from knowing I am helping people. And because of that, I return home from work happy every single day!

When you work in marketing for non-profits: most of what you are doing is sharing the stories of very deserving and inspiring people. Each dream we make come true is so different and unique. Writing each one up for social media allows me to feel the raw humanity of each dream and I’ve found it incredible to feel so connected to people I’ve sometimes never met.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about the day in the life for you?

A: I am the Projects Manager for Communications, so I manage anything from social and digital media, traditional public relations, events, advertising, marketing and even sometimes graphic design and movie making! One day I could be creating our content calendar, analysing our social media efforts and posting on Facebook. The next day could be writing media releases, selling to journalists and working on events too!

I report to the Director of Communications, we work together and have many meetings and approvals throughout the day. In such a close-knit office, I also get to support my CEO when possible which is very exciting for someone just starting out. There’s really no such thing as an ’average day’ for me and I love how that keeps me on my toes.

Q: How did your internship experience open doors in the industry for you?

A: In every way possible! I began interning at Dreams2Live4 through a CSU connection and it introduced me to the entire world of non-profits.

Although many mechanisms are the same: advertising, PR and social media- the way the message is spread and written is entirely different. There is also the difference for marketing: as we aren’t selling a product, we focus or sharing stories and the idea of dreams coming true for patients who’s cancer has spread. This proposes many unique challenges. So you go from learning how to promote a pretty, functional product that people will want to buy to something completely different whilst building a brand image around trust, helping people and giving.

The most amazing thing is the rewarding nature of the industry and the happiness and fulfilment I get from knowing I am helping people.

I got to work on a few amazing events where I could have input from the start to the finish and I even got to speak at an event in front of 200 people! I also scored a meeting with the incredible CEO of Ogilvy Public Relations, Kieran Moore (I’m sure not many interns could say that! And at the end of it all: I landed a job at Dreams2Live4 (and what could be better than that!?)

Q: What is the best thing about your chosen career?

A: Going to work excited and leaving work happy and satisfied! You are never bored and there is so much variety: meaning more learning and more experience. Also knowing that what we are doing is making a difference in the lives of so many people. I am also very lucky to work with extremely appreciative, encouraging women who are kind and caring at their very core.

Each dream is so different and unique. Writing each one up for social media allows me to feel the raw humanity of each dream. I’ve found it strange to feel so connected to people I’ve never met.

People ask myself and my colleagues, “How do you do it? Do you need counselling?” Our job is confronting but our response is that despite the sadness and the devastation of cancer and death: what we are doing is ultimately positive. So it not a loss, but something gained.

Q: What did you study, and would you recommend your course?

A: I studied a double degree: Bachelor of Communications/Business at CSU in Bathurst. In communications I majored in Public Relations and marketing for business, which gave me a lot of variety and allowed me to narrow down on what I truly loved. I’d absolutely recommend my course: it is super practical and SO hands on! Due to the small cohort: you really get to know your tutors and benefit from their wealth of experience in the industry.

Q: Why? 

A: I didn’t fully know what I wanted to study or what I wanted my career to be when I started. Doing a double allowed me to explore what I was really interested in and what I enjoyed: with the flexibility to change if I needed to (CSU allows you to drop one side of your degree if you realise it isn’t for you: for example I could have dropped the communications or the business side). CSU also has the highest employment rate of any university, which I think is largely attributed to the staff going above and beyond. Beyond our classes, I felt I could contact any tutor whenever I wanted. Some even offered to catch up for a coffee for a regular basis: proof-reading cover letters and offering much needed career advice.

People ask myself and my colleagues, “How do you do it?”

On a personal note, I learned so much about myself and others during my time at. It is a very social, down-to-earth place and you meet people from all walks of life. Many of these people will be lifelong friends. The communications industry is all about connections.

The ‘Mitchell Mafia’ (a name for CSU graduates) is a powerful force to be reckoned with in our industry and I’ve already seen the benefit in my professional life. From sourcing internships to social and digital media advice and even scoring radio interviews!

Q: Is the not-for-profit sector growing?

A: The non-profit sector is constantly growing and changing. Corporate social responsibility is becoming increasingly valued and governments are looking more to philanthropy. The people demand it and it’s no longer acceptable to just ‘look away’. The concept of philanthropy itself is growing too. As the standard of living improves and people have more disposable income: they have more opportunities to give back. I also think it’s a cultural thing. Social media does wonders for the industry and makes campaigns like Movember possible. People like and share (increasing organic reach) and genuinely want to show others they are helping out.

As a society, we now expect more. There are lots of changes to the types of charities we see: like a rise in mental health campaigns and organizations in an attempt to make these topics less taboo.

Q: Which attributes make someone ‘good’ at your job?

A: Apart from what it says in the job advertisement, there’s a few more things you need to know. Have a willingness to learn: open your mind up to new possibilities and don’t ever think you know better. You need to constantly ‘look outside’. Your job and organization doesn’t exist in a vacuum so you need knowledge of the non-profit industry and the external marketplace: searching for and adapting trends to suit you. Have the confidence to try new things (but make sure you do your research before proposing them to your boss!) Push yourself further, be hard-working, be resilient: don’t get offended if someone doesn’t like your idea: it’s all learning and constructive criticism. Use your connections and netWORK. Form relationships whenever possible: hand-written thank yous, emails and phone calls do WONDERS and take a one-off collaboration to a lifelong relationship.

Q: What advice would you give to students who want to get into the industry?

A: Firstly: I’d say thank you! The world needs more people like you! You won’t regret it. Secondly: intern, intern, intern and do your research! The best thing about non-profits is they always need more help and volunteers so lend your time to one first to see if it’s something you truly want and go from there. The best part is, there are so many out there. So, it should be easy to find one that aligns with your passions, interests and values: from cancer charities like Dreams2Live4 to mental health like Beyond Blue and the Black Dog Institute.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: My 12 months with Dreams has taught me so much. It has taught me how a group of kind hearted people can reach out and truly change the world for someone in pain. For a family terrified and at breaking point… for an individual overwhelmed by cancer, desperate to feel like themselves again. It has taught me how the magic of a dream ripples out from the patient to every life they touch: their family, friends, doctors nurses and our network of supporters. And It has taught me that often it is the smallest of wishes that can bring hope and fill someone with strength and peace. I’m not sure where life will take me: as I’m so young and just starting out but what I do know is that I want to keep learning. I want to stay at Dreams2Live4 as long as I can: to be able to see growth, progression and to witness the charity reach its full potential. The best compliment I’ve had though was when my boss said she could see me as the CEO of the organisation one day.

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