Charity sector: What does a project manager do?

Why did you become a charity project manager?
I never set out with the intention of moving into the charitable sector and the path to my current role has been via a number of roles: 12 years as a history teacher; a spell as education officer for the Royal Armouries Museum at the Tower of London where I delivered history-based education sessions to school students; most recently, I was education programme manager for Thames Water. The move to Brightside Trust was motivated by my desire to get back to working for an organisation whose sole aim is to improve and provide opportunities for young people. Brightside Trust is an educational charity that specialises in developing e-mentoring projects for disadvantaged young people.

What does your role entail?
In my role as project manager, no two days are the same.  I currently manage three projects, one based on law, one on business and enterprise and another for young people in care. A lot of my day is spent managing the day-to-day elements of my programmes; responding to emails and calls from mentors and mentored and meeting with partner organisations about our programmes.  We run an e-mentoring systems, which I manage with the web team here and I also deliver training sessions to students and mentors, which I really enjoy. A more arduous, but necessary, element of my work includes looking at budgets and spreadsheets to ensure we aren’t over spending.

What’s been the best moment in your job?
A newly recruited student on one of our e-mentoring schemes told their mentor that they had thought about dropping out of college. But since speaking with her mentor she was inspired and determined to push on and fight for what she wanted to achieve.

What’s been the worst?
The long commute - but the job is worth it.

What’s the biggest challenge?
We do encounter some challenges in particular with regards to securing continued funding for our projects because of the short-term nature of funding.  But this is something we have to accept as it is out of our control. Also, keeping up with the changes in education initiatives in order to maximise the opportunities for the young people we work with can be a tough call. However all this means it never gets boring! 

Why should someone consider a similar career move?
This role would be perfect for someone looking for an education-related role away from the classroom and with a focus on disadvantaged young people. If you want the benefit of a serious work ethic with a relaxed office environment in which to operate and the ability to take your holiday (albeit less) when you want it, this might be the job for you. However, don’t expect not to encounter government red tape, as it does happen in charities, too.


Want to know about other non-classroom roles? Visit New career directions