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Stefan Rollnick sat down with Mark Goldring, CEO of Oxfam, to talk about how to get a job in the charity sector, how to solve the refugee crisis, and the ethics of fundraising.

So what was it that made you want to work in the charity sector?

I’d love to claim a really noble, laudable lifelong held aim, but my my aim when I graduated was to avoid getting a proper job. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I wanted to do something that was interesting, that was challenging, that was exotic, and that didn’t involve going into an accountancy company or a law firm; I studied law.

[After returning from Borneo as a teaching volunteer] I didn’t think I wanted to be a teacher for my career, but I did get that sense of international work being positive and powerful. It gradually emerged from that sense of I want to travel and do something interesting.

What advice would you give to undergraduate students coming out of University who are thinking of working the in the charity sector?

I’m often asked that, and there is no one simple route in. Work experience is the best route in. Degree subject, especially undergraduate degree subject, is much less important. It’s finding ways of applying and building on it. And then, once you’re inside an organisation, whether it’s charity or a government, whether it’s an internship or a paid job, your opportunities being to open.

In broad terms, what are your opinions on the Syrian refugee crisis and what might an international solution look like?

I think there’s a number of different elements. The first is: we do need a European solution. We need that whether Britain is in the EU or whether it’s out of it. It’s easier in, but it also needs to involve countries like Turkey, who aren’t in. It’s not just about being a member of the EU.

We need to recognise that rules that appear to say ‘you have to claim asylum in the first place you reach’ don’t work. The idea that Britain is somehow protected form the rest of Europe by the accident of sea is not a reason for one of the richest countries in Europe standing aside.

We think Britain needs to do a number of things. We believe that Britain needs to take a lot more refugees, […] but none of us believe that Western European countries taking all of the refugees is a viable option either. You have 12 million people displaced inside and outside Syria, so the most important issue is: what can we do to drive for a political solution?

My view is that it means living with Assad, at least temporarily. Oxfam’s work on the ground in Syria does not suggest that this is a regime that is about to fall.

A lot of people often complain about being harassed by fundraisers in the street, and I just wanted to ask where you position yourself on the spectrum of actively encouraging people to donate their money, whilst also making sure it is an autonomous decision?

It’s a fine balance, which means some people will think we’ve got it wrong. There have been times in the past when agencies, including Oxfam, have got it wrong. We’ve had to reduce the chances of that happening, which has meant being far more open and explicit about whether somebody is consenting or not. That’s the crucial issue. But I have no apologies for street fundraising – I believe in it. It’s really valuable because it encourages people to give who will not give otherwise.

A lot of up-and-coming charities, pretty early on, hit the problem of how much money do you now spend on employees, and how much do you continue to give to the cause. I was just wondering how and when you might have struggled with balance this personally, or how Oxfam might have struggled with this as an organisation?

Balancing the need for good management, for effective fundraising, and for delivering your mission is a really tough challenge. The world was just as tough on Kids Company for being badly managed as it is for those charities that spend too much on management. We have a duty to spend our money well and wisely.

So in Oxfam, we spend approximately 84 pence in the pound on our programmes, round about 8 pence in the pound on management and administration, and about 8 pence in the pound on fundraising. That varies slightly year on year, in part depending on how effective your fundraising is, or whether you need a new IT system, or whatever.

It is unacceptable to have bad management, and it’s unacceptable to be wasteful with public money, so you’ve got to get that balance right.

Epigram would like to thank the Oxfam Society for giving us the opportunity to speak to Mark Goldring. Take a look at their Facebook page for more information on clothes and food collections around University Halls of Residence, and to be the first to hear about the other exciting talks taking place in our SU.

What do you think of street fundraisers? How much should those in the charity sector be paid? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @EpigramFeatures.

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