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How to get into the charity sector: Advice from an NGO president

A woman sits outside working on a laptop

If you’re wondering how to get into the charity sector, start with advice from a professional in the field. Social entrepreneur Catalina  Escobar is the founder and president of Juanfe Foundation, a nonprofit organization that is committed to improving the lives of children and adolescents living in extreme poverty in Latin America. Her core focus is tackling one of the core problems that perpetuates poverty in the world: teenage pregnancy.

For an episode of The Intern Group’s podcast How to be the difference, Catalina shared the personal story behind the Juanfe foundation, how she made the switch from the private sector to a nonprofit,  and the importance of measuring impact.

Listen to the full episode here, and check out Catalina’s best advice for those wanting to get into the charity sector.


How to get into the charity sector:

Catalina explains that the charity sector is just that – a sector. Just like the financial sector, or any other industry in the world, you have to build a career. Many people think that if you work in a nonprofit, you aren’t being measured, or setting professional goals. But nothing could be further from the truth, Catalina says. She transitioned to the charity sector from the business sector, and explains that measurements are just essential in a nonprofit as to economists.

Having a career in an NGO doesn’t mean you’re just sitting at a desk. If you want to be successful in this field, you must be ready to dedicate your entire self to your cause. And that’s a very serious decision, Catalina says. But passion is worthless if you don’t have structure and purpose, she explains. For example, there are many entrepreneurs that are passionate about a project, but that project is worthless without measurements. That’s the same in the charity sector.

The shift from the business world to an NGO wasn’t a big shift for Catalina. “I was already building a life with purpose,” she explains. But if you want to make a difference, you can’t do what everyone else does. If you’re ready to blaze your own trail, you might be ready for a career in this sector.


Two women have a conversation at a table.


What are the most important skills for success?

Catalina believes that above all, to be successful in this field, “you have to be a  good human being.”  It’s important to be in the right mindset when you approach these jobs. Be prepared to treat everyone with compassion. Have character. Love yourself. Once you have all of that, you can make an impact, and touch the lives of people around the world.

She also has a few other important things she recommends:

Be focused: A job in the charity sector requires dedication, and focus. Whether you’re starting your own nonprofit or working with an organization, you need to keep your eye on the end goal.

Be passionate: Work in this sector has to come from passion. A passion for helping others. A passion for animals, for sustainability. In Catalina’s case, a passion for helping children. When the work inevitably gets challenging, your passion will help push you through.

Wake up with gratitude: Catalina says it’s essential to wake up with gratitude every day. Gratitude for all that you have, and for the work you get to do. Mindset is everything!

Open yourself to opportunities: Approach everything in this field with an open mind, and be ready for any opportunity that might come your way. Remember, your path may change as you move along it. It’s okay to change your plans!

Inspire others: One of your top goals in the charity sector should be to inspire others to also make a difference. Remember, there are endless opportunities to inspire the people around you!

Be confident: Be confident in your work, in your career path, and in your passion.

Don’t take yourself too seriously: Catalina’s last bit of advice is not to take yourself too seriously. Have fun with your work. Remember that you aren’t the expert in everything. Ask others for help, and remember that work in the charity sector isn’t about you.


Want to break into NGOs? Consider doing an internship with The Intern Group.




  1. Sponsored by Google Chromebooks, by Anete Lūsiņa  on Unsplash.

    2. Untitled, by Christina @ on Unsplash.


Photos and blog by Maeve Allsup

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