Six out of 10 people working in commercial organisations believe that the not-for-profit sector has shed its "cardigan brigade" label and is an area which can offer good career prospects.
That's according to research commissioned by organisers of forum3, a UK recruitment and volunteering event for the not-for-profit sector.
More than eight out of 10 of those looking for a career change would consider working in the not-for-profit sector according to the research, with three-quarters viewing working for a charity as their best option.
In contrast, a mere three per cent would opt to work with a housing association, clear evidence that they have the most work to do in improving their image to attract and retain the best candidates.
Seven out of 10 of those polled said that their motivation working in the not-for-profit sector for would be to be able to progress a career whilst helping a greater cause. In fact, six out of 10 said that recent world events such as the London bombings, South East Asia tsunami and Live8 have caused them to consider working in the charity sector.
However by far the biggest barrier to attracting the best people is poor pay, something that puts off seven out of 10 commercial sector workers.
If pay levels were equal, however, nine out of 10 would consider progressing a career in the charity sector. But almost half would still be reluctant to apply for a role owing to a lack of experience in the field.
"It's immensely encouraging to see that the not-for-profit sector is finally losing its cardigan brigade label and being viewed as a sector which can offer strong prospects," said Deborah Hockham, project director for forum3.
"However it is clear the sector has its work cut out in combating a number of misperceptions. As pay gaps have narrowed, and in many areas not-for-profit pay scales have become fully aligned with those in the commercial sector, the sector clearly needs to raise awareness of, and promote this message.
"While wanting to make a difference isn't enough in itself to carve a career, experience in the sector is not always necessary as more and more organisations recognise the value of commercial experience.
"The sector must take responsibility for this issue on an ongoing basis if it is to attract and retain the best candidates," she added.