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Written by Susan ShorSusan Shor

How to list volunteer work on your resume

19 min read
How to list volunteer work on your resume
Volunteer work can be a wonderful way to feature a variety of valuable skills, Here's a list of how to add volunteer work to your resume.

Good for you, for giving back to the community! Volunteering can be a rewarding experience for all concerned. You can choose issues that matter to you and volunteer work on resume is a great way of supplementing your career story. Plus, you may get the opportunity to learn new skills or showcase the skills you already have in new ways. This shows employers that you care about the world around you.

However, there is more to listing volunteer work on your resume than meets the eye. Here, we explore:

  • How, when, and where to list volunteer work on your resume
  • Why volunteer experience on resume can be impactful
  • How to show proof of volunteering on your resume
  • Why volunteering on resume should be truthfully reported

Volunteering is a valid part of anyone's career. Just because you were not paid does not mean that the experiences did not add to your career progression. Let's explore the nuances.

How do you list volunteer work on a resume?

Volunteer work on a resume can be a wonderful way to feature a variety of valuable skills such as fundraising, community planning, patient care, or event management. Knowing how to properly integrate volunteering on resume into your work experience section is key. 

Volunteer experience on a resume is especially important if you have noticeable employment gaps in your resume due to the economy or personal circumstances. It shows that you are a passionate and driven individual with a lot to give. With proper placement, volunteering on resume can prove to be beneficial to the overall impact.

Volunteering can also be a way to change careers. If you are looking to make a lateral move in a field related to the one you are in or want to try something completely new, offering your services as a volunteer is a great way to broaden your experience. Organizations seeking volunteers may be more willing to train you or to allow you the freedom to expand your skillset. Documenting volunteer experience on a resume can lead to a paying job within the organization, but you will still need a stellar resume.

Expert tip

Can you list volunteer work as employment?

Yes, you can describe your volunteer work in the employment history section of your resume if:

  • It’s directly relevant to the position you are seeking
  • You otherwise have little or no paid experience

While volunteer work on your resume should always be indicated as such, without being mistaken for paid employment, it is still valid to include in the your career history section of your resume. 

If you spent a significant amount of time doing volunteer work alongside paid work, you might decide to include it in the employment history section. But if there are a number of different volunteer roles, then putting them in making a separate section — at least the unrelated volunteer work —  will certainly enhance add to your job application.

Now that you have added volunteering on your resume, how do you show it off? There is more than one way to handle it, and a lot depends on what you did and what your goal is. Let’s take a look at the options.

As stated above, if a volunteer position is relevant to your job search, then you can certainly mix it right into your employment history section. Whether or not you are paid for a position is not the impressive part. What matters is the substance of the position and what it entails, whether it is a paid or volunteer position. So if you are in business management or finance, you might add a volunteer section on your resume that looks something like the one below. 

Fundraising Experience

Adaptable resume volunteer listing with employment history example


Volunteer Fundraiser, Citizens for a Cause, New York, New York, May 2013-June 2015 

  • Planned, coordinated, and carried out all fundraising events relating to diabetes awareness and Alzheimer's prevention, boosting attendance rates by 30% on average and contributions by 24%.
  • Hosted several successful fundraising events including an art auction, wine tasting event, and holiday concert, generating over $12,000 in revenue for multiple causes.
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Listing unrelated volunteer experience on a resume

If the volunteer work you want to list is unrelated to your job, it is best to create a separate resume section for volunteer work or community involvement below your employment history section. Even if the volunteer experience is not closely related to your industry or the skills needed for the type of position you are seeking, it still shows you are a well-rounded person with varying interests and a dedication to community involvement. The heading might be “Volunteer Experience” or “Additional Activities,” depending on what's listed...

Here is an example of a separate resume section for volunteer work unrelated to the job you are seeking.

Adaptable volunteer job listing in a separate resume section 

Volunteer Experience

  • Volunteer two days a week with the Fuel for School breakfast program for neighborhood elementary school students  in need.
  • Help organize monthly trivia nights as an outreach committee member at Creekside Community Church.
  • Assist with intake and post-op recovery of dogs and cats at the local animal shelter’s low-cost spay and neuter clinic every two months.
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What are some good ideas for volunteer jobs to list on a resume? 

Choose the volunteer roles carefully to take advantage of your limited resume space. There is no need to list jobs from more than 10 years ago, or even five years ago, unless they have a bearing on the job you are applying for now. Make them recent as well as relevant. There is no need to list jobs from more than 10 years ago, or even five years back. An exception might be if a volunteer role is directly related to the job you are applying for now, and you haven’t acquired much paid work experience in the meantime.

Expert tip

Can I lie about volunteer work on resume? Can I fake volunteer hours? 

No. Never lie about anything during your job search, including volunteer work. Apart from it simply being dishonest, you never quite know who has certain connections. If hiring manager happens to know someone at the place where you claim to have "volunteered," kiss goodbye to any chance of you getting the job. 

Lying about your employment history can get you the sack at a later date, and lying about volunteer experience is equally morally wrong. I feel a little silly even mentioning it. Of course, you wouldn't do this.

When you're changing careers

If you are trying to accomplish a career change, the volunteer work that directly relates to your desired career should appear on your resume first. Employers want to see that you have the skills necessary to do the job and the best way to do that is to show that you have already done many of the tasks associated with the position. In this case, you may choose to create a separate resume section or incorporate your volunteer experience into the employment history. 

Volunteering experience on a resume can also help explain an employment gap. If you were volunteering when between jobs, consider placing your unpaid work in your employment history — where it fits, in reverse chronological order —to eliminate the appearance of inaction.

A volunteer listing covering an employment history gap could look something like the one below.

Copyable volunteer listing to fill an employment gap example

Teacher Assistant, Rhinebeck Elementary School, Rhinbeck, NY, September 2021 to present

  • Help 24 4th-grade students to reach their targets in reading and mathematics.
  • Ensure that the classrooms are prepared one hour before the lesson starts
  • Deal with challenging behavior by trying to get to the root of the student’s issues to allow for a harmonious environment.

Volunteer, Children's Art Council, Rhinebeck, NY, March 2018 to August 2021

  • Helped plan and promote art classes for youth in the Rhinebeck community.
  • Interviewed and recruited art teachers and trained them in facility protocol.
  • Researched and planned art curricula for the year.

Illustrator, Drawn to It Creative Services, Rhinebeck, NY, August 2017 to February 2018

  • Created 10+ designs monthly using Adobe Creative Cloud and Photoshop.
  • Ensured images met the appropriate print and web standards.
  • Updated and managed image library of 1000+ content pieces.
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Add volunteer roles in the summary and skills sections

Your resume summary (or profile or personal statement) is the perfect place to explain your volunteering experience and how it has helped prepare you for your next challenge. Try to do it in one sentence since your space here is limited to about 100 words. Below is an example.

Adaptable resume summary including volunteer work example

Dedicated, licensed clinical social worker and case manager with 7+ years of experience in both residential and care home settings, collaborating with nursing teams to coordinate 150+ personal treatment plans. Deep understanding of the needs of dementia patients and caregivers has been reinforced while volunteering as a family support group coordinator and workshop leader with the University of Michigan's Dementia Education Project.

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Don’t neglect volunteer experience on your resume's skills list either, especially rare or higher-level skills that give you an advantage over other candidates. Just a few examples:

  • Sign Language for Children of Deaf Adults
  • Mentorship of Immigrant High School Students
  • Website Creation for a Nonprofit with No Budget

As always, make sure you personalize and prioritize your skills list for each application, using resume keywords and phrases that you take from the job listing. 

Expert tip

How do I show proof of volunteer work? How do I write a volunteer verification letter? 
 

Sometimes, future employers might ask for proof of the volunteer experience listed on your resume. As you may not have had a formal employment contract, it is often a good idea to ask for a volunteer verification letter or community service letter from the place where you volunteered. You may not have considered this important at the time, but it is perfectly acceptable to contact the volunteer coordinator there and ask for a confirmation to provide during your job search. To save time, you can even write a volunteer letter yourself and ask an officer of the organization to sign it.

Volunteering Resume Example

Putting volunteering on resume is becoming increasingly commonplace, it can easily sit alongside your paid experience and there is equal value in terms of the experience that you offer your future employer. In your bid to present yourself as a well-rounded applicant, it might even be considered an essential addition.

Below is an example of a resume that seamlessly combines employment and volunteer experience

Copyable resume example integrating employment and volunteer experience

Summary

Dedicated and energetic Digital Marketing Specialist with over six years of experience creating compelling multimedia web platforms, including actionable content for a nonprofit group. A passion for detail-oriented and creative writing, geared to specific target audiences.  Accustomed to high levels of responsibility — sometimes with budget constraints — and collaborating with others outside the sphere of marketing. Passionate about delivering entertaining and captivating content with an unobstructed path toward achievement.

Employment history

April. 2021 – Present
Web Content Assistant, Growing Seasons Quarterly, Columbus, Ohio

  • Assist content marketing associates with all administrative duties associated with the e-magazine, website, and social media platforms — YouTube, Facebook Instagram and Pinterest.
  • Contributed to brainstorming sessions for the concept, design, and creation of new digital content, notably guest gardener blog with 20,000+ followers within a month.
  • Researched and helped draft engaging news and feature content.
  • Collaborated with the web content associate in providing feedback from followers

Digital Marketing Experience

March 2017 — December 2020
HopeFull Food Bank, Columbus Ohio

  • Held a volunteer position as marketing coordinator for the food bank, alongside its transition from serving 125 to 250 food hampers weekly, partly during the  pandemic lockdown.
  • Collaborated with a volunteer web designer to update a basic WordPress site with limited content to 140+ pages, including four blogs and feature content.
  • Created and managed online ads to publicize regular fundraising and volunteer drives, plus special events.
  • Worked with 15+ team members to produce creative, compelling content that resonated with community leaders, news media, and potential donors and volunteers.

Volunteer Experience

January 2008 — Present 
Katonah Community Shepherds

  • Mentor high school students navigating as they embark on their search for a college and the application stages.

Skills

  • Research and evaluation
  • Understanding of teen interests and concerns
  • Fundraising promotion
  • Community and stakeholder communication
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Why list volunteer work on your resume?

Listing volunteer work on your resume can only make your job application stronger. Does volunteering increase employability? Yes, absolutely! Do employers look for volunteering experience? Quite possibly. 

As resume real estate is at a premium, it is important that this volunteer work complements and enhances your job application. Even if it is not relevant to the position in question, there can be multiple benefits — space permitting — to any job application.

  • You will be seen as a community-minded and team-oriented employee.
  • Volunteer experience on resume can be a useful distraction from gaps in your employment record.
  • It can showcase skills that are not in your employment history.
  • If you want to change careers, it can show that you are keen on the change.
Do
  • Use volunteer work that is relevant to the role or the organization, and adds some value
  • Treat it like a job. You are doing the work, and therefore have obtained the skills, even if it is not paid work.
Don't
  • List the volunteer work if it was only for a day, only add it if you have obtained some experience/skills.
  • Forget to add keywords to the volunteer section, if you do decide to add it.

It is easy to list volunteer work on your resume when you use one of our resume templates.  Have a go! You might be surprised at just how easy and intuitive it is to create a powerful and inspirational resume.

Key takeaways for listing volunteer work on your resume

  1. Including volunteer experience on your resume could give you an edge over other candidates who have nothing else to set them apart from the qualified crowd.
  2. Whether volunteer work is listed with employment history bullet points, or separately, depends on how relevant it is, and how much paid work experience you have acquired.
  3. Listing volunteer work roles, especially with transferable skills, can help you flush out a lean employment history section, bridge gaps, or demonstrate your interest in a career change.
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