You may think that volunteering shouldn’t require a resume, after all, you are offering free work. The truth is that volunteering jobs can be just as difficult to get as paid work. That’s why you need a volunteer resume that stands out from the crowd.
Whether you are volunteering as a sideline or because you hope it will lead to permanent employment, you have to think like a job-hunter. That means making the best case you can for YOU. Organizations that use volunteers want to ensure you are committed to the work you are offering to provide.
Using Resume.io and its powerful tools for job seekers is a great way to get going. We offer resume guides and resume examples for 300+ professions. That means that no matter what area you want to volunteer in, you will have guidance to get you there. We back up our guides with an easy-to-use resume builder, so let us help you get where you want to go.
This guide, along with the corresponding volunteer resume example, will cover the following topics:
- What does a volunteer do?
- How to write a volunteer resume (tips and tricks)
- The best format for a volunteer resume
- Advice on each section of your resume (summary, work history, education, skills)
- Professional resume layout and design hints.
What does a volunteer do?
Volunteers can do anything within an organization. Sometimes volunteers work only on special events, but in other cases they perform vital tasks and make a commitment to either work on a longer-term special project or on regular, daily work.
Many nonprofits use volunteers to supplement their paid workforce so that more resources go to the cause for which they labor. That means you have a chance to broaden your skill set while working on a cause you are passionate about.
There are 1.54 million non-profits in the United States. In 2017, the last year for which statistics are available, 64.4 million Americans, or about 25% of the population, gave their time. That’s up from 61.8 million in 2008, according to Statistica.
The pandemic seems to have increased volunteering efforts. LinkedIn data shows that in 2020, members added 110,000 volunteer experiences to their profiles. That’s about 2.5 times the monthly average in 2017.
Millennials are most likely to volunteer and women volunteer at higher rates than men, according to the U.S. Labor Bureau.
If you are wondering whether volunteers are worth the training time to nonprofits, the answer is yes. The Independent Sector values volunteer hours at $28.54.
Because volunteers may be doing any type of work in any industry, you may find inspiration in any number of our resume examples. How to choose volunteer opportunities
Deciding where to volunteer can be as challenging as deciding on a career path. Here are some basic questions to ask yourself that can help you guide your decision and how you craft your resume:
- What am I passionate about?
- What is my goal in volunteering?
- Do I want to gain new skills?
- Do I want to network?
- Do I want to bolster my resume?
- Do I want to fill a gap while I look for full-time paid employment?
- What skills or knowledge can I offer?
- How much time can I commit to?
How to find volunteer opportunities
If you aren’t sure how to go about finding volunteer opportunities, you can start with VolunteerMatch, a volunteer aggregator that will send you listings based on the criteria you set, or Volunteer.gov, in which you can search for jobs in the U.S. government in places such as national parks.
You can also look at specific organizations that are typically in need of volunteers. They include:
- Animal shelters
- Food pantries
- Homeless shelters
- Tutoring centers
Of course, you may also decide what you want to do and where you want to work and then contact either the volunteer coordinator or the human resources department and offer your services unsolicited.
How to write a volunteer resume
Take as much care with your volunteer resume as you would if you were applying for your dream job. The first step is understanding exactly what sections comprise a resume. Your document should include the following elements:
- The resume header
- The resume summary (aka profile or personal statement)
- The employment history section
- The resume skills section
- The education section
Onboarding volunteers takes time and effort, so volunteer coordinators and hiring managers may handle this process in the same way they handle hiring full-time employees. In fact, the Fundraising Authority recommends three times of training for volunteers: basic non-profit training, organization-specific training, and job-specific training. Before investing that time, organizations want to make sure you are the right person for the job.
How do you show that? Do your research! Find out what the organization needs. Investigate their style. Are they casual or formal? Do they use a lot of volunteers or will you be one of a few? What is their mission and how do you fit into it? Then, target your resume to the nonprofit or other organization mimicking their style and values.
A successful volunteer resume lets the hiring manager know that you understand the organization and its goals AND explains why you want to help out by giving your time.
Another hurdle: The Applicant Tracking System
Applicant Tracking Systems, or ATS, are software programs that scan, sort and assess resumes for human resources departments. There are dozens of these designed specifically for non-profits. The organizations you apply to are likely to use one of these systems to narrow the range of candidates to a manageable few.
There’s no guaranteed method of leaping this hurdle, but there are ways to improve your chances. This is where your research will help you. Review the listing, if there is one, or the nonprofit's website looking for the volunteer job requirements. Organically incorporate as many of the same nouns, verbs and modifiers in your resume text as possible. Make sure you use your own language and context. You want the text of your volunteer resume to flow naturally and to have your voice.
Choosing the best resume format for volunteering
A typical resume for a person whose career has taken a mostly linear path, we recommend a reverse chronological order resume format. That means that when you compile your employment history section, you start with your most recent position and move backwards in time.
This may work for you in your volunteer resume, however, if you are looking to take on new skills or are just starting out and want to use the volunteer opportunity as a stepping stone, you should consider a hybrid format. If you’re looking to make a lateral move, check out our other resume examples such as the career change resume sample.
A functional resume format is another option. Although this type of format is usually employed by specialists and technical professionals, it may suit your needs as a volunteer who wants to stretch but has the skills to do the job.
Resume summary example: Your value and passion
Your resume summary is your big chance to show off your passion and explain why you want to volunteer at the particular organization you are targeting. It is within your profile that you answer the questions Why do you care? and What can you do to help us? Don’t be afraid to say that you have a personal connection to, for instance, cancer care, and that is what drives your desire to help.
Offer your vision for how you fit into the organization, give examples that highlight your skills and convince the volunteer coordinator that you are the right person for the job. Don’t make the assumption that nonprofits are desperate for volunteers and will take anyway. The truth is that while volunteers are a valuable asset for organizations, you still need to prove that you will stick it out and bring value to the team.
Offer a personal story about why the cause is close to your heart.
Give a generic explanation about the value of volunteering.
Your goal here is to get hiring managers excited about your potential to help the organization. Balance your enthusiasm by clearly stating that you understand that you are applying for a job that comes with responsibility. You can find a volunteer resume example summary below.
Dedicated and enthusiastic Volunteer, hoping to utilize my most valuable skills to achieve goals. A creative thinker and complex problem-solver, bringing forth a commitment to others and the greater good.
Employment history resume sample: Proof of commitment
A volunteer resume sample needs to show the same dedication to the career as your career-oriented resume. You should approach your employment history section in the same way for both. Make a list of all your jobs and the dates you were employed. Include your titles and brainstorm your job responsibilities -- no need to go back more than 10 or 15 years. This phase is simply a reminder for you.
Then, think of your key achievements at each position. Review the volunteer listing and decide which accomplishments best fit the job you seek now.
The CAR system for explaining your achievements makes writing your resume bullet points easier. Here’s how it works:
- Describe your Challenge
- Tell what Action you took
- Detail your Results.
Be as specific as possible. Use data and dollar amounts whenever possible.
If you are looking to start your career by getting volunteer experience, you may want to beef up your education section and move it above your employment history section.
You can find a volunteer employment history resume sample below.
Volunteer, Children's Corner, Concord
March 2021 - Present
- Served as a caring and considerate volunteer in one of the busiest children's centers in New Hampshire.
- Followed instructions and adhered to company policies.
- Worked well independently and also with others.
- Strived to make children feel welcomed, safe, and motivated.
- Modeled leadership skills and independent thinking.
Craft Fair Volunteer, Concord Community Council, Concord
June 2019 - December 2019
- Assisted with the unloading and set-up of craft fair goods.
- Distributed fair handbooks and materials to vendors and customers.
- Provided guests with information and answered any questions to the best of my ability.
- Assisted with the clean-up and disassembly of booths.
Resume skills example: What do you bring to the table?
Hiring managers are busy people, and volunteers may not be their first priority. Your resume skills section gives them the chance to see at a glance if your abilities match what they need. That means again reviewing the volunteer listing and matching your skills to the job.
Quite often, volunteers are looking to gain new skills or to simply get job experience. Hiring managers know this. So what can you do if you are in that situation? Play up your soft skills on your resume. These are the qualities you need to be a good overall employee. They include time management, communication, and organization.
Another area you can play up is your emotional intelligence. If you are targeting non-profits for your volunteer work, you may be dealing with sensitive issues, so the ability to handle your emotions and those of others can elevate your candidacy.
Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, breaks emotional intelligence into five categories:
- Self-awareness: Understanding your strengths and weaknesses
- Self-regulation: Keeping calm under pressure and expressing your emotions appropriately
- Motivation: Setting clear goals and following through
- Empathy: Recognizing how other’s feel
- Social skills: Functioning within different group settings.
Consider adding one or two of these to your skills section.
You will find a skills section volunteer resume sample below.
- Fast Learner
- Ability to Work in a Team
- Effective Time Management
- Computer Skills
- Communication Skills
- Leadership Skills
Volunteer resume education example
Your education could be the key to netting the perfect volunteer job. Perhaps you have a skill you haven’t used in your career or a hobby that you earned credits in. Include those in your education section.
Especially if you are new to the job market or trying to enhance basic skills, you may consider listing specific courses you have taken that are relevant to the volunteer position you seek. If you are an experienced worker, you may simply list your education here.
No need to include your GPA unless you have just graduated and it is stellar. You may also omit your high school diploma if you have a master’s degree or higher.
Other items to call attention to are any awards or accolades you have received or any certificates for coursework or seminars that pertain to your prospective volunteer work.
Below is an education section resume sample you may adapt for formatting.
High School Diploma, Concord High School, Concord
September 2018 - Present
Abbott- Downing School, Concord
September 2014 - May 2018
Resume layout and design: Your visual image
The idea behind your volunteer resume is to get the interview, and this guide is all about helping you do so. That means addressing the way your resume looks. First impressions matter, so make a good one with these helpful hints for designing your resume.
Think easy-to-read. While you want to capture attention, your real goal is to get your document read. Keep your margins at one inch and use a clear, legible font. Leave ample white space.
Straddle the line between eye-catching and glaring. Minimize the use of color and avoid graphics and images. Even visual artists should err on the side of conservatism since your goal is for hiring managers to read your text. If you are in a design field, take a look at our illustrator resume example or our graphic designer resume example for ideas. Offer a portfolio of your work along with your resume to show off your talents.
Expert tip: The key components of your resume are your contact information and your most recent job and title. This is where hiring managers look first, so make sure these items are easy to find.
Finally, make sure your resume text and formatting are free of typos and errors. Using an online builder tool such as the one from resume.io and one of our resume templates will smooth the path to a great volunteer opportunity.
Key takeaways for a volunteer resume
- Think of your volunteer resume the same way you would a resume for a paying job: You have to prove you’re the right person for the work.
- When you volunteer, you are making a commitment, so consider what you want to do and where your passion lies before you apply.
- Targeting your volunteer resume for each position is the best way to make sure your application is seen by a person.
- Use our online resume maker to make your life easier and the job application process faster!