How To Add Volunteer Work on Your Resume (With Examples)
Updated May 4, 2023
You can gain valuable skills while working as a volunteer. When applying for a new role, consider adding past volunteer work to your resume to demonstrate relevant skills and a willingness to help the local community. Understanding how to add volunteer work to your resume can help you become a more desirable candidate to a potential employer.
In this article, we explain what volunteer work is, how to add it to your resume and situations in which it is and isn't appropriate.
What is volunteer work?
Volunteer work is an unpaid activity that an individual completes to benefit an organization's mission. It involves using your time and skills to improve aspects of the community. Volunteers can work within their area of expertise by using skills like teaching and first aid. People may also volunteer to help in areas outside of their expertise in situations such as major natural disasters. Examples of places where you might volunteer include:
Home construction organizations
How to add volunteer work to a resume
Here are several ways to add volunteer work to your resume, depending on the context:
1. Use your work experience section
Some candidates lack extensive work experience because they are new to the workforce or industry. If you're one of these candidates, consider adding relevant volunteer work to your professional background section. This approach may improve your chances of securing the position by making you more desirable to hiring managers looking for candidates with experience.
Incorporate an entry for volunteer work as you would other jobs and internships. Consider maintaining these entries in reverse chronological order and using consistent formatting. Additionally, you might include the word volunteer so that an employer knows the nature of the work. Here's an example of how volunteer experience in the work experience section might look:
Volunteer Care Worker, April 2017–January 2023
Shady Oaks Retirement Home, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Assisted occupants in their daily recreational and hygiene activities
Completed light housekeeping tasks like laundry and bathroom cleaning
Served breakfast and lunch while also coordinating other junior volunteers in the kitchen and cafeteria
Made daily visits to residents with no visiting relatives
Transported residents to events at the local recreation center
2. Add a single line
If your volunteer experience is unrelated to the role you're applying for, consider mentioning the work in a short line near the end of your resume. This approach allows your volunteer experience to distinguish you from other candidates while ensuring hiring managers can focus on your professional background. The line with your volunteer work can reveal more about your character or the reasons why you chose your career path.
Add volunteer work related to the required job skills if possible, even if the connection isn't immediately obvious. Here's an example of a separate volunteering section:
Volunteer work: Volunteer Care Worker, Little Angels Daycare, January 2015–November 2015, February 2020–Current
3. Create a separate section
Consider creating a designated section if you have enough previous work experience but would also like to showcase relevant volunteer work. You can add this volunteer section directly after your work experience so hiring managers can recognize connections between the two. Consider listing your main achievements in volunteer work the same way you list your professional experiences by including the title of your role, the timeframe in which you volunteered, the name of the organization and its location.
You may use a bulleted list to describe your duties, using action verbs and metrics when possible. Try highlighting instances where you took the initiative to lead teams or develop projects, as employers may desire these skills. It may be appropriate to quantify the number of hours or days per week that you dedicated to volunteering. Here's an example of what a comprehensive volunteer experience section could look like:
Volunteer Fundraising Manager, April 2020–April 2022
Happy Souls Dog Pound, San Francisco, California
Planned over 20 successful fundraising events, such as internet campaigns, auctions, local shows and dinners to raise $112,000
Recruited over 100 volunteers and trained three assistant fundraising managers
Helped create promotional materials for fundraising events and improved Happy Souls Dog Pound's online presence by implementing SEO efforts
Assisted with writing grant proposals
Maintained strong relationships with previous donors
When to include volunteer experience on your resume
Here are several instances where it can be beneficial to include volunteer experience on your resume:
The volunteer experience is relevant to the job you want. If it's directly related to the nature of your desired position, the employer may consider it relevant work experience. Aside from enhancing your professional image, volunteer work in a relevant field may also demonstrate your passion for the role or industry.
You have little to no professional experience. Adding volunteer work to your resume may improve your chances of getting a position when you otherwise lack the experience that the job description requires. Volunteering despite a lack of relevant work history may also indicate a willingness to learn.
You have a gap in your resume. If you volunteered when you were unemployed, this experience could demonstrate your commitment to staying productive and serving your community.
When to leave volunteer experience off your resume
Here are a few situations when you may consider excluding volunteer experience from your resume:
The volunteer work contradicts your current employer's core mission. Consider excluding volunteer work if it contradicts your current employer's values or core mission. Experience that aligns with your career goals and the company's mission may better appeal to hiring managers.
You have plenty of relevant paid work experience. Unless it showcases crucial skills, adding volunteer work to a resume with plenty of work experience may divert the reader's attention from your more relevant professional experiences and education.
You completed the volunteer work more than 10 years ago. Consider excluding volunteer experience from more than 10 years ago so that you can highlight more recent qualifications.
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