Resumes & Cover Letters

Skills for Volunteering: Definition and Examples

February 22, 2021

Along with contributing to your community, volunteering experience is a great way to stand out to employers. It shows that you are willing to help others, exhibiting teamwork skills and compassion. Many of the skills you develop as a volunteer may also be relevant to your career. In this article, we share important skills for volunteering and ways you can use them to get your next job.

Related: How to Find a Volunteer Job: Tips for Where to Look and How to Find the Best One for You

What are skills for volunteering?

Skills for volunteering are the abilities you have to effectively help others and support a cause. Volunteers need to be able to work well with others and have a strong work ethic. As a volunteer, you are doing work for free, so you need to be able to have the skills to stay motivated and focused on your tasks or projects. You can apply many of the skills you learn while volunteering in the workplace.

Related: 7 Reasons to Consider Volunteering

Examples of skills for volunteering

Here are some examples of skills volunteers need to have:

  • Commitment
  • Communication
  • Compassion
  • Leadership
  • Strong work ethic
  • Teamwork
  • Time management

Commitment

As a volunteer, you need to be able to commit to your cause or charity. You must choose to volunteer for something you truly care about. Many volunteer programs require you to help out a certain amount of shifts or hours each month. You need to have the ability to plan around and honor this commitment.

Communication

Written and verbal communication is an important skill to have as a volunteer because you likely work closely with fellow volunteers and the people you serve. For example, if you volunteer as a tutor, you need to be able to provide clear instructions to your students. Likewise, if you lead a team of volunteers, you need to be able to communicate volunteer schedules, project plans and other important information.

Compassion

Helping others or supporting a cause is the foundation of volunteering. You need to have compassion when serving others by considering their perspectives and situations. Your compassion can help you realize that everyone has different opportunities and that you can make a difference in their lives.

Leadership

If you decide to supervise a team of volunteers or manage a project, then you need to have leadership skills. As a leader, you need to be able to motivate others and make sure they stay productive. Your job is to remind people of the mission of your organization and the important work they do. You also need to be able to effectively delegate work, meet deadlines and make sure your team has the resources needed.

Strong work ethic

Certain volunteer tasks require you to have a strong work ethic. Keeping a strong work ethic allows you to continue to help others while maintaining a positive attitude. For example, if you are building houses, you need to maintain your stamina throughout a volunteer shift. Similarly, if you are serving many people, you need to keep up your energy during each interaction.

Teamwork

Collaborating with others is a large part of volunteering. Many of your tasks require you to work with others, so it's important that you have the teamwork skills to be able to cooperate with a group. Things such as team-building exercises can help each team member work on their teamwork skills. Make an effort to get to know fellow volunteers and learn why they support the same cause.

Time management

Many volunteer projects are time-sensitive. You need the skills to be able to meet deadlines and shift to new tasks. You may also need to multi-task, so time-management skills can help you fit in everything you need to do.

How to improve skills for volunteering

Follow these steps to improve your volunteering skills:

  1. Volunteer more often
  2. Offer to lead more projects
  3. Try a new task
  4. Look to others for support

1. Volunteer more often

One of the best ways to improve any skills is through practice. As you volunteer more, you can understand which skills you can improve. Signing up for more shifts gives you opportunities to develop these skills in a practical setting. Soon, you'll be more comfortable with volunteering and may even help new volunteers improve their skills.

2. Offer to lead more projects

If you're interested in developing your leadership and time-management skills, offer to lead more projects. This gives you a chance to learn more about a particular area of your organization. Previous project managers can help you if you have any questions.

3. Try a new task

Many organizations have all kinds of tasks they need volunteers to do. Widen your skillset by showing your interest in a new task. For example, if you work at a food pantry as a bagger, you could express your interest in restocking food items. Showing your organization that you are willing to try new things makes them more likely to assign you to more of a variety of tasks.

4. Look to others for support

Other volunteers are usually happy to help you improve your skills. Many volunteers are likely to appreciate your efforts to learn new skills to contribute more. If you are ever unsure about a new task, ask one of your team members for instructions or advice. The organization may also have a volunteer handbook that you could consult.

Skills for volunteering in the workplace

The skills you develop as a volunteer are transferrable to the workplace. Here are some ways you can use your volunteering skills at work:

Help your coworkers when they experience a challenge

If a coworker ever shares that they struggle with a certain task, you can use your volunteering skills to offer to help them. Ask them if they need any assistance, and make yourself available to help them.

Be willing to try new things

If your manager looks for someone to do a new task, volunteer for the opportunity. Volunteering helps you be more flexible.

Find ways for your work to give back

Offer to plan a volunteer day, or maybe your work could use its specialties for charity. For example, if you work at an advertising agency, you could do pro bono work such as logo design for a nonprofit organization.

How to highlight skills for volunteering

Your volunteering skills can help you stand out among other job candidates. Here are some ways to highlight them when applying for a job:

Volunteering skills for resume

If you apply to a nonprofit, then your volunteering skills are especially important to include on your resume. Your volunteering skills can show that you are a compassionate person who is willing to help others. When applying for a job, think about which volunteering skills are relevant for the position. Then, list them in the skills section of your resume. Employers often for candidates with communication, time-management and teamwork skills.

Read more: How to List Volunteer Work on Your Resume (With Example)

Volunteering skills for cover letter

When writing your cover letter, think about a specific volunteering experience that's relevant to the position you're applying for. Write about how that experience helped you develop skills that are useful for the role. Explain how volunteering has helped you grow as a person and a professional.

Volunteering skills for the job interview

During the interview, prepare to talk about your volunteer experiences, and find ways they can relate to the role. Show that these experiences made a positive impact on your professional life. If you can, use the STAR interviewing technique to describe specific volunteer experiences that could relate to the role.

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