The Best Way to Write Up Your Volunteer Work on Your Resume

All you need to know before writing a volunteer section April 01, 2020 · 10 min read

When you write a resume, you’re doing it to show your potential employer why you’re perfect for the role.

When you include details like your skills, education, and professional experience you’re showing exactly why you should get invited in for an interview.

  • How do we handle voluntary roles on a resume?
  • How to add volunteer experience on a resume?
  • Where does this valuable experience end up?

Stress no more, we’ve got all the answers you’re looking for.

Tips while writing Volunteer section in resumeMake it strong and show your skills, and achievements that are relevant to the desired job.

Check out these tips and examples we’ve put together so you can be confident listing your amazing volunteer work, and even learn why it’s a really valuable addition to your document.

What is classed as volunteer experience?

If you’ve worked or given your time for free, then it’s volunteer experience that you can include on your resume.

Maybe you’ve organised a local blood drive or offered support services at a local homeless shelter, or you’ve done pro bono work in your professional capacity, or completed internships in international volunteer programs.

It all counts, and the more altruistic the cause, the better it’s going to look on your resume volunteer experience.

You can even use volunteer experience to show your achievements that match the job you’re applying for.

So you can see the diverse range of activities that count as volunteer experience, check out this list of examples:

  • Volunteering at your local church’s child care group or outreach programs demonstrates leadership and ability to organize people
  • Caring for animals at a local shelter means that you are compassionate, responsible, and good-natured
  • Helping people at a nursing home will let a hiring manager know you’re a kind, responsible person who can come to the aid of a colleague, show patience, care and the ability to show organizational skills
  • When you serve food or provide practical support at a homeless shelter you’re demonstrating that you are responsive, kind, stress-resistant and executive person
  • Running a kid’s reading club or organizing a book circle at your community library proves that you’ve got organizational skills
Get ahead of the game and prepare your resume in minutes. Find a template and fill in your details; it’s that simple. We’ve got plenty of resume templates that are good-to-go to get your professional resume whipped into shape in short order.

Why include volunteer work on a resume?

You might be wondering, do you need volunteer experience on a resume?

To start with…

Including your volunteer experience could mean the difference between you or the next candidate landing the job

Plus…

No matter how much high-level, professional experience you’ve got under your belt, voluntary work is always a great addition to your story. These activities can allow your personality and ethics to shine through.

If you need more convincing, here are more reasons why your volunteer positions belong on your resume:

  • You can highlight your transferable skills being put into action when you’re moving across industries
  • Gaps in your resume can be given some meaning and detail when you’ve taken a break to travel and volunteer at a local humanitarian organisation or charity
  • Add skills and real-world experience even when you’ve not had paid work, like when you’re fresh out of high school or college
  • When you’ve been a community leader but not led a workforce, you can still show what you’re capable of by showing your volunteer work

Think of it like this…

When you add your volunteer work to your resume, future employers can get a more rounded picture of you, what you’re really interested in and what you’re able to do, as well as see you’re willing to work hard even without having prior professional experience.

Even more…

As well as showing you’re engaged in your community and the world around you, there are piles of other benefits associated with being a volunteer. You can make your soft skills shine, like leadership, compassion, motivation, teamwork, and plenty more besides.

Pro-Tip
If you’re looking to establish a career in academia or in the nonprofit sector, volunteer roles will really demonstrate your commitment and are highly valued in these areas.

Where does volunteer experience go on a resume?

Now you know why you should be writing about your volunteer experience, now it’s time to understand how to display volunteer experience on a resume. Here’s what you need to know…

There’s no hard and fast rule about where this information can go in your resume. You need to think about what your professional experience looks like and what your current career goals are, too.

  • For students and those who are freshly graduated, without much work experience, treat your voluntary work the same as your paid work. You can list it all in your work experience section.
  • When you’re an experienced professional with strong work history, make a separate section on your resume to cover your volunteer work. If you’ve volunteered in a role that relates directly to the role you want, you can add it to your work experience section.
Pro-Tip
The vast majority of the time, the right place for your volunteer experience is under your “Professional Experience” section. This works great to cover gaps in employment or if you want to pull attention away from your current job role.

Listing volunteer work on your resume

Your volunteer experience should be written just like any other entry on your resume, that is with a couple of sentences explaining what you did or do at the organization and pulling out the main contributions you’ve made and big achievements in a list of bullet points.

The format for your volunteer work will look just like how you’ve structured things for your previous jobs. It’s important to note your role as “volunteer” and also include any position titles like being a coordinator or leader.

Here’s an example for you to check out:

Volunteer Coordinator, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, New York, NY, October 2015 to present
  • Managed a team of 12 volunteers that groom and exercise dogs held in ASPCA Adoption Center
  • Led a recruitment drive to bring in new volunteers, with voluntary hours increasing by 17% within three months
  • Directed a schools outreach program to donate toys and supplies to the shelter, raising awareness of animal welfare and increasing the comfort of dogs in our care

Be sure to show the skills that you’ve earned and honed during your volunteering and make sure you tell recruiters how you’ve developed in your role.

VolunteersRemember to highlight the key skills you earned during your volunteering experience and make them relevant to the job you want.

Look at the job description and the skills they’re looking for. Organized a city event and the role is looking for you to coordinate across departments? Let them know you’ve got the experience they want!

Check out another powerful volunteer experience listing for a resume:

Volunteer Scout Leader, Boy Scouts of America, Montclair, NJ, Fall 2017 to Present
  • Created and led activities for a troop of 15 scouts, including camping trips and community events
  • Planned and executed fundraising drive through bake sales and car washes, raising over $10,000 over the six month drive
  • Supported two scouts to become troop leader within the community

Be creative!

You can think outside the box a little when you’re assigning a job title to the voluntary work that you’ve done. Make sure that you show off the work that you did whilst also omitting jargon - keep it clear for recruiters.

Maybe you showed visitors around your local wetland conservation area and you’re applying for a role in hospitality, “Volunteer Tour Guide” shows your skills and relates to the industry.

Pro-Tip
When you’ve volunteered far outside the industry you work in or want to move over to, you can add a Volunteer Work section at the end of your resume if you still think your volunteering is going to differentiate you from everyone else or give a more rounded picture to hiring managers.

Hints and Tips for Listing Volunteer Work on a Resume

When you’re writing up your volunteer section, keep these things in mind:

  • Make your application specific and make sure that everything you’re including directly relates to the job. Go through the job ad really carefully so you know what they want and match your skills to it. Even research more about the company and learn what they value in their team
  • Pick out the important words in the job description and think about how your volunteering can match the skills they want. Using the same words as in the advert is a great way to target your application
  • Proofread your work to catch any minor typos or details. They’ll be noticed by a friend as well as a recruiter, and you’re not asking a friend to hire you so get their feedback.
Pro-Tip
As well as learning about your volunteer experience on a resume, you should also learn how to format other parts of your resume. Here’s an ultimate guide on adding your hobby and interests to your resume.

Summing Up

Transferable skills are really easy to show off when you add your volunteering experience to your resume. It’s also a great conversation starter when you land the interview, too; you can really get into what value you can add and how driven you are.

Now you should be well versed in how to write volunteer experience on a resume and know exactly what section to put volunteer experience on a resume.

To keep things fresh in your mind, let’s cover the key takeaways one more time…

So…

  • A volunteering experience is something you’ve done for free to help others and make a contribution to the community
  • Your volunteering experience is important to include on your resume; it shows off your personality, which may contribute to the role you’re applying to, as well as the skills you’ve gained during your volunteering experience
  • It makes sense to include your volunteer work if it’s relevant for your job application - the hiring manager is definitely going to be impressed
  • Even if it feels irrelevant to the field your applying in, it can still show off your soft skills so it can still be worth mentioning it
  • Include volunteering experience in your work experience section if you’re a student or don’t have much paid experience yet. If you’ve got a strong professional background make a separate section for volunteer work underneath the work experience section
  • Don’t underestimate the power of keywords and add some relevant ones from the job advertisement to your volunteering experience description
  • Make sure your volunteering experience section is well-structured, use bullet points to make it easier to read and proofread it before adding to your actual resume

Take full advantage of this chance to really make a great impression and put yourself head and shoulders above everyone else on the shortlist.

Use one of our ready-to-use resume templates to get your perfect resume done in a minute!