When her husband lost his job, a full-time parent found that her volunteer work history kept the family afloat. A new college grad with less-than-stellar academics celebrated when his on-campus leadership roles landed him a management trainee position. These are two examples of how unpaid work, showcasing skills, character, and work ethic, have helped my clients land jobs.

Volunteering can be an effective way to develop or maintain existing skills, develop relationships, and establish references for future job searches. If you have given your time and energy to civic causes, consider discussing them on your resume and LinkedIn profile. Making a difference in your community can make a difference in your career.

Understanding the Value of Volunteer Experience

Volunteer experience shows employers you care about a cause bigger than yourself, are industrious, and are likely a team player — all traits they want in employees. In addition, your involvement with an organization over several years indicates loyalty and consistency.

Many skills you develop and use in your unpaid work are valued in the job market and are transferable, meaning they are used in multiple jobs. Employers categorize them either as soft or hard skills.

Soft skills are interpersonal skills and traits that influence how you do your work. Examples include leadership, finding solutions, public speaking, time management, creativity, and customer service. They are crucial for success in any job, regardless of industry or role.

Hard skills are objective, measurable abilities you learned via training, on your job or internship, or as part of your education. They may be transferable depending on your target job. A few examples are proficiency with Microsoft Office or other software; plumbing; carpentry; financial forecasting; bookkeeping; and HIPAA knowledge.

When To Include Volunteer Work on Your Resume

When it enhances your work history

  • You’ve been out of the workforce for awhile.
  • You have gaps in employment or have frequently changed jobs in a short period of time.
  • You are a high school or college student.
  • You want to change careers, and your volunteer experience has given you some necessary related skills.
  • You are currently employed, have room on your resume, and simply want to show other interests.

When it is relevant to your target job

Does it demonstrate skill sets or industry knowledge related to your target job? In the case of our college student with a management trainee offer, his leadership of an on-campus first-responder team demonstrated his organization of others. It also showed an ability to work under pressure and find solutions to issues — necessary skills for a manager.

How To Show Volunteer Work on Your Resume

The placement

Depending on your situation, you have choices about where you list your unpaid work.

  • If you have no paid work experience in the past few years but have substantial volunteer experience, list it like you would a paying job under your Experience heading. Follow with your earlier jobs in reverse chronological order — from most recent to least recent.
  • If you are a student or working professional, you can create a dedicated section to detail your unpaid experience, such as “Other Related Experience,” “Campus Involvement,” and “Civic Leadership.”

The description

  • Be sure to detail your responsibilities and the contributions you made. Focus the description so the skills related to your target job are evident, just as you would when writing about a paying job.
    • Use active verbs and quantify results when you can.
    • Indicate your scope of responsibility – projects or parts of projects, the number of people you supervised, or the amount of money you managed.
  • · Briefly share information about the organization’s mission and scope to give your reader context.

Tailoring Volunteer Experience to the Job Description

Here are some tips for highlighting specific volunteer experiences that demonstrate the skills and qualities sought after in the job listing.

  • Review the job posting of interest for keywords, knowledge, and skills desired by the employer. Assess which of your volunteer experiences provided those skills or knowledge bases and list them on the resume in reverse chronological order.
  • If you have many volunteer experiences to choose from, select the ones that will most effectively develop your skills and knowledge.

Examples of Volunteer Experience on a Resume

Full-Time Parent Returning to the Workforce

CIVIC LEADERSHIP

KIDS MUSEUM, Raleigh, NC
An interactive museum of arts, sciences, and exploration 

Board Member
2020-2023

    • Co-mediated politically sensitive merger of two long-standing children’s educational institutions. Collaborated with marketing agency to brand combined organization.

 
JUNIOR LEAGUE OF RALEIGH

International women’s organization encouraging volunteerism, education, and community leadership

President
2018-2020

    • Directed 16-member board representing 1,000 members. Oversaw membership/recruiting, community relations and partnerships, communications, and fundraising projects, utilizing $350,000 operating budget. Transitioned waning traditional fundraiser to successful new format and focus on community literacy.

Career Changer – from Management to Event Planning

RELATED EXPERIENCE

MUTT STRUTT, FORSYTH HUMANE SOCIETY, Winston-Salem, NC
Annual fundraiser supporting the welfare of animals 

Sponsorship Sales 2020-2023

    • Solicited and secured 25 donations from Forsyth County businesses in support of annual run/walk event. Donations exceeded $150,000.
    • Collaborated with communications team to create sponsor information page.

 
FESTIVAL OF TREES, BRENNER’S CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL, Winston-Salem, NC
Annual holiday fundraiser at Wake Forest Baptist Health

Co-Chair 2012-2013

    • Directed 50 committee chairs and volunteers in organizing and executing highly successful giving campaign.
    • Exceeded fundraising goal by 40%.

Recent College Graduate

VOLUNTEER SERVICE

Saturday Literacy Leader – Gonzaga University 2022 – 2024

Recruited, coordinated, and assigned 15 peers to act as elementary school reading and writing tutors in the Spokane public school system. Personally tutored three children to achieve literacy goals.

GIVE Volunteers – Tanzania, Africa 2023

Traveled to Tanzania to build a village elementary school and day care for local families. Tutored children and adult villagers in the English language for three weeks.

Tips for Successfully Using Volunteer Work on a Resume

  • Be selective about which volunteer experiences you show. Carefully curate what goes on the document using those that have the most relevance and the most responsibility. For example, coordinating a Girl Scout troop’s annual cookie sale is more impressive than making a few sales calls to neighbors. However, if your career goal is a sales position and you were the No. 1 producer in your troop, emphasize that achievement.
  • Apply judgment to political and religious activities. In today’s polarized society, it’s a good idea to evaluate how they might be received by your target audience before displaying them on the resume.
  • Show loyalty and dedication by listing roles that required more than a one-day commitment and those where you played an integral role.
  • Show the value and impact you had on the organization or population you served. When possible, quantify results.

Enhancing Your Resume with resumetemplates.com

Use professional templates

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Choose from this list of action verbs to vividly describe contributions and achievements in volunteer roles.

Carolyn Couch

Certified Master Coach and Academy Certified Resume Writer

Carolyn Couch is a Certified Master Coach, Academy Certified Resume Writer, and Certified Etiquette Consultant. Over the past 20 years, she has helped thousands of professionals start, reinvent, and advance their careers with confidence.

Written by professional resume writers and loved by hiring managers

ResumeTemplates offers free, HR approved resume templates to help you create a professional resume in minutes. Choose from several template options and even pre-populate a resume from your profile.

Frequently Asked Questions About Volunteer Experience

What are the best skills to mention when discussing my volunteer work?

LinkedIn’s 2024 research shows the most in-demand skills are communication, customer service, leadership, and project management – the top four out of 10. Check out the complete list for more ideas.

Will employers ask for proof of my volunteer experience?

Possibly. It’s a good idea to ask for a letter from your supervisor verifying your work. Don’t wait until after you’ve moved on to request it, or you may find that your supervisor has also moved on.

How can I create substantial volunteer experience for my next job search?

Consider what skills are necessary to reach your next desired job target. Seek out volunteer opportunities that will allow you to develop these skills. AmeriCorps offers a fit-finder to help you discover potential opportunities based on your desired time commitment, passions, and goals.

Perhaps you need to learn Excel. Find an organization that seeks someone to do data entry or keep statistics on agency usage. Use this opportunity to learn and develop a portfolio of Excel spreadsheets.