How To List Volunteer Experience On Your Resume

When you have several years, maybe even decades, of job history behind you, it’s tempting to only put the most relevant employment experiences on your resume. After all, first impressions count and recruiters are busy people. Why do they need to hear about your hours of volunteering in a food bank or shelter?

It’s easy to forget that your experiences outside of work can have a significant impact on the kind of employee you are. And just because you weren’t paid for those opportunities doesn’t make the skills you’ve picked up any less valuable.

Noting your volunteer experience on a resume can be incredibly beneficial. Learning how to weave these moments into the bigger picture of your employment history will help you stand out as an empathetic and hard-working person and push your application to the top of a recruiter’s list. 

Where to put volunteer work on your resume

How to put volunteer work on your resume will depend on the formatting you’ve chosen to use. Most people put together a separate section for this underneath their work history, following the same chronological layout and bulleted outlines for your responsibilities. If your experience isn’t highly relevant but you’d still like to include it, one or two bullet points is enough.

On your resume, your volunteer experience should directly follow your professional work history:

Work / Professional Experience

You’ll list out all of your relevant paid positions here.

Volunteer Experience / Community Volunteering

Weekly Volunteer - Central Pennsylvania Food Bank

June 2021-Present

  • Process food donations delivered by community members and coordinate storage of deliveries by food type.
  • Assemble support boxes based on individual and family needs for the week.
  • Coordinate food pick up and delivery times.
  • Have arranged and managed two fundraising drives in 2022, raising over $50,000 for the organization through door-to-door collections and a charitable bake sale.

After School Volunteer - Northern Elementary School

January-May 2022

  • Assisted children in 1st through 3rd grade with homework tasks ahead of parent/guardian pickup.

The exception to this layout would be if your volunteering was directly connected to your previous position. This could either be something that was formally organized by your company and can be listed as a single line under that job, or if it’s obviously connected to the industry you work in. 

For instance, if you volunteered for a political candidate and you’re applying for a communication role, or did unpaid work for a local newspaper and you’re a journalist, these are highly relevant experiences that you can include under your work or professional section of your resume. 

Although voluntary, these work experiences should be thought of as if they were paid positions for the purposes of your job application. Any other voluntary experience that isn’t directly relevant should then be listed underneath, like this:

Work / Professional Experience

Volunteer - John Smith for Congress

May 2021-November 2021

  • Created and distributed campaign materials throughout local community.
  • Wrote scripts and trained phone bank volunteers.
  • Managed campaign social media accounts as part of the communications team, growing followers by over 4,000 in under two weeks. 
  • Coordinated interviews and on-air appearances of candidate with local media outlets throughout the duration of the campaign.

Volunteer Experience / Community Volunteering

Assistant Coach - Youth Cheerleading Team

August 2021-Present

  • Managed and coached local youth cheerleading squad of over 100 children aged 8 to 12.

Connecting volunteering skills to your job application

Every piece of your resume needs to be relevant to the position you’re applying for, from your education and job history to, you guessed it, your voluntary experience. 

Working with animals at a local shelter or volunteering at a senior center or hospital may not feel all that relevant and worth noting on your resume. The focus, though, should be on the skills you’ve learned in those positions and how those can be applied if you get this new job.

Remember to apply the same principles with listing volunteering work on your resume as you would any employed position. Keep bullets action and outcome-oriented to demonstrate tangible results from the work you’ve done. Include any numbers or statistics where possible as hard evidence of your achievements.

Wherever you can, use keywords from the job description in your volunteer summaries. Does the role specify any leadership responsibilities or use words that imply overseeing other team members? Add phrases like “managed” or “led” to related experiences in your volunteer work. 

Both hard and soft skills are important to outline on your resume—when recruiters are sorting through hundreds of applications from candidates that all have a similar hard-skill background in the same industry, the soft skills like what can make you stand out.

Volunteering work can easily become evidence of these traits, like:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Communication skills
  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Problem solving

Even if your voluntary experience didn’t help you advance your marketing skills or teach you how to compile a client’s accounts for tax season, you can still connect your time spent in those positions to relevant parts of your job application.

Why include your volunteer experience?

Your resume should be the highlight reel of your education and employment history, no matter how much experience you have. With every application, you should be tweaking and customizing the information you put on your resume to be as relevant to the job as possible.

For most college students and new grads, there’s likely not going to be much to fill the page at this point in your career. Adding voluntary work that you’ve completed throughout your school years can help bulk out your resume and show some of the important skills that recruiters are looking for. 

Like a part time job, volunteering demonstrates commitment to your community, responsibility, time management and possibly even leadership skills in action. These are all crucial traits to promote about yourself, especially when you’re competing for jobs with other recent graduates who also have limited professional experience.

But don’t think of this as an early career move only. If you have any gaps in your resume, maybe from taking time away to care for a relative or go traveling, your volunteer work can help to plug some of those resume holes with transferable skills that relate to the new position you’re applying for. 

Your volunteer work may even be more applicable than you realize. For instance, you could be transitioning out of one career path and looking to work in a new field entirely, with related volunteering to support that. 

Voluntary experience in a people-facing role at a shelter could open doors for you in the social work industry, while helping at an after school program is an excellent experience to list when applying for jobs in academia or childcare. Wherever you can make direct connections, the better your resume will be.

When to leave experiences off your resume

You want to keep your resume as short as possible—one, maximum two, pages is all you need. While voluntary work is an important addition, this should never come at the expense of other relevant employed experiences you have that connect directly to the position you’re applying for.

If your volunteer work is in the industry you work in, try to fit this in where possible. But when a paid position demonstrates the skills that you want to highlight better, and more recently, than your volunteer work, this should be the priority if you’re short on space.

Overhaul your resume to put your application on top

When you’re applying to several different jobs, remembering what to include and where to put different information on your resume can be a headache. 

With Teal’s Resume Builder, remove the guesswork and feel confident knowing that the resume you’ve submitted is your best work. Using the free Chrome extension, quickly add your relevant work and volunteering details in the right places, with customizable features that allow you to adjust your resume for every application.

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Holly Landis

Holly Landis

Holly Landis is a writer and digital marketing consultant.

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