Including volunteering in your resume is always a great idea. But once you've decided to do it, you unavoidably arrive at the question: how to include volunteer experience on your resume exactly?

If you do it well, it can completely elevate your resume above others. If not, it can make your resume more difficult to navigate. 

Above all else, the volunteering section of your resume is one of the few places where you can demonstrate your character

It shows what you care about and what you find important. It can make you look proactive, invested in your community, and even selfless. 

In other words, the volunteering section of your resume can make you irresistible to employers. So how do you make it stand out?

This guide will help you with it.

 It will also answer these pressing questions:

  • What is the resume volunteer experience section?
  • Why should you list your volunteer experience on your resume?
  • Where should you put your volunteer experience section on a resume?
  • How to write one if you’re a student or a fresh graduate?
  • How to write one as an experienced professional?
  • And more.

How to include volunteer work experience on a resume (video guide)

What is the resume volunteer experience section?

The volunteer experience section is the place on your resume where you mention any kind of work you do voluntarily and for free.

Not only does your volunteering work benefit your community, it also has the potential to benefit your career. It’s an excellent way to showcase those skills, strengths and motivations that would otherwise not find their way onto your resume.

For instance, are you caring and enthusiastic? These are excellent personal strengths that you might find difficult to place on a resume.

Well, now you don’t have to just write about them in your cover letter, your volunteering experience will speak for itself.

However, in order to truly nail it, you also need to know why, how and where to write about your volunteering. And that very much depends on where you are in your career.

volunteering on resume

Why should you list volunteer experience on your resume?

So why should you include volunteering experience on your resume? Isn't having a good degree and extensive work experience enough?

There are two main reasons why you should consider volunteering and placing it on your resume. 

It will impress recruiters

For some, volunteering is as valuable as paid work. About 41% of hiring managers consider volunteer work as valuable as paid work when evaluating candidates (according to a LinkedIn survey). 

Moreover, about 20% of hiring managers in the U.S. hired a candidate based on their volunteer experience.

It speaks volumes about your character

In addition to skills particular to every position, volunteer experience always shows an employer that you’re willing to get involved in your community, take initiative, and make things happen. 

In other words, volunteering shows qualities that are highly sought after in every industry.

What other personal qualities do recruiters associate with volunteering? 

  • Being a people person 
  • Leadership skills
  • A service mindset
  • Ability to work within a team 
  • Being passionate about a cause
  • Inner drive and motivation 
  • Dependability

Where should you put your volunteer experience on a resume?

As we've already mentioned, that heavily depends on where you're in your career. When it comes to the order of the resume sections, the rule of thumb is quite simple — the most relevant things come first. 

So if you have plenty of work experience, volunteering can be placed toward the end of your resume. However, if most of your experience so far comes from volunteering, then feel free to list it at the beginning of your CV. 

  • Are you a student or a fresh graduate? In this case, you probably lack years of work experience. This means that you should treat your volunteer experience as regular work experience. Feel free to even include your volunteer work in your work experience section.
  • Are you an experienced professional? Then you should create a separate section dedicated exclusively to your volunteer work. But if you had a volunteer job that’s highly relevant to the job you’re applying for, consider mentioning it in your work experience section.

So, how to list it on your resume in both scenarios?

how to list volunteering experience on your resume

How to list volunteer experience if you’re a student or a fresh graduate?

Most recruiters see volunteer experience similarly to paid work experience anyway. Just because you didn’t get paid, it doesn’t mean you didn’t do a good job.

And since you don’t have extensive paid work experience to lean on, treat your volunteering just like a job that you got paid for doing. 

List your volunteering role/s as you would full-time paid jobs:

  • Place it in the section towards the beginning of your resume, right beneath your education section
  • If you have more volunteering experiences, list them in reverse-chronological order (place the newest experience at the top). 
  • Include details about each volunteering gig: place, organization, dates, relevant tasks you undertook, and skills you’ve learned. 

Pro tip: Be specific rather than vague. Don’t only list your responsibilities, but also mention your accomplishments. Instead of writing “Volunteered for a university magazine”, say “Wrote 28 articles for a university magazine”. See the difference?

Below is a great example.

Student resume volunteering sample

Look at how the following student resume sample incorporates volunteering. Pay attention to how Gia, even though she was still a student, managed to fill her whole resume with valuable experiences. 

She correctly included internships in the work experience section. And as she had plenty of them, she wisely placed volunteering in a separate section for it to stand out.

The rest was easy — all she had to do is fill in the dates, location, name of the organization she volunteered for, and responsibilities she’s had. 

how to list volunteering experience on your resume

How to list volunteer experience if you’re a seasoned professional?

Volunteering is a great addition to your resume even if you’re a seasoned professional.

  • This is true especially if the volunteering experience is related to the job you’re applying for, it lasted for a while, or majorly shaped your personality or professional path in a major way. In this case, you may want to highlight the volunteering section or place it closer to the top of the resume. Alternatively, you can place the most prominent volunteering experience in the work section.
  • On the other hand, even if the volunteering experience wasn’t as extensive or didn’t relate to your career, it’s not a problem. In this case, you may want to consider placing it near the end of your resume. 

Either way, when describing volunteering, try to be specific and list your key achievements in the same way you do with your work experience. 

For instance, if you volunteer as a Blood Bank Officer, instead of writing “Administration and control of the blood bank”, write “Administered 7 blood drives with 350+ donors for the Red Cross and Armed Services Blood Programs.”

Alternatively, you can just briefly mention where you volunteer and what you do.

Take a look at the resume sample below to see how! 

Seasoned professional volunteering resume sample

Volunteer work: one more piece of resume advice

  • Relate it to your skills. If you gained or improved some skills through your volunteer work, include these in the description. Pay special attention to those skills that match the job description.
  • Use action verbs. Make your volunteer section even more powerful and appealing. This helps the hiring manager understand your skillset and see you as a dedicated member of the team.
  • Stay positive. Focus on how you’re helping the community rather than the negative aspects that you’d like to change.
  • Use quantifiable achievements, if possible. It always makes you look more accomplished. 
  • Use volunteering to fill in the gaps. If you found yourself jobless for a while, volunteering during this period can easily cover the unwanted resume gap. 
  • Be careful when writing about religious or political volunteering, you may be unfairly rejected if the recruiter isn't fond of your values. 

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FAQ: How to include volunteer experience on a resume?

  • What to avoid when writing about your volunteering experience on your resume? 

Don’t include information that's too outdated. If you’re in your 30s and write about volunteering that you did during your high school years, the recruiter will know that you have no new experiences to lean on. In other words, keep your resume relevant and up to date. 

  • What are the most common forms of volunteering found on resumes? 

Fundraising, followed by teaching and serving food.

  • Should I talk about church volunteering on my resume? 

This topic requires some delicacy. In general, it's advised not to disclose information about your race, religion, or orientation on your resume in order to avoid being discriminated against.

This means it's better to think twice before openly disclosing your church activities. On the other hand, there's a chance that you're applying for a position that's affiliated with the church, or a position that requires volunteering experience. In that case, be the judge of the situation and include everything that you think could give you an advantage over other candidates.

This article was recently updated. The original article was written by Nikoleta Žišková in 2021.

Published on Nov. 24, 2022