How to use volunteer experience to make your resume stand out

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Volunteering shows what’s important to you and what you’ve got to give. Both are crucial for your next dream job.
Sep 8, 2022 9 min read

The importance of volunteer work is emphasized when we’re still years away from practical experience. Our college applications often need it, and it’s always a nice-to-have extracurricular activity. With time passing, we realize it’s not about what volunteering can give to us, but about what we can give others. Each of us has something to share with the world, and we’re best at giving what we’re good at. Craft your volunteer experience section with that knowledge in mind. What could make it stand out is its authenticity. So, think about the things that really drive you when you pick a volunteer activity to list on your resume. That could give your application character and uniqueness.

It’s simple, including a section devoted to volunteer activities on your resume not only showcases your skills and interests in front of possible employers but also reinforces your candidature especially if you have little to no work experience. That said, let’s see where exactly to list your volunteering experience and how to make your resume stand out.

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Key takeaways:
  • Volunteer experience signifies activities where you put time and effort into supporting a cause without financial compensation.
  • Recruiters appreciate seeing volunteer work on your resume.
  • Volunteering counts as real work experience, though both have different aspects.
  • If you’ve heard that unpaid work is easy, not valuable, or just for people with lots of money and free time, take a look at our section on debunking common misconceptions about volunteering.
  • Your volunteer experience can – and should – be tailored according to the field you work in.

What is volunteer experience?

Volunteer experience refers to the time and effort people contribute to support a cause, organization, or community. The main thing is they do it without financial compensation. This pro bono work could include a wide range of activities, such as community service, nonprofit organization support, healthcare and social services assistance, education and tutoring, event planning and support, disaster relief, and more.

The essence of volunteer work is there’s always something more to be done. You’re never too late to make a difference. Don’t worry, you don’t have to save the whole world. Helping just one person is change enough!

Should you put volunteer work on your resume?

Sure you should! Volunteer work is highly appraised by hiring managers in all sorts of professional settings. It shows great care for the people around you, creates community impact, and offers personal fulfillment. Recruiters know all that and appreciate potential employees who demonstrate generosity.

Sometimes, a strong volunteer experience can outweigh some resume flaws (not that there’d be any if you use the Enhancv builder, right?), such as insufficient experience or gaps on your resume.

One hiring manager on Reddit gives this pro tip:

“If you're in between jobs, do some volunteer work to cover the gaps in your resume. It'll boost your skills and make you look like a go-getter to recruiters.

Source: I'm a recruiter & recent volunteer work on a resume shows they aren't just waiting around for a new job unlike the other five thousand resumes submitted for that same position. Even if the volunteer work has zero to do with your profession, it can highlight transferable skills and shows that you're not willing to let your skills go stale in this job drought.”

Does volunteering count as work experience?

Is there a difference between volunteering and traditional work experience? Let’s review some examples:

Skill development

  • Volunteering: Often involves diverse tasks that require adaptability and learning on the go.

A volunteer at a local food bank might handle logistics, customer service, and inventory management, gaining skills in various areas without a formal job title.

  • Traditional work: Typically offers more structured skill development with specific roles and responsibilities.

An entry-level marketing assistant in a company focuses on market research, content creation, and campaign analysis, honing specific marketing skills over time. 

Networking opportunities

  • Volunteering: Provides a broad network across different sectors and levels of an organization.

Volunteering for a large event like a marathon can connect you with organizers, sponsors, and other volunteers from various industries.

  • Traditional work: Offers networking within a specific industry, often leading to deeper professional relationships.

Working in an accounting firm builds connections with colleagues, clients, and industry professionals, fostering a network within the finance sector.

Career еxploration

  • Volunteering: Allows exploration of different fields and roles without a long-term commitment.

A person interested in environmental science can volunteer with conservation projects to understand the field better before deciding on a career path.

  • Traditional work: Provides in-depth exposure to a particular career path.

Starting as a junior software developer in a tech company provides a clear trajectory within the software development field, from coding to project management.

Impact and personal fulfillment

  • Volunteering: Often driven by a desire to give back to the community, leading to high levels of personal satisfaction.

Teaching underprivileged children through a volunteer program can be immensely rewarding, knowing you're making a direct impact on their lives.

  •  Traditional work: While it can also be fulfilling, it’s often driven by career advancement and financial goals.

A healthcare professional may find fulfillment in saving lives and helping patients but is also motivated by career progression and salary.

Flexibility and commitment

  • Volunteering: Generally offers more flexibility in terms of hours and commitment level.

Volunteering at a local animal shelter can be done on weekends or a few hours a week, fitting around other commitments.

  • Traditional work: Requires a consistent commitment, often with fixed hours and long-term engagement.

A full-time teacher has a set schedule and responsibilities, requiring a significant time commitment compared to occasional volunteering.

Professional recognition

  • Volunteering: Can be highly regarded, especially in sectors like non-profits and social enterprises.

Volunteering experience with international organizations like the Red Cross can enhance a resume and be highly valued in humanitarian work.

  • Traditional work: Often essential for career advancement and professional recognition.

Experience in a multinational corporation is critical for climbing the corporate ladder and is recognized across the industry.

Both volunteering and traditional work experience have unique benefits that can enhance personal and professional growth. The choice between the two depends on individual goals, interests, and career aspirations. Combining both can provide a well-rounded skill set and a fulfilling career.

Why volunteering resumes stand out

Hiring simply based on your work experience is more or less a thing of the past. Otherwise, why would we bother perfecting our resumes, and picking the best sections to add? Both employers and employees realize resumes should reflect who the applicants really are – what moves them, and inspires them. Volunteering is a great way to show what you care about, so don’t miss out on the opportunity.

And don’t just take our word for it! Data shows that 84% of employers see volunteerism as an effective way to engage employees. Moreover, companies see 27% less turnover among new employees who participate in corporate programs related to volunteering.

Volunteer work develops different qualities and skills, such as:

  • Leadership development: Organizing community clean-up events fosters project management skills, such as setting goals, coordinating tasks, and motivating team members.
  • Enhanced communication skills: Volunteering at a local shelter involves engaging with diverse groups, and improving both verbal and non-verbal communication abilities through interactions with individuals from various backgrounds.
  • Problem-solving abilities: Addressing unexpected challenges, like coordinating logistics for a food drive, sharpens critical thinking and adaptability.
  • Cultural awareness and sensitivity: Participating in international volunteer programs broadens understanding of different cultures and perspectives, promoting inclusivity and empathy.
  • Networking opportunities: Participation in community projects is an opportunity to meet people you wouldn’t usually meet. This provides valuable connections and potential mentors in your field of interest.
  • Time management: Balancing volunteer commitments with personal and professional responsibilities enhances the ability to prioritize and manage time efficiently.
  • Empathy and emotional intelligence: Assisting in crisis hotlines or mentorship programs develops a deeper sense of empathy and improves the ability to support and understand others emotionally.
  • Sense of responsibility: Taking on regular shifts at an animal shelter instills a sense of duty and accountability, ensuring the well-being and care of the animals rely on consistent and dedicated volunteer effort.

Common misconceptions about volunteer work

It’s inevitable: there’s an “against” argument for every decision we make. You might’ve heard volunteer work is not really appreciated on a resume, that recruiters see it as fluff, employers overlook it, it’s all a charade, and so on. But if you’ve done some volunteer work already, you sense its value and impact. Let’s review some common misconceptions about volunteering:

Unpaid work is not valuable

  • Misconception: Many people believe that if work is unpaid, it is not as valuable or important as paid work.
  • Reality: Unpaid work, such as household chores, caregiving, and volunteering, is crucial for the smooth functioning of society. It contributes significantly to the economy and well-being of individuals and communities.

Unpaid work is easy

  • Misconception: There's a notion that unpaid work is simple and doesn’t require any special skills or effort.
  • Reality: Unpaid work can be physically and emotionally demanding. Tasks like caregiving need patience, resilience, and specialized knowledge.

Unpaid work is women's work

  • Misconception: Unpaid work is often stereotypically viewed as the domain of women.
  • Reality: While women do perform a disproportionate share of unpaid work, societal norms need to shift to value and support unpaid contributions from all genders.

Unpaid work is not real work

  • Misconception: Some people think unpaid work does not count as real work since it is not compensated with money.
  • Reality: Unpaid work is real work that requires time, energy, and skill. It should be recognized and valued for its contributions to the economy and society.

You’ve got to have plenty of free time to volunteer

  • Misconception: Volunteering is often seen as an activity only for those who have ample free time and financial security.
  • Reality: People from all walks of life engage in volunteering. It can be done in various capacities and time commitments, making it accessible to many.

Where to put volunteering on resume

There are basically two ways to approach this. You can add your volunteer experience:

  • In a separate section: When you want to highlight your community involvement, especially if you lack paid work experience, creating a distinct section for volunteer experience can make it stand out. This approach also works well if the volunteer roles are significant or relevant to the job you’re applying for.
  • Incorporated in your resume work experience, education, or skills section: This method is useful if you want to demonstrate relevant skills or experiences gained through volunteering that align with the job you’re applying for. You can blend your volunteer roles with your professional work history or skills to provide a more comprehensive view of your abilities.

Take a look at these examples of volunteer work:

Volunteer Experience
Volunteer Conservationist
Local Wildlife Reserve
San Diego, CA
Contributed to the successful reintroduction of native species and improved local biodiversity.
  • Participated in habitat restoration projects
  • Conducted wildlife surveys
  • Educated the public on conservation efforts
Community Garden Coordinator
Urban Green Spaces Initiative
Portland, OR
Enhanced community engagement and promoted sustainable practices.
  • Managed community garden projects
  • Organized workshops on sustainable gardening
  • Collaborated with local schools for educational programs

A separate volunteer section example

Professional and Volunteer Experience
IT Support Specialist
Tech Solutions Inc.
New York, NY
Provided technical support to clients, resolving hardware and software issues
  • Troubleshot and resolved technical issues for clients
  • Installed and configured software and hardware systems
  • Conducted cybersecurity assessments and implemented security measures
  • Provided training and support for clients on various software applications
  • Maintained detailed records of technical issues and resolutions
Volunteer Web Developer
Environmental Nonprofit
San Francisco, CA
Designed and maintained the organization’s website, ensuring a user-friendly experience and up-to-date information
  • Increased website traffic by 40%, facilitating greater community engagement
  • Ensured website content was regularly updated with the latest information
  • Collaborated with team members to design website features
  • Implemented SEO best practices to improve search engine ranking
  • Monitored website performance and implemented improvements

A sample of volunteering experience integrated into the experience section

How to put volunteering work on resume

Here are some basic steps you can follow when listing your volunteer experience on your resume:

  • Step 1: Identify the role

Clearly state the volunteer position you held, ensuring that the title reflects the nature of the work you performed. This provides clarity and immediately informs the reader of your role.

  • Step 2: Describe responsibilities

Provide a concise description of the tasks and responsibilities you undertook. This should include the key duties you performed, highlighting the scope and nature of your work.

  • Step 3: Highlight skills

Mention the specific skills you developed or utilized in the role. This showcases your competencies and how the volunteer experience has contributed to your skill set, making it clear how these skills are transferable to professional settings.

  • Step 4: Quantify impact

Use numbers to illustrate the impact of your contributions. This could include metrics such as the number of people you helped, funds you raised, or projects you completed. Quantifying your impact provides tangible evidence of your achievements.

  • Step 5: Show results

Explain the outcomes of your efforts and how they benefited the organization or community. This step ties your contributions to positive changes or improvements, demonstrating the real-world impact of your volunteer work and emphasizing its significance.

Volunteer experience according to the field you work in

You might wonder what volunteer experience to put on your resume. Tailoring your application according to the sphere you’d like to work in is a great way for recruiters to see why you’re a perfect fit for a position. Let’s take a look at some targeted examples.


  • Relevant volunteer roles: Medical mission trips, volunteering at hospitals or clinics, health education in underserved communities.
  • Skills highlighted: Patient care, health education, medical administration, teamwork.

Volunteer Nurse
Community Health Clinic
  • Provided basic medical care to underserved populations, assisting with patient intake, vital sign checks, and health education.
  • Assisted in serving over 500 patients, contributing to improved community health outcomes.


  • Relevant volunteer roles: Tutoring, mentoring, teaching assistant, educational program coordinator.
  • Skills highlighted: Teaching, curriculum development, child and adolescent psychology, program management.
Volunteer Social Media Coordinator
Local Animal Shelter
  • Managed social media campaigns, increased online engagement, created content to promote adoption events.
  • Increased social media followers by 30% and adoption rates by 20%.


  • Relevant volunteer roles: Social media manager for a nonprofit, event promotion, public relations for community events.
  • Skills highlighted: Digital marketing, content creation, brand management, event planning.
Volunteer Social Media Coordinator
Local Animal Shelter
  • Managed social media campaigns
  • Increased online engagement
  • Created content to promote adoption events
  • Increased social media followers by 30%
  • Increased adoption rates by 20%

Finance and accounting

  • Relevant volunteer roles: Treasurer for a nonprofit, financial literacy educator, budget advisor.
  • Skills highlighted: Financial management, budgeting, auditing, financial reporting.
Volunteer Treasurer
Community Nonprofit Organization
  • Managed financial records
  • Prepared budgets
  • Conducted quarterly financial reviews
  • Improved financial transparency
  • Helped secure funding for key programs

Information technology

  • Relevant volunteer roles: IT support for nonprofits, website development, coding workshops for youth.
  • Skills highlighted: Technical support, web development, programming, cybersecurity.
Web Development Volunteer
Volunteer Web Developer
Environmental Nonprofit
  • Designed and maintained the organization’s website, ensuring a user-friendly experience and up-to-date information.
  • Increased website traffic by 40%, facilitating greater community engagement.

Environmental science

  • Relevant volunteer roles: Conservation projects, community garden coordinator, environmental advocacy.
  • Skills highlighted: Environmental education, project management, field research, sustainability practices.
Volunteer Conservationist
Local Wildlife Reserve
  • Participated in habitat restoration projects
  • Conducted wildlife surveys
  • Educated the public on conservation efforts
  • Contributed to the successful reintroduction of native species
  • Improved local biodiversity

Arts and culture

  • Relevant volunteer roles: Event coordinator for cultural festivals, museum guide, arts education instructor.
  • Skills highlighted: Event planning, public speaking, arts education, cultural programming.
Volunteer Event Coordinator
Annual Cultural Festival
  • Organized and managed cultural events
  • Coordinated with artists and performers
  • Handled event logistics
  • Successfully attracted over 1,000 attendees
  • Increased community awareness of cultural diversity

Social work

  • Relevant volunteer roles: Crisis hotline operator, case worker assistant, community outreach coordinator.
  • Skills highlighted: Counseling, case management, crisis intervention, community engagement.
Volunteer Crisis Counselor
Youth Hotline
  • Provided support and resources to at-risk youth
  • Managed crisis situations
  • Offered counseling services
  • Assisted in de-escalating crisis situations
  • Connected dozens of youth with long-term support services

FAQs about volunteer experience on resume

Do you need a resume for volunteering?

Whether you need a resume for volunteering depends on the organization and the type of volunteer work. Large, formal organizations and roles requiring professional skills or significant responsibility often require a resume to assess your background and qualifications. In contrast, smaller community projects or informal groups might not require one, though they may still ask for a summary of your experience. While not always mandatory, having a resume ready can be beneficial, especially for competitive or skills-based volunteering opportunities. It's best to check with the specific organization to determine their requirements.

Is volunteering a hobby?

While volunteering can certainly begin as or become one of your hobbies, its main purpose is to contribute to society. Volunteering in projects you find interesting and meaningful, like your local animal shelter if you personally love animals and have, for instance, rescued stray cats, can make you more invested in the cause and consistent in contributing to it.

What is a good objective for a volunteer resume?

A strong volunteer resume objective should concisely express your passion and commitment to the cause, highlighting your dedication to making a difference. It should also mention specific skills and how they align with the organization's mission, showcasing your ability to effectively contribute to their goals. This approach demonstrates both your enthusiasm and your relevant capabilities.

Here’s a sample objective you can use:

top sections icon

What skills are needed for volunteering?

Volunteering requires a diverse skill set to effectively support and engage with communities. Here are our top picks:

  • Strong communication
  • Empathy
  • Adaptability
  • Organizational skills
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Positive attitude and resilience
  • Willingness to learn and grow
  • Specific skills related to the volunteer role (e.g., teaching, first aid, technical expertise)

How to answer why you would like to volunteer?

When answering why you would like to volunteer, express your genuine desire to help and be specific about the cause you're passionate about. Highlight any relevant skills or experiences, such as a background in tutoring for educational initiatives, to show how you can make a meaningful impact. Emphasize that volunteering is also an opportunity for personal growth, allowing you to develop new skills and gain new perspectives. Finally, show your enthusiasm for collaborating with like-minded individuals dedicated to making a positive difference.


Displaying your volunteer experience on your resume not only underscores your skills and dedication but also adds a splash of personality that can set you apart from the crowd. So, go ahead, let your resume shine with your altruistic adventures, and watch as your career opportunities blossom!

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Vassilena Valchanova
A marketing specialist with a passion for digital. Loves finding efficient ways for brands and communities to grow together. Also, a cat-lover, cappuccino addict, early riser and theatre enthusiast. Her work for Enhancv has been featured on The Hill, and, as a marketer, she runs, a hub for her consulting practice and a blog on marketing, digital strategy, and growth.
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