A volunteer is a professional who extends their services, expertise, effort and time to various organizations and institutions free of cost. Anyone can become a volunteer provided they have basic knowledge in the applied field. Volunteering is very appealing for students and recent graduates seeking new skills while also exploring different potential career paths, and gaining relevant work exposure before pursuing higher studies. Reports by the Corporation for National and Community Service suggest that volunteers have 27% higher employment prospects compared to people who have never volunteered.
If you dream of contributing to a social cause or other volunteer endeavor, you need to create an eye-catching resume to maximize your opportunities. Here are some tips to get started.
First, let’s take a look at the three types of resumes you can use:
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Job duties of a volunteer
The responsibilities of a volunteer vary based on the chosen field. For example, volunteers in a nonprofit organization might be asked to participate in the promotion and marketing of a fundraising campaign event, whereas volunteers at a school may provide free tutoring to students.
Here are some of the most common job duties and responsibilities for volunteers:
Reporting to events on time.
Maintaining high levels of honesty, integrity and commitment toward the project while refraining from unethical behavior such as damaging property and resources.
Effectively carrying out the designated task such as keeping records of population being served, taking surveys or running marketing campaigns for a blood donation drive.
Working closely with fellow volunteers, peers, coordinators and supervisors.
Maintaining accurate records of the work undertaken.
Respecting the company or organizational culture.
Maintaining confidentiality of classified information such as details of funds collected, major sponsors and company assets.
Following guidelines and participating in training orientations and meetings to carry out the work effectively.
Completing your responsibilities in the agreed-upon amount of time. If you committed to volunteering for 40 hours, you shouldn’t leave earlier.
Following safety regulations and maintaining a professional demeanor by taking and completing the assigned work seriously.
Volunteer median salary
Volunteers, by definition, work without pay. However, organizations can pay back volunteers for some expenses, “reasonable benefits,” or a nominal fee of usually less than $500 a year. According to legal tax experts, if any organization pays more than that amount to their volunteers, they should be treated as staff or independent contractors.
Now, people that work officially for organizations that use volunteers can get paid. They’re usually called nonprofit workers. Volunteers tend to have other jobs with salaries before joining the field. These professionals reported making an average base salary of $53,000 per year.
Top skills for volunteers
- Self-motivation: Volunteers should quickly respond and adapt to their surroundings without depending on others to act first. The ability to be self-motivated allows you to tackle problems head-on and complete tasks in even the most challenging circumstances.
- Time management: Effective time management is crucial to being a successful volunteer worker. Volunteer opportunities can come at any time and rarely have a consistent schedule, so being able to manage your commitments alongside volunteering is essential. As a volunteer, you should prioritize tasks based on the necessity of the community you are serving and complete projects on time.
- Communication: Volunteers speak to various individuals, from community members to political leaders. Social work volunteers serve as mediators or advocates at community outreach programs for various organizations, health care clinics and educational institutions. Strong interpersonal skills and sincerity in your work are important and can impress your superiors and help grow your professional network.
- Problem-solving: As a social work volunteer, you will face a variety of difficult decisions that can impact individuals or entire projects. This will require you to develop good problem-solving skills to provide assistance. Making an informed decision can help you select and implement the appropriate crisis intervention technique in any situation.
- Expertise in community outreach: Focusing your skills in community outreach by studying the socio-economic problems individuals face can help you better understand and serve that population. Through your endeavors, you will develop better situational awareness and an understanding of your demographic, its history and case files. It makes it easier for volunteer social workers to build rapport and provide comprehensive aid to each individual.
- Basic technology proficiency: Volunteers should develop basic proficiency in standard technology skills such as data entry, writing, emails, search engines and basic hardware operations, including operating printers, scanners, mobile and desktop devices. These skills can be developed or improved by enrolling in foundational courses from resources such as Udemy.
Educational requirements for volunteers
There are no nationally recognized requirements to become a volunteer. However, the eligibility criteria for applicants may differ for individual states and the type of organization or institution you are interested in applying to. For example, Florida does not require volunteers to hold a license if a nonprofit organization employs them. Volunteer social workers have previous experience, and obtaining a permit will also allow for more work opportunities across states.
DegreeAnyone from any level of educational background can become a volunteer. However, individuals seeking volunteer positions in health care, community welfare, or other specific fields must possess a diploma or bachelor's degree in that discipline. For example, it is mandatory to have a master’s degree with a clinical concentration to volunteer in hospice or palliative care.
CertificationsMany states require you to hold a license in social work with four prerequisites: location, education and experience. Numerous universities, colleges, and organizations worldwide offer volunteering and related programs to promote these opportunities and encourage individuals to extend their services. Many different organizations also help you get a certificate in general volunteering or social work.
Here are a few examples:
Nonprofit organizations: If looking for an opportunity to volunteer in social work, Social Work License Map and Social Work Degree Center are a great start. Organizations, such as CASA for Children and The National Health Service Corps, offer volunteers options on what branch of social work they'd like to join, such as military social work, child and family or medical social work.
Universities and colleges: The University of North Texas offers an undergraduate Volunteer and Community Resource Management Certificate to students and professionals interested in learning about volunteer management, leadership, community asset mapping, program planning and evaluation. It is an excellent start when seeking opportunities as extracurriculars during the summer or as an experience for future involvement.
Industry-connected companies: GloRe Network, an organization that connects NGOs worldwide, offers a certification in International Volunteering to provide valued staffing to nonprofits worldwide. They also offer e-learning modules to help volunteers evaluate their soft skills.
Member associations: The International Volunteer HQ offers exclusive access to online volunteering training through their certificate program in international volunteering.
Online education: Best Practices for Volunteering Overseas is a Udemy course for individuals interested in international volunteering. This program provides essential tips on cultural sensitivity and communication, best practices, and resources for a productive planning process. In partnership with John Hopkins University, Coursera offers a Training and Learning Programs for Volunteer Community Health Workers certificate that prepares volunteer community health workers to approach the community and provide the right health interventions.
Volunteer resume-writing tips
Mentioning volunteering experience in your resume can enhance your opportunities. Recruiters prefer individuals with volunteering experience as they bring knowledge and rapport.
These are some tips on how to add volunteering to your resume:
- List your most significant contributions first. Create a separate section and mention your volunteering experience at esteemed organizations to make a great first impression. For example, if you have volunteered for a U.N. program, write it at the top. Add only relevant and meaningful volunteer experiences for maximum impact.
- Provide a short overview of your experience. Summarize your work experience under each listing to give recruiters a better understanding of your volunteer jobs. Be specific and use bullet points to create clear distinctions between duration, significant responsibilities and projects launched.
- Include experience that relates to the organization’s CSR initiatives. Every organization undertakes various initiatives to fulfill its corporate social responsibilities (CSRs). Research the CSR initiatives you are applying for and include your specific related experience. Study and modify your experience section by using keywords that align with the firm's values and initiatives.
- Use action verbs to draft your resume. If you are a student or entry-level job seeker without adequate previous experience, elevate your volunteering experience by using action verbs. Using the right words can highlight your skills and make your resume compelling.
What are the benefits of volunteering?
Volunteering provides numerous benefits such as gaining social recognition, increased confidence and emotional stability. It also helps you form new friendships and long-lasting associations with potential recruiters. While completing your studies in social work, volunteering further enables you to explore multiple career paths and gain hands-on experience.
Can you volunteer overseas?
Organizations like the U.N. present skilled individuals who meet the minimum eligibility the opportunity to volunteer abroad free of cost. By becoming an International UN volunteer, you get the chance to make an impact, improve lives, promote social well-being and extend your services to diverse communities across the globe. The National Association of Social Workers provides social work professionals a repository of resources to volunteer abroad and gain international experiences.