Whether you’re a student looking to expand your volunteer portfolio or someone who wants to make a difference, volunteering is a fantastic way to enhance the lives of others, get experience, meet people, and give back.
The world of volunteer opportunities is very wide indeed. From picking up trash on the side of the road to teaching your native language to students, every volunteer position will have some requirements: and you’ll normally have to complete some form of application for the position.
While some volunteer positions are relatively easy to apply for and get accepted for, others are significantly harder, and the process is more like applying for a job. You'll need a cover letter to ensure you succeed with any volunteer position you’re interested in. In this article, we dig into the art of writing a volunteer cover letter and show you how to write a great one.
What is a Volunteer Cover Letter?
A volunteer cover letter is similar to a professional cover letter for a paid position. Both cover letters are essentially a way of introducing yourself, showing interest in a company or organization, and presenting relevant experience for hiring managers to reference.
Things to Add to a Volunteer Cover Letter
When writing a volunteer cover letter, there are several sections you’ll need to include:
Contact Information and Date
The beginning of your volunteer cover letter should always include your contact information. Your name, phone number, email address, and any relevant links to sites like LinkedIn or your portfolio are a must. In addition, adding a date to your cover letter is great for archival purposes for both you and the organization.
Underneath your contact information and date, including the contact information of who you’re writing to. That way, there won’t be any mix-ups when sending the letter.
The next part of your cover letter is your greeting: this section is your “Dear Mx. X” portion of the letter. When writing a volunteer cover letter, it’s important to know who you’re writing to for the cover letter to seem more personal. Addressing someone specific at the organization is also a great way to show that you’ve done your research.
Your introduction takes up the first paragraph of your cover letter and contains general information about who you are and why you’re interested in the organization. Your introduction can also include how you discovered the volunteer position.
The body of your volunteer cover letter consists of three things:
- Your educational background. Depending on your age, this might include your high school, college, or trade schooling experience. Depending on the organization and the position you’re applying for, you may require a specific educational background to qualify for the position in the first place.
- Your relevant experience. This includes past projects you’ve worked on in fields related to the open position. Paid, personal, and volunteer projects related to the position are fine to include here. However, many volunteer organizations like to see an emphasis on volunteer work.
- Any relevant skills. Relevant Skills include things you’d typically see on a resume, like proficiency in particular software, administrative skills, or the age-old sentence about how you excel at teamwork. If you don’t have previous volunteering experience, but do have skills that would be useful for the position your going for - be sure to detail them here.
Some people split the body into multiple sections, while others keep it in a single paragraph. Regardless of its length, try to include other volunteer experiences if possible.
The Call to Action
Your final paragraph of a cover letter is your chance to encourage the hiring manager to contact you, look at your portfolio, and visit your website. Use this time to reiterate why you’re an excellent fit for the organization and how your skills can bring the project to a new level.
When signing off your letter, use a professional send-off like “sincerely” or “with kind regards.”
How to Write a Volunteer Cover Letter
When learning how to write a volunteer cover letter, there are a few steps to work through while writing:
1. Research the Organization
Your first step is to research the organization you want to volunteer for. Knowing who to contact, the organization’s history, and its ideals are a great way to get an idea of what to include in your letter and prove to the organization that you’re genuinely interested in them.
2. Gather Your Relevant Experience
If you’re someone with a lot of experience, make a list of the most relevant experience you’ve got for the position to stay organized.
3. Start Your Draft
Your cover letter will need at least one draft before you send it– so when you start writing, keep in mind that you’ll need to edit it.
4. Edit and Proofread
Before sending your cover letter, edit it for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. The final version you send should look as professional as possible. Editing programs like Grammarly and your computer’s spell checker are great ways to get basic conventions out of the way, but they aren’t always perfect. Get someone else to read through your cover letter and check it as it’s difficult to spot mistakes in something you’ve written yourself.
Tips for the Perfect Cover Letter
Now that you know how to write a volunteer cover letter, let’s make your cover letter perfect.
Keep it Short
Volunteer organizations are usually short-staffed, and the team manager reads many cover letters daily. Keeping your cover letter short (less than one page) is essential to ensure they read it. Try to include as much information in as little space as possible without sacrificing your font size.
Never forget your “call to action” section since it contains a vital part of your cover letter: how they can contact you. The call to action also emphasizes how much you’d like to work with the organization, so asserting yourself with a simple “let’s talk” is a great way to put your foot in the door.
Example Cover Letter
[Your name & address and contact details]
Dear Mr. Hassel,
I am very excited to hear about the recent opening for a volunteer carpenter at Helping Homes. As a professional carpenter for over 20 years, I am very excited about the chance to work with your organization and build new homes for the community.
When I finished my training 25 years ago, I knew that going into construction was precisely the position for me; the ability to create gorgeous art with a functional purpose is a passion of mine. Thus I have spent the last decade or so working on creating energy-efficient, fully sustainable tiny homes.
You may have seen some of my work around town; my most recent clients were Pauline and Maurice Sanchez, and you’ll find my furniture in the children’s section of the Threed local library. All library projects use sashimono building techniques which means no nails, screws, or wood glue. To find my other projects and work-in-progress pieces, feel free to visit my website at http://www.NathanBuilds.com.
If you’d like to view my work in person, let’s schedule a date and time to meet– I’d be more than happy to open up my workshop and expertise to you and your organization.
[your email address]