Gaining experience in a particular field can be tough, especially if you are changing occupations, or are fresh out of college or university with no experience under your belt. Volunteering can be a good way to gain some experience, build up your CV and develop your career. Whether you’re applying for volunteer work at a charitable organisation or an industry related company, it’s important to treat your application for a volunteer position the same as you would a paid position.
Read on to find out what should you include in your cover letter for volunteering, from formatting to relevant information.
The Structure of a Cover Letter For Volunteering
As with a regular cover letter for a job application, you must abide by some layout and formatting rules to ensure it’s readable and professional.
Your letter should follow the structure below:
Sender’s address: Begin your letter by typing your address at the top right-hand corner of the page. In American English, the sender's address can sometimes be found in the top left corner.
Date: The date should appear a few lines below the letterhead – avoid this part if your request is via email.
Subject: If you’re sending your letter via email you may be unsure of the subject. You can keep it short and sweet by writing something like “Volunteer application – Sales Assistant (or whatever the role is)”.
Inside address: The company’s address should be written a few lines below the above - again if it’s via email, skip this step.
Salutation: As this is a formal letter make sure you address the reader appropriately. You could open with ‘Dear Ms Smith’ (if you know their name). If not you can write ‘Dear Sir/ Madam’.
Opening paragraph: This is where you will market yourself. Open the letter by sharing your interest in the position, where you saw the announcement and how you are a good candidate to match their mission by using an example.
Body: Here is where you reference your formal education and previous work experience (if you have any). Talk about how that experience is relevant to the position. If your previous jobs are not directly relevant to the volunteer position, then mention your employment history as a way to highlight your specific strengths as an employee. You may want to focus on your work ethic, your dedication to your current or former employers, and any transferable skills that could be relevant to the volunteer position you're applying for.
If you have any achievements that you are proud of and that reflects your transferable skills, you can also include this information in the body of the letter.
Final paragraph: In your final paragraph you should specify what you are able to commit to. Let the hiring manager know how much you would like to be part of their team and believe you’d be a valued member of their organisation. Tell them that you look forward to hearing from them soon.
Closing: Make sure the letter is professional until the end. You should always finish a letter with ‘Kind regards’ or ‘Yours sincerely’.
Your name and signature: A letter isn’t complete without your name and signature. If you’re handing in a printed letter, opt for a written signature. If you’re sending an email, simply type your name, followed by your contact information.
Tips to Follow
Before you begin writing your volunteer request letter, you must be certain about the organisation. Be sure that you can actually provide what you are offering, as you won’t be receiving an income for it.
Investigate open opportunities: Make sure you do a thorough search of all the available opportunities and organisations. Have a clear understanding of what the job entails, what you will be able to offer, as well as, the company’s mission statement and how you can fit into their company culture.
Find out who to contact: It’s good practice to do your research and find the hiring manager or directors contact information and reach out to them directly. It will make more of an impression that you went to the effort of hunting them down, instead of sending it to a generic “info@” email address.
Think about why you want to volunteer: some applicants find volunteering tough as they end up doing “dogs work” for no pay. It’s sometimes hard to focus on the end goal when you are beat up about your daily tasks. Before starting the position it’s important to identify why you are pursuing this route. Is it because you want relevant work experience in the field? Are you volunteering for a cause that is close to your heart? Whatever it may be, always keep this reason in the back of your mind to motivate you and keep you working hard.
Here's an example of an interest letter written for a volunteer position.
Things to Remember
Proofread before you send: Make sure you look for any typos, misspelt words, grammatical and punctuation errors. If you send off an application for voluntary work with sloppy errors, chances are you won’t get the opportunity as you have come across as unprofessional through your letter.
Attach a CV: Although you have discussed your skills in your cover letter, it’s also important to attach a CV demonstrating your education and skills in further details, when asking for a voluntary position.
Continue looking for other positions: Although you may have your heart set on volunteering for that specific organisation. Keep your options open by looking for alternative roles as well.
Have you volunteered for a company recently? Did you write a letter similar to this? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the section box below…
This article was originally published in July 2014.