Editor’s note: Earlier this month, we posted a blog on “How to Include Volunteer Experience on Your Resume.” In this post, we’ll complement those strategies with tips for writing an effective volunteer cover letter, which — especially for skilled volunteer opportunities — can help you stand out from the crowd.
Guest post by Alicia Honeycutt
Applying for a volunteer gig may be harder than you’d initially think. Volunteer program managers are interested in knowing why you want to volunteer at their organization. They also want to know what motivates you, and if are okay with working just as hard without compensation.
A cover letter for a volunteer role is similar to what you would write for a paid job; it follows the same format, more or less. Here are a few tips you should follow to write a winning volunteer motivation letter.
Customize Your Letter
Using the same cover letter for everything shows a lack of attention to detail, and is something hiring managers — or volunteer managers — generally don’t appreciate.
You can (and should) have a template in mind, but you’ll need to individualize each cover letter to ensure your chances of landing a volunteer gig are successful. If you don’t have a template in mind, or are looking to spruce up your existing cover letter, check out a cover letter builder like LiveCareer, and incorporate any of their hundreds of templates as a starting point.
Research the contact person you’ll want to address your cover letter to. It’s beneficial to address the letter directly to the person — not only does it make a good impression, but it shows how hard you might’ve worked to find them. If you found the opportunity on VolunteerMatch, you can easily locate the relevant contact’s name and information straight from the opportunity description. In case you do not know whom you should address your letter to, do your best to avoid the age-old phrase “To Whom It May Concern.” It might give off the impression that your template is cut-and-paste.
Make it Interesting
Avoid repeating what you’ve already indicated on your resume. Struggling to find the right motivation? Get unstuck by reading some of these inspirational volunteer stories in order to understand what motivates other volunteers, and see if you can find interests you can relate to.
It’s ok to mention a few points from your resume, but you really need to be creative and think outside-of-the-box here. Your opening and closing lines have a significant impact on the reader’s perspective, so you’ll need to put in extra work to ensure those introductions and conclusions capture their attention. If you’re not word-savvy (and that’s totally okay — not everyone is!) you can ask your peers for help in creating a smarter cover letter.
Get to the Point
You don’t have to have a flowery introduction — just get straight to the point!
If you don’t have any volunteer experience, be honest about it. If you’re applying for a volunteer program manager position, talk about what your previous experiences have taught you in managing people; and how those experiences have shaped your character and the qualities that make you a perfect fit for this role.
Talk about your achievements: highlight what interests you about the organization you’re applying for. That’ll help convey that you’re eager to volunteer there.
Incorporate wording directly from the volunteer opportunity description to help solidify your relevance to the role. These words will help align your candidacy to whom the organization is seeking.
Proofread Your Letter
Proofread for typographical errors, grammatical errors. and sentence structure: you don’t want a single spelling error or any other mistakes that might make your future manager think you aren’t attentive enough to your work. Many times, we become so focused on getting all the right information across in our motivation letters that we become immune to common errors. You could review your letter yourself, but it’s much easier to have someone else (or a service) proofread your letter for you.
There are countless volunteer opportunities out there. With this brief guide, you’ll be on your way to writing a successful cover letter! Now, for the hard part: finding a volunteer opportunity that interests you.
Have additional tips to share? Let us know in the comments section below!
Author Bio: Alicia Honeycutt is an educator and volunteer in Cuba. Alicia loves volunteering because it makes her feel great. She also likes that volunteering makes people more sympathetic and empathetic to one another.