Skip to primary navigation.
Skip to secondary navigation.
Skip to page content.

Return to top of page.
Skip to secondary navigation.
Skip to page content.
Return to top of page.
Return to primary navigation.
Skip to secondary navigation.

Volunteer resources

Chida Henry volunteered in Uganda.

Chida (biology) volunteered for community development in Uganda. Chida's story


Volunteering is a great way to gain work experience, network, give back to your community and build competencies (knowledge, skills and attributes). Thinking about volunteering? Explore this section as you plan your next steps.

Why
volunteer?

No matter what your reasons are, volunteering can change your life.
Why do you want to volunteer?

Because of your personal or family values

Because of your personal or family values

You could:

  • contribute to a cause you believe in—whether it's humanitarian, environmental or political
  • use your unique skills or talents to give back in a productive, positive way
  • make a measurable difference to an organization or your community as a whole
connor silverthorn Connor Silverthorn (Métis, biology) learned about organic agriculture while WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) in France. His time abroad also allowed him to practice French, the language of his ancestors that had been lost through generations of his family.

Because it helps your personal or career development

Because it helps your personal or career development

You could:

  • explore different types of work
  • improve your skills so you can apply more effectively for work
  • build competencies (knowledge, skills and attributes)
  • gain professional connections, contacts and references in your field
  • challenge yourself and gain confidence
  • improve your language skills
kate dearden

Kate Dearden (political science) volunteered on an unpaid internship with Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) in India. Her experience in India helped her gain confidence in working abroad and motivated her to work in the area of professional development in the future.

Because it's fun!

Because it's fun!

You could:

  • meet new people and make a whole new group of friends with similar interests
  • try something completely different from your area of study
  • spice things up—escape your regular routine of classes, studying and work
derushka pillay

Derushka Pillay (psychology) has volunteered with UVic Student Transition Services, UVic Hope and the Victoria General Hospital. One of her main reasons for volunteering is the balance she finds between professional development and fun.

Explore
your options

Learn about types of volunteer work

Learn about types of volunteer work

Here are the most common types of volunteer work:

  • Board and committee work (e.g., researching issues and making decisions for a student or community association)
  • Canvassing (e.g., phoning people to drum up support for a local political candidate)
  • Coaching, refereeing or officiating (e.g., coaching a local improv team or soccer league)
  • Conservation or environmental protection (e.g., helping at an animal shelter, planting Garry oaks in Victoria)
  • Counseling or providing advice (e.g., working as a peer helper)
  • Driving (e.g., driving an elderly man to his doctor’s appointment)
  • Event and activity coordination (e.g., setting up venues at a local music festival)
  • Food or goods dispersal (e.g., collecting or delivering food to the food bank)
  • Fundraising (e.g., selling chocolates for a school band)
  • Healthcare support (e.g., helping parents cope with their child’s surgery)
  • Office work (e.g., organizing information into a spreadsheet or answering the phone)
  • Maintenance or repair (e.g., restoring a nature path washed out by flooding)
  • First aid, firefighting or search and rescue (e.g., being a volunteer firefighter at your local fire department)
  • Teaching, training or mentoring (e.g., reading books with a child "reading buddy" to encourage literacy at an elementary school)

Each type of work can have varying levels of responsibility or time commitment. For example, "office work" could include anything from photocopying to figuring out an organization’s complex budget. "Fundraising" could range from representing an organization at a donation booth to researching and applying for grants

This list comes from the Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (CSGVP).

steven orr Steven Orr (political science) has volunteered for six years with high school students as a referee with the Canadian Improv Games. At first, Steven ran the door and sold tickets, but his responsibilities changed as he quickly became the head referee for the Vancouver Island Region.

See what sectors are popular

See what sectors are popular

In BC, people are most likely to volunteer for organizations in:

  • education and research
  • social services
  • sports and recreation
  • religion
  • health and hospitals
  • development and housing
  • arts and culture
  • environment
  • law, advocacy and politics
  • business/professional associations and unions
  • international 
  • fundraising, grant writing and voluntarism

Do any of these spark your interest? Check out the "Volunteer opportunities" tab above to find postings in many of these sectors.

This list comes from the Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (CSGVP).

Ask yourself some questions 

Ask yourself some questions

Your answers to these questions can help you find the type of volunteering that suits you and your goals.

  • What’s my purpose (to gain experience, make friends, meet people, etc.)?
  • What am I passionate about?
  • What special skills or talents do I offer (music, languages, patience, etc.)?
  • What do I want to learn from my experience?
  • How will this impact my other commitments (school, family, work)?
  • How much time do I have to offer and how flexible am I?
  • What do I absolutely not want to do as a volunteer?
  • Do I want an ongoing, short-term or one-time commitment?
  • Do I want to work alone or as part of a group?
  • Are there expenses and will I be reimbursed?
  • What kind of organizations am I interested in?
  • Who are the people I will be serving?
  • What size is the organization?
  • What are the organization’s dynamics, funding, politics, diversity approach, etc.?
  • What possible constraints might interfere with my volunteer work?  (logistics constraints – no car, rural location, etc. or personal constraints – shyness, language barrier, etc.)

Use this worksheet to write down your answers. Feel free to print this worksheet and bring it with you to meet with a career educator.

lindsay brookes

Lindsay Brookes (sciences) is a frequent volunteer for UVic Student Transition Services as well as UVic’s CanAssist program. She suggests that prospective volunteers should ask themselves why they want to get involved. Lindsay's goals: to volunteer at least once a week and strive to make a difference in someone else’s life.

Explore Canadian resources on volunteering

Explore Canadian resources on volunteering

Check out these resources to explore more ways to volunteer. These websites mainly provide information—for postings, please see the "Volunteer opportunities" tab above.

Note: UVic Co-op and Career does not pre-screen volunteer agencies or endorse their products or services. You are responsible for verifying the terms and conditions of the volunteer role, the support provided and the risks involved.

  • Volunteer Victoria: Learn more about volunteering in Victoria, access services and resources and browse local postings.
  • Get Volunteering: An interactive website that provides inspirational ideas for volunteering.
  • Get Involved: Brought to you by Volunteer Canada and Manulife Financial, this site connects volunteers with volunteer opportunities.
  • Volunteer Canada: Use this site to find a volunteer centre in your area, plus learn about issues related to volunteerism.
  • Giving and Volunteering: Find details about the Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (CSGVP). 
  • HR Council of Canada: This website presents information on not-for-profit labour force issues to help you find paid work in the nonprofit world.

Volunteer
opportunities

Note: UVic Co-op and Career does not pre-screen volunteer agencies or endorse their products or services. You are responsible for verifying the terms and conditions of the volunteer role, the support provided and the risks involved.

Opportunities at UVic

Opportunities at UVic

There are tons of opportunities to volunteer right here on campus. Here are some popular options:

  • Student Affairs: Volunteer in August and September to help new students transition smoothly to UVic. Our general event volunteers and tour guides deliver campus-wide events like UVic’s Weeks of Welcome (Orientation) while building communication, problem-solving and teamwork skills. Find details here or contact Kate Hollefreund.
  • Co-operative Education Program and Career Services: Volunteer for our events in September and January to practice your communication, time management, problem-solving and public relations skills—contact evcoop@uvic.ca to ask about volunteer opoortunities. Want an advanced leadership position? Become a career ambassador! You'll support other students by helping with résumés, cover letters and job searches. 
  • Counselling Services: CS recruits senior students into their Peer Helping program. This is an awesome opportunity for students interested in helping fellow students. You'll learn about campus resources, mental health, diversity and human ethics and boundaries while using your communication and self-awareness skills. 
  • English Language Centre: Want to learn about another culture and make an international friend? Join the Conversation Partner Program to chat with an English as a Second Language (ESL) student and help him or her practice English. Please email conversationpartner@uvic.ca for an application.
  • Equity and Human Rights Office: Join Human Rights Education Volunteers (HREV) to promote inclusive, respectful and welcoming study and work environments on campus. As a volunteer, you'll provide educational workshops and materials related to social justice and human rights to the UVic community. For information, please contact Moussa Magassa.
  • Health Services: If you're interested in health and wellness (nursing, exercise physiology, education, etc), become a Student Health 101 Volunteers. Enthusiastic and passionate volunteers are needed to help out with an e-magazine created specifically for university students. In this position, you'll practice your public speaking, creative and video skills. For details, please contact Sara Wegwitz.
  • International Office - Student Experience: Want to make new friends, gain cultural awareness and network with international students? Become a volunteer for the UVic Global Community.
  • Alumni Relations: Are you a UVic student or graduate? Meet UVic friends in Victoria and around the world while gaining valuable experience for your résumé as a volunteer with the UVic Alumni Association! You can volunteer as a UVic student ambassador, on committees and branches, for social and networking events and more. Find details and contact info here.
  • University of Victoria Students’ Society: Recruits for many volunteer opportunities, including food bank workers, political campaign volunteers and special event volunteers. You'll support fellow students and gain valuable skills—from budgeting to campaign management. You can also volunteer with UVSS clubs and course unions, allowing you to meet other students passionate about the same things as you.
rishi and nairne Rishi Vasandani (biomedical engineering) volunteered on campus at CanAssist, an organization that develops customized technologies to help people with disabilities increase their independence and quality of life. Rishi worked closely with a woman named Nairne, who has cerebral palsy, as she practiced using a tool called a "dynamic keyboard" that enables her to control a computer. Rishi's story

Opportunities posted on the Co-op and Career portal

Opportunities posted on the Co-op and Career portal

Many organizations post volunteer opportunities on the UVic Co-op and Career portal. To log in to the portal and see these postings, simply sign up for a free student or alumni account using your Netlink ID.

Opportunities in Canada

Opportunities in Canada

Check out these external directories to make a connection that’s right for you.

  • Volunteer Victoria: The primary recruitment and referral centre for the Greater Victoria Region. It can connect you with over 600 volunteer opportunities through its online database. Plus it provides individualized placement support to young people aged 15 to 29.
  • Canadian Volunteer Directory: Managed by Canadian-Universities.net, this resource is organized by category, city, town, county and province. The volunteer database is made up of over 4,000 categorized non-profit organizations and agencies from over 500 locations across Canada.
  • GoVolunteer: Lists volunteer opportunities with over 1,500 organizations in BC and Alberta.
  • Charity Village: A centralized site where the Canadian non-profit sector posts volunteer opportunities, resources and more.

International opportunities

International opportunities

Volunteering in other countries can help you experience different cultures, . Plus, you can develop international competencies to help you excel in today’s multicultural workplaces.

Before you volunteer outside of Canada

Remember, travelling and volunteering internationally does present added challenges. Check out our Working abroad page before you explore international opportunities. We provide links the latest government information on safety, travel conditions, healthcare and visa information and immunization requirements for countries around the world.

International resources

Here are some resources to get you started. See the "Volunteer or intern abroad" of Working abroad for even more!

  • Idealist: This independent US-based, non-profit site has been connecting people, organizations and resources for over 10 years. It provides information on international volunteerism and an extensive listing of opportunities. 
  • Gap Year Directory: Gap is a UK directory that lists organizations offering a variety of international volunteer experiences. 

International volunteer placement organizations

While it’s possible to make international volunteer arrangements yourself, many students choose to use an established international volunteer placement/service. When selecting a volunteer placement organization, you should consider things like:

  • Is there a fee and where does the fee go?
  • Is this a registered charitable organization?
  • Does it target certain countries/needs?
  • Can you connect with anyone that has used this organization’s services to learn more? 
  • Does the organization offer a pre-departure orientation?
  • Does the organization have support people in the country where you would be volunteering, in case there is a problem? See our Working Abroad page) for other useful information.

Here is a short selection of volunteer service organizations:

  • Volunteer BaseCamp: This international volunteer program coordinates volunteers with small community groups, non-governmental organizations and institutions seeking volunteer assistance. 
  • Me to We: Gain hands-on volunteer experience through project-building in a Free The Children community.
  • Latitude Global Volunteering: Latitude has operated in the field of international volunteering for over 40 years.  It places and supports student volunteers around the world.
  • GoAbroad: This US-based site provides a comprehensive international education and volunteering database.
  • International Volunteer Directory: Created by the staff of Experiential Learning International (ELI), this US not-for-profit organization specializes in international volunteer programs. The site provides excellent advice and information about volunteering abroad and provides a listing of ELI opportunities. 
  • CrossContinental Solutions: Offers flexible intern and volunteer abroad programs in Africa, Asia and Latin America with meals, accommodation, on-site support hotline and more.
  • Cross-Cultural Solutions: A not-for-profit organization that operates international volunteer programs in twelve countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. 
  • uVolunteer: An international volunteer abroad program that works with NGOs, governments, grassroots organizations and private partners to offer volunteer projects.

How to
apply

Applying for a volunteer position is similar to applying for a paid position, but there are a few differences. Explore the tool kit for help with résumés, cover letters, interviews and more. Also, check out the competency kit to learn how to describe your competencies (knowledge, skills and attributes) in your application.

Use these tips as you start your search

Use these tips as you start your search

Trying to find the perfect volunteer placement can be time-consuming. Here’s how to search for work without burning out or coming up empty:

  • Don't invest all your time into one volunteer application: It can take a long time for your application to be cleared, and you could find yourself six months down the road without a volunteer position.
  • Don’t apply for every single position you see: It can be hard to manage multiple ongoing applications and keep the paperwork straight.
  • Only apply for positions you're serious about: Would you actually accept the position? Consider this before applying.
  • Consider your references: If you’ve applied for ten different positions and used the same references on each application, it'll be a lot of work for your references to respond to so many calls.

How to apply

How to apply

Some organizations will have no formal application process, while others may include:

  • an application form (this may require a résumé and/or statement of interest)
  • an interview (on the phone or in person)
  • a screening process
  • reference checks
  • a criminal record check and/or drug screening

General application guidelines

  • Put the same effort into your volunteer application as you would when applying for a paid position. 
  • Be genuine and honest about why you want to volunteer. Express your interest in being a good volunteer. 
  • While you may not have any related experience, your demeanor, attitude, passion, and professionalism can show that you’re the right fit for a particular position.
  • Be prepared to comply with background checks or drug screenings.

How to write a statement of interest

How to write a statement of interest

If you’re seeking a volunteer position that isn’t posted or doesn’t have a preformatted application form, you should include a statement of interest. Similar to a cover letter, a statement of interest lets you introduce and explain why you want to volunteer, and what you could bring to the organization.

Before preparing your statement, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why are you interested in this position?
  • What is it about the organization’s mission or the volunteer description that attracts you to the position?
  • What competencies, experience or qualities is the organization looking for in a volunteer? How do you meet these qualifications? What examples can you give to support your application?

General statement of interest guidelines

  • Avoid vague or cliché adjectives, and include as many action verbs as possible
  • Provide concrete examples of your relevant experiences
  • Be concise. Organizations often read hundreds of letters so try to state your meaning as clearly and directly as possible
  • If you are soliciting an unadvertised position, check out the Creating a Skilled Volunteer Role form

How to write a volunteer résumé

How to write a volunteer résumé

Your volunteer résumé should be taken just as seriously as your work résumé (see the tool kit for résumé resources and samples). Some things to consider:  

  • Your objective should be concise and show a clear passion for the work you want to volunteer for.
  • You may choose to lead with your volunteer experience and move your work experience further down.
  • As with any other résumé, you want to highlight your competencies and experience that are relevant to the position you’re interested in.
  • Include any hobbies, special skills, training, or awards (e.g., musical talent, language skills, etc.) even if you don't think they're relevant—organizations often look for well-rounded volunteers.
  • Be prepared to include at least two names of references and their contact information. Include references from previous volunteer placements, if possible.

Agreeing to a volunteer opportunity

Agreeing to a volunteer opportunity

BEFORE YOU ACCEPT A POSITION, think about how this position will impact your studies, paid work and family commitments. Also, will it provide the experience you really want to gain from volunteering?

Consider the:

  • Time commitment: How often are you required to volunteer and how long is the commitment? Can you do the work on your own time or do you have a set schedule?
  • Tasks: What specific tasks and responsibilities will you have?
  • Benefits: How will your efforts benefit the organization? How will your efforts benefit you (references, free or discounted services, etc)?
  • Work environment: Are you working alone or as part of a group? Are there social activities involved?
  • Dress code: Are there specific dress requirements? What kind of environment will you be in?
  • Training: Where should you report on your first day, and to whom? How much training is involved before you begin your role? How much ongoing training is offered?
  • Workplace etiquette: Check out the etiquette section under "Making it count" for these considerations.

IF THE POSITION ISN’T THE RIGHT FIT, saying "No" up front makes everything a lot easier for you and the organization.

Here are some guidelines for declining:

  • Politely provide written or verbal notice that you’ve decided to not accept the volunteer position.
  • Don’t feel obligated to provide an excuse. Although you may want to explain why you’re declining the position, you have the right to just say ‘no thank you’.
  • Don’t feel pressured or coerced into accepting a volunteer position. 
  • Thank the volunteer coordinator for his or her time.

How to deal with not being offered a position

How to deal with not being offered a position

If you’re turned down for a volunteer position, don’t get discouraged. Feel free to ask the volunteer coordinator why your application was not successful and use his or her feedback to help you continue your search. You may want to ask:

  • What attributes do you look for in a volunteer?
  • Are there any other opportunities with your organization?
  • Can you suggest another organization where I might be a fit?

While
volunteering

Just because you’re not paid for your volunteer work doesn’t mean it’s any less important than a paid job. Here are some ways to make the most of your volunteer experience.

Seek opportunities for growth

Seek opportunities for growth
  • Be professional: Always fulfill your commitments. Show up on time and work hard. Even though this is an unpaid opportunity, treat it seriously.
  • Engage on the job: Talk to staff and other volunteers. This is a great chance to get to know a new group of people. Remember that you’re there to learn from everyone around you.
  • Value the experience: If you’re not enjoying yourself, this will be reflected in your performance and how you present yourself to others.
  • Move on when it makes sense: If you find the volunteer opportunity is not working for you, let someone know and consider moving on. You won’t make as much of an impact if you’re not passionate about the work.
  • Gain contacts and references: Ask your supervisor if he or she will be a reference on your résumé or write you a reference letter for a scholarship or grant you're applying for. Stay in contact with your supervisor and co-workers (even after your placement ends) through email or social media, like LinkedIn.
simon moffatt
Simon Moffatt (engineering) volunteers on the UVic Aeronautical Engineering Research Organization (AERO) team. The experience and connections he's gained from AERO have allowed him to pursue unique and exciting co-op opportunities and work with cutting-edge technologies.

Follow good volunteer etiquette

Follow good volunteer etiquette

If you’re choosing to volunteer for an event or organization, you should be polite and represent the organization in a professional way. Here are some ideas about making a good impression (you can also check out the journey kit for suggestions about workplace etiquette).

  • Adhere to confidentiality agreements: As a volunteer you may be asked to sign a Statement of Confidentiality before you begin working with an organization. It is your responsibility to respect any information about clients, donors, team members and circumstances. Only share “need to know” information.
  • Conduct yourself professionally: You may also be asked to sign a Code of Conduct. Generally the Code outlines any responsibilities or practices that the organization feels necessary for its mission.
  • Complete a reference and criminal record check, if required: Depending on the organization and nature of your volunteer work, you may be asked to supply references as well as a criminal record check. The objective of a criminal record search is to see whether or not you've been charged with or convicted of a criminal offense . The organization may choose not to offer you a volunteer assignment if you've been convicted of, charged with or are being investigated for an offense reasonably related to the duties of a high-risk position.
  • Refer publicity requests to the right person: Ask your organization if it has a specific policy for responding to media requests and always refer media to your supervisor.
  • Understand the expected time commitment: One of the best ways to be a happy volunteer is to be honest when discussing your availability with volunteer coordinators. Make sure you know what the expected time commitment is before you begin, as well as whom you should speak to if you’re unable to meet this commitment.
  • Show up for your shifts and be on time: When you commit to being a volunteer, you’re committing to a particular schedule of service. If you’ll be late or absent, know whom to notify as soon as possible. Similarly, if you’re scheduled for, or need to take a break, make sure you coordinate this with your supervisor. 
  • Follow safety guidelines and report any incidents: You should always follow appropriate safety guidelines while volunteering—ask the organization about specific policies when you begin work. All incidents should be reported immediately to your volunteer coordinator.
  • Respect smoking, drug and alcohol policies: Workplaces will not tolerate the use of cigarettes, drugs or alcohol that imperil the health or wellbeing of its volunteers, staff, clients or environment. When you start work, be aware of the organization’s specific smoking, drug and alcohol policies.
  • Abide by workplace policies: This could include expectations around clothing, makeup, jewelry, or hairstyles you can wear. Also ask if there are any food or scent policies.
  • Provide emergency contact information: You’re responsible for regularly updating your personal and emergency contact information.
  • Attend training: Different volunteer positions require different training. This may consist of on-the-job placement, group training sessions or one-on-one orientation. You may also receive a training manual.

Reflect on your competency development

Reflect on your competency development

Your volunteer experience can be the first step towards self-discovery and a career direction. Give yourself time to reflect on what you’re learning, including your competency development (competencies are the knowledge, skills and attributes that you develop through your life experiences). 

Consider the 10 core competencies
UVic Co-op and Career has identified 10 core competencies that you can use in any environment, including your volunteer experiences. We’ve also worked with UVic’s academic programs to identify the program-specific competencies you can expect to develop through your academic work, plus cross-cultural competencies and professional competencies. Check out the competency kit, including the competency assessment worksheet, to assess your current competency development as it relates to your volunteering.

Record your experiences 

Record your experiences

There are so many opportunities to learn during your volunteer experiences. Keep track of your experiences, tasks and accomplishments in whatever way works for you (e.g, keep a journal, update your résumé, take notes). You can use this record as you craft future job applications. Need a kickstart? Ask yourself these questions:

  • What was challenging for you and what came naturally?
  • Is there anything you’d change about your experiences?
  • What was the impact of your volunteering on others? On yourself?

List volunteer work on your résumé

List volunteer work on your résumé

You can choose to include your volunteer experience on your résumé in two ways:

  1. In a separate volunteer experience section
  2. As part of your work history

Here are some things to consider when choosing where to list your volunteer work on your résumé: 

  • Is it highly relevant to the career you’re pursuing or did it involve a considerable time commitment? If yes, consider including it in your work history.
  • Is your potential employer community-minded or a not-for-profit organization? If yes, consider including a separate volunteer section.
  • What did you learn or contribute?
  • What was the relevance of the volunteer work to the job you are applying for?
  • Did you win any related awards?
  • What were the quantifiable results: money raised, clients helped, etc.?
  • What competencies did you gain?
  • Can your supervisor be a reference on your résumé—or write you a letter of reference for a scholarship or grant? 

Check out the tool kit to see sample résumés that list volunteer experience.

How to end a volunteer placement

How to end a volunteer placement

Whether you’ve landed a full-time job, are relocating, or just can’t fit volunteering into your schedule, here are some guidelines for ending a volunteer position:

  • Give ample notice. If you didn’t establish an end date when you began volunteering, give at least two weeks notice just as you would when ending a paid position. Don’t just stop showing up!
  • If your volunteer placement is on a term or contract, do your best to honour that commitment. If this isn’t possible, try to provide as much notice as possible or continue until a replacement can be found.
  • Try to meet with the volunteer coordinator face-to-face to wrap up a volunteer placement. If this isn’t possible, express your plans through a phone call or email.
Return to top of page.
Return to primary navigation.
Skip to page content.
Return to top of page.
Return to primary navigation.
Return to secondary navigation.
Return to page content.