How to Get a Volunteer Position
This is a step-by-step guide to help you apply for a volunteer position. Note that not all volunteer opportunities have the same application and screening process.
How do I start volunteering?
You can use Volunteer Ottawa’s ‘Search Volunteer Opportunities’ function to find positions suitable to your interests and needs. For more in-depth information on how to use it, check out our videos on how to sign up for VO’s volunteer pool and search for volunteer opportunities through VO! Below are some of VO’s members who have youth-friendly volunteering opportunities:
- Ausome Ottawa – Ausome Ottawa is a charity dedicated to enriching the lives of children with autism and their families through sports and recreation. Volunteers can work directly with children or help with behind-the-scenes programs.
- Apathy is Boring – Apathy is Boring is a non-partisan, charitable organization that supports and educates youth to be active and contributing citizens in Canada’s democracy. Apathy is Boring works to support young people to take charge of the conditions they live in by becoming active and engaged in their communities.
- Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa – The Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa helps at-risk children and youth across the city. Volunteers work with youth after-school, on the weekends and during the summer to create a safe and positive environment where youth can grow and learn.
- Christie Lake Kids – Christie Lake Kids offers year-round community and camp programs to economically disadvantaged youth to help develop their physical, social and character skills. Volunteers can facilitate sports programs, work with children or volunteer as staff at Christie Lake Camp during the summer.
- The Door Youth Centre – The Door is a place where young people acquire skills allowing them to become adults capable of realizing their full potential and participating actively in their communities. Youth can volunteer as front-desk receptionists, staff assistants or kitchen help.
- One Better World Collective – ONE Better World Collective is an organization who is building capacity to equip people everywhere with the tools to act upon the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2030. Volunteers can connect and collaborate with youth across the globe to work on projects related to the SDGs or act as youth liaisons in their own cities.
- The City of Ottawa – The City of Ottawa provides youth with all kinds of volunteering opportunities with the municipality, such as working in public libraries, museums or facilitating summer camps with the city.
VO’s volunteer opportunities include the contact information of the relevant person within the member organization for that posting. Our Membership Directory also allows you to find the main contact for a specific organization.
Volunteer Etiquette Tool – Volunteer Canada – This document gives you a general step-by-step overview of how to find an opportunity, contact an organization and apply for a position, as well as ideas for interview preparation.
Applications, Resumes and Cover Letters
To sign up as a new volunteer with VO, use our form which allows you to create an in depth profile of yourself. This profile will tell organizations who you are and how you are looking to help. When you apply for positions through our website, a brief summary of your motivations, interests and experiences is sent automatically to organizations.
Organizations sometimes specifically ask for resumes to find candidates that are a good fit for their volunteer positions. Learning to write a resume is great practice for when you start looking for jobs. You can list skills, professional experience and personal involvement, including extracurriculars and previous volunteer positions.
A resume that speaks to your relevant skills and experience will improve your chances of getting the position. If an organization asks for references, you can always approach a teacher or family friend to ask if they are willing to give you one.
A cover letter is sent along with your resume to provide additional information on your skills and experiences, but also your motivation for wanting the position. A good cover letter can help you stand out from other applicants. Cover letters go into further detail about things like:
- Why you want to apply
- What makes you a good candidate
- Examples of your accomplishments and skills
If you apply through the VO website, someone from the organization will likely get in touch with you through email. They will give you more information about the position or schedule an interview or orientation session with you.
Organizations can take a few days to respond to applications, emails or phone calls. If you haven’t heard within a week, it’s a good idea to follow-up. You can also email organizations if you have more questions, want to inquire about upcoming volunteer opportunities, or if you have your own ideas on how to help them.
Tips for writing emails:
- Make the subject line short and relevant, e.g., Interested in Volunteer Position X
- Keep it professional and to-the-point
- Proofread your email before you send
Click to read additional resources on how to write a proper email.
Phone calls are one of the best ways to get in contact with organizations. Not-for-profits receive dozens of emails a day, but a call gets you in direct contact with who you want to talk to. If they are not available, just leave a message with your name, phone number and reason for calling. Chances are they will get back to you soon.
Of course, the prospect of calling instills fear and anxiety in many people, especially if you grew up only texting, have social anxiety or speak English or French as a second language. However, practice and preparation will make phone calls much easier.
Tips for making a call:
- Think about your goal for making the phone call
- I want to know more about your volunteering opportunities
- I want to ask if this is a position that can be done virtually
- I want to know if I can complete my 40 hours here
- Write down and practice what you want to say
- Take a few deep breaths before calling
- Avoid distractions and background noise during the call
- Speak slowly and clearly and ask the person to repeat themselves if you do not understand
- Walk around or doodle to get rid of nerves
Click to read additional resources on making phone calls.