Overworked and under-resourced, it is easy for nonprofits to put a community needs assessment on...
A Guide to Writing a Letter of Recommendation for Volunteers
A nonprofit manager may be tasked, at any time, to write a letter of recommendation for volunteers. It is critical to understand both why the letter is important for volunteers and the best practices for compiling one.
Volunteer work is often the backbone of a nonprofit organization. Increasingly, it also has become the backbone of a young professional’s or student’s resume. Americorps found that volunteer experience on a resume boosted chances of employment by 27% for all demographics, and 51% for recent high school graduates (see more volunteering statistics here).
This is why volunteers are turning to volunteer management software to track their impact data. Golden, for instance, features methods for volunteers to compile a detailed volunteer history to share with future opportunity gatekeepers. They can show the metrics and photo journey of their volunteer “footprint” and the value of their collective volunteer time across agencies. They can also export a certified history of their volunteering, along with comments and star ratings from organizers.
When coupling the amazing show of data with a personalized letter of recommendation for volunteers, their chances of success are even higher.
Why is a Volunteer Recommendation Letter Important?
Even with amazing technology capacity, a volunteer may still need a personalized account of their capacity from a nonprofit manager with whom they have served, often as a requirement for particular opportunities. It is also an opportunity for a person to demonstrate their “soft skills”, their personal grit that makes them an essential component for a new work team or study opportunity. This is why a letter of recommendation for volunteers is so important. Some examples include:
- Young students might ask you to write a letter of recommendation for volunteers as a requirement for a more esteemed volunteer opportunity or internship.
- Also, young students might need a volunteer recommendation letter to apply to certain universities.
- A person changing around their life, such as a recovered addict or a convicted criminal, may need a character reference to be accepted into a housing program or a new work experience.
(In a volunteer recommendation letter, you want to discuss positive qualities. Enthusiasm, a positive attitude, and good energy for your cause are great points to make!)
Retaining skilled volunteers is not as easy as it seems. Download Golden to streamline your processes and connect with your volunteers better.
How Do You Structure a Letter of Recommendation for Volunteers?
Because a letter of recommendation for volunteers is more of a character reference and is often a requirement or an essential part of a gatekeeper’s decision-making, it is good to follow a tested format.
First, a letter of recommendation for volunteers should include the date followed by the name of the appropriate recipient and their address.
Make sure to include a “regarding” heading, bolded if possible to make it obvious what the volunteer recommendation letter’s purpose is.
Apply a warm but respectful greeting to the intended recipient. In a letter of recommendation for volunteers, it is most professional to use the term “Dear” followed by a title (Ms., Mr., or Dr.), and only using the person’s first name if you know them personally. It is good to try to complement them, if possible, in the first sentence of the letter.
The first paragraph should then be followed by a statement of clear purpose—as a volunteer recommendation letter. State the volunteer’s name, how long they have worked with you, and what they are applying to within the recipient’s organization. You also want to introduce who you are and what your qualifications are in regard to the purpose of the letter.
At least one paragraph in the volunteer recommendation letter after the statement of purpose should focus on specific examples of how the volunteer has served you. You want to focus on the shining skills and qualities that the volunteer has demonstrated. It is a best practice to aim for at least 3. You can also focus on how the volunteer showed resilience and applied learning on the job to help your team and build up their professional skills.
A fact of human nature is that we like specific stories and examples. Show the reader instead of telling them! Telling is: “Susie is very energetic and always improves our staff’s morale”. Showing would be: “Susie once rallied until 10:30 at night to help us get an event stage set up for the next morning. Our staff was so tired, and she not only helped us by physically getting the task done in time but also by telling jokes and keeping our staff laughing and awake while doing so.”
The last paragraph of a letter of recommendation for volunteers should be a conclusion, pulling together the key attributes you wish to highlight about the person. Always offer more time and energy, to show that you really support the person. Say you are available anytime to further discuss the person if needed. Offer your contact information
You want to sign off on the volunteer recommendation letter with a cordial greeting, like “sincerely” or “best regards”. Then provide a real signature if you can, and your name, title, and contact information (whatever details are not already included in the narrative body). You need to include an office phone number or cell phone number and email at a minimum. The letter should be on your official organizational letterhead and might already have an office address, but if you need to provide a different address for yourself, do so under your signature.
What is a Good Sample Letter of Recommendation for Volunteers?
A best practice for writing a volunteer recommendation letter is listing out a few key points you want to make first, before you get started. Focus on at least 3 enviable attributes that your volunteer has demonstrated.
Here is a sample letter of recommendation for volunteers designed for a recent high school graduate seeking a placement in an academic program.
January 31, 2022
Dr. Grace Smith
Director of Admissions
25 Elm Street
Hooverville, PA 19652
Re: Volunteer Recommendation Letter for Caroline Caraway
Dear Dr. Grace,
It is a pleasure to communicate with your esteemed program, on behalf of Ms. Caroline Caraway, recommending her for placement in your scholarship program. I am the Director of Youth Outreach at Bumblebee Camp for Kids, and work with dozens of youth volunteers annually. I have to say that Caroline stands out as one of the most dedicated, intelligent young women who have helped us. I am confident that she would be an amazing addition to your academic program and would succeed amazingly within it.
Caroline has volunteered with Bumblebee every summer since she was 15, when we first allow young people to work as camp counselors and mentors. I personally accepted her application because of a heartfelt letter she included demonstrating her dedication to helping children in need. She told us, in the letter and then in her interview, that she has known since she was 9 years old that she wanted to become a child psychologist. She showed maturity by telling us: “I know I want to help children, but I have so much to learn and would appreciate not only being able to garner experience working with children at your camp, but learning from your esteemed staff.”
She flew through our training program and showed leadership skills even at that young age. One evening, when we were training counselors on how to hold fireside chats to encourage children who are suffering from bereavement (loss of a parent or sibling), she was able to change a negative group to dynamic. Two of our older counselors began to argue about the best tactic to calm a child. Caroline stepped in. She said, “I know I am new, but may I offer a solution? Both of your systems seem very valuable. Maybe we can role-play the strategies and vote as a group which one is best, and discuss the best situations to which to apply each?” The group went on to work in two teams to create skits to demonstrate each strategy and had a marvelous time! They laughed deep into the night, and Caroline was instantly cemented as one of our superstars.
She has been so dedicated, and also reliable. This is critical as we depend on our volunteers. Even on weekends in the summer, she shows up early and ready to work. I have checked our system and she has dedicated 360 hours of service these past 3 years, making her the most dedicated volunteer of all our group.
I have tried in this volunteer recommendation letter, but I cannot provide words to describe how wonderful she is, and how I know that she will be a successful psychologist if given the chance to study at your esteemed institution on scholarship. I am available on my cell phone number below or by email to answer any questions you may have. Thank you for considering Caroline.
Dr. Sarah Pookis
Director of Youth Outreach
Bumblebee Camp for Kids
One of the Best Roles of All - Helping Volunteers Succeed with Recommendations
A letter of recommendation for volunteers is more than just a duty. It is a way to help people who have helped us shine and succeed. It is one of the best ways that nonprofits can recognize and pay it back to people who have helped the community.
The letter of recommendation for volunteers is increasingly becoming more digital, too, with tools like Golden. Golden’s Volunteer Dashboard is a place where volunteers can highlight all of their amazing skills and recommendations from nonprofits with which they have served. They can highlight their corporate volunteering, any volunteer training they have undergone and skills acquired, and their life footprint of achieving impact for different community issues.
This is so important because more companies are doing this type of research in making hiring decisions. Volunteer work that a person did 10 years ago, to impact their community in a certain way, might make the difference. Having that work highlighted on the most esteemed platform in the business (Facebook named Golden the Global App of the Year for Social Good) will help, along with a high-level volunteer recommendation letter.