Posts by Julia Smith

Lookin' for love: Organizations, valentines, and social media


Example of an NPR Valentine. (Image:

All over my Facebook feed I’m seeing examples of people and organizations highjacking (lovejacking?) Valentine’s Day “for good.” Whether you abhor the “romantic industrial complex” or you adore the chocolates and flowers, the day is hard to ignore. So it poses both a challenge and an opportunity to organizations: if we play our cards right, we can find fresh, easy ways to show love to our fans and to engage our communities around issues we also want to promote every other day of the year. But these can also easily be lost in the pink-and-red deluge, or strike the wrong note with people who hate the holiday.

Here are some examples I’ve seen today.

  • NPR Valentines: Easy-to-download, simple graphics featuring inside jokes for loyal listeners.
  • Generosity Day: Cooked up by folks from Acumen Fund, Network for Good, Malaria No More, and Fast Company, this campaign encourages everyone to “reboot Valentine’s Day” by saying yes for 24 hours to anyone who asks for help. Get the rundown on Beth Kanter’s blog.
  • Amnesty International, Love is a Right: To push their Facebook friends toward an ongoing fight against homophobia in Cameroon, their status reads “Happy valentine’s day! Take action for those who don’t have the freedom to love without discrimination. LIKE & SHARE!”

So what can you do if you didn’t focus your energy on a whole Valentine’s campaign?

  • Find a quote about love or kindness that ties to your organizations mission and share it through whatever channels make sense for your audience. Kiva‘s Facebook status this morning was “‘Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.’ — Mother Teresa.”
  • Simply show some love for your community. Google for Nonprofits posted to Facebook: “Today we want to share our love for you! Thank you for your continued engagement, your support, and your insights. Happy Valentine’s Day from the Google for Nonprofits Team.”

Seen other examples? Leave your favorites in the comments. I’ll love you for it.

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Developing nonprofit leaders: Easier said than done?

There are lots of theories about how to develop leaders across the nonprofit sector. But who’s putting those theories into practice, and are younger nonprofit professionals optimistic about their implementation?

This month our HRConnections newsletter features a piece from Trish Tchume, National Director of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN). Trish explains that YNPN’s most recent National Voice report examined just these sort of questions. The report, titled “Good in Theory, Problems in Practice,” concludes with recommendations to help nonprofit executives, emerging leaders, funders, and others effectively implement leadership development strategies.

Visit IdealistHR or YNPN to learn more. Or sound off here: does your organization have a refreshing approach to leadership development? Do you feel you can weigh in and make it even stronger?

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How to write a rejection letter


From Flickr user recoverling (Creative Commons)

Over and over, job seekers tell us that it’s frustrating, and unfortunately very common, to submit applications and never receive any indication that a hiring manager has reviewed or even received them. But what about when you do get through the door, have an interview, and don’t get hired? We recently asked our Facebook and LinkedIn communities:

Question: What was the nicest (or worst) rejection letter you ever received after a job interview? No need to name names/organizations. Just wondering what makes for the “best” kind of letter.

Commenters in our LinkedIn discussion and on our Facebook page sounded off with feedback for hiring managers:

Anything is better than nothing.

  • “The main thing is just to get a letter or some information that the position has been filled. That common courtesy is often overlooked, but much appreciated.” – Colleen, Facebook
  • “Any letter is the best letter! Organizations usually don’t bother – which is frustrating when you spend hours researching them, customizing your application packet for the position, etc.” – Rachael, Facebook
  • “Probably over 80% of my applications just disappear into the ether and I never receive any follow-up after the auto-generated notice of receipt.” – Bahman, LinkedIn

Alison Green, who blogs at Ask a Manager, has covered this topic in her posts Should employers spend time rejecting candidates who weren’t even interviewed? and Am I wrong to be insulted by this rejection letter?.

Short, sweet, and personalized when possible.

  • “They all are a bit crushing but whenever I’m provided concrete reasons, that helps considerably.” – Kate, Facebook
  • “The best rejection letter I ever received managed to make me feel better about not getting the job by telling me that they were impressed with my credentials and made clear that they had actually taken the time to look at my application.” – Marianne, LinkedIn
  • “Keep it really positive, tell the interviewee that they are welcome to call or email for additional feedback regarding the choice (if that is feasible), and wish them luck in their search. Short, sweet, to the point. Honestly, any communication at all after an interview is a big step up from my experience in the job hunt!” – Lauren, LinkedIn

To Lauren’s point, for those of you who have submitted apps, gone through interviews, and are left to ask “Why not me?,” here’s another Alison Green column—this one at U.S. News— called How to Get Feedback When You’re Rejected.

People, not robots.

  • “I think the worst one was an email with the subject line ‘Reject after application- External.’ Not only did it deliver bad news but it also did not attempt to hide the fact that it was automated, made me feel that a human being didn’t even bother to glance at my application.” – Marianne, LinkedIn
  • “Those that are clearly form letters add insult to injury in situations where you have invested literally hours in an interview process and were considered one of the top candidates.” – Kate, Facebook

Be mindful of personal relationships.

  • “A couple of rejection letters that I received from [a local chapter of a national organization] did soothe the hurt of rejection a bit. It said that not being selected was ‘in no way a reflection of your considerable abilities and skills’ or something to that effect. They were signed by the Executive Director, whom I have known personally for about 15 years.” – Robert, LinkedIn

File this under “Not OK.”

  • “The worst ever? When i was told by the person in charge of the school that they wanted to schedule an interview with me, on a specific date, I arrived at the place, to find no one to show up. It took me three weeks to finally get an apology and told that position was filled.” – Casey, Facebook

Thanks to all of the job seekers who shared your experiences. I’d love to hear from any hiring managers out there: what are the processes, time constraints, or legal considerations that sometimes prevent you from getting in touch with candidates, or from giving them personalized feedback? Have you found creative ways to manage this less-than-fun part of your job?

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Take professional development into your own hands


How will you carve out time to learn and reflect? Photo: US Army (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Need professional development, but don’t have a budget for travel or tuition? Here are a bunch of free or relatively affordable upcoming trainings we’ve spotted recently – ones you can join from the comfort of your own desk or couch.

Special thanks to Ben Hastil for his contributions to this roundup.

Telling your organization’s story

Show me the money

  • Grantseeking basics, fundraising planning, nonprofit sustainability…find trainings in these topics and more at your nearest Foundation Center.

Social media

  • Social Media for Social Good events: Heather Mansfield of DIOSA Communications and Nonprofit Tech 2.0 has lined up one-day intensive social media trainings in conjunction with the launch of her book. They aren’t free, but they do benefit local nonprofits in the host cities.

Become a better manager

  • The Management Center’s upcoming “Managing to Change the World” trainings are sold out, but you can access tons of free worksheets to strengthen your delegation skills, hiring practices, organizational culture, and more.
Dig out of debt
  • This might fit better under “personal” than “professional” development, but hey – lots of us have loans to pay, and I’d bet that those take a toll on our overall morale, and thus our work performance. If your new year’s resolution was to conquer your student loans, check out Heather Jarvis and her resources for Public Service Loan Forgiveness in Five Easy Steps.
What else is on your radar?
Of course, attending conferences or more intensive trainings and retreats can also be a way to deepen your skills and knowledge. And after you take advantage of any opportunities like these, it’s important to make space to reflect on how you’ll implement your new skills, as New Organizing Institute pointed out recently.
What do you plan to do in 2012 to ensure you are growing as a professional?

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Three ways you can change the face of HR


Not all HR people are like Toby from The Office. (Photo: claudiolobos, Flickr/Creative Commons)

Sometimes human resources professionals get a bad rap. Nancy Kowalski, an HR Manager at a Washington, DC nonprofit, doesn’t like seeing her field depicted as a bunch of “strict, robotic naysayers.” If you don’t either, check out our latest installment of HR Connections, where Nancy offers three ways she’s positioning HR as a positive force in her organization.

Have strong opinions of your own about HR? Want advice from others in the field? Leave a comment if you’d like to propose a topic for an upcoming newsletter.


Asking Santa for a new job? Read this.


Santa or no Santa, some reflection might be in order. (From Bart Fields via Flickr/Creative Commons.)

Today Josh Sanburn of TIME Moneyland points out that since a lot of other folks are checking out for the coming week or two, this might be a good time to buckle down and focus on your job search if you have some spare time. Here at Idealist, our site traffic does slow very predictably at between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. But as of this writing, there are still more than 6,400 jobs listed on our site.

Whether you’re planning to rest and reflect or squeeze in some job applications before the end of 2011, here are a few links that might help. All can be found in the Idealist Career Center.

  • The Five Lens Framework: Developed by the Office of Career Services at NYU’s Wagner School, this exercise helps you identify the primary frame you look through when viewing your own career path: Organization, Role, System, Issue, or Population.
  • Help with networking: If “networking” makes you cringe, think of it as “community engagement.” You might even walk into those holiday parties with a slightly different outlook.

What are your plans? Is late December a stretch when it’s critical to rest and recharge? Is that a necessity this year or a luxury?

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Is "social media" on your resume?


Image via Gavin Llewellyn, (Flickr/Creative Commons).

12.12.2011: The bullets in this post have been updated to include the percentages of social media jobs (out of all jobs posted on Idealist) each year.

Fellow Idealist Jeremy and I recently ran a little test to see how frequently “social media” appears in job postings on our site. Here’s how many listings have included the phrase over the last several years:

  • 2007: 25 jobs, o.01 percent.
  • 2008: 125 jobs, 0.27 percent.
  • 2009: 507 jobs, 1.67 percent.
  • 2010: 2,115 jobs, 4.98 percent.
  • And in 2011 so far, 3,467 jobs, or 7.7 percent of all jobs posted this year.

Curious what the very first jobs to include “social media” were? Reaching all the way back to November 2006, we found four jobs from three trailblazing organizations: a Content Producer at WGBH Educational Foundation; a Social Network Designer-Manager at Games for Change; and two web developer jobs at Feminist Majority Foundation.

When I was hired in 2006, there are at least a few people on staff who were creating social media, but I don’t think they would have called it that. For example, our editor Eric checked all of the copy on our site, but he also served as a curator of news about the nonprofit sector and posted articles from around the world every day. He was blogging before we had a blog. Now social media weaves naturally into the jobs of many folks here, whether they’re writing emails for multi-channel campaigns, blogging here, or using social networking sites to learn about and grow our community.

Questions for you, dear readers:

  • What has this evolution looked like at your organization? Is your organization so new that the majority of your work takes place through social media, or have you spent a lot of time convincing people of the value of this type of engagement?
  • Are blogs, social networking sites, and other social media included in your job description? How much of your work time do they consume?
  • If you’re a hiring manager posting one of those 3,400+ jobs, what matters to you with regard to filling those roles? How do the best candidates showcase their experience in this area?

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Could you benefit from Obama’s student loan programs?


Got debt? New initiatives from the White House might help you out. (Photo: Serge Melki, Flickr/Creative Commons)

Student loan expert Heather Jarvis writes:

On October 25, the Obama administration announced executive orders designed to assist struggling student loan borrowers. The President announced two new student loan initiatives:

  • Pay As You Earn, making the Income-Based Repayment plan more generous for certain borrowers by fast-tracking improvements to the way payments are calculated and reducing the time it takes to earn forgiveness, and
  • “Special” Consolidation Loans providing a modest interest rate reduction for student loan borrowers who have a specific combination of student loans.

If you’re wondering how these new initiatives might apply to you, read all the nitty-gritty details on Heather’s blog.

p.s. Want to meet Heather Jarvis and ask her your questions in person? She’ll be at our Idealist Grad Fair in Chapel Hill, NC this Saturday. Please spread the word if you’re in the Triangle!

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We're hiring a Director of Development!

Update, 11.23.11: We have removed the listing because the application deadline has passed. Thank you very much to everyone who took the time to apply.


Our 2011 staff retreat. Will you be in the 2012 photo?

Idealist is searching for a Director of Development to be based in our New York City office. The application deadline is November 21. If you are excited about this possibility, or know someone who would be, please check out the job listing and feel free to spread the word. Thanks!

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Grad Fairs in Atlanta, Houston, New Orleans, Chapel Hill


Friendly admissions professionals want to get to know you in person. (Staff photo/J. Smith)

It’s time for our final four graduate degree fairs of 2011:

All of these events are free and open to the public, so please feel free to spread the word! The better our turnout at these fairs, the more likely we’ll be able to bring these free events back to the South in future years.

What happens at an Idealist Grad Fair? You get to meet admissions representatives from all sorts of programs that can help you further your social impact career – from education and social work to nonprofit administration and public policy to journalism and public interest law. Figure out how to make yourself a competitive candidate and clear up any questions about financial aid.

If you’re in one of these areas, we hope to see you this month!

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