Posts by Makenzie Marineau


Looking back at the nonprofit pub in Portland, OR

Here’s an oldie but goodie: We profiled this innovative pub last year to spark discussion about the different ways people are leveraging their passions to give back. We’re reposting this story in the spirit of summer.

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The idea

Photo of Ryan from ©Neighborhood Notes in Portland, Oregon: www.neighborhoodnotes.com.

Ryan Saari, an Oregon native, knows that Portlanders love their beer as much as they love helping others. But given the amount of nonprofits that already exist in the city, Ryan realized that another nonprofit, while wonderful, may not be needed. “Instead we thought, what can we do to partner with the existing nonprofits?” he says.

Three years ago what started off as a discussion between Ryan and his friends about what good they could do in their communities turned into something bigger: The Oregon Public House—a soon-to-open nonprofit pub that will serve local beer and seasonal, locally sourced food, pay employees fair wages, and donate all its profit to charities.

Ryan foresees The Oregon Public House growing and hopes after a year or two of running successfully they can open another in Portland, eventually with plans to brew their own beer and sell six packs in stores where 100% of the money goes to a charity.

Obstacles

Ryan’s first step was to bring a team on board and find a building to set up the brew pub. To buy an already existing business, the team would need a minimum of $200,000. Instead, they found a fix it up rental attached to a ballroom that was still used as an event space.

Now that they had the building, they took the next steps toward owning the first brew pub of it’s kind. Here are some of the many obstacles they encountered over the past few years to get this unique nonprofit up and running:

Obstacle: Community push back
Solution: Worried about bringing a bar into a community, Ryan didn’t want to contribute to the already existing problem of people abusing alcohol. “At first people questioned what we were doing. People wanted to change the idea into a coffee shop, or take the idea and brew craft root beer instead,” he says. He knew it was important to establish the nonprofit as a public house and not a bar, a place where friends and family can come together to enjoy a beer and food in a friendly environment.

Obstacle: Never been done before
Solution: Without a model to learn from, Ryan knew trust was key when opening a nonprofit like this, which is the first of its kind in the country. “Customers need to know where the money is going,” Ryan says. Their books are public so customers can see where the profits go to help combat any skepticism. With the idea to one day expand and turn the pub into a brewery, The Oregon Public House is continually aware of maintaining the balance between giving to local charities and the operational costs for the pub.

The ballroom. (Photo from ©Neighborhood Notes.)

Obstacle: Opening without debt
Solution: With the largest donation only being $2,500, there needed to be other ways to raise funds. One way was to start a ‘Founders’ program, where people give to the nonprofit and in return receive a free beer each day, or week, depending on their contribution level.

Another way they stayed debt-free was not building until the money was available, a strategy they plan on continuing. While they received a grant from the city of Portland for the store front, they also didn’t take out any loans.

They likewise relied on volunteers to help reconstruct the building: pour the cement, paint the walls, and do whatever they could to help. Opening with zero debt will allow them to immediately begin donating the profits to worthwhile charities and to positively influence the community around them.

Obstacle: Staying profitable
Solution: Ryan says there are lots of questions about how to make a public house a viable business while giving away most of the earnings. He and his team pay rent by renting out the event space attached to their brew pub location for weddings, movie screenings, and more. “An event space is extremely profitable,” he says. They also plan on having the leadership all-volunteer run, with paid staff to cut down costs.

Advice

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Future home of The Oregon Public House. (Photo from ©Neighborhood Notes.)

After two years of countless hours from 100 volunteers, The Oregon Public House is in the final stages of officially opening it’s doors to the community.

“We’ve received emails from people all over the country saying they’ve had the same idea, and asking how they can do this where they are to help their own city,” says Ryan. “We want people to steal this idea.”

Whether or not you plan on opening your own brew pub for charity, here’s how Ryan thinks you can move forward on your idea:

  • Don’t be afraid to share your ideas, even if they seem silly.
  • Take it one step-by-step, and don’t worry about the time it takes you. People will still be invested in your idea.
  • Be cautious with money. Debt-free is the way to be.
  • Take initiative. Helping the community you live in isn’t as hard as you think.

“Make a living,” Ryan finally says. “But instead of pocketing the extra cash, why not give back to your city?”

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Want to steal this idea? Feel free to reach out to Ryan at ryan@oregonpublichouse.com.

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How one nonprofit pub is giving back, one pint at a time

Each day, people like you have ideas on how to make the world a better place, but don’t know how to put their ideas into action. To help you take the first step, we’re profiling budding social entrepreneurs who are tackling issues that are important to them, one step at a time.

The idea

Photo of Ryan from ©Neighborhood Notes in Portland, Oregon: www.neighborhoodnotes.com.

Ryan Saari, an Oregon native, knows that Portlanders love their beer as much as they love helping others. But given the amount of nonprofits that already exist in the city, Ryan realized that another nonprofit, while wonderful, may not be needed. “Instead we thought, what can we do to partner with the existing nonprofits?” he says.

Three years ago what started off as a discussion between Ryan and his friends about what good they could do in their communities turned into something bigger: The Oregon Public House—a soon-to-open nonprofit pub that will serve local beer and seasonal, locally sourced food, pay employees fair wages, and donate all its profit to charities.

Ryan foresees The Oregon Public House growing and hopes after a year or two of running successfully they can open another in Portland, eventually with plans to brew their own beer and sell six packs in stores where 100% of the money goes to a charity.

Obstacles

Ryan’s first step was to bring a team on board and find a building to set up the brew pub. To buy an already existing business, the team would need a minimum of $200,000. Instead, they found a fix it up rental attached to a ballroom that was still used as an event space.

Now that they had the building, they took the next steps toward owning the first brew pub of it’s kind. Here are some of the many obstacles they encountered over the past few years to get this unique nonprofit up and running:

Obstacle: Community push back
Solution: Worried about bringing a bar into a community, Ryan didn’t want to contribute to the already existing problem of people abusing alcohol. “At first people questioned what we were doing. People wanted to change the idea into a coffee shop, or take the idea and brew craft root beer instead,” he says. He knew it was important to establish the nonprofit as a public house and not a bar, a place where friends and family can come together to enjoy a beer and food in a friendly environment.

Obstacle: Never been done before
Solution: Without a model to learn from, Ryan knew trust was key when opening a nonprofit like this, which is the first of its kind in the country. “Customers need to know where the money is going,” Ryan says. Their books are public so customers can see where the profits go to help combat any skepticism. With the idea to one day expand and turn the pub into a brewery, The Oregon Public House is continually aware of maintaining the balance between giving to local charities and the operational costs for the pub.

The ballroom. (Photo from ©Neighborhood Notes.)

Obstacle: Opening without debt
Solution: With the largest donation only being $2,500, there needed to be other ways to raise funds. One way was to start a ‘Founders’ program, where people give to the nonprofit and in return receive a free beer each day, or week, depending on their contribution level.

Another way they stayed debt-free was not building until the money was available, a strategy they plan on continuing. While they received a grant from the city of Portland for the store front, they also didn’t take out any loans.

They likewise relied on volunteers to help reconstruct the building: pour the cement, paint the walls, and do whatever they could to help. Opening with zero debt will allow them to immediately begin donating the profits to worthwhile charities and to positively influence the community around them.

Obstacle: Staying profitable
Solution: Ryan says there are lots of questions about how to make a public house a viable business while giving away most of the earnings. He and his team pay rent by renting out the event space attached to their brew pub location for weddings, movie screenings, and more. “An event space is extremely profitable,” he says. They also plan on having the leadership all-volunteer run, with paid staff to cut down costs.

Advice

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Future home of The Oregon Public House. (Photo from ©Neighborhood Notes.)

After two years of countless hours from 100 volunteers, The Oregon Public House is in the final stages of officially opening it’s doors to the community.

“We’ve received emails from people all over the country saying they’ve had the same idea, and asking how they can do this where they are to help their own city,” says Ryan. “We want people to steal this idea.”

Whether or not you plan on opening your own brew pub for charity, here’s how Ryan thinks you can move forward on your idea:

  • Don’t be afraid to share your ideas, even if they seem silly.
  • Take it one step-by-step, and don’t worry about the time it takes you. People will still be invested in your idea.
  • Be cautious with money. Debt-free is the way to be.
  • Take initiative. Helping the community you live in isn’t as hard as you think.

“Make a living,” Ryan finally says. “But instead of pocketing the extra cash, why not give back to your city?”

__

Want to steal this idea? Feel free to reach out to Ryan at ryan@oregonpublichouse.com.

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Idea File: Pie-a-Day Giveaway

The idea

After hearing about someone who had written a thank you note a day for a year, Karen Amarotico from Ashland, Oregon felt inspired to do the same. Since waking up in the middle of the night over a year ago with the idea to say thank you with a pie instead, Karen has given over 390 pies to friends, family, and strangers.

Giving a pie a day away was Karen’s gratitude project.

“There is something sensual about the rolling out of the dough, peeling and slicing the fresh fruit, or stirring a rich chocolate pudding. All of these things seem to say ‘It took me awhile to make this pie, and you are worth every single minute,’ “ she says.

Why we’re adding it to the Idea File

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Karen isn’t the only one using pie to say thanks. Idealist staff member Ero Gray recently baked a pie a week for friends and family for one year. This is his Gluten-free Blueberry Cream Cheese creation. (Photo by Chris Machuca via pie-curious.blogspot.com.)

  • Brings joy and recognition to people through food. Karen says the best thing of all was seeing that she could bring a moment of happiness to someone with a gift of a pie. “It was a remarkable feeling and such an honor,” she says.
  • Small act that makes a big difference. Karen experienced many meaningful encounters through her pies, including brightening the day of a young girl with cancer who lived in her neighborhood. “What mattered most was that I had shown up,” she says.
  • Simple to do. If you have the time and resources to put into it, making a pie a day can quickly become routine, as it did for Karen.
  • Using your passion for good. During the course of the project, Karen, who had been baking for years, sometimes questioned her impact.  “I would get a thank you card or an email days or weeks later and would know that I had,” she says.  A few people gave small gifts and two people even made her a pie as a thank you.
  • Builds community. Many of the recipients of her pies were friends and family but before long she was getting requests to bake a pie for strangers. “In this way I met people who I never might have met and was able to say that someone else wanted them to be recognized,” she says.

How you can replicate it

    1. Have a goal and stick with it. The one-year timeframe helped Karen stay on track.
    2. Accept support from others. From the start her friends and family lent resources to help. Her friend bought her 250 pins. A neighbor made stickers for each of the pies. Her husband gifted her baking supplies. And so on. “I’d never thought about how I was going to get the tins. I just started baking!” she says.
    3. If you bake it they will come. Once the dough got rolling, Karen found that friends and strangers alike started recommending people to receive her pies.
    4. Take into account the person who’s receiving the gift and their needs. If Karen knew they had a sweet tooth she would give them a chocolate cream pie. For a busy mom, she would make a quiche that could be used for a quick fix dinner.
    5. Think ahead. Karen made pie dough in batches of eight, and had cheese pre-grated for quiche, which helped to cut down the cost of time.
    6. Set a budget. The ingredients for each pie averaged out to about $5. After adding in gas for delivery, the project cost her about $2,000 over the year.
    7. Start a blog. Karen’s blog has generated almost 30,000 views in one year with people all over the world reading her posts. “I thought that blogging would be a way to share my experiences and perhaps encourage others to begin their own gratitude project,” she says.

Karen continues to give away on average a pie a week and doesn’t see an end in sight. “I’m more willing now to go out of my way to thank or recognize someone even if I don’t know them. I think goodness should be recognized and honored in some way and am happy to do it,” she says.

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Inspired to start your own gratitude project? Feel free to reach out to Karen for advice: karen [dot] amarotico [at] gmail [dot] com

Do you know of other projects that are fun and potentially replicable? If you’d like us to consider posting it as part of this series, leave a comment below or email celeste [at] idealist [dot] org.

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How one business is helping female entrepreneurship grow

Each day, people like you have ideas on how to make the world a better place, but don’t know how to put their ideas into action. To help you take the first step, we’re profiling budding social entrepreneurs who are tackling issues that are important to them, one step at a time.

The idea

Chris Baker first traveled to the Himalayas when he was 18, and hasn’t stopped going back ever since.

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Chris Baker spending a day at the office in Nepal. (Photo via Chris Baker.)

In college, Chris researched rock carvings in the area surrounding Mt. Everest, and held the position of President of the Yale Mountaineering Club. Shortly after graduating he became a Kiva fellow in Nepal, working closely with Patan Business and Professional Women (BPW Patan), a micro credit program that provides women with business development resources.

From his experience in Nepal, Chris saw a real opportunity in linking the mindful traveler with local communities and entrepreneurs. Combining his passion for social enterprise and the mountains, he created OneSeed Expeditions.

OneSeed invests 10 cents of every incoming dollar directly into microfinance initiatives that provide capital to women entrepreneurs in Nepal. You take an amazing trip to Everest Base Camp; a local woman launches or expands her business.

Obstacles

Chris’s first step was laying the groundwork. As a teacher with Teach for America, Chris would spend his summers off in Nepal getting to know the people and land even more.

But as with any idea, Chris ran into a few challenges along the way:

Obstacle: Committing to the idea
Solution: After things started rolling, every founder had to make the decision to commit full time, which meant quitting jobs and possibly moving. Once everyone did there was no turning away from OneSeed.  “It’s easy to waver and and find reason not to do something, but at a certain point you have to commit and do it wholeheartedly,” Chris says. “There’s a level of momentum that comes with that complete commitment.”

Obstacle: Getting on the same page
Solution: When starting the social enterprise, the other two founding members were from Nepal. It was important to be clear and figure out what OneSeed’s core values were right away. It helped cause less confusion when communicating about the details over many Skype calls and to this day, Chris and his team are careful not to lose sight of their original principles. “The conversations and connections that come from sitting around a stove and drinking tea form the foundation of our company,” he says.

Obstacle: Fear of the unknown
Solution:  “It’s easy to be blinded by optimism,” Chris says of being an entrepreneur.  He had to become a true realist and take a self-assessment of the projections, which meant sitting down and asking himself and the team if they were going to meet their targets and goals. Once they evaluated their chances of success, Chris said they just had to jump. “When you’re making your idea a reality there is always a high risk and reward,” he says. He now has a thriving social enterprise that’s expanding, and everyday he loves his job. “I get to spend time in beautiful places with amazing people and we do a little bit of good along the way.”

Advice

Discovering the Annapurna trail in Nepal. (Photo via Chris Baker.)

Chris is now busy bringing the OneSeed name to Chile, offering expeditions in Patagonia beginning in January 2013. To date, OneSeed has raised over $16,000 for women entrepreneurs, and has trained and hired more than 30 local guides in Nepal and Chile.

Chris is of the belief that making a plan can’t be overstated enough. “Ideas are plentiful; execution is rare,” he says. “Some things wind up easier than you think.”

Specifically, here’s how he encourages you to move forward on your idea:

  • Know your limits of what you can and cannot do.
  • Be aware when you need to bring in other team members to collaborate.
  • Draw upon your networks to find true experts.
  • Recombine and link ideas across contexts e.g. travel and microfinance.
  • Ask a lot of questions.

Finally, Chris advocates for acting on your idea no matter what.  “Remember you’re always going to have people warning you of the constraints, challenges, and impossibles,” he says. “But if you’re willing to follow through, you find that you can do things that seem out of reach.”

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Starting your own social enterprise and need some advice? Feel free to reach out to Chris: chris@oneseedexpeditions.com.

 

 

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Attending an Idealist Graduate School Fair? Here’s what you need to know

Connect with programs and friends at an Idealist Grad Fair (Photo Credit: Joanna/Staff)

One of the most important aspects of applying to graduate school is selecting the programs that are best suited towards your career goals and needs as a student. To help you narrow down which programs are best for you, we’re hosting 17 Graduate School Fairs around the country, starting this week in New York City.

However, we know that attending a fair and connecting with hundreds of people and potential programs can be a bit overwhelming. To cut through the confusion, we’ve outlined how to make the most out of attending an Idealist Grad Fair:

Do your homework

Before the fair, identify which attending programs and graduate schools you’re most interested in and scout them out. Review graduate school websites and other resources, like Idealist’s Grad Fair Resource Center, to give you a better sense of what the schools and programs are like, and which ones may interest you more. Doing your research will help you identify the schools you’ll want to speak with and get more information from on the day of the fair.

Prepare questions to ask representatives. Asking questions can help determine if a program fits your interests and goals. For example, you may want to know how the admission process works, what courses the program offers, or what the student life is like.

And, don’t forget to RSVP! This ensures you’ll get the most out of a fair by allowing representatives to have enough informational materials for all attendees. If you’re interested in attending an Idealist.org Grad Fair you can click here to RSVP today.

The big day

Now that you’re prepared and ready to find yourself a school remember these few tips on the day of the grad fair:

  • Dress casually, but appropriately. Remember, you still want to make a good first impression.
  • Arrival early to give yourself plenty of time. Take a moment to check out your surroundings and pick up a map if available. If you’ve done your research and know which schools you’re interested in head toward those first.
  • Be prepared to answer questions. Representatives might be curious to why you’re thinking about graduate school, what degree you are looking to pursue, or when you plan on attending.
  • Network. Use this as an opportunity to get representatives direct contact information. This gives you the ability to ask follow up questions or get in contact with someone from that school in the future.
  • Take advantage of the free workshops or informational sessions, like the Q & A sessions that are held at Idealist Grad Fairs every year. These can range from guest speakers to a panel of experts who are there with the best intentions to help you.

After you’ve attended remember to follow up with any additional contacts, and if you have further questions get a hold of one of the many representatives you spoke with at the fair. Good luck on your graduate school hunting, and we hope to see you at one of our 17 Idealist Grad Fairs across the country this fall!

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What I’m reading this fall to help me change the world

Cozy up with a book this fall (Photo Credit: Madeline Tosh, Creative Commons/Flickr)

Didn’t get the chance to dive into your summer reading list? No problem; it’s already back-to-school season, making now the perfect time to get back into the habit of curling up with a good book. For those who may need a few simple suggestions or inspiration to get started, I’ve gathered a few non-fiction titles that sparked my interest as educational reads.

From tips on how to leverage social media to change the world, to a simple feel good tale mixed with important life lessons, here are a handful of books I plan on checking out:

GirlDrive: Criss-crossing America, Redefining Feminism by Emma Bee Bernstein and Nona Willis Aronowitz

Two women, Emma Bee Bernstein and Nona Willis Aronowitz, hit the road in 2007 with an important question to ask young women: what matters to them the most. The authors describe the book as a focus on “how young women grapple with the concepts of freedom, equality, joy, ambition, sex, and love—whether they call it “feminism” or not.” GirlDrive shares the stories of 127 very diverse women through vivid photos, profiles, and diary entries, who all have more in common than expected.

You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets to Happiness by Julie Klam

Julie was thirty, single, and working part-time as an insurance clerk, wondering if she would ever meet the man of her dreams. Then she met Otto, her Boston Terrier. Even though she has made a few additions in her life — her husband and daughter –  she was surprised and delighted to find that her dogs had more wisdom to convey to her than she had ever dreamed. And caring for them has made her a better person-and completely opened her heart. You Had Me at Woof is a humorous account of how one woman discovered life’s most important lessons from her canine companions.

The Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms by Nicolette Niman

Accepting an offer to head an environmental organizations “hog campaign” took Nicolette on a odyssey into the inner workings of the factory farm industry and helped mold her transformation into a environmental lawyer who takes on the big business farming establishment. The book dives into the an industry gone awry and offers a bit of romance when she’s swept off her feet by a cattle rancher.

Twitter for Good: Change the World One Tweet at a Time by Claire Diaz-Ortiz

In this book, Twitter’s head of corporate innovation and philanthropy, Claire Diaz-Ortiz, shares the same strategies she offers to organizations launching cause-based campaigns through Twitter. Twitter for Good is filled with dynamic examples from initiatives around the world and practical guidelines for harnessing individual activism via Twitter as a force for social change.

Have you read any of these? What other books would you recommend?

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How one woman is helping queer religious youth embrace their identity

Each day, people like you have ideas on how to make the world a better place, but don’t know how to put their ideas into action. To help you take the first step, we’re profiling budding social entrepreneurs who are tackling issues that are important to them, one step at a time.

The idea

“When I came out as a queer Christian in my twenties, I went through a lot of bumpy times. It was like going through a second puberty,” says Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter Crystal Cheatham. “On top of it all my church wasn’t there for me — the community I had grown up with as support. I wished someone in my youth had given me information on my identity.”

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Crystal stands outside Oklahoma Baptist University in a nonviolent demonstration with Soulforce’s Equality Ride. (Photo via Makenzie Marineau.)

Wanting to fill this gap, Crystal channeled her writing skills into creating Your IDentity Kit: For Queer Christian Youth (Your IDKit) to help youth ages 12-17 feel supported and better understand their identity coming out as a gay Christian or Fundamentalist. The educational kit contains a range of materials including a booklet that guides self-exploration, discovery cards for LGBTQ resources, and an interactive game that challenges stereotypes.

Originally “the kit was to let teens know that God did love them, even though their church, school, and government signals said otherwise.” The idea has since expanded and the kit is a book, teaching tool, and resource on the subject of queer religious identities for anyone engaging with questioning teens.

Obstacles

Crystal’s first step was to write a draft of the Your IDKit and test it out at a workshop for Philly’s William Way Community Center, an LGBTQ nonprofit. After receiving a positive response, Crystal began to focus her time on getting more feedback on the kit, and ultimately, finding some homes for it.

While making her idea a reality, Crystal encountered a few challenges along the way:

Obstacle: Addressing negative stereotypes
Solution: In the kit, Crystal emphasizes that homosexuality is not a choice, freely uses the word queer in a positive way, and shares Bible passages that demonstrate God’s acceptance of all people. In doing so, she hopes that the young people will feel empowered and the religious community will rethink their views on queer youth.

Obstacle: Funding the idea
Solution: After she had the material written, Crystal sold her Volkswagon Bug to fund the first 22 Your IDKit prototypes. She then spent a lot of time pitching the kit to prove her idea was something that could be beneficial. People began to take notice, and individual donors and organizations helped her raise money. Crystal released an eBook through Barnes & Noble this week, with proceeds going to producing more kits and offsetting expenses for workshops.

Inside Your IDKit

Obstacle: Finding additional help
Solution:
Once Crystal captured people’s interest, she found they were willing to help out where needed: logo design, filming interviews, etc. Queer affirming churches and organizations who used the kit also stepped up to donate their time, space, food, and resources.

Obstacle: Getting buy-in from religious communities
Solution:
Crystal began pitching the kit to other sources: homeless shelters, youth organizations, charter schools, and anyone who handles teens on a daily basis. “They see that there is a disconnect and that their youth need spiritual affirmation. The need is impeccably raw,” Crystal says. Her hard work paid off: come August she will be hosting weekly Your IDKit workshops at The William Way Community Center, and Soulforce, a nonprofit dedicated to ending the political and spiritual oppression of the LGBTQ community through nonviolent resistance, will also be using the kit as the basis for an educational program.

Advice

Crystal had the most trouble with learning to be patient and understanding success doesn’t happen overnight. Her biggest piece of advice is to keep moving forward.

Here’s how she thinks you can maintain momentum on your idea:

  • Clarify exactly what your idea or product is.
  • Research similar resources, organizations, and projects.
  • Build relationships and network with other professionals.
  • Ask for feedback.
  • Write a business plan to shape the direction you head.

Finally, Crystal strongly believes in trusting your instincts. “There were times when my work led me to a black space,” she says. “All I could comprehend was that I had this burning passion; I knew I was doing the right thing.”
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If you’re interested in partnering with Crystal for a workshop and/or would like to support Your IDKit, don’t hesitate to email: crystal.cheatham@gmail.com.

Curious about the LGBTQ community? Crystal would love to share her insight as well as offer advice on how to network and perfect your writing.


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Unique partnerships: How beer brewers are working with nonprofits to support social change

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Many beer brewers are passionate about perfecting their craft while making a difference. (Photo credit: visitflanders, Creative Commons/Flickr)

Summer has finally arrived here in Oregon, and with that, craft beer month. In July, we celebrate Oregon brewers by hosting a variety of events including festivals, tastings, and meet-and-greets. While some folks kick off the summer by relaxing in the sun with a great beer, many breweries and nonprofits in Oregon and around the country are using our love of this beverage to work together and do some good.

To help budding brewers develop their businesses and careers, the Glen Hay Falconer Foundation in Oregon has a scholarship program that sends brewers from the Pacific Northwest to the Siebel Institute of Technology and the American Brewers Guild to further their knowledge and expertise of the industry. Additionally, the Foundation hosts an annual golf tournament that kicks off the Oregon Brewers Festival. During this event, participants pair up with local brewers for a morning of golf and beer to support the growing northwestern tradition of crafting beer. By supporting local brewers, the foundation ensures the industry and history of northwestern brewing live on.

Another foundation created by craft-beer lovers, brewers, and distributors is the Beer for Brains Foundation in Arizona. Beer for Brains is a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about brain cancer, helping fund groundbreaking research leading to a cure, and giving compassion to its victims. Each year they host large-scale craft-beer appreciation and fundraising events all over the country working in partnership with breweries and local organizations. The money raised goes to support the development of cutting-edge brain cancer research and treatment options at the Barrow Brain Tumor Research Center (BTRC), in Phoenix, AZ. The goal is to encourage people to have fun while making a difference.

The Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Delaware also encourages people to have fun while doing good by donating beer, brewpub gift certificates, and Dogfish merchandise to local nonprofits. One of their biggest efforts has been the Dogfish Dash – a 5 and 10K run. Over the past few years, the race has raised more than $100,000 for the Delaware chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

Whether or not you’re a beer connoisseur, you can find plenty of social events that combine entertainment and an opportunity to give back. Ask around and check out what’s going on around where you live! Or if YOU want to partner with a local brewery, find one near you and ask if they work with nonprofits. Meanwhile, here at Idealist, we’ll say “cheers” to enjoying a beer while benefiting our community.

Have you partnered with beer brewers? Share your experiences below.

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What I learned from Michelle Obama about success

Last week I had the opportunity to listen to Michelle Obama speak at Oregon State University’s commencement ceremony. Her message, though simple, emphasized a lesson many of us strive to learn: we must define success on our own terms.

During her speech, Michelle shared that while earlier in life she and her brother — who is the head of Oregon State’s men’s basketball team — pursued corporate careers, they weren’t happy, “We still had all the traditional markers of success with a fat paycheck, the fancy office, the impressive lines on our resumes. But the truth is, neither of us was all that fulfilled. I was living the dream, but it wasn’t my dream.”

Following our dreams?

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Makenzie (far right) with her family at her brother's graduation.

I see this same sort of tension in my family. Before heading to OSU’s graduation ceremony, I attended my brother’s graduation at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism. I was so proud of him as I watched him walk across the stage to receive his much deserved degree. Fortunately, he has an awesome internship for the summer as a photographer for a newspaper in Oregon. However, like many others, he is already worried about the next steps after his internship: will he be able to find work he loves and be “successful?”

His experience has shown me how challenging it can be to answer this question. On the one hand, focusing on the future can be exciting as you think of potential opportunities to explore. At the same time, this can also be scary; as much as we might like to plan, the road ahead is often very unclear, and, well, life doesn’t always go according to plans.

Recipe for success

Michelle addressed this uncertainty in her speech by encouraging us to figure out what we value, what we love, and to let those things guide us. So whether you’re like my brother in a transitional phase of life, looking for your first social change gig, or thinking of launching a social venture, I think there are lessons you can learn from her speech:

1. Focus on what you have.

“No matter what struggles or setbacks you face in your life, focus on what you have, not on what you’re missing. Graduates, more than anything else, that will be the true measure of your success. Not how well you do when you’re healthy and happy and everything is going according to plan, but what do you do when life knocks you to the ground and all your plans go right out the window. In those darkest moments, you will have a choice: do you dwell on everything you’ve lost, or do you focus on what you still have, and find a way to move forward with passion, with determination, and with joy?”

2. Define success on your own terms.

“Success isn’t about how your life looks to others, it’s about how it feels to you. We realized that being successful isn’t about being impressive, it’s about being inspired. And that’s what it means to be your true self. It means looking inside yourself and being honest about what you truly enjoy doing, because graduates, I can promise you that you will never be happy plodding through someone else’s idea of success. Success is only meaningful and enjoyable if it feels like your own.”

3. Don’t leave behind unfinished business with the people you love.

“What makes life truly rich are the people you share it with. If you’re in a fight with someone, make up. If you’re holding a grudge, let it go. If you hurt someone, apologize. If you love someone, let them know. And don’t just tell people that you love them–show them. And that means showing up. It means being truly present in the lives of the people you care about.”

I think we all can use a good reminder to enjoy the richness of our own lives.

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