Idealist Community

What Idealist founder Ami Dar learned from his mom


Idealist founder Ami Dar is a pretty special guy.

Israeli-born and raised in Mexico, he backpacked through South America as a young man with an idea reverberating in his mind: what if there were a global network that could help connect people and organizations, so we could do more with all the resources we have?

As soon as the Internet was ready, Idealist was born.

Now, we’d like to revisit a commencement speech he gave at the City University of New York a few years back.

And guess where a lot of his big ideas and values came from? His mama.

“My mom taught me a few important things through her words but mainly through example… Keep fighting, cut through all those fears, treat each other well, and never stop laughing.”

Here’s to all the mothers out there who are leading the world with persistence, love, and strength.

What did your mama teach you? Enlighten us in the comments.


Idealist Gratitude: What Jasun and all of us are grateful for this Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, we asked our fellow Idealist staff members to reflect on a person or organization they’re grateful for. We’re posting their stories this week.

We’d love to hear what’s stuffing you with thankfulness this holiday season, too—drop us a line in the comments.


jasun_SOS_kids smaller

A few SOS Outreach kids.

I volunteer with an organization called SOS Outreach, where I mentor at-risk youth. I get to use snowboarding to help them develop self confidence, leadership skills, and positive decision making via a set of core values.

On a typical day, we do some snowboarding, then eat lunch and talk about pretty much anything. At times I am frightened at how big a responsibility it is to be a positive role model to them. I’m also sometimes frightened by how strong their riding is—they’re fast, and can navigate trees and jumps!

But I’m most thankful for this opportunity because the kids tend to teach me more than I teach them.

For example, last year they taught me about being a courageous and inspiring leader when we were off the mountain doing a service project about bullying. I was sincerely moved by a poster we made to hang in their elementary school. They did all the work—but I led the conversation about this volatile topic and helped them get their thoughts on paper.

When I volunteer with SOS Outreach, it reminds me how big a difference one person can make.

Do you want to make a difference in the lives of at-risk youth? Search Idealist for over 2,600 ways to get started.



Jasun Wurster is an operations engineer at Idealist.





This is what gratitude looks like.

Of course, we don’t want to go without saying that YOU make our snood wobble with joy every day, Idealist community! Your dedication, good ideas, creativity, generosity, and sheer intelligence truly make for a moveable feast.

Thank you for being here with us, and happy holidays.


The Idealist crew, November 2013.

Tags: , , , ,

Idealist Gratitude: What Becky and Joshua are grateful for this Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, we asked our fellow Idealist staff members to reflect on a person or organization they’re grateful for. We’re posting their stories this week.

We’d love to hear what’s stuffing you with thankfulness this holiday season, too—drop us a line in the comments.



Mara with a pig she is about to turn into bacon.

My friend Mara is the kind of tattooed farmer chick who built her own canoe and had pet goats until she butchered them.

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer this September, self-pity wasn’t really an issue.

She was pissed about losing strength, kind of “silver lining” excited about getting new boobs after her double mastectomy, and as a 32-year-old, upset about losing fertility because of the estrogen suppression therapy she’ll need to stay healthy.

I’m thankful that she was able to find support and resources through the LIVESTRONG Foundation’s Fertile Hope program, which helps cancer patients secure financial assistance for fertility treatments. Fertile Hope covered the cost of her appointments with the fertility specialist and Walgreens donated the (crazy expensive) medication.

Because of this awesome program, Mara and her partner can have a kid when they’re ready to be parents. I have a feeling that in a few years, they’ll be taking some pretty epic family canoe trips.

Want to make a difference in the fight against cancer? Idealist can show you over 2,000 ways.

becky olson!


Rebecca Olson is a communications intern at Idealist.





Joshua’s greyhound, Conquer.

Nine years ago, I was at the grocery store and saw three greyhounds sticking out from the back of a truck. The driver was going around to racing tracks, trying to find greyhounds new homes so they wouldn’t be put down after they’d fulfilled their commercial purpose. I told him next time he was at the track to find me a dog and I’d take it in.

One month later I had Conquer. She came to me both emaciated and muscular. She had hairless patches from malnourishment. Her toenails were fragile and would easily break. She didn’t know what stairs were, and the first time she saw a fireplace she walked right into it.

It was amazing to watch her transform. Before I had her she’d only known the racetrack and cage she lived in; eventually she knew things like how to play with balls and splash in the ocean. She opened up to my affection, and loved being petted and cuddled.

Because of this experience, I’m extremely grateful for groups such as the Greyhound Adoption Center and Greyhound Pets of America for the work they do rescuing retired greyhounds from racing tracks across the nation and placing them in good homes.

It is not well known that greyhounds make amazing pets, and the exposure and advocacy these organizations generate for these gentle animals is crucial to their welfare.

Passionate about animal welfare? Browse Idealist for over 6,000 animal-related opportunities.



Joshua Richey is a web designer at Idealist.

Tags: , , , ,

Idealist Gratitude: What Celeste and Tim are grateful for this Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, we asked our fellow Idealist staff members to reflect on a person or organization they’re grateful for. We’re posting their stories this week.

We’d love to hear what’s stuffing you with thankfulness this holiday season, too—drop us a line in the comments.


Joe Bell

Joe Bell.
(photo via Benjamin Zack/Standard-Examiner)

Jadin Bell was 15 years old when he took his own life. He was an openly gay teen in La Grande, Oregon who couldn’t take the bullying anymore.

For six months afterward, his father Joe Bell walked across the U.S., talking to anybody who would listen about his son’s suicide: students, churchgoers, random passersby.

When I first read about Joe in this beautiful Salon article, I was moved by the sheer amount of physical, mental, and emotional energy it must’ve taken him to talk with all those strangers, rehashing such a painful event. As an idealist, I applauded him. As a mom, I cried.

Here Joe was, a grieving father helping the best way he knew how by literally taking steps toward ending homophobia. He set up a nonprofit, Faces for Change, to help fund the journey.

He made it as far as Colorado. In a terrible twist of fate, he was struck by a car and died last month.

This holiday, I’m grateful to Joe for showing me the remarkable depths of a parent’s love. I can only hope to be that dedicated, compassionate, and courageous someday.

Want to help break the bullying cycle? Search hundreds of opportunities on Idealist.



Celeste Hamilton Dennis is an editor at Idealist.





A cared-for classroom is a happy classroom.
(photo courtesy Shutterstock)

I’m thankful that exists. Whenever I get the urge for some retail therapy online, I stop first at DonorsChoose to browse. I find that donating towards the education of deserving students and classrooms in need makes me feel a lot better than a new pair of sneaks!

I first became aware of DonorsChoose when a previous employer of mine gave the staff $50 DonorsChoose “giftcards” rather than a traditional corporate holiday gift. The company was, in effect, giving money to worthy causes, and employees got to funnel the funds to things they were passionate about or interested in. I’ve been a fan since.

Just last week, I funded an elementary school class back in my home state of Ohio. They were looking to acquire books that would help the students learn to read while garnering scientific knowledge. My mother recently retired after decades as a reading teacher, and I am personally very interested in furthering STEM education, so this particular opportunity was a win-win!

Need some good giving ideas for the holidays? Browse the 80,000+ nonprofit organizations on our site for inspiration.



Tim Forster is a video producer at Idealist.

Tags: , , , ,

Idealist Gratitude: What Emily and Derek are grateful for this Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, we asked our fellow Idealist staff members to reflect on a person or organization they’re grateful for. We’re posting their stories this week.

We’d love to hear what’s stuffing you with thankfulness this holiday season, too—drop us a line in the comments.



Ameena Matthews in The Interrupters.
(photo via

Ameena Matthews and I have nothing in common.

She is the daughter of a notorious Chicago gang leader, and former gang member herself, who is now an on-the-ground violence interrupter, getting in the middle of gang activity and breaking up negative energy before anything worse can begin. (I, on the other hand, grew up in suburban New Jersey and sit at a desk all day.)

Still, I like to think of her as my Tyler Durden: she can do anything, living without fear and emboldened by a sense of true righteousness. She is also a prominent part of a movement that has nothing to do with my lived experience but everything to do with my life’s work: making the world a better place.

For Ameena and the rest of the violence interrupters working with Cure Violence, they take the cache they earned on tough streets all around the country and use it to show gang members a way out.

In the documentary film The Interrupters, where I first learned of Ameena, she seems to be the only female interrupter. There’s one particularly tense sequence in the days following the shooting of a young man.

At first, Ameena is surrounded by this group of guys who you can tell start off not wanting to give her space or respect. But by the end, their silence is palpable—as is the respect she commands—and you know she’s the right person for this job, to be working hard to change hearts and minds.

As she continues to win acclaim for being a warrior and a powerful, enigmatic woman, I couldn’t be happier that more and more people will begin to know the name Ameena Matthews.

Inspired to help stop violence in your community? Search Idealist for over 4,000 ways to get started.



Emily Hashimoto is an account manager at Idealist.



Outside In in Portland, Oregon.

When I was a resident assistant at Portland State University, I would always see a lot of homeless youth hopping between dorm rooms. That’s because the students would go outside to smoke, get to talking with them, and invite them up.

I wanted to help the homeless kids, but I had to be concerned first and foremost with the residents. In my role, the best I could do was tell them about Outside In while helping them out of the building.

I’m grateful for Outside In, and for all their partners that help “homeless youth and other marginalized people move towards improved health and self-sufficiency.”

They provide tons of resources spanning housing, educational programs, and medical services. They even facilitate a large syringe exchange, tattoo removal, and a doggie day care job-training program.

I feel for everyone who’s been homeless, but there’s something about youth being homeless that makes me especially sad about their wasted potential. And it’s an issue that’s not going away.

Want to support homeless youth where you live? Idealist has over 7,700 ideas to get you going.



Derek Hurley is a software engineer at Idealist.

Idealist community (that’s you) steps up to help bring healing project to veterans

We love it when this happens.

In an Ideal to Real story this past May, we profiled Ellen Severino, a Brooklynite interested in alternative medicine who’s striving to bring the Japanese spiritual healing practice called Reiki to the military community. Since then, Ellen reports that the Idealist community (that’s you) has really stepped up to help her.

So far, she’s been blogged about by The Omega Institute and has made plans to attend their Veterans, Trauma & Treatment conference next month; has been collaborating with Military Musters to become their first practitioner in New York; and is looking into getting Reiki master training so she can teach others how to perform the treatment—especially people involved with the armed forces.

Plus, there was this potential game-changer:

Lori Nolen contacted me through Idealist several weeks ago. She has stepped up to the plate in a major way, providing an enormous amount of expertise and mentoring. It’s a great example of the benefits of community.
Picture 2
 Ellen recently renamed her initiative the “Reiki Service Project” and adopted this snappy logo.

Lori is working through the final course of her master’s degree in nonprofit management at Regis University in Denver. For her final paper, she’s tasked with preparing a development (ie: fundraising) plan for the nonprofit of her choice. She’d researched well-established organizations for projects before, but never a startup, and Ellen’s project appealed to her.

She contacted Ellen through Idealist to ask if she could use the Reiki Service Project (RSP) as her case study.

“When I finish,” she wrote, “you’ll have a platform upon which to base your resource-building plan. You’ll have full rights to everything I write to use or change as you wish. And, perhaps others can replicate it after it is successful.”

Ellen gave Lori the green light, so for next six weeks, they’ll work together to build a viable development plan for the RSP. In the meantime, Ellen left us with these thoughts:

A month ago, it seemed like nothing was happening, everything was going at a snail’s pace. And then suddenly, there got to be a flow.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and think, “I should have had this done last week.” There’s nothing scarier than when you get that anxious, overwhelmed feeling, and you can get paralysis that way. So you just have to go one bite at a time. Just say, “Okay, what’s one email I can send right now? What’s one website I can read?”

You don’t need 15 hours to take a step toward making things happen; you need 15 minutes. Pick the very doable, small tasks, and feel the satisfaction of making progress. That moves you along.

Idealist has a very generous community. Even if they couldn’t help directly, many people reached out to say, “I think what you’re doing is great, and best of luck.” In this world, it’s so nice to have those pats on the back.

If you’d like to contact Ellen about the Reiki Service Project, send her a message through Idealist. Go community!

Tags: , , , ,

Superstitious? The writing’s on nonprofit walls

Did you realize it’s Friday the 13th? If you’re as superstitious as some of these nonprofit folks, you probably did.

In honor of this special day, we asked our community about the weird traditions and superstitions they uphold. Check out these three fun responses:

The Minnesota-based Global Citizens Network seeks to promote peace and tolerance through cultural exchange with indigenous peoples. And apparently also by warding off evil eyes.

One staffer reported to us: “We watch out for El Mal Ojo and have a glass eye bead hanging in many of our cubes.”

Kanuga Conferences hosts 25,000 groups and families every year on 1,400 acres in the mountains of Hendersonville, North Carolina.

Says one staff member: “Kanuga has a TON of weird traditions. My favorite is ‘Kanuga Toast,’ which is this buttered, double-baked, melba-style toast. It’s like a large, hard crouton. People LOVE it, and eat it at every breakfast.

In some cases where repeat guests who love the toast aren’t able to join us for breakfasts during their stay, I have taken to mailing them a Tupperware container full of it. Some deployed servicemen have even been shipped Kanuga Toast—all the way to Iraq and Afghanistan!”

p.s. Kanuga Toast has its own Facebook page. For real.

Our own Idealists in Action blog editor Celeste Hamilton Dennis and her husband Craig Dennis (also of Idealist) met as Peace Corps volunteers in Guyana.

She divulges: “Our Guyanese friends would always tell us that we were bound to come back to their country if we drank the black water and ate labba, a local delicacy. And we did it. Whenever we would swim in black water, we’d make sure to take a sip. If labba was placed in front of us at the local karaoke joint, we’d eat it without question.”

Does your nonprofit entertain any superstitions? Tell us before the witching hour.

Tags: , , ,

Nonprofit Video 101: 3 tips to keep your videos on point


Lights, camera, questions: three things every video producer needs
(photo courtesy Isaac via Flickr’s Creative Commons)

It was my first week as the brand-new, in-house video producer at Idealist and I was super excited about all the possibilities ahead. So when our executive director Ami mentioned that a woman he just met had a fabulous Idealist story, my video mind starting working on overdrive.

Apparently, Kate Horner had not only found her current job on Idealist, she had also found her grad program at an Idealist Grad Fair, and she had a long track record of finding internships and volunteer opportunities through the site.

I was so excited, I jumped straight into preparations for making a video.

With my co-producer Sean, we scheduled a day-long shoot with Kate that involved an almost 90-minute interview. When we returned to the office afterward, we realized the daunting task that lay ahead: how would we craft a three-to-five minute video with great details that stayed compelling AND ended with a clear call to action?

I sorted through the interview footage and assembled my first cut. It was over ten minutes long, and was confusing and unfocused. While I had gotten in every last detail of Kate’s journey—from volunteering to working for veterans like her brother—it wasn’t a video I would want to watch. And it didn’t leave the viewer with a clear message about why they should look for jobs on Idealist like Kate did.

We tossed that version out and narrowed our focus. We honed in on the moments where Kate spoke honestly about her fear, excitement, worry, and hope—themes we hear all the time from the Idealist community. We also keyed in on the little things Kate had learned when she used Idealist in her job hunt that could be useful tips to share.

With these things in mind, we were able to craft a very personal and relatable story, while weaving in an Idealist pitch.


Lessons learned

In the increasingly crowded online video playing field, content needs to be focused, compelling, and clear. (Short doesn’t hurt either.)

In this case, I let my excitement get the better of me, and lost sight of those tenets. The result was that I ended up having to do probably four times the amount of work to get to the end product.

But not for naught—I’ve taken this experience with me as we plan out our next videos. Now, before we do anything, we make sure to use the following advice as a guide:

1. Answer these four questions.

When you’re thinking about making a video, planning is half the process. It’s imperative to answer these questions before you even think of touching a camera:

  1. WHY are you making the video? Fundraising? Awareness? To increase your membership?
  2. WHAT are you trying to say? What is the message or information you want the viewer to come away with? The more focused the better. Try to keep it to one message per video.
  3. WHO is your intended audience? Donors? People who already know something about your cause? People who don’t know anything about it? Event attendees?
  4. WHAT IMPACT do you want to have on your audience? What do you want them to think? Feel? Do?

2. Keep it personal.

Once you’ve thought about the end goals of your video, use that to inform the storytelling. Try to frame your video around someone’s personal story—that always helps the viewer form an emotional connection with your message.

For example, the Girl Effect: the Clock is Ticking is a great video that shows how framing a larger issue around an individual story can lead to a very compelling call to action.

3. Make a specific ask.

So now, let’s say you’ve done your homework and invested a lot of time, money, and brainpower in creating a personal, compelling video that the viewer watches all the way to the end—congratulations! But if you don’t make it easy for that viewer to take the next step, they probably won’t.

So make it clear what you want them to do. Maybe that’s sign your petition, visit your website, join your organization, or donate to your cause. In any case, don’t beat around the bush: ask them directly.

As a general rule, I suggest ending videos with your website URL so everyone knows where to go for more information. (YouTube’s Nonprofit Program allows you to add annotations around the URL that can turn it into a clickable link.) For example, in Kate’s video, we added a screen at the end that summed up our message and made a direct ask: “Find your dream job on Idealist today. Search now.”


While the process of making this video was filled with ups and downs, the experience did make me a better producer. And now I get to put what I learned to the test: we’re looking to find our next “Idealist Story” to film. Maybe you can help!

How have you used Idealist to imagine, connect, and act? Share your stories in the comments below (or email me at and if you’re in NYC or Portland, Oregon, you could be the subject of our next video. How cool is that?

For more information and resources related to nonprofit video, check out Vimeo and Stillmotion’s video storytelling series and See 3 Communications and YouTube’s study about video in the nonprofit sector, complete with tutorials and tips and tricks.

For more Idealist Videos, check out our Youtube channel at

Tags: , ,

Doodling Nicolas Cage: How we keep work fun

If you’ve ever found yourself Googling “Nicolas Cage Disney Princesses,” you have something in common with at least 90% of Idealist employees.

We’re not quite sure how it’s gotten to this point, but in the past year or so our obsession with the man has snowballed from quiet Internet searches to actually working the Cage motif into our office decor: there’s a Wonder Woman with the actor’s face on the women’s restroom door, for instance. And when we found out that a dry-erase board that allows you to “Design a new hairstyle for Nicolas Cage!” existed, we just had to have it.

Sometimes someone scribbles something sloppy and conceptual on Nic’s head while passing by; sometimes it’s a thoughtful work of art.

But it always makes people laugh. Or at least stop and stare. Which helps make the whole ‘working’ part of work a lot more fun. Especially because the ever-changing Cagescape is right next to the candy jar, so people keep coming back.

Here are a few of our favorites so far (though the hits keep coming):


Does your office have its own Nicolas Cage to lighten the mood? Tell us about it in the comments.


Tags: ,

Interested in fundraising, freelance design, nursing, or politics? Connect with your fellow Idealists!

You already know you can come to Idealist to find an awesome job, volunteer opportunity, or internship, but did you know that you can also find some awesome people here?

There are thousands of people on Idealist working for social change and they’re all right at your fingertips—ready to answer your questions, partner with you on a project, or help with an idea you’ve been developing.

In honor of Idealist’s upcoming campaigns in Ohio and Minnesota, two of this week’s Idealists live in these states. Don’t forget that in order to view their full profiles, you need to have a profile, too. It’s super easy to sign up.

a97011d8-27d0-44e1-b36a-d60a7400beef-mA man of many skills and interests, James currently works in Wisconsin as the associate director of grants at Moraine Park Technical College. Though he’s great with the grants, James actually has a master’s in social work. He’s worked as a counselor, outreach specialist, psychotherapist, social worker, program and executive director, and instructor. James also passionately pursues motorcycling, travel, and the performing arts. He attended the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and has been to almost every American state, mostly by motorcycle, as well as Canada, Mexico, the British Virgin Islands, Scotland, and Ireland. If you want to talk about grants, diverse careers, sustaining your hobbies, or traveling, send James a message!


d93999bb-1e82-4ef7-a69c-4b5cf3a05b8a-mJeanne has oriented her career within two realms of endless importance to her: the world of nonprofits and the world of collaboration. A graphic designer and project coordinator, Jeanne started out as part of a theater group and grew to develop her own freelance design business. Jeanne nurtures and values the many professional relationships she made along the way, and continues to seek out collaborative environments. She’s especially looking for opportunities that combine her interests of photography, music, architecture, and sustainability, and where she can keep learning and growing. Contact Jeanne if you’d like to talk about design, project management in the nonprofit sector, Chicago, or any of her other interests!


eb94131a-8445-418d-8c13-595236e7a4dc-mEleven years ago, Doris made the move from Nigeria, her home country, to the U.S. Though her address may have changed, her daily work did not. She’s spent over 33 years doing what she enjoys most: caring for others and teaching them how to remain healthy and happy. Currently a school nurse in Minnesota, Doris is also a mother of four and grandmother of one. She loves meeting people from all cultures, and loves it even more when they understand how significant their health is to their physical, mental, and spiritual lives. Connect with Doris to talk about nursing, health, making that doable-but-scary international move, or what it’s like to work with people from so many different regions and cultures!


daab068b-44b9-4038-bff4-87e28b84054e-mSharon originally hails from Australia, but has gone onto live and work both in the U.K. and the U.S. She currently resides in Los Angeles, where she’s pursuing a career as a visual storyteller and photographer. She also teaches photography and digital media in colleges, art schools, and summer programs in L.A., and gives media lectures for the Notre Dame High School and Children Mending Hearts. Sharon is likewise a mentor with Pablove Shutterbugs Foundation and is on her way to directing and producing her first documentary film. If you’re interested in digital media, visual storytelling, photography, or if you share some of Sharon’s inspiration for visual style (1970s Bugs Bunny cartoons, Wim Wenders, and Atom Egoyan, to name a few), get in touch to talk more!


c8191f9c-2ab9-431e-aa01-7eb5c2760f3e-mAn Ohio native with a passion for politics and an eye for news, Abram pursues his love for U.S. and international government as a student at Ohio University. Eager to learn outside the classroom as well as within it, he ran a series of outreach projects as an organizing fellow for the president’s grassroots reelection campaign in 2012. Abram continues to seek out opportunities that will allow him to gain firsthand experience with politics, particularly international relations, so that he can keep expanding his knowledge base and connecting academia to practice. If you share Abram’s love for government, or if you want to discuss how to make a difference in the global community, message him to discuss!


Looking for more Idealists who want to connect and collaborate? Check out the previous installments of this series, and spiff up your profile to make sure people who want to connect with you can find you on the site. Happy connecting!

If you don’t have one already, create an Idealist profile to offer your expertise to the community and find people who can answer your questions. Sign up here and include information about your past work and what you’re looking to get involved in. When you’re done, send a link to your profile to, and you might see yourself on our blog!