New look, same great stuff


Ero just looks different without a beard. He’s still giving our users the same great tech support.

You may have noticed that, just like our tech support representative Ero, Idealist has recently undergone a makeover—the first step in a grand spiffy-up of our whole site. We’re doing some housecleaning, planning some new initiatives, developing some new tools… all in the name of making your experience with us as easy, valuable, and pleasant as possible.

But the big takeaway for now? Don’t worry: not much is actually different… yet!

All we’ve done so far is tweaked the way our pages look to pave the way for lots of functionality improvements in the future. We’ve hardly removed anything or changed the way any features work. You might see some buttons that used to be blue and are now gray, or a few links that live in slightly different places, but that’s about it.

We’re rolling the changes out incrementally, which will give us regular opportunities to learn from your feedback as we plan and tinker. Hearing from you is the number-one way we have of identifying effective improvements, so if you run into any trouble, please comment below or drop Ero a line at Ero [at]

Ultimately, our goals are to:

  • Make Idealist easier to use. We’ll put the things you most want to see and do front and center.

  • Make Idealist more responsive. We’ll deliver mobile improvements that will make accessing the site from all your devices a smoother experience.

  • Make Idealist faster. We’ll improve performance so every page will load in a snap.

And as always, we’ll keep you posted on new developments as they happen. Thanks for being along for the makeover ride!

Tags: , , ,

Idealist Insider Tips: How to make sure candidates see your job listing


Don't make it hard for candidates to find your listing on Idealist. A few tweaks can make a huge difference! (Photo credit: Will Valnue via Flickr/Creative Commons)

Organizations post hundreds of jobs on every day, and we often hear from job posters who want to make sure they get the best applicants for the job. But why do some job listings attract a flood of high-quality applications while others seem to get overlooked?

We recently explored how organizations can craft job listings that stand out. Now we’ll dive into something equally important: making sure your job listing shows up when candidates start searching!  If more people see your job, more people will apply for it, so it’s important to make your listing as searchable as possible.

So before you hit “publish” on your listing, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Broaden your area of focus.

Your job listing includes the areas of focus listed on your organization’s page (youth, the environment, poverty, etc.).  The more categories you select, the more candidates are likely to see your listing when they search. To add more areas of focus to your organization’s page, log in and go to your organization’s page by clicking on its name on the left side of your homepage. Then click on the blue Edit button. Select as many areas of focus as possible that relate to your organization. You can choose multiple items by holding down the “control” key and clicking on a PC or by holding down the “command” key and clicking on a Mac.

2. Include additional job responsibilities.

The site also allows job seekers to search by the responsibilities of the job.  Like areas of focus, the more job functions you select, the more job seekers will likely see your listing when they search, so be sure to include as many selections from the job functions list (writing, management, fundraising) as you can in your listing.  You don’t want to miss out on someone because they’re searching for “public policy” and you listed your job only under “advocacy.”

These last two bits of advice may seem counterintuitive: don’t you want to narrow the categories you select so you only get people truly interested in your work and mission?  This makes sense in terms of hiring, however when it comes to searching, being too narrow can actually eliminate candidates who aren’t using the same terms you’re using.  And remember, while the categories you select will bring more people to your job listing, a well-written job listing is what will encourage great candidates to apply!

3. Add your own search terms.

You’ll also want to make your job searchable by including related keywords. Think of your perfect candidate, and imagine that person is searching for a job on Idealist. What kind of words would they use? Make sure that your job’s description includes those words and phrases. You can also add keywords in the additional keywords field near the bottom of the form for any words that don’t fit organically into your description. You can add as many additional search terms as you’d like to help people find your job.

4. Pretty please: include a salary range.

Users sometimes search by salary range, and many prefer to apply to jobs that list one. We’ve found that job postings that include a salary range get a much higher response, even if the range listed is relatively low. Including a salary range will also help narrow your applicant pool to those who are more likely to accept an offer at your organization.

5. Choose the best location.

Most job seekers are looking for jobs in a specific location, and it’s the first item they enter when searching. The most common reason why no one responds to a job listing is because there’s a typo in the location field, so make sure that you enter your city and state correctly. You’ll also want to make sure you use the most common name of your city – a job in “Foggy Bottom, DC” is harder to find than one in “Washington, DC.”

Also, if you’re in a small town very close to a larger city, you also might want to consider using that city as your location. For instance, let’s say your organization is located in Darien, CT, which is an eight minute drive from Stamford, CT (according to Google Maps). While you might choose Darien, CT, there are five times as many registered users in Stamford as we have in Darien. Though we do have the option to search with a radius, if a job seeker searches only in Stamford, he won’t see a job just eight minutes away in Darien.

When it comes to optimizing your listing for a search, a few small tweaks go a long way.

Do you have more tips? Questions about the site? Leave a comment below. And thanks for posting jobs on Idealist!

Tags: , ,

Introducing our new blog editor, Allison Jones!

Hi, everyone. I’m Julia Smith and I’ve been lucky to edit this blog over the past few years, working with our team to shed light on everything from idea-sharing potlucks to New Year’s resolutions for job seekers to tips for making the most of any conference you attend. Now it’s time for me to hand over the reins, and I’m thrilled to welcome Allison Jones,  a longtime member of our community and one of the newest members of our staff. Read on to meet the communications champ who will be bringing you all kinds of blog goodness from now on!


Welcome Allison, our new blog editor!

Q. When did you first know you wanted to have a career with social impact? Is there a moment in your life you can pinpoint?

A. In high school I lived in a poor part of Brooklyn but attended school in a wealthy part of Brooklyn. The differences were shocking and upsetting; who knew the impact a zip code could have on someone’s opportunities? I loved my time in school yet always thought, “Why can’t my brothers and sisters at home have this too?” And so began my commitment to education equality.

Q. Almost all of your jobs have been at nonprofits, right? What have you found most challenging and most rewarding about working in the nonprofit sector?

A. Yep (aside from an after-school gig I had in high school where I worked in the home office of a retired investment banker!). I have been a nonprofiteer for much of my career. I arrived at the sector by cause: I have always been passionate about education equality and this passion somewhat naturally led me to the nonprofit sector. I stayed in the sector because of community: nothing beats having a network of nonprofit geeks and folks audacious enough to think they can change the world.

I am also excited by the changes in the sector. There is so much movement and conversation around what change looks like, what role nonprofits play in facilitating that change, and the potential of cross-sector work to bring that change to life.

Q. Do you remember when you first set up your old blog, Entry Level Living? What prompted that and how did it feel to click “publish” on your first post?

A. I started Entry Level Living because I wanted to write about my experiences as a nonprofit newbie.  It was exciting but I honestly didn’t think anyone would read it. I had been blogging on LiveJournal and Yahoo!360 (service was shut down a few years ago – am I dating myself?) and the communities I built there were mainly of classmates and other casual/personal bloggers. I assumed my current blog would be the same thing; to be honest I was (and still am!) surprised by its growth since I started in 2007.

Q. Your blog has morphed over the years and is no longer quite so “entry level.” Can you share a little about how and when you decided to rebrand?

A. When Rosetta Thurman and Trista Harris were writing their book How to be a Nonprofit Rockstar they wanted to include my blog and a post I had written. When they checked in to confirm how my blog and name should be credited, it dawned on me that while I was sharing advice on starting a career, I wanted my blog to reflect my professional growth; I wasn’t entry level anymore and had a growing network of peers which lead to a variety of experiences in what it means to make a difference. I didn’t want a huge departure from my original approach but I did want to tighten up my writing and vision, hence my tagline “Helping Millennials put their passions into practice.” Although simple, it acts as a launching pad when producing content. Some of the most popular posts since then have covered the role of college in your career, social entrepreneurship, and nitty gritty job searching tips.

Q. In this new role at Idealist you’re going to be eating and breathing a lot of online networking. Can you share one of your social media “lightbulb moments”?

A. I have had many lightbulb moments, most of them offline, in particular working with parents and students in schools. My work in education has taught me the importance of the phrase “meet people where they are.” Though the phrase is often used to encourage people to adopt social media to connect with new staff, donors, allies, and organizations, it is really reminding us to put people first and to communicate with them on their terms, online and offline.

Q. What made you decide to apply for this job? What are you most excited about now that orientation is underway?

A. [Idealist’s Executive Director] Ami once called me an “accidental techie”: I kind of fell into social media and technology through my love of blogging and the excitement I feel from connecting with people and learning about the world around me. But there is something amazing about being able to focus intently on how social media and tech are being used to make the world a better place and being able to throw myself into that conversation. And I just love Seriously – the service it provides, the message it sends, and its plan for world domination really appeal to me. Plus, I truly believe that writing and editing are art forms. You can make magic happen with words.

See why we feel lucky to have Allison on board? Leave a comment below to welcome her! She’ll also be the human behind our Facebook, TwitterLinkedIn, and Pinterest accounts, so feel free to introduce yourself.

Tags: , , ,

Hiring? Five ways to attract the best candidates


Citizen Schools made a few changes to their job listing and saw amazing results! What can we learn from them? (Photo: Citizen Schools)

Organizations post hundreds of jobs on every day, and we often hear from job posters who want to make sure they get the best applicants. But why do some job listings attract a flood of high-quality applications while others seem to get overlooked?

The answer is twofold. The most successful job listings on Idealist are ones in which the job is 1. appealing to job seekers and 2. easy to find. In this two part series, we’ll give you some tips to make sure your job listing attracts more of the right candidates.

Today, let’s tackle the first challenge: appealing to job seekers. We’ll start with the story of a recruitment team, a marketing team, and a “less is more” philosophy. Let’s call it “Extreme Makeover: Job Listing Edition.”

Case study: Citizen Schools

Citizen Schools has been posting jobs on Idealist for years and this winter they posted an AmeriCorps fellowship position.  While the response rate was steady, they weren’t getting the kind of applications they wanted.

Here’s the original description of the 2012-2014 National Teaching Fellowship position at Citizen Schools:

For those of you keeping track at home, that’s three pages and 1,100 words.

The reason why I didn’t include the full text is because you won’t read it. And neither will potential candidates.

But one sunny morning in March, the Citizen Schools marketing team stepped in to help. Working with the recruitment team, they trimmed that very detailed listing down to a clear and concise one, focusing on the most important information and referring applicants to the website for more information. In half an hour, they crafted this delicious piece of recruitment splendor:

Short and sweet at one page and 330 words.

Yum. But did the change produce better results?

It did! Of the 59 applications received, 30.5% of the candidates have been hired or are currently being interviewed. Additionally, the Citizen Schools website received 1,500 more visits from than it had during the same three month period in 2011, indicating that people wanted to learn more about the organization and its opportunities.

In short: a concise yet compelling job listing increases both the quality and quantity of applications.

Five steps your organization can take

Each organization has its own needs and challenges when it comes to recruitment. However, based on the Citizen Schools example and our own experience talking with hiring managers and job seekers, here’s how to create a job listing that gets the results you want.

1. Briefly describe your organization.

A sentence or three should do it. You want your applicant to have an idea of your organization’s work, but you don’t need to go into too much detail. They can go to your organization’s page on Idealist for more information, or you can refer them to your organization’s website.

2. Make sure the description of the work is clear and concise.

Job seekers prefer to apply to jobs that they understand. When crafting a description of the work:

  • Include basic responsibilities, but not minutiae. A job seeker needs to know that part of the job will be “coaching community volunteers”; they don’t need to know that “Fellows support and coach Citizen Teachers – community volunteers who share their professional skills or personal interests with students through ten-week hands-on learning projects called apprenticeships.”
  • Use common, standard terms to describe the work, like “community volunteers,”  rather than your organization’s internal language, like “Citizen Teachers” and “apprenticeships.”
  • Consider bulleted lists, which are easier to read and less intimidating than blocks of text.

Not only will a clear description of the work attract more eyes, it will also help candidates tailor their resumes so that you’ll be better able to see how their experiences match what you’re looking for.

3. Be thoughtful about the qualifications you list.

When you list the qualifications of a job, you’re telling the applicant what’s important to you. Think about your deal-breakers versus what would just be extra helpful. If you won’t consider anyone without a Masters degree, say so. If you’d prefer your new teammate speak a certain language, but you’re willing to hire someone who doesn’t, include something like “Fluency in Cantonese a plus.” Candidates don’t want to spend time applying for jobs they’re not qualified for any more than you want to spend time sifting through their resumes.

4. Talk about the benefits of the job.

And no, we don’t just mean health care and vacation days (although it’s cool to include those in the listing as well!). What makes Citizen Schools’ new job description so popular is that they talk about what the candidate will get out of the experience. Besides the gratifying work (“inspire children,” “build the school of the future,” “connect education to kids’ dreams”), the listing also emphasizes how the fellow will benefit professionally (“learn how to make lessons,” “get real-world experience,” “unlock your potential”).

Sell your opportunity to job seekers. Why should they be excited about this? Will they work with interesting people or learn a lot about the charter school system or develop a new skill? Whether the position is on the front lines of your organization’s work or is back in the office making sure the lights stay on, every employee at the organization has an important part to play; make it clear to applicants what their part would be.

5. Be yourself.

Treat this as a PR piece. Your job listing might be as public and widely read as your organization’s newsletters, and it could be the first impression your applicant ever gets of your work and culture. So choose a tone that reflects your organization’s culture, whether youthful and trendy or thoughtful and welcoming.

Citizen Schools’ marketing department did a great job of promoting the mission, emphasizing the importance of the work, and making it sound overall like an organization full of passionate, driven people. Even if a job seeker chooses not to apply, it never hurts to leave a good impression.


At Idealist we’re out to help you connect with the people and resources you need to make great things happen. We hope this helps you find fantastic candidates to join you in your work.

But creating a strong listing is just the first step in attracting those folks; you also have to make sure they actually see the listing once you post it on Idealist! Stay tuned for the second half of this series, where we’ll offer tips on how to do that.


Special thanks to Sara Kelleher, Talent Recruitment Specialist at Citizen Schools, for all of her help with this post.

Have a story about how you’ve used Idealist to connect with stellar candidates? Leave a comment below and maybe we’ll blog about your story, too!

Tags: , , ,

Searching the site? Some updates for you.


No need for a magnifying glass. (Photo: Mads Boedker, Flickr/Creative Commons)

Yesterday we released a new set of features to make it easier to find the people, organizations, and opportunities that matter most to you. Play around and let us know what you think!

Click on any of the listing types (Jobs, Volunteer Opportunities, etc.) in the header on, or start a search based on type, keyword, or location.

To better locate the opportunities relevant to where you are or want to be, we’ve refined our radius search to including listings from your choice of 5, 10, 25, 50, or 100 miles from any location. You can also search by region. Try a search for jobs in Eastern Europe or Western Africa, for example.

When searching for jobs:

  • Select Job Function, and narrow your search results by degree and experience requirements and whether you’re looking for something full or part-time.

When searching for volunteer opportunities:

  • Easily find opportunities based on how much time you want to give and when you’re free to give it.
  • Filter down to opportunities for groups and families, and if you’re looking to go abroad, tune-in on which organizations provide support to international volunteers.

To locate people:

  • Tap into our database of hundreds of thousands of individuals that are searching for friends, collaborators, clients, and volunteer opportunities.

We’ve also made our Info Centers more accessible. Now when you search for different topics, your results might include links to our Career Center or Grad School Resource Center. We figure if you’re searching for a job, you might also be interested in ways to score your next interview, for example.

Questions for us? Leave ’em below.

Ideas for more improvements to the site? Add your suggestions to our GetSatisfaction page.

Tags: ,

A happy Happy New Year


Is your community's "happiness flag" showing signs of wear and tear? (Photo: Rachel Kramer, Flickr/Creative Commons)

How happy are we?

Most everyone would agree that being happy is a good thing—along with the coming of spring, a robust economy, and clean air to breathe. For most nations, there are detailed, current statistics about the weather, the state of the economy, and the atmosphere (not to mention many other things). Statistics about happiness are a little harder to come by.

The government of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan has made it a priority to measure “Gross National Happiness” as a summary of national wellbeing. Since 2005 a national effort has been underway to assess not just economic activity in the nation (“Gross National Product” in economist-speak), but to attend to data from eight other “domains” that impact people’s lives, such as health, education, community vitality, and cultural resilience. The website provides the official explanation of the project and reports on the results of the calculation of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index for 2010.

There is no such national index for the USA so far. In my hometown, Sustainable Seattle is using the concept to develop a happiness index for communities. The idea is to supplement its other initiatives and build a long-term future of health and well-being. The project has two components: a set of objective statistics that create a profile of a region’s progress toward meeting goals related to sustainability, and a personal happiness survey that anyone can take. At the end of the survey, each respondent’s answers are compared to the overall response from all survey-takers. Food for thought as a new year begins.

No such thing as personal happiness?

For his 2008 book The Geography of Bliss, reporter Eric Weiner visited nine varied countries, looking for the happiest place on earth. He found some very disappointing spots, including one place where people “derive more pleasure from their neighbor’s failure than their own success. I can’t imagine anything less happy.”

In contrast, when he talked with Bhutanese scholar Karma Ura, he heard “There is no such thing as personal happiness. Happiness is one hundred percent relational.” Weiner reflected: “At the time I didn’t take him literally. I thought he was exaggerating to make his point…But now I realize Karma meant exactly what he said. Our happiness is completely and utterly intertwined with other people: family and friends and neighbors and…people you hardly notice. Happiness is not a noun or verb. It’s a conjunction. Connective tissue.”

This general point is repeated over and over again in the literature. Arthur Brooks, President of the Heritage Foundation, concludes his book “Gross National Happiness” with a quick review of social scientists’ results demonstrating that all sorts of activities that benefit others—from the most direct sorts of help to family and friends to the abstractions of making donations to help people in far-away lands—are closely related to general feelings of happiness and well-being.

Five steps to happiness

In the UK, a study for the National Health Service called Five Ways to Well-Being concluded that these simple steps would improve people’s lives in measurable ways (and sharply reduce the risks of mental illness too!):

  • Connect with the people around you
  • Be active
  • Take notice of what’s around you
  • Keep learning
  • Give

How will you do these things in the coming year?

Not to toot our own horn too loudly, it still bears saying that offers lots of opportunities for doing all five. Just a few minutes clicking through listings in your community, or in your area of interest, or for the sorts of things you want to do will turn up things to do and places to go.

With your personal profile from Sustainable Seattle’s survey in front of you, and some reflection about the Five Ways to Well-Being, Idealist’s listings are one way to make sure you have a happy Happy New Year.

Best wishes for 2012 from all of us!

Tags: , , , ,

A few changes to the site


Photo via A. Zarmeen

You may have noticed some differences to today, especially if you logged in to your account. Here’s a rundown of some of the updates that will make your experience on Idealist easier:

  • We’ve added quick links in the header (at the top of the page under our logo) to search for jobs, organizations, people, internships, and other listings.
  • Your account menu has moved to the upper right-hand corner of the page, where you’ll always have quick access to your bookmarks, saved searches, profile, and preferences.
  • Your saved searches are now more accessible too! Just hover over the arrow on the green Search button and you’ll see a list of your saved searches. Want to turn your saved searches into Email Alerts? Simply hover over your name in the upper-right hand corner and click on “My Searches.”
  • If you administer an organization (or two or three), you’ll notice that you have quicker access to your org’s page, notifications, preferences, and invoices.  Hint: it’s right next to your name in the upper right-hand corner.

Enjoy, and let us know if you have any questions.


Have medicine, clothes, food, or tech to donate? We can help.


Have too much canned corn at home? Consider donating to a food drive. (Photo by Bernard Pollack, Flickr/Creative Commons)

If you’re anything like me, you have a stash of clothing that you swear you’re planning to wear any day now, but that you haven’t touched in years. Or your organization has a pile of old laptops in a back closet. Or you have some medicine you’d really rather not throw away but don’t need. So many of you have contacted us (including a staffer’s beloved grandma!) asking where you can donate these goods that we decided it was time to put together a resource.

Take a look at our Community Support Team’s Resources for making a noncash donation page and visit Charity Navigator’s site for more great tips.

Here are a few highlights that we’ve compiled:

  • Donate items that are new, unused, or nearly new; a charity probably can’t make use of old junk any better than you can (…and may have to use valuable resources to do it).
  • If you are looking to donate medicine, it must be unused, unopened, and unexpired. Laws vary state to state, so make sure you check here or ask your pharmacist for more information.
  • Consider selling your items and donating the money you receive to charity. Try Craigslist, Ebay, or get offline and organize a garage sale!
  • Look for a local charity to maximize your impact. This cuts down on transportation costs for you or for the charity. Make sure you get in touch with them to insure your donation will be welcome and useful!

Check out our full resource here. Of course, you can also use Idealist to search for organizations in your area, and get in touch with them directly about your items to donate.

If you work with or know of an organization that we should add to our list, please contact us here!

Tags: , , , ,

In Portland, OR? We'd love to meet you.


A lot of great ideas are floating around this town. Can we hear yours? (Image: Photos by Mavis, Flickr/Creative Commons)

We’re looking for lots of very short-term volunteers in our Portland office this fall. If you’re in the neighborhood, please let us know if you’d like to help out!

Project #1: Putting the “idea list” back in Idealist

Celeste loves ideas.

With your help, frequent blogger Celeste is creating a nifty new web feature that will help good ideas spread faster.

If you’re the kind of person who has good ideas about how to make Portland (or the world) better, or the kind of person who helps other people implement their ideas, please consider a quick conversation with her. Find all of the details at


Project #2: user research

Elise is as fascinated by user research as she is by space.

Elise, our project manager for web development, has a one-track mind: she wants the user experience to be the best it can be.

If you’ll sit down with Elise and let her watch you use the site for an hour, we’ll throw in a $25 Amazon gift card!

Learn more on the volunteer opportunity listing on Idealist, or sign up here.


Thanks in advance for your help!

Not in Portland? We always post our volunteer opportunities on our website. You can connect with us to stay informed about future opportunities in your city.

Tags: , ,

Everything you ever wanted to know about nonprofits


Which way to turn? (Photo from will ockenden/Flickr Creative Commons)

Have you found yourself wondering…

  • How to write a nonprofit mission statement?
  • What’s the deal with nonprofit ethics and stewardship?
  • How to ask people for money to support a cause or program?

You can find answers to these questions and more in our Resources for Nonprofit Organizations info center.

The resource center got a makeover when we re-launched Idealist a few months ago. You can find it at or click the link at the bottom right corner of the screen when you’re exploring

Meanwhile, the Nonprofit FAQ (long a feature of the Idealist website) has a new home with the expanded offerings in the KnowledgeBase for and about nonprofit organizations at the National Center for Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute. You can access the same familiar categories—organization, management, regulation, resources, and development—through this index.

We’re still refining and expanding our info centers, so if there’s a subject you’d like to know more about, let us know!

Tags: ,