Beyond nonprofit jobs: How one woman used Idealist to give away one million dollars

We know people mostly use our site to find nonprofit jobs. But did you know you could do so much more, like ask each other questions and maybe even find love? Here’s how one person used Idealist to connect with nonprofits who share the same vision.

Aleyda K. Meija had one million dollars to give away.

As Director for the first Caplow Children’s Prize, she was charged with finding people and organizations around the world working to prevent mortality for children under the age of five. She had no other constraints other than the issue of focus.

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(Photo via Images_of_Money on Flickr’s Creative Commons.)

So she turned to the Idealist community for help. After doing a keyword search, she found several organizations that fit what she was looking for.

“If you know what you want, the search is really powerful,” Aleyda says. “On the one hand, the Children’s Prize is offering something – one million dollars. On the other, there are people and organizations out there that are offering what we’re seeking, which are solutions to reduce child mortality around the world. It’s reciprocal, but to make the connection is critical.”

The organizations she contacted through Idealist responded in less than two days after she sent them a message, exceeding even Aleyda’s expectations.

“I was just curious. I didn’t think anything would come of it,” she says. “But I’ve talked to representatives of these organizations several times now. I’ve had these powerful conversations to the point where we decided to host a Google Hangout, and include a panel of these representatives in child health where they’re discussing the issues and aspects that are unique to their own organization.”

Since Aleyda reached out a couple of months ago, global nonprofits such as Brown Button FoundationSafe Mothers Safe BabiesMother Health International, and Floating Doctors are going to apply or have already applied to the Prize. More than that, they’ve shared knowledge with each other as part of this small community.

“In addition to saving children’s lives, the Children’s Prize is also about making these more direct and empowering connections between a donor and potential recipients,” she says. “To impact social change across great distances, the collaborative process is to a large extent technologically dependent these days.”

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Want to connect with others on our site but are a little unsure? Feel free to reach out to Aleyda for tips on messaging, organizing Google hangouts, and more.

Used our site for more than finding a nonprofit job? Let celeste know: celeste@idealist.org.

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How an Irish nonprofit is helping kids be green

Leprechauns. Frothy mugs of green beer. Four-leaf clovers. Whether you celebrate it or not, these are likely the first images that pop in your head when you think of St. Patrick’s Day. But these universal symbols for the Irish holiday aren’t the only green products Ireland has to offer.

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Two boys create a completed circuit in Rediscovery Centre course on green energy.

Green businesses have grown in Ireland over the past few years. From small-scale organic farming programs to larger businesses manufacturing new wind power technology, environmentally sustainable projects in Ireland are both diverse and original.

One nonprofit in particular, Eastern Ireland’s Rediscovery Centre, has geared its environmental efforts towards the next generation of green thinkers by bringing waste reduction and sustainability tools into the classroom by partnering with teachers in schools across the region. Fortunately, the Irish government encourages primary schools teach a certain amount of classes focused on waste reduction and biodiversity through its Green Schools Program.

And it’s anything but dull. With sessions spent constructing terrariums or cooking with a homemade solar ovens, the center’s staff know how to make environmental education captivating for a range of ages. And based on student and teacher surveys that praise their alternative style of education, their method is working.

But it wasn’t always a breeze.

When the Rediscovery Centre first created its education program (it also serves as a store for recycled paint, restored furniture and eco products) in 2006, the staff had a simple framework for its classes—but needed in-class experience to truly understand what its students needed.

“It’s always been easier with the primary schools. They love the hands-on learning style and are willing to learn,” says Tara Singleton, manager of research and education at the organization. “But once the students get older, they’re sometimes too cool for school. They are more stubborn.”

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Students learn the ins and outs of recycling with a life-size Chutes and Ladders board game.

So her staff has to modify each lesson by age group, making the topic something both relatable and appealing to the students. The program’s Executive Manager, Sarah Miller, adds that education disparities within an age group can even create issue within a classroom.

“Some schools have engaged in quite comprehensive environmental awareness raising before they book a workshop, whereas others haven’t,” she says. “In order to deal with this we have developed a range of workshop activities and additional teaching aids.”

Working with teachers, who best know how the individual students work in a school setting, tends to be the quickest way to plan a lesson.

“It really depends on the teacher,” Singleton says. “Some are really welcoming to our program, and want to help us make our class work for their students, but others don’t seek us out.”

Which is another battle altogether. How does the staff make their resources attractive to public school teachers?

With classes based solely on these topics, the center has no trouble winning teachers over. For secondary classrooms, however, staff has to work harder to align its classes with topics covered in the school courses.

“We try to pair science and geography lessons up with our classes, but it’s not as simple as with the younger grades,” she says. “There’s less incentive there.”

But by dealing with these obstacles from the get-go, the center has been able to secure its roots in the surrounding community.

“We often get calls from delighted schools that have used our lessons throughout the school year,” says Singleton. “They say ‘look what we’ve done!’ Sure, it’s a hard slog to start up something like, but the interest is there. It’s worth it!”

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 Want to learn more about how to engage children in learning about sustainability and the environment? Feel free to contact Tara Singleton at tara@rediscoverycentre.ie and Sarah Miller at sarah@rediscoverycentre.ie.

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How do you put your intentions into practice?

Being International Women’s Day, we’d be silly not to highlight a woman who’s working hard to inspire and challenge her gender every day. Although her focus is on young girls and women, her approach can easily apply to anyone at any stage of their life.

“What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

The question, casually brought up by a friend five years ago, took Ann Drew Yu off guard. At the time, Yu was a middle school English teacher in Minneapolis, eager for something new.

She recently had become fascinated by the art of feng shui—specifically the way it uses the physical orientation of a room to spark mental inspiration—and had wanted to find a way to share its intents with her students. But she had never seen it becoming a reality. Until then.

“One thing led to another,” says Yu. “And the idea came for the Intention Box.”

After working first-hand with middle school and high school-aged girls (and having once been a teenage girl herself), Yu saw a need to empower young women through an objective-based tool, dubbed the Intention Box for Girls.

The box set contains a deck of cards asking thought-provoking questions (“What positive thought would help me today?” or “How can I get more comfortable speaking up?”) and a journal to record girls’ responses and own unique goals.

Yu says that her Intention Box for Girls "gives young women life skills that go hand in hand with change."

Yu says that her Intention Box for Girls “gives young women life skills that go hand in hand with change.”

Now, two years after Yu’s first box hit the market, the kit is widely popular among young girls across Minnesota, and Yu’s new 8-week public school program based off of the box has attracted interest from a handful of teachers.

But how did she ignite her own intentions to bring the product to this stage?

It all goes back to analyzing her own missed intentions in her youth.

“I would have loved something like this as a girl,” she says. “Imagine being able to explore forgiveness, kindness and self-exploration at that stage. If you learn how to form your intentions in life early on, it sticks with you.”

To understand the real questions that would help pre-teen and teenage girls visualize their goals, Yu met with teachers, parents, and therapists to get inside their heads. But, she says, she found the real answers in working with young women themselves.

“It amazes me how intuitive younger girls are,” says Yu, who test ran her first intention box with a group of 10 to 15-year-old girls. “To hear how they made [the box] their own and what they thought it was missing, that was the most helpful.”

But there were certain parts in the development process where Yu had to rely on her own creativity. To financially kickstart the Intention Box, Yu took out home equity loans on her own house and reached out to already-cemented supporters across the city for a financial push.

“The whole project was very intuitive, driven by passion and creativity,” she says. “And I had to take some chances.”

Yu says that the money put into the project has almost paid itself off. But, she stresses that it was far from easy.

“This was no overnight success story, it took over ten years to bring my intentions into something tangible. But that’s not meant to discourage anyone,” she says. “It’s best to just always have your eye on the immediate future. Take it as it comes, step by step, and you will get there.”

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Do you know a young girl who could benefit from the Intention Box? Or have your own questions about setting personal goals? Feel free to contact Ann Drew Yu at anndrewyu@comcast.net

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4 funding opportunities for your big idea

Have an idea but a lack of funding is making you feel stuck? Here are some opportunities you won’t want to miss:

2014 Prize in Creating Shared Value

Did you know the company that brings you Crunch, Cheerios, and more also has a sweet spot for social innovation? Every other year Nestlé highlights local efforts making positive impact.

  • Area of focus: Nutrition, water, or rural development
  • Prize: One winner will receive approximately $530,000 to scale or replicate their project.
  • Eligibility: Successfully piloted programs, businesses, or social enterprises around the world.
  • Deadline: March 31, 2013

Next Century Innovators Awards

Funding makes the social innovation world go round. (Photo via B Tal on Flickr’s Creative Commons.)

The Rockefeller Foundation turns 100 years old this year. To celebrate, the foundation “is calling on the ingenuity of innovators to chart new paths that will transform the lives of billions working in informal economies across the globe.”

  • Area of focus: Poverty
  • Prize: Up to ten finalists will have the chance to apply for a $100,000 grant. Three nominees, one of whom will be a youth recipient, will also get the gift of being honored at Foundation’s Innovation Forum in NYC this year.
  • Eligibility: Individuals 18 and older as well as organizations, businesses, and schools around the world.
  • Deadline: April 1, 2013

Peace First Prize

Contrary to stereotypes, young people today don’t all play video games or ignore the news. The Peace First Prize honors youth who are committed to the triad of compassion, courage, and collaborative change in their community or school.

  • Area of focus: Peacemaking
  • Prize: Five winners will each receive a $50,000 Peace First Fellowship over two years to continue their work or put toward their education.
  • Eligibility: U.S. citizens between the ages of 8 and 22 who have implemented a project domestically.
  • Deadline: April 12, 2013

Caplow Children’s Prize

Run by the Whole New World Foundation, this online contest seeks ideas for life-saving innovations that prevent child mortality before the age of five.

  • Area of focus: Child mortality
  • Prize: One winner will receive $1,000,000 to implement their idea.
  • Eligibility: Individuals or organizations around the world.
  • Deadline: April 12, 2013

Do you know of more opportunities? Leave them below in the comments!

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Help Melanie empower youth through theatre

An ongoing experiment: can our community’s collective brainpower help an idea become reality?

Meet Melanie

For Melanie Lockert, who grew up singing in the choir and performing high school plays in Los Angeles, theatre is the one place where she can really be herself. But the business side  — auditioning, networking, etc. —  has left Melanie feeling increasingly disenchanted as an adult. “I don’t believe the system functions in a way that is conducive to self-esteem and communication,” she says.

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Animal exercises with third graders at Harlem’s PS 175. (Photo via Melanie Lockert.)

So when she began practicing Theatre of the Oppressed with youth at Brooklyn’s Falconworks Artists Group, she knew the focus on individual experiences as a catalyst for social change would restore her faith in the art form.

“Theatre of the oppressed doesn’t shut out anyone. It doesn’t say your experience is wrong and my experience is right. Everyone can be an actor,” she says. “ It’’s a mobilizing tool for people who have never spoken in public and who have never expressed issues in a safe environment where they can feel comfortable playing.”

The intention

Melanie recently relocated to Portland, Oregon after getting a Masters in Performance Studies at NYU. While in New York, she taught theatre at PS 175 in Harlem with the New York City Mission Society and before that, managed art programs for underserved youth in Los Angeles. She wants to draw from her experiences teaching and work with this same population to create plays based on issues they or their communities face.

“It’s a way to open up a dialogue about what these young people want, and what they want out of their lives, addressing some of the things they want to see change in their community,” she says.

Obstacles

Melanie is currently in the planning stage. Here are some challenges she has identified:

  1. As a newcomer to Portland, Melanie is struggling to connect with organizations whose constituents could benefit from theatre of the oppressed.
  2. Finding people is one thing. Locating a space where they could practice and perform poses another logistical consideration.
  3. When she’s not playing with a local theatre company, Melanie is actively seeking full-time employment and volunteering opportunities with arts organizations, both of which have been difficult and detract her from focusing on the project.
  4. Like most people with an idea, Melanie continually fights the doubtful voice inside her head: What if this isn’t a good idea? Is such a program necessary? Give up the dream and focus on making a living instead?

How you can help

  • Do you have advice for overcoming paralyzing doubt?
  • How can Melanie start meeting the right people who would be interested in making this idea happen?
  • Do you know organizations in Portland working with youth (or women) that might be interested in having Melanie teach a workshop at night or on the weekends?
  • How she can find a free or low-cost community space that would host the program?
  • If she wanted to scratch working with organizations all together, how could she recruit youth by herself? What would be the legal logistics to consider?

Leave a comment below or send her a message through Idealist and if the project progresses, we’ll keep you posted!

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Do you have an idea that’s just starting to brew? If you’d like us to consider posting it as part of this series, email celeste [at] idealist [dot] org.

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Help Shannon connect youth in the U.S. and Afghanistan

An ongoing experiment: can our community’s collective brainpower help an idea become reality?

Meet Shannon

Shannon Mouillesseaux is from a town in upstate NY that has one traffic light, one gas station, one grocery store, and one bank. “It is a rural community that, when I was growing up, was primarily inhabited by farmers and blue collar workers,” she says.

With few opportunities for high school graduates, Shannon had a fleeting moment when she considered joining the military in high school after being repeatedly targeted by recruiters. While some of her classmates opted to don camo, she realized the military wasn’t for her.

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Faced with increasing college costs and decreasing economic opportunities, more and more teens are considering military service after high school: http://to.pbs.org/teensmilitary. Photo via Creative Commons (Flickr user Frank Juarez).

Wanting desperately to study anthropology, Shannon instead attended university and spent her junior year in Nepal. There, she was exposed to the trafficking of women and girls, an eye-opening experience that was the catalyst for her eventual work with refugees at the United Nations.

Her experiences with displaced communities around the world have exposed her to the plight of those most affected by war. Yet, back home, she was struck by the (mis) perception that violence is the only answer to violence. After 9/11, Shannon frequently heard variations of the phrase “Let’s blow them off the map” in her hometown. When she would suggest engaging in dialogue as an alternative response, she often felt inaccurately viewed as anti-American.

“The fear that has arisen within our culture, leaving many people afraid to experience other countries and cultures for fear of falling victim to a terrorist attack is, for me, worrying,” she says.

The intention

Her solution to alleviating some of that fear and violence? Pen pals for the digital age.

Specifically, Shannon envisions a two-fold project for youth in the U.S. and overseas who may not have the opportunity to travel. The first component, which she would pilot in her hometown and in Afghanistan, would connect “at-risk American students of all ages via video conference with displaced communities abroad” throughout the school year. The second would send high school students to safe, developing countries during thesummer to help out with humanitarian projects. Ideally, this would happen after the children have established relationships.

Sometimes her work takes her to IDP (internally displaced persons') camps like this one in Kabul, where she hopes to pilot the program. (Photo via Shannon Mouillesseaux.)

By creating a link between communities affected by war, Shannon hopes this type of cross-cultural exchange will help young people understand each other’s lives better and ultimately contribute to promoting peace on an individual level – even when governments are at odds.

Obstacles

Shannon is still refining her idea. Here are some challenges she has identified:

  1. Working in an office with other collaborators would be one thing. Going at it on her own is very different. Without support and a more formal infrastructure, Shannon is unsure how to take the next step to give the project momentum.
  2. Getting the language right is critical. She’s concerned that the project might be seen by some in the U.S. as anti-patriotic.
  3. She has lots of questions about how to incorporate this into a school curriculum and, separately, the implications and logistics of sending teens abroad.
  4. Like most projects out there, finding the right funders is a challenge.

How you can help

Shannon would love to see this idea grow and succeed. Can you offer her any advice?

  • Are there similar long-term projects or programs that appeal to students of all ages?
  • Do you know of any projects or programs that could offer insights, best practices, and/or lessons learned?
  • If you are a student, parent, teacher, and/or refugee, what aspects of these ideas appeal to you? What concerns come to mind?
  • Regarding sending teens abroad: Does the program need to be entirely separate from the school system, so that the school is not responsible legally? If so, how can Shannon ensure that both she and the project are protected?
  • Do you know of a rural community that might benefit from this type of project?
  • What other funding sources might want to help get a project like this off the ground?
  • If you’ve successfully launched a project, what piece of crucial advice would you share?
  • Would you like to help?

Leave a comment below or send her a message through Idealist and if the project progresses, we’ll keep you posted!

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Do you have an idea that’s just starting to brew? If you’d like us to consider posting it as part of this series, email celeste [at] idealist [dot] org.

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Oscars are over, but you can nominate a star in your life

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The awards below might not be handed out at this venue, but they're still pretty special. (Photo: Flickr user p-a-t-r-i-c-k, via Creative Commons)

The Academy may be out of golden trophies for the year, but it’s not too late to recognize the Artists, Iron Ladies, and Beginners making a difference at your organization or in your community. Here are three contests open now; click a title to get all the details.

CTK Foundation’s “Heroes with a Heart”

Nomination deadline: February 29, 2012

We heard about this one via NTEN’s Facebook page. From the awards site:

The CTK Foundation presents the Heroes with a Heart (HWH) grant award in celebration of the unsung heroes of the non-profit world. Five “heroes” who have exceeded all expectations in giving of heart, mind and hands to their non-profit will be awarded personal cash prizes to spend any way they wish.

Nominations from any country are welcomed. Learn more and hurry – the nomination deadline is this week!

Do Something Awards

From the site:

Since 1996, DoSomething.org has honored the nation’s best young world-changers, 25 and under…In 2012 (up to) five finalists will appear on the Do Something Awards on Vh1 and be rewarded with a community grant, media coverage and continued support from DoSomething.org. The grand prize winner will receive $100,000 during the broadcast.

Applicants must be 25 or younger and be citizens or permanent residents of the United States or Canada. More info here.

World of Children Awards

Nomination deadline: April 1, 2012

We learned about this one via Twitter today. You can nominate someone who fits into one of three categories:

  • The Humanitarian Award recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to children in the areas of social services, education or humanitarian services.
  • The Health Award recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to children in the fields of health, medicine or the sciences.
  • The Youth Award recognizes youth (under the age of 21)that are making extraordinary contributions to the lives of other children.

Be sure to take a look at the Award Guidelines page.

Know of other awardscurrently accepting nominations to recognize people and organizations making the world a better place? Leave a comment below!

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Today's Random Picks: Teach English in Nepal or Intern in Pasadena

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From One Laptop per Child (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Every day, hundreds of new listings are added to our site, and it’s always amazing to see the variety of organizations, opportunities, and events that Idealist users can connect with. Let’s see what you (and we!) might be missing! I’ve decided to pick a few random listings each week and spotlight them here.

Today’s area of focus: Children and Youth

Organization: The United States Fund for UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund)
Location: 125 Maiden Lane, New York, New York, 10038, United States
In their own words: “The United States Fund for UNICEF, works for the survival, protection, and development of children worldwide through fund raising, education, and advocacy.”

Job: Home Based Family Therapist – IDHMFTU
Organization: Riverside Community Care
In their own words: “Riverside Community Care helps build healthy communities through the delivery of innovative mental health care, mental retardation and traumatic head injury services, early intervention services, and substance abuse treatment.”

Volunteer Opportunity: English Teachers for schools
Organization: Volunteering and Adventure Nepal
In their own words: “The Federation of Business and Professional Women Nepal (BPW Nepal) serves as a forum to articulate the interests and problems of women in Nepal, particularly those related to working women.”

Internship: Adoption Intern
Organization: Heartsent Adoptions, Inc.
In their own words: “Heartsent Adoptions, Inc. is a full service, nonprofit domestic and international adoption agency created to assist adopting individuals in the journey to find their heart’s desire… a child to love.”

Event: Donation Drive
Organization: Peace of Mind Services, Inc
Date: April 2010 – April 2012. Every Tuesday and Wednesday between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
In their own words: “We focus on issues and the development of at risk youth. Our goal is to reach at risk youth, their parents and needy families and provide them with support to help sustain their households.”


Search hundreds of other listings filed under Children and Youth, or post an opportunity of your own.

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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