How did you find your first nonprofit job?

For many of us, there’s only one answer to that question: Like many of you, I found my very first full-time nonprofit job on their website. And it was the perfect job for me in the beginning of my nonprofit career. I remember it like it was yesterday…

I had recently graduated from college with a Bachelor’s degree in English that people said would never make me any money. They were partly right. I had already been working in the nonprofit field for almost three years on a volunteer or part-time basis for very little pay. I had no idea whether I could even find a full-time job that wouldn’t leave me homeless since the luxury of financial aid was long gone. My apprehension was heightened because I had also chosen to relocate from Richmond, Virginia, where I went to school – to Washington, DC, where all the nonprofits were, according to my professors. I had no friends in DC and no money. All I knew was that I wanted a job in the nonprofit sector.

My first attempt had been to go through a temp agency where I landed a great administrative position at the United Way, but it just wasn’t the perfect fit for me. So, I left after just a few months. I continued my search for the perfect nonprofit position. But, in the meantime, I needed money. I had an expensive apartment on the outskirts of DC. So, then I did a six-month stint at a District Court in Virginia as a Deputy Clerk. I figured I could put my minor in pre-law to use. The job sounded fancy, but all it meant was that I was supposed to process all the paperwork to keep the bad guys in jail. It was good money for me at the time, plus I had benefits. I’d never had a job with benefits before. But, then I started to get into trouble. People were being charged with crimes they couldn’t even understand because they couldn’t speak English. So, I spent my time running around trying to get them interpreters. I thought it was fair. I thought it was how the justice system should work. But apparently, that wasn’t my job. My job was not to help people have a fair trial. It was to process them and make sure they got into the right jail.

That’s when I knew I could never work in the legal system. Especially for the bureaucratic government. Eventually my boss at the District Court gave me two weeks to either shape up or ship out. I said my goodbyes, then went online and started applying for nonprofit jobs on I don’t even remember how I found out about Idealist. Maybe from one of my professors. Maybe through a simple Google search. What happened next is that I found an open position with an organization in DC that worked with youth-serving organizations in communities of color, specifically the Black community. I had volunteered with African American youth in college. I cared deeply about people of color and how nonprofits could serve us. This was perfect for me. I can’t tell you how badly I wanted this job. They didn’t even call me until a month after I had applied! All of a sudden, I had an interview with them at 2:00pm. I got lost on the way there because I still hadn’t figured out the DC Metro system. I was late. I thought I’d blown it. I thought I’d have to go crawling back to the District Court. But then they called to offer me the job at 5:00pm that same day. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Thank you for connecting me with my perfect nonprofit job. It started me on a path to even more connections and even more opportunities to contribute to my community through nonprofit work. That’s why I opened my wallet and made a donation this morning. If not for the great folks that put the Idealist website together, that maintain the content, that run the organization – those career connections could not have happened for me. I know that many of you have similar stories. And I hope you will share them in the comments!

In the meantime, here are several reasons why you should open your wallet and donate, too:

If you’ve ever found a nonprofit opportunity through Idealist – job, volunteer, board:

If you’re currently looking for a nonprofit job:

If your organization has hired or plans to hire an awesome new nonprofit employee:

If you can’t imagine who or what could possibly take the place of Idealist:

Please also share Ami Dar’s note below with your friends, especially all of your friends who have benefited from this amazing organization. This is one of those times where we may only have one chance to help save one of the cornerstones of the nonprofit sector. When I talk to young people, they always mention as the way they connected to the nonprofit field. And we desperately need these new leaders to continue coming into our organizations and breathing new life into the work of social change. We can’t let Idealist go down like this. We need them. And now, they need us.

Dear Friend,

You know how sometimes in life you go through a bad moment, and when
your friends hear about it later, they say, “Why didn’t you say
something? Why didn’t you ask? We would have helped.”

That’s where Idealist is now, and I am writing to ask for your help.

Very briefly, here’s what happened. Over the past ten years, most of
our funding has come from the small fees we charge organizations for
posting their jobs on Idealist. By September 2008, after years of
steady growth, these little drops were covering 70% of our budget.

Then, in October of that year, the financial crisis exploded, many
organizations understandably froze their hiring, and from one week to
the next our earned income was cut almost in half, leaving us with a
hole of more than $100,000 each month.

That was 16 months ago, and since then we’ve survived on faith and
fumes, by cutting expenses, and by getting a few large gifts from new
and old friends. But now we are about to hit a wall, and this is why I
am reaching out to you.

If over the past 15 years Idealist has helped you or a friend find a
job, an internship or a volunteer opportunity; connect with a person,
an idea or a resource; or just feel inspired for a moment, now we need
your help. I wouldn’t be asking, and not like this, if this were not a
critical time.

There are two ways you can help. First, if you can, please make a
donation at:

Some people in this community are not in a position to contribute
right now, so if you are, please give as generously as you can. Thank you!

Second, please spread the word about this appeal by sharing this
message with friends and colleagues who may have benefited from
Idealist over the years. Since 1995 Idealist has touched hundreds of
thousands of lives. If in the next week or two we can reach everyone
who’d give us a hand if they knew we are in trouble, I believe we’ll
come out of this crisis even stronger than before.

I believe this because while this has been a tough stretch, I’ve never
been more optimistic about the future. The content on Idealist has
never been richer, our traffic is surging, we are building a whole new that will be released later this year, and the potential
for connecting people, ideas, and resources around the world has never
been more urgent or more exciting.

Your contribution will allow us to maintain all our services
(summarized below), and it will also give us some time to diversify
our funding. Being able to breathe, recover, and plan ahead for a few
months will be an incredible blessing.

Thanks so much for your support. Idealist has always been a
community-driven site, and we can’t do this work without you.

Thank you!

Ami Dar
Executive Director