I have been a longtime fan of Idealist.org, the website that aggregates volunteer opportunities and connects those who want to do good with those who need help. It's a powerful and wonderful tool for change and I don't think enough people know about it.
(Image courtesy Julia Smith at idealist.org)
Founder Ami Dar, a globetrotter who was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Peru and Mexico, and now lives in New York, started the site with a vision of creating a global network of people and organizations hoping to make a difference. Seventeen years after his idea began to germinate, Idealist has now become one of the most popular nonprofit resources on the web, hosting information provided by 70,000 organizations around the world and 100,000 visitors every day.
A few years ago, during a transitional period in my life, I wanted to try something new and was exploring the idea of volunteering internationally. This is how I stumbled upon Idealist.org, which, at my last check, had 13,000+ volunteer opportunities listed around the world -- organizations and projects looking for things from volunteer attorneys to computer instructors to phone bank counselors to skilled medical workers willing to travel to third world countries.
I'm sorry to say that when I first discovered Idealist I did not end up finding an exact match for my needs, but I did fall in love with the site and I continue to check in with it periodically, just to see what kind of opportunities are available. I am always amazed at what I find. Aside from charitable and volunteer opportunities, there are real career and lifestyle options -- like a position on a New Zealand farm that pays room and board, or a fully-paid-with-benefits job in Thailand as a grants manager. And even though I'm not personally looking to make a change in my life right now, there is something inspiring about the possibilities. I also find Idealist a creative place to look for ideas for starting local programs in my own community.
They list more than 8,100 jobs, 5,700 internships, and 600 events that are all searchable by the public, for free. Beyond the volunteer mission, it's a vital hub of nonprofit information. Idealist itself is a nonprofit, funded by donation, earned income from job posters, and foundational grants under the banner of Action Without Borders, a 501(c)(3) organization.
Idealist also puts on a series of Graduate Degree Fairs for the Public Good, publishes a selection of handbooks on making a difference in the world, hosts an active and informative blog, and has founded several online informational centers for those looking to learn more about the nonprofit world. They kick off their Grad Fair season next month, so if you're in the job market, make sure to check out idealist.org/gradfairs.
Whether you are looking for a volunteer opportunity in your own neighborhood once a month, or immerse yourself in another culture, Idealist is an easy way to find out what is out there and who needs you. Or like me, you can just browse in order to get inspired, and remember that you always have options in life to help others, and many are just a plane ride away and come with full room and board.
Do you have an inspiring story about a connection idealist.org made for you? Email it to me : jesseseaver+idealist(at)gmail(dot)com.