Today I am interviewing Ami Dar, founder and director of Idealist.org.
Ami Dar is the founder and executive director of Idealist. Built in 1996 with $3,500, Idealist.org has become one of the most popular nonprofit resources on the web, with information provided by 100,000 organizations around the world and 100,000 visitors every day.
Mazarine Treyz: I don’t know about you guys but I have used it personally, and I’ve introduced other people to it, it’s funny I was just talking about this to my cousin when I was back in New York, and she said, I know about Idealist.org! That’s so great! She’s in her 20s and I’m in my 30s, people are really using it. Well done on that building up that company!
Mazarine: What is Idealist.org?
Ami Dar:The shortest version is that it’s a big website. It connects nonprofits all over the world with people all over the world with people who want to work with them and volunteer with them or intern with them. About 100,000 nonprofits have listed with us, about a million people a month, 9,000 every day come to the site and search and browse. Every night the site will send you new opportunities that match your interest and location.
Mazarine: Who does Idealist.org help?
We are about matchmaking, we are about both sides of the equation, we help nonprofits find who they want to find, and we help individuals. We’re also global, so we have nonprofits all over the world, the whole site exists in spanish and french as well. We serve both sides of the match.
Mazarine: Do people get mainly jobs or mainly volunteer opportunities from Idealist.org?
I think we are better known for jobs. I think we are known for that. We sometimes have more volunteer opportunities than jobs sometimes, but we do both.
Mazarine: What do you wish more people knew about Idealist.org?
That we have a really nice executive director! I think it would be great if more nonprofits registered on our site. If we had more job postings that would be great. In the future we are doing some new things that we want people to get involved with as well.
Mazarine: What is your new initiative?
Ami: It’s a new old thing in a sense that I started Idealist in 95, because for a long time I became obsessed with the idea that all over the world there’s this big gap between good intentions, people who want to do something good, and then the action that we actually take in our daily lives to do that. You see something in the news, you’re angry, you see something out your window, you don’t know who to work with. There’s all kinds of reasons that all of us don’t do more. What we’re trying to do right now is to launch a big initiative to help people all over the world take action on any issue that concerns them. The twist here is that it wouldn’t be just a website, but we’re looking for people to be ambassadors of idealist in their communities, help people decide what they want to do and help them take that first step, move from intention to action. A global network to help people do things that they want to do but haven’t done yet.
We’re going to be called simply the idealist network, we’re going from being a site to being a network. But still keeping that brand.
Ed: It’s a bit like crowdsourcing activism
Mazarine: How will it help nonprofits?
Ami:It will help nonprofits in two ways. We’re trying to get more people to say hey, I’d like to get involved in the environment, in human rights, in women’s rights, and then send them to those nonprofits. And then the other side, people want to talk with people who are experts in something. Who is the best nonprofit to work with? Also connect with them on the programmatic side not just the human resources side. Who will best advise you in how to build a community garden?
Mazarine: So you’re helping people not replicate the wheel.
Ami: Yes. People see Idealist.org as a place to go to post a job. But what if it was also a place where different workplaces could organize a brownbag lunch where they can invite a nonprofit speaker to speak about their program and see if they want to get involved. Nonprofits could see idealist as a place for people to invite them to come and speak about their program. People don’t see idealist that way right now. Not just be a matchmaker for jobs and volunteering, but for advocacy and work they actually do.
Mazarine: If I could rephrase what you said, it sounds like what you’re doing is not just helping individuals connect with a community garden nonprofit for example, but also helping nonprofits find opportunities to collaborate with individuals and other nonprofits.
Ami: Exactly. Anything the nonprofit wants to do, how can we help them do that better? Primarily to help send people their way, on the programmatic side and the volunteering side.
Mazarine: What can nonprofits do to get involved?
Ami: Add your org on the site. Come join us! If you’re using the site right now, get in there, interact with people, the only thing that costs money is posting a job.
It’s super easy to do.
Mazarine: Anything else you’d like to add?
Come check out the site, it speaks louder than I can. I suspect that most of the people that know Mazarine know Idealist. But tell your cousin, tell your friend, and check it out!
Mazarine: If you want to start taking action, go to Idealist.org, sign up. If you already have a profile on there, click around and see if you can find volunteers, post your event, post your resources, and take advantage of the site. Then you will get more communications for next steps on the Idealist network.