THE BLOG
04/11/2007 08:49 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Doing Well by Doing Good: an Idea List for Idealists

"I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for changing my life," writes Luci; a 26 year old Australian woman working in media. "A little while ago I found your website... and in 6 weeks I am going to Thailand to spend the rest of the year giving my energy (teaching) to people much less fortunate than I."

Bethany, a recent college graduate in the US, writes, "I had no idea how to find jobs in my area of interest (community development). I was able to use your site to find great job postings all over the country. I am now in my third week of work here and I can't believe my life!"

Michael Henderson, a mid-career professional wrote, "In 2003 I found my dream job on your website... (now) I have fulfilled a life-long dream to return to the community where I was raised 50 years ago and serve the community and its residents..."

Throughout the past week I've had a vast array of conversations related to getting people around the world involved in their communities. The conversations typically revolve around volunteerism and the "extra" one can do in their life to contribute. Yet, on a fundamental level, one's work - what we pay the rent with and do for 8-20 hours/day - is often the single best arena through which people can, and are, "doing good." In the process of doing good, it's also possible to "do well" in the vein of pay and benefits. I'm sitting on a plane and writing this because Jude, the guy next to me, and far too many other people don't seem to believe me.

I can write this a bit arrogantly as I more or less know I'm right and Jude is wrong. I'm very lucky to see the potential of doing well by doing good translated into reality on a regular basis. Sitting in one of the desks owned by Idealist.org (when I'm home) gives me a privileged insight into what's going on in many nonprofit organizations - and in particular nonprofit HR. In being part of Idealist, one cannot help but be impacted by the passion with which Idealist.org users convey the experience of enacting their calls to meaningful work and how well they've done in the process. Whether via email, posted on our website, or relayed at the registration table of an Idealist Nonprofit Career Fair, each story is remarkable. What is perhaps even more striking than their fervor or success though, is the diversity of locations, interests, backgrounds, and life-situations represented by those who share these experiences. The three quotes above from Luci, Bethany, and Michael are but a small testament to this...and were ironically, simply the top three testimonials I had in a folder. They come from everywhere. From teenagers to retirees, across the US and around the world, there is an ever greater desire among people to seek meaningful connections and opportunities. And beyond connecting; people simply want to do work that matters

The reason? We don't know for sure, but in the aftermath of numerous domestic and global disasters this decade (both natural and manmade); with a new generation of young people entering the workforce who are more inclined to be civically engaged than any of their predecessors; and with the ability of media to reach us in more places and in more ways than ever before, people around the world have been regularly confronted with the idea that their contributions are needed and their actions can have a positive impact. As families, friends, co-workers and neighbors have begun to take heed through substantially increased levels of philanthropy and volunteerism; their collaborative efforts inherently breed awareness of new need in their communities and even more desire to be involved. Eventually, it seems many people begin having thoughts along the lines of something a volunteer in my office, Jamie, expressed recently. He described this turning point: "When I thought about what I wanted to be able to say of my life when I came to the end of it; I didn't want the most important thing I'd done to have been making (large multinational company) twice as rich."

Jamie has since scaled back his consulting practice so that he can provide his valuable marketing skills in a volunteer capacity two days a week. Eventually, he hopes to parlay his volunteer experience into a career in the nonprofit sector.
Idealist is privileged to sit in between people like Jamie who are seeking purposeful, community focused work, and more than 66,000 nonprofit organizations worldwide who wish to hire them or bring them on as volunteers. The numbers don't lie. Right now I feel kind of privileged to sit between Idealist and a guy named Jude. With his business card in pocket, he'll get a copy of this and see at least one other perspective than his own - if he's brave, he'll even check out our website and see for himself.

There is no doubt that ever higher numbers of talented and passionate individuals are flocking to the nonprofit sector OR seeking to make meaningful contributions through their work in the corporate sector. As the number of nonprofit organizations continues to grow and their effectiveness increases, I'm excited to see the sector strengthen not only as a force for positive impact unto itself, but also as a partner with business as a place to support volunteerism and meaningful careers.