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A Brief History of Idealist

1985 - 1995

  • Backpacking in Chile, Ami Dar had the idea for a global network that would help connect people and organizations to do more with all the resources we have.
  • Began the organization as the Contact Center Network, an attempt to start a network of meeting spaces in different communities, where people could connect with neighbors who might share interests and ideas for local action.
  • Launched Contact.org, a simple HTML website with 2,500 links to the websites of nonprofit organizations in 100 countries and all 50 US states.


Contact.org becomes Idealist.org, a searchable database. Remember when the web looked like this?
  • Renamed our site Idealist.org (an "idea list" for idealists...), and turned it into a searchable database of organizations and the information and opportunities that they posted.
  • Received small seed grants from the AT&T, Markle, and Packard foundations.
  • Got our very first press mention in the Village Voice.

1996 - 2006

  • Changed our organization's name from the Contact Center Network to Action Without Borders and began to think of ourselves as a global network.
  • Published the Nonprofit Career Center and other resource centers related to the nonprofit sector.
  • Reached the milestone of having 10,000 nonprofit organizations registered on the site.
  • Began offering Email Alerts so that people could get notified about new opportunities posted to the site.
  • Started charging US-based organizations $40 to post jobs on Idealist (up until then, all listings had been free). SEIU was the first organization to pay for a job listing.
  • The Stern Family Fund awarded us a $100,000 Public Interest Pioneer grant, which doubled our annual budget overnight.
  • Introduced My Idealist, a system that allowed individuals to personally customize the content of the daily Email Alerts they received from Idealist.
  • Partnered with the University of Chicago to offer the first of our Idealist Nonprofit Career Fairs. Over 40 organizations and 400 individuals joined us for several hours of face-to-face interactions. The event was so successful that we decided to expand the fairs to several cities around the United States.
  • Received the Webby Award for best website in the Community category, and Forbes called Idealist one of its "Favorite Sites of 2002."
  • Ran our first Idealist Career Day, a customizable workshop allowing students to explore the range of career choices in the social sector.
  • Invited people around the world to meet face-to-face to talk about how they could work together in their communities.
  • Organized the first-ever national conference on Nonprofit Human Resources in the United States.
  • Merged with the Campus Outreach Opportunity League (C.O.O.L.) and began planning the first of four annual Idealist Campus Conferences.
  • Partnered with Res Non Verba, an Argentine organization with goals similar to ours. The new Buenos Aires office started running Idealistas.org.
  • Opened a new office in Portland, Oregon.
  • Relaunched the site with a set of new features, including a blog, a simplified log-in process for organizations, enhanced personal profiles, a messaging system, and RSS feeds for searches.
  • Started using Salesforce, a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, making it easier to support all of the people and organizations we work with.

2007 - Present

  • Made our debut on iTunes with the Idealist Podcast series.
  • Decided to start building a whole new version of the site, using a new programming language (Python).
  • Surpassed one million registered users.
  • Expanded our organization database to welcome government agencies.
  • Launched Idealist 3.0, unveiling a brand new design and a slew of new features for connecting with people and organizations, saving searches, inviting people to events, and much more.