Nonprofit Job Applications

Working in house at iEARN-USA has exposed me to a lot of parts of the nonprofit tech world that I never saw while working as a designer / developer at an agency.

One of those is the hiring process. I’m fortunate enough to have been be involved in several stages of the tech department hiring process during my time here including writing job descriptions, screening applications and sitting in on interviews.

If you’re applying for a job at a nonprofit, I thought I’d share the two areas I feel like a lot of candidates unknowingly fall short in.

The Cover Letter

I feel like canned cover letters are probably always obvious, but in the context of a nonprofit they are so obvious.

For starters, when the letter refers to us as a “company” and not as an “organization”, even if that’s technically correct by some dictionaries, it’s an immediately red flag that we weren’t worth more than a few seconds of your time.

And even if your letter passes that litmus test, if you don’t mention anything related to our cause or mission, I’m still going to feel skeptical that you actually want to work here.

And why does that matter? I want to know that our mission matters to you. Our organization has a presence in 140 countries. Rarely does a week go by where I don’t interact with someone from every contingent on earth. Are you the kind of person that thinks that’s really cool? Or will that annoy you?

I get that applying for jobs can take a long time and be extremely emotionally deflating but you have to understand our perspective as well, convincing us that you want to work here matters before we’re going to invest an hour bringing you in for an interview.

tl;dr: Write a personalized cover letter when applying to a nonprofit.

Side Projects

“I would never hire anyone who doesn’t have side projects. To me, that shows that someone has ideas, self-initiative, and can make things happen.” – Tina Roth Eisenberg

I’m inclined to agree and this is especially true in our industry because we’re usually hiring candidate because they have the ability to create.

I always bring this up in interviews and I love when these things are obvious from the outset so I can ask “tell me more about…” instead of “do you?”.

Your side project doesn’t have to be as big as Creative Mornings. But do you have a blog? How about attending meet ups? Do you contribute to open source or an online community? How about volunteering your skills to an organization without a budget for them?

These kinds of things give a much better look into what it looks like when you take the lead on something than you day job (where presumably you have a manager) might.

I get that it’s almost cruel that we’re judged so much on what we do extracurricularly, but that’s always been the reality for me. I didn’t get into college primarily based on what I did in the classroom in high school, same story with my first job after college, and the trend hasn’t shown any signs of stopping.

tl;dr: Do cool stuff outside of your day job that you’re excited to talk about.

If you’re interested in working at an great nonprofit, iEARN-USA is hiring.

→ Designmatters Alumni Spotlight

This month, I was honored to be spotlighted as an alumni on the website of Designmatters, Art Center’s design for social change initiative.

I talked about some of my experiences in college and the path my career has taken so far, from moving to the island of Grenada and working remotely as a front-end dev for ThreeDev there to my current role at iEARN-USA in Manhattan.

iEARN Tech Office

This fall, we did some cleaning, organizing, and re-shuffling of the iEARN-USA office in Manhattan. It ended up making sense for the tech team to move into its own corner of the office, so I got a chance buy some furniture and craft up a new space for us.

I’m trying to be better about posting more, so here’s a photo from my iPhone because waiting until I bring my DSLR into the office will mean I’ll never post this. It’s nothing magazine worthy, but it makes me a bit more proud to come in and work here every day.

iEARN Tech Office

And now the linkroll – in the photo you can see posters from Ugmonk and United Pixelworkers, a coffee mug from Art Center, a tote from Circles Conf, my beloved chotskies from MailChimp and the Brooklyn Cyclones, and these desks my co-worker picked out for us from BlueLounge.

P.S. If you want to come work with us, we have openings for a full-time Tech Coordinator and a Tech Intern.

→ Professional Homepage

My wife is a medical student and applying for a pediatric residency this year. As a huge proponent of the indie web, I just had to set her up with a simple little webpage of her own on her own domain. This is what we came up with.

→ Heroes Often Go a Lifetime with No Recognition

Tyler Braun:

When I meet with someone for the first time over coffee one of my common questions is to ask what the person would like to accomplish in the next 5 years … Amazingly, no one has ever answered by saying, “I’d like to do something hard that no one will know about.”

Gulp. That was convicting. Time to get back to work.

1995 Suzuki Escudo For Sale in Grenada

Price: EC $10,000 Sold!

1995 Red Suzuki Escudo

Our time at SGU is ending soon and we’re selling our Escudo before leaving the island. The car has reliably started every day, been regularly maintenanced and driven great on multiple trips around the whole island.

  • Passed inspection on March 25th
  • Right hand drive
  • Automatic Transmission
  • 2 doors, 4 passengers
  • 4 wheel drive
  • 277,000 km
  • Oil, oil filter, transmission fluid and transmission filter changed within last month
  • Fuel filter changed within last year
  • Front tires < 2 years old
  • Rear tires < 1 years old
  • Power locks and windows
  • CD player / FM radio
  • No A/C

Interested? Contact Tyler at (473) 449-0187 or

→ Some Will Seek Forgiveness, Others Escape

Beautiful raw video by Nervous Energies of Aaron Gillespie playing “Some Will Seek Forgiveness, Others Escape” acoustic.

There’s a lot of songs / artwork / films that have moved me, but only a handful I can sincerely say have pulled me through a time in my life.

This song is one of them.

→ Front-end Performance

In addition to soaking up as much knowledge as I can about CSS architecture, I’ve spent a ton of time recently learning more about front-end performance.

Harry Roberts excellently rounds up and explains here in detail a lot of the strategies I’ve picked up over the last few months, plus a few more. He covers markup structure, parallelisation, prefetching, gzipping and minifying, among other things.

Definitely a must read for anyone diving into this topic.