Using Craigslist for Your Non-Profit

What is Craigslist.org:
Craigslist (CL) is a community based web service that provides geographically specific sites to users in multiple cities and countries.  Think of CL as a community bulletin board where you can have conversations, view classified ads, and post jobs for your non-profit.
Why Your Non-Profit Should Use Craigslist.org:
Well, it's free, to start.  Mostly free that is.  Job postings in Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Orange County, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, Seattle, South Florida, and Washington DC will cost you $25 per listing and a job posting in San Francisco will run you $75. There is no cost to use CL to find or sell goods and services or to post in the 'Gigs' section.  Use of the 'Gigs' section should be limited to projects and one-off needs, not for regular jobs.  I'll discuss this more below.
How to Use Craigslist.org:
First, head to www.craigslist.org.  From there, you select your state and then find the closest town.  Once you arrive at the closest town's site, find the 'My Account' link on the left side of the page.  Follow the links to create and confirm your account.  Though you don't have to create an account to post or reply to ads, it simplifies the process and allows you to manage your posts and ads from one location.
Posting Your Ads:
Once you have created  your account, it's time to post your first ad.  To create an ad, you can either click on the 'Post to Classifieds' link on the left side, just above the 'My Account' link or you can navigate to the category that you want to post in and click the 'Post' link, located at the top right hand corner of the page, if you're on a category page. You are only allowed to post your ad to one city at a time, a nod to CL's local focus.  You are discouraged from posting the same ad to multiple cities and CL will prevent the posting of identical ads to multiple sites.  You are allowed to post an unlimited amount of text in your ad and, in the 'For Sale' section, you can post small pictures of the item.  You can use HTML sparingly, generally only a link to your organization if posting a job.
Tips for Your Posting:
Many people view CL ads using RSS feeds.  In other words, they view hundreds of ads on CL every day using a third party service, such as Google Reader, to aggregate the postings. A few tips for posting jobs and gigs:
  • You can never provide too much information.  Try to include your organization, a full job description, the expected work hours, the approximate salary range and all other information you would generally use in a job posting.
  • Don't assume that the casual atmosphere on CL should supplant basic business communication standards.
  • Don't post a full-time job in the 'Gigs' section.  If you live somewhere that charges for job posting, just pay the $25 bucks and move on.  If you are too cheap to pay for a posting, what does this say about your ability to pay your employees.
  • If you are posting in 'Gigs', please be very specific.  I have read too many posts on CL that simply proclaim: " Our organization needs a new website.  Please have experience and send references and portfolio information."  This is horrible.  You should include a very specific description of your needs.
  • If you are unsure of your exact needs, provide as much information as possible.
  • Don't assume that your gig will be easy and refrain from writing "This will be so simple it'll only take you a few minutes."
  • Respect the talent of the people that respond to your ad.  In other words, don't ask people to work for free or to give you a ridiculous deal simply because you're a non-profit.
  • Don't promise that working for free or for a reduced rate will lead to other projects.
  • Try to avoid using the anonymous email service, people are much more likely to respond to an ad with a real email address.
Now, a few for items for sale:
  • Include a full description and photos of the item.
  • Be specific about the price
  • Do not list you exact address, especially if you are the only employee or will be alone when someone arrives to purchase.  Read the page on Personal Safety.
  • Be clear about how you expect to be paid.  Cash is the safest way.
  • Be sure to read this page about scams on Craiglist.
  • In this case, use the anonymous email service to protect your privacy.
Buying items on Craiglist:
  • Again, please be sure to read the scams and personal safety pages, above.
  • Use your best judgment: Deals that are too good to be true, are.
Becoming a Power User:
  • If you live in a large city, you may want to search multiple CL sites at once.  There are many programs that will assist you, however, I suggest the website CrazedList.org.  This site allows you to search multiple CL sites at once.  If you live in DC, you might be willing to drive to Baltimore, Richmond, or even Philadelphia for the right deal.  CrazedList will help you.
  • You also might find the Craigslist Reader useful.  Craigslist Reader is a downloadable program that allows you to search across multiple cities.  Additionally, you can have CL Reader notify you when there are new ads in a certain category.
Craigslist.org is an excellent tool for finding equipment, volunteers, paid employees and short-term help.  However, many people fail to fully utilize the power of Craigslist simply because there's no guide to successfully using the site.  Hopefully, the tips and tricks above will help you winnow through the many listings and become a successful CL user.
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