Working for Oregon’s Best Mid-Sized Nonprofit (Hint: It’s More Than Just Foosball…)

This post appeared on November 2nd, 2009 as a part of the Career Corner Advice Series

This year the Oregon Business Magazine launched their inaugural “100 Best Nonprofits to Work for in Oregon” and, after 6700 employees from over 200 nonprofits around the state filled out anonymous surveys, the results were in: our Portland office of Idealist is the best middle-sized nonprofit workplace in the state of Oregon. We’re thrilled and very proud of our “behind the scenes” staff that continually strives to make our office a place where we enjoy coming every day of the week (and the occasional weekend).

But, more importantly, the results of this survey offer tips and tools for organizations of any size, shape, or location. As Oregon Business Magazine’s Editor Robin Doussard puts it: “We wanted nonprofits to have the insight into their workforce that the corporate world has so readily come to value over the years.”

The article that highlights our Portland office paints a picture of a workplace that includes perks like casual dress, casual hours (get the work done and don’t punch a clock), pet-friendly rules, and a foosball table. Yet it is the focus of our team and the leadership of Russ Finkelstein (Idealist’s Associate Director and head of the Portland office) in particular that make our office something special. Russ “strives to make sure employees are doing work that’s meaningful to them, and constantly reminds the staff that if they weren’t doing this work, no one else would be doing it.”

So beyond the fact that our office is a great place to work, what are the bigger takeaways? As someone who talks and thinks about nonprofit careers for my job and hears about the range and diversity of options out there, I sincerely appreciate the atmosphere of our office. I also appreciate the organizational dedication to maintaining our benefits through these tough economic times. However, what I hear over and over again from job seekers is that while office culture, benefits, and salary are important, it is the opportunity to be engaged in work that is inspiring and meaningful that is key. As more and more employment and volunteerism data pours in, it is this flexibility, autonomy, ownership of personal responsibility, and trust that professionals of all generations seek.

Nonprofit professionals from around the state of Oregon have weighed in on what matters most to them in their workplace. These survey results provide a clear picture of the aspects of the workplace that will help recruit and retain passionate, talented professionals as well as what job seekers should ask about and look for in their next position. This “data”, along with articles on new funding strategies and more intentional collaborations provide timely, relevant resources for any organization looking to harness the full potential of today’s work and volunteer world.

This entry is by Steven Joiner, Director of the Career Transitions Program and author of The Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers for Sector Switchers.

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