|| Print ||
|Thursday, October 01, 2009|
No. 1 Best Medium Nonprofit: Idealist.org
STORY BY LUCY BURNINGHAM // PHOTOS BY ANTHONY PIDGEON
Located on the tenth floor of an historic building in downtown Portland, the offices of Idealist.org feel like part of an earlier era, a time when dot-coms promised a bright future. Here, some of the 15 local employees kick off their shoes during phone calls and arrive at work wearing jeans and T-shirts. The programming squad sleeps late and works late — if they want — and it’s a foosball table that brings people together, not a water cooler.
But these dot-com environs house a dot-org, and a successful one at that. This is a place where a brighter future refers not to stock options but a gentle reshaping of society. That’s because Idealist.org aims to encourage more service, involvement and action from professionals and volunteers around the globe.
It’s no small task, and one that risks promising unrealistic rewards. With that danger in mind, Idealist strives to incite participation “without the exclamation points,” says Russ Finkelstein, associate director, through an extensive website, among other tools.
“Very often people are overwhelmed by the possibilities, which prevents them from acting,” says Finkelstein. “We want to help them make informed decisions about the best way for them to serve.”
Founded in 1995 in New York City by executive director Ami Dar, the organization has grown to a staff of 70 people in four countries. Various incarnations of the website have resulted in today’s massive portal, a place with 14,000 volunteer opportunities, 4,000 nonprofit jobs, and more than a million subscribers.
In addition, Idealist.org organizes events — nonprofit career fairs around the U.S. and international graduate school fairs — and publishes online and print guides to finding meaningful work.
“We’re very mission focused,” says Kyle Dawkins, a software architect who’s worked for the organization for nine years and has a business card that reads “Token New Zealander.” “Everybody always has that in front of them, so we stay inspired by that fact that we have a philanthropic focus.”
Much of the organization’s core content is generated in the Portland office, which opened in 2005. Finkelstein, who has worked for Idealist since its founding, helped choose the location, a city he posited possessed top talent interested in quality of life.
To find the right employees from the Portland pool, Finkelstein leads an extensive hiring process for each position. Recent applicants for project-based sales jobs were asked to write essays in response to two questions: What recently annoyed you and what recently excited you? That was before the mock phone calls, onsite research project and impromptu presentation to the staff.
Meg Busse, a former middle-school teacher and a director of the Career Transitions Program, says the staff always participates in the hiring process to help discover which applicants have “that spark,” which stems from intellectual curiosity.
“[We ask them] what are you passionate about? What are you excited about? What gets you going?” she says. “If there’s one thing we all share, it’s an excitement about almost anything.”
That zeal helps explain the diverse backgrounds of the young staff (14 of the 15 employees are under age 40), which show a range of foreign language skills, work and travel experience abroad and nonprofit jobs.
“Everyone who works here is incredibly talented,” Finkelstein says.
To retain that talent, Finkelstein 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.
“We’re telling other people, ‘This is how you find value in what you do,’” he says. “If we’re going to inspire others, we need to live up to that ourselves.”
The staff stays connected to the bigger picture through travel, by attending the fairs they organize and visiting the Idealist.org offices in Buenos Aries and New York. The casual Portland office provides a soothing antidote to the professional formalities that accompany travel.
In addition to zero dress code, the chance to bring dogs to work and flexible schedules, employees receive tuition and wellness reimbursements and other benefits that some staffers say rival the for-profit sector. They also report consistent above-cost-of-living raises.
While those benefits keep the staff happy as individuals, their curiosity, sense of humor and like-mindedness create a palpable sense of energy and collaboration, even at the foosball table, where they unleash their competitive streaks. After all, challenging the status quo requires plenty of energy and vigor, even if you’re not wearing shoes.
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY KIM MOORE
A conversation with Greg Lambert, president of Mid Oregon Personnel Services.
Monday, July 06, 2015
Picking a business partner is not much different than choosing a spouse or life partner, and the business break-up can be as heart-wrenching and costly as divorce.
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER
Most of the food Americans consume is trucked in from hundreds of miles away. Eric Wilson, co-founder and CEO of Gro-volution, wants to change that. So this past spring, the Air Force veteran and former greenhouse manager started work on an alternative farming system he claims is more efficient than conventional agriculture, and also shortens the distance between the consumer and the farm.
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
There are more than 10 million former military members working in the United States.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
In 2014, total revenue for camping and day use in Oregon State Parks was a little more than $17 million. That figure may even higher this year "because we've had exceptionally nice weather," Hughes says.
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY DAN COOK
The Affordable Care Act has triggered a rush on health care plan redesign, a process fraught with hidden costs and consequences.
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER
Holding a Power Lunch at Veritable Quandary in downtown Portland.
|10 Innovators in Rural Health|
|The Private 150: From Strength to Strength|
|Farm in a Box|
|Preserving the Legacy|
|Flattery with Numbers|
|Downtime with Debra Ringold|
|Amazon earns $92M in profit|
|Under Armour bests Q2 earnings expectations|
|More than a hundred passengers forced to stay overnight at PDX|
|Immunization rates to be available to parents|
|CEO who pledged $70K minimum wage sued by brother|
|Toshiba executives resign over $1.2B accounting fraud|
|Elusive snow leopard captured in photos|
Court experience helps legal firm anticipate potential problems for clients and prevent expensive litigation.
When Garmin AT needed to consolidate operations for its 550 employees, it scanned its entire corporate map for possible sites.
The technology industry is always in flux. And this rapid rate of change poses challenges to companies ranging from nimble startups aiming to make their mark to established organizations fighting to remain relevant. This is particularly true in the competitive digital display market, where an Oregon company has been at the forefront of nearly every major breakthrough in the last three decades.
A look back at the shifting sands of Portland’s growth and development.
Robert S. Wiggins has joined Lane Powell as a Shareholder in the Corporate/M&A Practice Group. Wiggins is a well-known lawyer, entrepreneur, and investor with more than 30 years of experience leading and advising established and emerging companies in the Pacific Northwest. Wiggins will focus his practice on offering outside general counsel services, including general corporate and board representation, business transactions and capital events.
DEDICATION PARTY: Help the Port of The Dalles celebrate its newest shovel-ready industrial land Friday, July 31, from 1:30 to 4 p.m.