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|Archives - October 2009|
|Thursday, October 01, 2009|
No. 1 Best Small Nonprofit: Oregon Rehabilitation Association
STORY BY LUCY BURNINGHAM // PHOTOS BY ANTHONY PIDGEON
Every Monday morning, the 10-person staff of the Oregon Rehabilitation Association huddles around a conference table in a windowless room filled with a large brown fridge, ping-pong table and 7 Habits of Highly Successful People posters. For an hour and a half, they share schedules, review ongoing projects and talk about their weekends. And they laugh.
Tucked into a generic strip of offices off a heavily trafficked road in Salem, the nonprofit feels like the kind of place where every penny of the $1 million annual budget counts. But underneath that thrift runs a rich sense of cooperation and cheer. Because at the heart of it, these people like each other.
The ORA operates under the mission to support nonprofit organizations around the state that provide services to people with disabilities. That support translates to coordinating conferences and training sessions, lobbying the state Legislature, and providing technical assistance to a core group of 60 nonprofit “members.”
Members pay annual dues to receive services from the ORA, which results in two-thirds of the organization’s budget. The ORA’s support helps members provide jobs, housing and care for people with disabilities.
While the staff rallies around the mission — half of them have worked with people with disabilities in past jobs — the nature of the workplace has helped retain many of the employees for extraordinary lengths of time.
Six salaried employees have been with the organization for between 10 and 24 years. Each was hired when their position was created and has remained there ever since.
Marketing representative Bruce Gordon calls himself “the newbie,” as he approaches his 10-year anniversary in the office. Marketing director Stephen Mock was hired right out of college — 17 years ago. And executive director Tim Kral wrote the initial grant for his own position in 1985, which transformed the ORA from an all-volunteer group (founded in 1967) to today’s operation.
Admin assistant Brittney Standish left ORA after a year and a half for another job, but says she immediately felt “an empty spot.” Eventually, she decided to return and was rehired this past May.
“There’s never a conversation here that doesn’t involve helping someone,” Standish says. “It’s rewarding coming to work knowing people really do care and that it’s truly from the heart. Besides, everyone here feels like family.”
The notion of family resonates with everyone on staff; they’ve watched each other’s kids grow up and shared paid sick time during emergencies.
This summer, a few employees decided to go camping together with their families. Soon, everyone in the office wanted to go, so the ORA picked up the camp fee. “It’s not often you have all your co-workers say, ‘Let’s all go camping together for fun,’” Mock says.
Much of the fun factor originates in the office, where Kral recently handed out plastic teeth to staffers in order to surprise a visitor with their shocking grins. During quiet moments, he’s been known to lob a screaming monkey toy at employees, and makes sure meetings include time for impromptu humor.
The lighter side of the workplace can exist because of the staff’s work ethic and their genuine commitment to the mission, he says.
As a manager, Kral believes as much in attention to detail as the big picture. In his office, above the sea of organized paper chaos he calls his “horizontal filing system,” a map of Oregon stuck with pins for each member hangs close to a poster about black holes.
“I’m big into perspective,” he says.
Many ORA employees tap into the larger meaning of their work on the road, when they visit members located everywhere from Coos Bay to Klamath Falls (more conveniently, 70% of members are in the Willamette Valley).
“When I travel, I meet some of the people who derive the benefits of what we do,” says Bruce Gordon. “Those folks wouldn’t be able to work were it not for these programs.”
At the weekly Monday meeting, staffers will arrange to tag-team projects to make trips as efficient as possible.
The statewide programs will always need the ORA, says Kral, especially as they shift from the group-home approach to systems designed to support individuals who are living longer and becoming better educated and increasingly independent.
In other words, the ORA isn’t going anywhere. And based on the amount of laughter floating around the office, neither is the staff.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY JOE ROJAS-BURKE
The black soldier fly’s larvae are among the most ravenous and least picky eaters on earth.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
BY MEGHAN NOLT
VIDEO: Under the radar — complete with a soda counter, the traditional Paulsen's Pharmacy looks to compete with big box retailers.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
BY JASON NORRIS | OB CONTRIBUTOR
The implosion of the energy complex: The best thing for low oil prices is low oil prices.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
We didn’t intend this issue to have an election season theme. But politics has a way of seeping into the cracks and fissures.
Tuesday, December 02, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER
A conversation with attorney Erich Merrill about the latest way to raise money from large groups of people.
Friday, November 14, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY
Oregon entrepreneurs reveal their favorite caffeine hangouts.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:
The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace.
Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.
This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay.
Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.
New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”
That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!
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