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|Archives - October 2009|
|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.
Wednesday, April 01, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER
Leaders in Oregon's ag sector gathered this morning in Portland’s Coopers Hall winery/taproom to discuss the role of the region as an export gateway, impediments to exporting products and solutions to containerized shipping challenges.
Friday, February 27, 2015
BY OB STAFF
Oregon Business held its 22nd annual 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon celebration Thursday night in the Oregon Convention Center.
Thursday, February 26, 2015
BY KIM MOORE | OB RESEARCH EDITOR
Employment in Oregon is almost back up to prerecession levels — and employers are having to work harder to entice talented staff to join their ranks. This year’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon project showcases the kind of quality workplaces that foster happy employees.
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY COURTNEY SHERWOOD | Photos by Jason E. Kaplan
Pacific Seafood, one of the world’s largest processors, is rebranding as a more transparent and consumer-friendly operation. A controversial CEO and monopoly accusations from coastal fishermen complicate the tale.
Friday, April 17, 2015
PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN
The 32nd annual CBC attracted a record number of attendees (11,000) to the Oregon Convention Center.
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER
Five years in the making, the Portland Mercado — the city’s first Latino public market — will celebrate its grand opening April 11. A $3.5 million public-private partnership spearheaded by Hacienda CDC, the market will house 15 to 20 businesses in the food, retail and service sectors. It has some big-name funders, including the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and JPMorgan Chase. The project goals are equally ambitious: to improve cross-cultural understanding, alleviate poverty and spur community economic development.
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR
inDinero, a business that manages back-office accounting for startups and smaller companies, recently announced it would relocate its headquarters from San Francisco to Portland. We talked to CEO Jessica Mah about what drew her to Portland and how she plans to disrupt the traditional CPA model.
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