Top 3 best small nonprofits

Top 3 best small nonprofits

Dena Chilikos (left) and Susan Emmons, as the “aging muses” at Northwest Pilot Project, often don their fortune-telling costumes to predict co-workers’ futures.
Leaves at Northwest Pilot commemorate clients who have passed away. // PHOTOS BY JUSTIN TUNIS

No. 3 Best Small Nonprofit

Northwest Pilot Project

In the office of Northwest Pilot Project, the smiling, wrinkled faces in the black-and-white photos hanging on the walls are a testament to the success of the Portland-based organization’s decades-long mission: to help low-income seniors find affordable housing and transportation to basic services.

“It’s tough; it’s largely an invisible population,” says deputy director Brenda Carpenter. “We try to be the conscience of the people.” Board members have often spent hours with the staff to learn how exactly the job is done and get to know the faces behind the frontline work.


Northwest Pilot Project employee Cindy Mosney shows client Kristin Reinboth a housing assessment.
Despite good-humored pranks and other general monkey business, the staff at Northwest Pilot take their work seriously. // PHOTOS BY JUSTIN TUNIS

The nonprofit provides housing services for about 1,500 people. After a senior is settled into a residence, it periodically follows up to make sure the placement is successful for everyone. Employees appreciate their close relationships with clients and love the feeling of success when they find a place to live for a senior in need.

“I was attracted to the integrity of the organization, its reputation,” housing specialist Caroline Smith says of her choice to join the organization, founded in 1969. This is Northwest Pilot’s second year as a 100 Best Nonprofit.

“We celebrate ‘summer serenity,’” housing specialist Jess Larson says, joking about the fake holiday created to fulfill the nonprofit’s policy of one day off a month. In addition to four weeks of paid vacation time, workers appreciate the 37.5-hour workweek and one-hour lunches. “We could find better salaries,” Larson says, “but never a better place to work.”