Last night, in the presence of a sell-out crowd of 560 at the Portland Art Museum, we ended a two-year journey and began another one when Oregon Business unveiled its first 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon.
I was so moved by the turnout that I impulsively asked everyone to stand at the beginning, and asked everyone to turn and hug their tablemate since I couldn’t give that many people a giant hug. Maybe because this is Oregon, or maybe because this was a heart-driven group, they actually did it. It was a room full of laughing, hugging people. It took me about half the program to recover from the emotion, flubbing a few remarks along the way.
There couldn’t have been a better debut. Former Gov. Barbara Roberts delivered a spirited keynote address that drew on her personal story of how, as a single mother with an autistic son, she advocated for his rights and in the process launched not only groundbreaking legislation for the disabled but her political career. She challenged the audience to not get dragged down by the current tough economy by telling the story of her ancestors on the Oregon Trail. They had nothing when they arrived in this state, and built it from scratch. So if you need a problem fixed and can’t find the help? Look in the mirror and you’ll find the leader you need.
As we moved to awarding the Top 10 Best Nonprofits, I didn’t think the night could get much better, but as the winners took the stage one by one, and spoke about what was important to them, I stood in awe of the work they do, without fanfare, every day. It’s work that keeps this state afloat.
And at the end, when I awarded the No. 1 Best Large Nonprofit award to the Oregon-SW Washington Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the crowd rose in a standing ovation as the group made its way to the podium. The generosity and joy that the nonprofits gave to one of their own was remarkable.
The night ended with the unveiling of our October issue containing the full rankings of the 100 Best Nonprofits. It took us two years to develop this project, which is modeled on our 100 Best Companies project, and standing at the podium last night, watching our guests pore over the magazine, I was so very glad that we started this journey.
There were 202 nonprofits that entered the survey and now for the first time there is an industry baseline on what’s important to Oregon’s nonprofit employees, what’s not and what it means to have a truly great place to work.
By participating in this project, organizations have given voice to those many thousands of dedicated people who work for Oregon’s nonprofits. We thank you for that. They thank you for that. See you next year, and in a much bigger venue.
Robin Doussard is the editor of Oregon Business.