Top 3 best small nonprofits

1010_NonprofitSmall1Our second annual ranking of the 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon celebrates what it means to be a great place to work.  Read about the top four small organizations, with 10 to 24 employees worldwide.

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Our second annual ranking of the 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon celebrates what it means to be a great place to work.  Read about the top four small organizations, with 10 to 24 employees worldwide.

No. 1 Best Small Nonprofit

Providence Federal Credit Union

“We love working here! We love working here!” VP of operations Denise Wheeland says, punctuating a long list of benefits that no doubt helped this Milwaukie-based credit union rise to the No. 1 spot on the 100 Best Nonprofits list.

“[We’re] not about marketing and sales,” employee Jody Wilson says of the credit union’s efforts to provide quality service to the employees of Providence Health & Services and other affiliated health-care workers in the region. For example, as it tries to keep interest rates stable and even with rising health-care costs, the credit union still provides robust family health-care coverage to its workers.

“The other day we thought it’d be fun to go out as a group to see movies once a month, so now we’re paying for the tickets,” Wheeland says. Paying for movie tickets underlines Providence’s commitment to pay attention to employee needs. Workers also get discounts on a constellation of services, from cooking classes to doggy daycare visits.

Providence Federal regularly earmarks money for charitable donations. Last year, it helped fund “My Little Waiting Room,” a drop-in childcare facility in Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. This devotion to service extends to employees as well.

“I don’t think I’ve donated so much in my life,” Wilson says of the organization’s infectious philanthropic ethic.


No. 2 Best Small Nonprofit

Child Care Development Services

The employees of Gresham-based Child Care Development Services are a cool and collected bunch, even when facing mountains of files to process. “They’re going over our clients reauthorization forms,” CEO Carolyn Morrison says, referring to a group of employees reviewing federal food reimbursement applications from 885 childcare clients.

In addition to facilitating food reimbursement through the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the employees also maintain a searchable database of certified childcare providers and offer specialized training to those who are interested in certification.

“If you are average or mediocre, you won’t make it here,” Morrison says half-jokingly. Those who work at the organization take pleasure in the fact that they are some of the best in the business and appreciate the high degree of respect they receive, no doubt helping make it a 100 Best Nonprofit for a second year.

All that hard work doesn’t go unnoticed — Morrison finds ways to acknowledge good work. After a Russian-speaking staff member translated a presentation into Russian, she received a gift card and bouquet of flowers.

Even in stressful times, employees enjoy a relaxed and fulfilling working environment. “We empower our providers as professionals,” Laurie Johnson says of her passion for her nonprofit’s results-driven ethic. “They are raising the future.”


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.”


No. 4 Best Small Nonprofit

Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems

The mission of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems is demanding, but the employees take time to have fun.

Chief executive officer Andy Davidson created a new vision for the organization five years ago, and remains focused on building his team. “He challenges your thinking,” says services director Diane Waldo.

The staff participates in one-on-one and group exercises with a professional coach. Not every gathering is focused on work though; birthday celebrations and baby showers are common. The staff also receives generous benefits. Two employees are working on their master’s degree with the help of a tuition assistance program, and the organization contributes 7% of base salaries to retirement plans.

The organization advocates for Oregon hospitals and the patients they serve. “We’re one size fits all,” says communications director Andy Van Pelt. Over the past 76 years, the Lake Oswego-based association has had to adapt. “The policies being developed are more intricate,” says vice president Kevin Earls. “It’s a very intellectually stimulating work environment.”

Health care is a complex issue, and representing an entire state is difficult. The employees relieve stress by playing practical jokes. Van Pelt says his first assignment was to negotiate a “copy machine contract,” which turned out to be faker than fool’s gold.

Davidson admits he pulls a lot of the jokes. “You always know when Andy is in the room,” co-worker Peggy Allen says with a smile.