Top 3 best medium nonprofits

1010_NonprofitMedium1Our 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 three medium organizations, with 25 to 74 employees worldwide.

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Full Access program manager Heather Hopkins-Slechta helps a client fill out paperwork. The nonprofit, which has offices in Bend and Eugene, helps disabled adults gain independence.
Full Access CEO Margaret Theisen believes people perform best when they have autonomy over their work.
Full Access employee Cindy Carney digs into the paperwork that comes with the job. Full Access serves 800 clients in five counties. Despite the workload, turnover is low because the staff loves the rewarding mission. // PHOTOS BY JUSTIN TUNIS

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 three medium organizations, with 25 to 74 employees worldwide.

No. 1 Best Medium Nonprofit

Full Access

Full Access has helped developmentally disabled adults become independent since 2002, and has worked just as hard to empower its own employees.

Helping people reach for their dreams enables you to reach for your own, says case manager Lydia Hemsley. In August, Full Access helped launch a public awareness campaign called “Look Me in the Eye,” which encourages the acceptance of the disabled. “It is really inspiring,” says program manager Heather Hopkins-Slechta.

Full Access has offices in Eugene and Bend that serve 800 clients across five counties. The employees of Full Access love the rewarding mission, one reason why turnover is so low; the administrative team has not lost a single person. The case managers serve about 40 clients each and work hard to get each of them the assistance they require. “We give them the tools to be successful,” says assistant director Kim Sellmann. Even after multiple promotions, she has served the same clients for seven years.

The employees also like chief executive officer Margaret Theisen’s management style. People work best when they have their autonomy, Theisen says, so she gives the employees the tools they need to grow within the organization.

“My job has evolved,” says case manager Jeffrey Fields, who also functions as a quality assurance representative. A flexible schedule allows the 35 employees to work from home when needed, but Fields has not taken advantage of this benefit. “It’s actually fun to come to work,” he says.



No. 2 Best Medium Nonprofit

Oregon Partnership

For the employees and volunteers at Portland-based Oregon Partnership, it’s all about respect: for their clients and for themselves.

Outstanding leadership and the degree of ownership the staff feels toward their work are two major draws for this nonprofit, which works to end substance abuse and suicide in the state. Oregon Partnership runs numerous help lines, advocates nationally for improved social services and organizes local education programs. All of that work shows. This is the nonprofit’s second year on the 100 Best list.

“We’re very fortunate to have a leader who is involved in so many different levels,” crisis line director Leslie Storm says of CEO Judy Cushing. In addition to leaning on her close working relationships with Oregon’s congressional delegation and governor, Cushing pushes her employees to do their best. And they do.

“There’s a lot of flexibility. My son comes into town, I can take that time off because they know I’m gonna give it back,” Storm says. Employees feel a much greater sense of freedom than they did at previous jobs, which only invigorates their drive to do good work and help as many people as possible.

“Every one of us in this office is given the opportunity to own an idea, to own a project,” education director Donna Libemday says. “You have a staff that is primed to be innovative.”



No. 3 Best Medium Nonprofit

Children’s Nursing Specialties

It’s hard to believe that Children’s Nursing Specialties was put together in two months. Formed in 2005 by a group of former employees from an organization that went under, the Portland-based nonprofit provides in-home care and out-of-home programs to 18 medically fragile children and young adults in six counties. “It was crazy, but we got it done,” office manager Sharon Wullbrandt says.

Executive director Barbara Wood knows that her nursing staff could find more lucrative work elsewhere. Yet the profound commitment the nonprofit shows to the well-being of both its clients and staff is a major draw to nurses who have practiced in more regimented and detached work environments. And it has landed them on the 100 Best list two years in a row.

“We work with school districts to mainstream them and have all the advantages of unaffected kids,” nurse Anne Pierce says.  “Sometimes you’re with a client for years; you have the advantage of growing with them.” In addition to partly funding gym memberships and other self-health activities, staff members value the organization’s approachable management.

Nightshift nurse Jan McWayne, a 40-year-plus veteran of the profession, appreciates that CNS will help fund trips to conferences. Even with that training, the nurses often face challenges as the only caretaker in a client’s home “Sometimes autonomy can be scary,” Pierce says. “[But] the other nurses are really supportive if you ever have a problem.”


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