Career Corner: Working for Oregon's Best Mid-Sized Nonprofit (Hint: It's More Than Just Foosball…)

Written by Steve Joiner. 

This year the Oregon Business Magazine launched their inaugural “100 Best Nonprofits to Work for in Oregon” and, after 6700 employees from over 200 nonprofits around the state filled out anonymous surveys, the results were in: our Portland office of Idealist is the best middle-sized nonprofit workplace in the state of Oregon. We’re thrilled and very proud of our “behind the scenes” staff that continually strives to make our office a place where we enjoy coming every day of the week (and the occasional weekend).

But, more importantly, the results of this survey offer tips and tools for organizations of any size, shape, or location. As Oregon Business Magazine’s Editor Robin Doussard puts it: “We wanted nonprofits to have the insight into their workforce that the corporate world has so readily come to value over the years.”

The article that highlights our Portland office paints a picture of a workplace that includes perks like casual dress, casual hours (get the work done and don’t punch a clock), pet-friendly rules, and a foosball table. Yet it is the focus of our team and the leadership of Russ Finkelstein (Idealist’s Associate Director and head of the Portland office) in particular that make our office something special. Russ “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.”

So beyond the fact that our office is a great place to work, what are the bigger takeaways? As someone who talks and thinks about nonprofit careers for my job and hears about the range and diversity of options out there, I sincerely appreciate the atmosphere of our office. I also appreciate the organizational dedication to maintaining our benefits through these tough economic times. However, what I hear over and over again from job seekers is that while office culture, benefits, and salary are important, it is the opportunity to be engaged in work that is inspiring and meaningful that is key. As more and more employment and volunteerism data pours in, it is this flexibility, autonomy, ownership of personal responsibility, and trust that professionals of all generations seek.

Nonprofit professionals from around the state of Oregon have weighed in on what matters most to them in their workplace. These survey results provide a clear picture of the aspects of the workplace that will help recruit and retain passionate, talented professionals as well as what job seekers should ask about and look for in their next position. This “data”, along with articles on new funding strategies and more intentional collaborations provide timely, relevant resources for any organization looking to harness the full potential of today’s work and volunteer world.

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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Career Corner: Three Questions, Two Qualities, One PowerPoint

Advice for job seekers from Meg Busse.

At our Nonprofit Career Fairs these past few weeks, I’ve been doing presentations about how to find a nonprofit career. One of main topics of discussion has been how to make it easy for an employer to see the value you could bring to their organization. To this end, here is a great framework to use.

From Dani Lurie (Flickr/Creative Commons)

3 Questions

There are three questions that every employer (not just nonprofit) wants candidates to answer:

1. Can you do the job?

2. Will you do the job?

3. Will you fit in?

The first question is answered by your resume. This is where you show that you have the skills and experiences to actually do the job that you’re applying for. It’s why making sure your resume meshes with the requirements on the job description is essential, and why you really do need to do a unique resume for each job you apply for.

Your cover letter is where you answer why you will do the job. This is your story about why you will work 50, 60, or 70 hours a week, wear multiple hats, and view this as not just a job but as meaningful, long-term work. The cover letter is not about rehashing your resume but about putting a personal face to your application.

Finally, organizational fit is essential. Most nonprofits are small, so it’s important that each new person “fits” with the current staff and the organizational culture. This is something that is assessed during the interview and should be just as much a question of whether the hiring team thinks you fit, as whether you feel the organization and position match with what you’re looking for.

For more information on these three questions, this chapter will help.

2 Qualities

The two qualities that you need to clearly convey when applying for a nonprofit job are:

1. Passion for the mission of the organization

2. Clearly communicated, relevant skills

For these two qualities, it’s not either/or; candidates must both demonstrate a passion for the work and be able to hit the ground running when they start a new job.

1 PowerPoint

As I mentioned, these have been some of the most talked about points during my career fair presentations. For these, I have a standard power point that I offer to share with attendees after the event. Obviously, some of the slides will be confusing without my verbal talking points. However, there’s still some good info to be gleaned if you’re interested. Here’s the link.

Feedback, comments, and suggestions are always welcome!

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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