Moving Meyer Forward

Today I am excited to announce that Meyer Memorial Trust is launching our new funding opportunities.

Over the past 12 months, we paid out nearly $38 million in grants and program related investments. At the same time, we completely overhauled our grantmaking to be more strategic, to have greater impact and to focus on what we believe is the greatest impediment to achieving an Oregon where all people can reach their full potential: Inequities.

The reasoning underlying our focus on equity is straightforward: inequity is a pernicious obstacle to the flourishing and equitable state Oregonians deserve.

Previously at Meyer, we had two main funding portals: Responsive Grants, aimed at larger projects and often larger organizations, and Grassroots Grants, which focused on smaller projects and emerging nonprofits. In addition, in recent years, we began funding three initiatives, one focused on the Willamette River, another focused on affordable housing and a third, in partnership with other local funders, the Chalkboard Project, focused on education. While the initiatives were targeted, most of Meyer’s funding went to assorted requests made through our responsive grants programs.

But our experience with the initiatives was eye-opening and instructive. Where we were unable to measure impact over time from our Responsive and Grassroots grantmaking, we were able to track it via our initiatives. Impact matters, particularly in Oregon, which has relatively few place-based foundations compared to other areas of the country. Although $38 million in grantmaking sounds like a lot of money, only when it is targeted can it help move the needle to make life measurably better in communities across the state.

Within our new focused portfolios — Building Community, Healthy Environment, Housing Opportunities and Equitable Education — we will prioritize work that increases equity for and inclusion of Oregonians who experience disparities because of race, ethnicity, income, gender, sexual orientation, disability and other historical oppressions. While we will still support some organizations that do not have equity as a primary focus, we are asking all our partners to explore equity within the context of their organizations. And we will challenge and support them to make progress on integrating diversity, equity and inclusion in their work, partnerships, outreach, policies, staff and boards.

One consequence of our new strategy and pursuit of deeper impact is that we will have to make difficult choices. Where in the past we assessed proposals based on their individual merits, we will now strive to identify the strongest opportunities to make progress toward our specific goals with partners who share our commitment to furthering equity. With our focus on building community, supporting a healthy environment, ensuring housing opportunities and achieving equitable education for all Oregonians, we recognize that there will be work and outstanding nonprofits that we have funded in the past that will not strongly align with our new direction and will be unlikely to receive grants going forward.

You’ll find details of our Spring 2016 Funding Opportunities, for which we will begin accepting Inquiry Applications on Monday, April 4th. Additional funding opportunities to support the sector and in the Equitable Education portfolio will be announced later this year and there will also likely be strategy-specific opportunities through our Affordable Housing and/or Willamette River initiatives. All told we anticipate paying out in the range of $36 million this year, including awards made under the Spring 2016 Funding Opportunities, existing and multi-year awards, initiative funding and other opportunities that may present as we get deeper into the new program work.

Before I let you go, a reminder: these shifts in our grantmaking are just part of the ongoing strategic changes you’ll notice at Meyer. We heard your calls for Meyer to take a more active role to convene and leverage our influence. Going forward, we will be an engaged partner in the shared work of making Oregon a more equitable place.

We enter this new era for Meyer committed and energized around the values that drive and shape our work: equity, transparency, responsiveness, innovation, collaboration and humbleness. So as we continue on this journey, we will evaluate our funding portfolios and encourage your candid and constructive feedback. Together we can strive for the greatest possible impact in Oregon. I’ve said it before, we know the road ahead will present some unanticipated challenges and we don’t have all the answers. We’re going to remain transparent about our progress as we move forward. Your input is key.

For now, I invite you to explore our website for details of Meyer’s portfolios, the latest funding opportunities and our updated Frequently Asked Questions about the changes. And be sure to check out Trustee Debbie Craig’s post about why Meyer is changing here.

—DS


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  • Sharon Johnson

    Very well-written blog. Thank you. I would appreciate any further thoughts on equity in terms of the exploding demographic of aging adults who need affordable and accessible housing. Our non-profit, Age-Friendly Innovators Inc., wants to catalyze and energize the community on this issue. A March 6, 2016 article in the NY Times profiles the challenges. We have posted this article as well as other articles focused on affordable housing for our elders at http://www.facebook.com/agefriendlyinnovation I look forward to continuing discussion. Onward.

  • Thank you, Doug–and everyone at Meyer for this deliberate focus on equity. I’m excited to see all the great work that your team, and your partners, will accomplish!