As the longest serving trustee at Meyer, I am incredibly proud of the many successful grants made since 1982 that have supported and improved Oregon.
Many Meyer grants aided Oregonians in times of recession with food, utilities and housing. Other grants built important institutions in our state: health clinics, community centers, libraries and museums. Much of our past grantmaking was good and essential.
Then why shift?
Because our state has changed. Our challenges are bigger, more serious and more difficult to address. Oregon has grown from 3 million in just 12 years to 4 million citizens today. Twenty-two percent of our residents are people of color. Portland has the 3rd highest rate among major cities of unsheltered chronically homeless and we are 46th among states for our graduation rate. Our past method of grantmaking was not addressing these trends head-on.
What is Meyer changing?
We are no longer a purely responsive foundation waiting for nonprofit organizations to request funding. We are now very focused on meeting our state’s most serious challenges. We have increased our staff and hired experts who have spent months listening to our community to learn what is needed and what approach is best. We hope to bring together talented leaders and nonprofit organizations within our state to address our issues in a comprehensive fashion, leveraging private, nonprofit and government funds. We have learned that focus is incredibly important. We have done this before with the Affordable Housing and Willamette River initiatives. Both have shown some positive measurable results. We believe it can work in other areas. And we are so committed that we are spending a greater portion of Meyer funds than has ever been allocated before.
We will review all programs with an equitable lens. Our demographics have changed remarkably and all of Oregon can not flourish unless all residents are included. We are learning with all of you how to accomplish this.
How is Meyer the same?
We are still concerned about the same issues (issues that surveys indicate Oregonians care most about): affordable housing, good schools, a healthy environment and strengthening our leaders and nonprofit organizations to be better equipped to change conditions.
We remain totally committed to our nonprofit partners. They have helped set our direction and will be key in moving us toward it.
We still believe Oregon’s problems can be solved.
The strength of this new approach depends upon our respectful partnership with nonprofit organizations and our acceptance of all residents. If we are all pulling together, we remain optimistic that Oregon can meet our challenges and that we can make it better place for all of us. We look forward to starting this process with you.
Debbie’s two-year term as chair of Meyer’s Board of Trustees ends in April.
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