7 ways Meyer invests in our priorities

On stage at Artists Repertory Theatre, director of programs Candy Solovjovs speaks to an audience of grantseekers about funding eligibility and Meyer's 2018 Annual Funding Opportunity.

Spring is always a busy time at Meyer.

Even as we were launching our 2018 Annual Funding Opportunity, we were busy making 55 grants totaling $2.58 million through our other funding strategies. You can find the full list of awards organized by portfolio here, but this month we wanted to provide a bit of a different look into our grantmaking. Our spring awards provide excellent examples of the ways in which Meyer invests in our priorities and supports our partners outside our annual funding call. Here are a few highlights:

1. Providing grantees with technical assistance and related supports.

We made a number of timely awards to current grantees to assist them in strengthening their organizational health and development and to assist them in navigating pivotal moments in their organizations. Over the past few months, Meyer has provided this type of funding to support organizations managing executive leadership transitions, including grants to APANO, VOZ Workers Rights Education, Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides and MRG Foundation. We also provided grant support for organizations such as Treasure Valley Relief Nursery, Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon, Bus Project and North by Northeast Community Health Center as they engage in equity training and other organizational equity work. And Willamette Valley Law Project received support to update the structure of Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Oregon's farmworkers union and the largest Latino organization in the state.

These quick turnaround technical assistance grants are one way that Meyer's grantmaking strives to be nimble and responsive to our nonprofit partners' emerging organizational needs and opportunities. You can read more about these and other technical assistance awards here.

2. Grants directed to strategic, extraordinary and time-sensitive opportunities.

From time to time, our partners are presented with important opportunities that, for compelling reasons, do not fit into our scheduled grantmaking timeline, yet are strongly aligned with our goals and priorities. At other times, we have specific targeted strategies that we are proactively cultivating or work that initially came through our annual funding opportunity but for some reason was delayed. As examples, we contributed capital funding to three organizations to support them in moving forward with opportunities to build assets within their communities — communities that have long experienced oppression and marginalization and have been under-resourced by philanthropy. These grants include:

  • $150,000 to the Confederated Tribes of Siletz to develop affordable housing for Siletz tribal members. We are especially excited about this new partnership as it is the first time that Meyer is supporting tribal housing development.
  • $250,000 to APANO to leverage 48 units of affordable housing in East Portland's Jade District, a predominantly Asian community experiencing gentrification.
  • $250,000 to IRCO Africa House to take advantage of a unique and time-sensitive opportunity to purchase a building to house services for African immigrant and refugee communities in Oregon.

3. Investing in community leaders.

Meyer continues our investment in developing and supporting leaders who can advance diversity, equity and inclusion for community and system change. To further this work, we made 18 follow-on grants totaling nearly $800,000 to 2017 leadership development grantees who came together from across the state over the past year to engage with us in a learning collaborative. Examples include EUVALCREE and Rural Development Initiative partnering to deliver and evaluate leadership development in eight eastern Oregon counties; Welcome Home Coalition working to help affordable housing residents to lead community discussions on equitable housing policy and practice in Clackamas County; Salem/Keizer Coalition for Equality organizing and training Latino, Spanish-speaking parents on social justice in education; and Western States Center, which is amplifying the work, narrative and voice of tribal leaders on tribal law and policy and LGBTQ law and policy. These are just a few examples of the amazing work happening to build power in communities across Oregon. You can see the full list of nonprofit sector support grants to support leaders here.

Of note, in awarding these grants we applied a streamlined process with a quick turnaround to help maintain seamless funding and minimize the time and effort required by nonprofits to request an additional year of funding. Going forward, we'll continue to test new ways of working in our quest for continued improvement and partnership.

4. Preserving and increasing Oregon's affordable housing.

In the final round of funding under our Affordable Housing Initiative's Sustaining Portfolios Strategy, which works to strengthen nonprofit housing developers' capacity to preserve existing affordable housing, we awarded follow-on funding totaling $225,000 to three housing organizations to implement property-specific portfolio preservation plans. Combined with five grants awarded in January, this group of Sustaining Portfolios awards will have wide reach across our state, collectively supporting affordable housing preservation in Lincoln City, Roseburg, Bend and The Dalles, as well as Benton, Columbia, Jackson, Lane, Linn, Marion, Multnomah and Washington counties. Two additional grants in support of housing preservation were made to NeighborImpact and Yamhill County Affordable Housing Corporation for weatherization and repair of manufactured housing — important affordable housing stock — in Crook, Deschutes, Jefferson and Yamhill counties.

We want to note that our housing grantees included Catholic Community Services Foundation, which is a key provider of affordable housing in Marion County. CCSF is a community leader, innovator and convener in supporting youths from marginalized populations, and it has a reputation in its local community as being welcoming and inclusive.

We regularly receive inquiries from faith-based and faith-affiliated organizations about eligibility. Meyer does fund faith-based and faith-affiliated organizations — Catholic Community Services Foundation is one example. We consider these requests within the context of our nondiscrimination and faith-based screening approach asking all applicants to confirm and self-certify to the following: "Our policies and practices provide equal opportunity to all qualified individuals in leadership, staffing and service, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, citizenship status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion and any status protected by law." And we ask applicant organizations to certify the following: "We do not require attendance or participation in religious/faith activities as a condition of service delivery, nor do we require adherence to religious/faith beliefs as a condition of service or employment."

This is the lens that we use in determining eligibility. It is not a perfect system. We rely on self-certification and known information. And we recognize the tensions and perceptions that can sometimes exist when funding faith-based and faith-affiliated organizations. A specific organization can meet our nondiscrimination policy, be a key and respected provider in the community, and be serving marginalized communities. At the same time, their underlying religious doctrine can both support and clash with important aspects of Meyer's core values, such as full inclusion and support for the LGBTQ+ community. Meyer has refined our policy over the past few years, and we will continue to reflect on the dilemmas we encounter and iterate accordingly. You can find our full policy here.

5. Supporting immigrants and refugees.

We continue to be a partner in the Oregon Immigrant and Refugee Funders Collaborative, along with Oregon Community Foundation, MRG Foundation, Pride Foundation and The Collins Foundation. Funding awarded this spring will support Unite Oregon as it connects refugees, asylum seekers and people with temporary protected status with immigrant rights groups and other organizations to advocate for immigrant rights communities across Oregon. A grant to Northwest Family Services will provide mental health support to and awareness among Latino community members in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties. An award to Oregon Justice Resource Center will help to promote the protection of immigrant rights. And a grant to Four Rivers Health Care will support the creation of a welcome center to serve newcomers to the Treasure Valley region.

We are pleased to be part of this rapid response program that organizations can access through any participating funder and with a shared application and reporting structure. Our funder collaborative continues to accept applications for critical and time-sensitive issues facing immigrants and refugees. You can find more details about the Oregon Immigrant and Refugee Funders Collaborative, along with application instructions, here. And check out the awards we’ve made thus far through this collaborative, here.

6. Recognizing the time and expertise of nonprofits.

Our nonprofit partners support Meyer's work, and we understand how valuable your time and expertise is. When you dedicate significant amounts of time with us, we want to acknowledge it. In this batch of awards, you will see modest grants to organizations such as IRCO and Latino Network, whose staff met with Meyer staff and trustees to provide education and dialogue about the relevance of the 2020 Census and barriers to obtaining a complete count in their communities, and Housing Development Center and NOAH, whose staff closely partnered with us in planning our 2018 Meyer-sponsored housing cost efficiency summit. This is one way that we operationalize our values.

Our Annual Funding Opportunity is by far our largest funding opportunity of the year and is a key strategy in supporting our values of community-defined solutions, transparency, accessibility and responsiveness. And we also support nonprofits in ways outside this structured open call and in service to our communities, values and partners.

7. And about that Annual Funding Opportunity. . .

We so appreciated the opportunity to meet with folks across the state.e connected with an estimated 1,000+ people through our in-person and virtual information sessions in March and April. Thank you for the warm welcomes, great conversations and personal connections. We always learn so much about the opportunities, challenges and great work happening in Oregon communities. And a big thanks to each of you who responded to our feedback survey: It helps us know what worked for you and how you think we can do even better.

Our staff is now diligently reviewing more than 600 applications submitted last month. Stay tuned. We'll be contacting applicants in mid-June to let them know whether they are invited to submit a full proposal. In the meantime, you can preview the full proposal questions here.