November 16, 2017

Diversity, equity and inclusion work takes shape

The Building Community portfolio was pleased to receive 284 applications as part of Meyer’s 2017 Annual Funding Opportunity. Applicants came from rural and urban parts of the state and collectively represented more than $31 million in requests. Following our review process, 66 organizations were recommended to receive approximately $6.6 million available for grants. Among these, nine organizations received their first grant from Meyer.  

The entire Building Community team is grateful for the applicants’ time and effort to apply. Like last year, we are available to provide feedback on applications that were not funded. You’ll find the full list of Building Community 2017 Annual Funding Opportunity grantees here. If you are interested in having a conversation with a member of our team, please contact us at questions [at]  


Much like last year, 44 grantees (or two-thirds of the entire portfolio) came through our Goal One: Dismantle inequities and create new opportunities to advance equity. The grantees in this goal area are working to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and we have highlighted three grantees doing this work: On-The-Move Community Integration, Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, and Relief Nursery. Working on DEI can take many forms. For some organizations, it involves building internal capacity while for others it is about programming and services. In many cases it takes shape as a combination of both.

Having offered funding through this portfolio for two years, we are learning more about how different organizations think about advancing DEI. Among this year’s applications, we observed a few forms of such work, including:

  • Programming that deepens work with culturally specific communities;
  • Projects to build internal capacity for DEI work; and
  • Culturally specific organizations deepening their work in DEI.

Deepening Connections With Culturally Specific Communities

A number of organizations provide programs and services to the general public or a broad cross-section of Oregonians. These organizations work on creating access to healthy foods or advocate on behalf of working families. This year, some of these broadly focused organizations received grants from Building Community to deepen their work with culturally specific communities. Although not shifting from a focus on the general public, these groups identified the need to build or strengthen connections with communities that might be underserved or not connected to their work. Program Officer Carol Cheney writes about Relief Nursery, an organization that is linking its work to the Native American community in an intentional way.

Internal Focus On Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

In contrast to an externally focused effort at advancing DEI, many groups in this year’s applicant pool recognized the need to devote attention to their internal or operational work. Groups applied for funding to better understand their own biases, build understanding of historical oppressions, and create policies and practices that put them in a stronger position to carry out their mission in a way that is attentive to equity. Program Associate Erin Dysart describes work underway at Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette.

Culturally Specific Communities Deepening Their Work in DEI

While some organizations support the general public, others are organized around a specific and culturally defined community that represents their primary focus. These include organizations that work with an ethnic or racial group, with youths or elders, or with other historically marginalized populations.  
These organizations may have a deep understanding of their particular cultural group, but many also recognize that work in DEI involves other, often intersecting dimensions. In this funding round, we saw culturally specific organizations interested in creating stronger connections with other cultural groups or providing their staff or board with training on some topic that advances their ability to keep a focus on equity. Program Associate Violeta Rubiani writes about how On-the-Move Community Integration is deepening its work in DEI.   

Through the work outlined in their proposals, Relief Nursery, Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette and On-the-Move Community Integration all approached DEI in ways that were a match with current needs and in support of their mission. Moving forward, we hope to pass along what we learn from groups like these and how our thinking on DEI continues to evolve.

Civic Engagement and Arts and Culture Initiatives

A smaller portion of grants were made under our other two goal areas including Goal Two: Strengthening civic engagement and public participation in democratic processes. We funded 10 grantees, mong them, the Umatilla County Board of Commissioners. It is receiving funding for consulting support to create an “Equity Framework” for delivering public health services as part of a statewide effort to modernize public health.

In Goal Three, Support for arts and culture initiatives that create inclusive communities, we funded 13 grantees, including The August Wilson Red Door Project, which seeks to continue production of Hands Up! and to deepen engagement with the Portland Police Bureau through the development of a new play, Cop Out!?

If you applied for a grant  this year but weren’t funded, we invite you to questions [at] (contact us) to receive feedback on your application. And if you applied for support around implementing DEI within your organization, check out our self-assessment tool, which we hope will help groups think about where they want to focus. Let us know what you think!

— Dahnesh