The Black-led and Black-serving Organizations Shaping Oregon’s FutureHelen Shum Mon, 02/28/2022 - 18:07

“If we want a beloved community,” the late bell hooks once wrote, “we must stand for justice.”

In 2020, amid a once-in-a-century pandemic and the largest popular uprising for racial justice seen in this country in generations, Meyer established the Justice Oregon for Black Lives initiative. It was immediately our biggest single project ever, funded at twice the amount originally suggested, and imbued with goals and guiding principles that we have adapted over time, but never abandoned.

We are thrilled to announce that, in our second round of funding to date, Justice Oregon is granting $4.8 million to 49 state-based and local organizations, including 14 organizations that will receive multi-year funding.

In her recent message on Meyer's new mission statement and the work ahead, outgoing CEO Michelle J. DePass, whose vision and voice brought Justice Oregon to life, wrote, "Justice goes beyond building a flourishing and equitable Oregon. It is a commitment to correction. Our commitment to repair and restore."

Recognizing institutional philanthropy’s role in perpetuating current systems of power, we’re determined to transform this dynamic and ensure our grantmaking honors the values that we’ve set forth. That means holding ourselves accountable to our community and our values, and it informed the participatory grantmaking approach that got us to the vibrant group of organizations we’re supporting through Justice Oregon.

Over the past year, we have engaged in conversations with dozens of community members all over the state, representing every sector from agriculture to the arts. Supported by Meyer staff, our mighty team of two held 10 bi-weekly community conversations with Black facilitators to come to consensus on how to make incremental progress toward Black liberation through five priority funding areas. The list of grantees below represents the first three priority funding areas: economic justice, investing in education, and reimagining public safety. And we're excited that tomorrow we open our invitation-only process for the remaining two funding areas: changing the Black narrative through arts and culture; and, addressing trauma and healing in the Black community.

These conversations reinforced our personal understanding that Black people across Oregon are not a monolith — our needs and vision for the state are informed by the lived experience of our many intersecting identities. What we are all committed to, however, is a vision of thriving Black communities free from the constraints of white supremacy.

As Black History Month comes to a close and Women’s History Month begins, Meyer’s Justice Oregon team is celebrating Black hope and optimism by announcing this inaugural round of grants made with deep input from Black communities and in support of leaders and movements helping to shape Oregon’s future. We are honored that many of this grantee cohort are organizations led by Black women and Black-led and serving organizations of all sizes in our communities.

Throughout the grantmaking process, we’ve worked with a rotating grant review committee of 10 Black leaders — both from the world of philanthropy as well as other sectors — who’ve candidly shared their visions of justice, the needs of Black Oregonians and ways that philanthropy can help right systemic wrongs and be a transparent partner to them in support of a liberated Black future. Their input was integral in determining our 49 Justice Oregon grantees.



Multi-year funding recipients

African Youth and Community Organization

Albina Vision Trust

Black and Beyond the Binary

Black Parent Initiative

Building Blocks 2 Success

Brown Hope

Imagine Black


Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO)

NW Accelerator

POIC/Rosemary Anderson

Portland Business Alliance


Self Enhancement, Inc.

Single-year funding recipients

Black Educational Achievement Movement (BEAM) Village

Beaverton Black Parent's Union

Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church

Black Community of Portland

Black Farm Bureau

Built Oregon


Center for African Immigrants & Refugees of Oregon (CAIRO)

Center for Intercultural Organizing

Elevate Oregon

Equitable Giving Circle

Friends of the Children - Portland

Going Home II



IRCO-Africa House

iUrban Teen

Lewis & Clark Black Pardon Project

Multnomah Educational Services District (MESD)

NE Steam Coalition

North by Northeast Business

Oregon Alliance of Black School Educators (ORABSE)

Play Grow and Learn

Professional Business Development Group (PBDG)

Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives (PCRI)

RACE TALKS: Uniting to Break the Chains of Racism

Skanner Foundation

Taking Ownership LLC

The Father's Group

The Highland Haven

The Love Coalition

Triple Threat Mentoring

Urban League

World Stage Theatre

Youth Organized and United to Help


JOBL award announcement image

Justice Oregon announces funding to 49 organizations, including 14 that will receive multi-year support.

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Results from our Justice-Involved RFP

As we at Meyer look toward the future of what is needed for community safety and justice for all, we know that we cannot forget about thousands of Oregonians and families that have been harmed by incarceration or jail.

We also know housing can be a powerful catalyst for individuals involved in the criminal justice system to transition out of the cycle of incarceration and back into the community or workforce, and it reduces the likelihood of an individual returning to jail or prison.

In July 2020, Meyer’s Housing Opportunities portfolio released an open request for proposals focused on interventions and supports that address housing stability gaps for people returning from state and federal prisons, local jails and juvenile facilities and those with past justice involvement and their families.

The goal of this strategy was not only to improve the living situations of 500 individuals but also to provide lessons and learnings to share with the broader housing field philanthropic sector around three crucial questions:

  1. What are the unique challenges and needs of Black, Indigenous and people of color who have been involved with the justice system and face community re-entry and reintegration?
  2. What ways can corrections and housing systems align to support individuals who have been justice-involved so they can reintegrate into communities successfully?
  3. What systems and policies need to be changed to improve rental housing access for people with conviction histories, especially for Black, Indigenous and people of color?

In service to these goals, organizations were invited to respond with proposals for a grant period up to two years with funding requests up to $150,000 for existing projects and expansion of existing re-entry programs. All projects were sought to directly support low-income Oregonians with conviction histories and to reduce barriers to housing access in the private market. In line with Meyer’s equity lens, there was a priority to fund projects with focused strategies to increase housing access for people of color and Indigenous people. We received 19 proposals and are excited to announce eight new grants totaling more than $1.1 million over the next two years to:

Cascade AIDS Project will receive $140,000 (Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties) for a two-year project to build CAP’s capacity to serve Black and Latinx people who have a past conviction, have extremely low incomes, live with HIV, are unstably housed or homeless, and identify as BIPOC. CAP will serve 100 people and place 40 people in private-market housing.

Central City Concern will receive $150,000 (Multnomah County) for a two-year project for CCC to expand the Flip The Script program by specifically serving Black participants to secure housing in private-market rental units. For this project, CCC will serve 20 people and place 20 people in private-market housing.

Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency will receive $149,000 (Marion County) for a two-year project for MWVCAA to expand its re-entry program to specially serve Latinx individuals exiting incarceration by opening a satellite office in Woodburn and offering housing navigation services in Spanish. MWVCAA will serve 100 people and place 80 people in private-market housing.

Portland Leadership Foundation; dba The Contingent will receive $150,000 (Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties) for a two-year initiative for The Contingent to support the stabilization of justice-involved BIPOC parents with children in foster care through community-based crews offering peer mentorship and access to long-term private-market housing. The Contingent will serve 70 people and place 55 people in private-market housing.

Urban League of Portland will receive $150,000 (Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties) for a two-year initiative for ULPDX to provide intensive services to justice-involved Black individuals through a peer cohort model focusing on long-term housing success. ULPDX will create a peer cohort of 35 people who have recently exited incarceration and are experiencing homelessness or are unstably housed to secure and maintain private-market housing.

WomenFirst Transition & Referral Center will receive $132,101 (Clackamas and Multnomah counties) for a two-year project to increase WomenFirst’s capacity to support justice-involved Black women in a holistic and culturally specific approach to achieve long-term housing stability. WomenFirst will serve 8-10 people and place 4-8 people in private-market housing.

Umpqua Community DevelopmentCorporation; dba NeighborWorks Umpqua will receive $130,601 (Southern Oregon) for two years to develop a southern Oregon regional approach to build community capacity to permanently house justice-involved individuals through collaboration with local Tribes, rental tenant education and financial stabilization. NeighborWorks will serve at least 65 people by helping them to secure private-market housing.

Yamhill Community Action Partnership will receive $130,500 (Yamhill County) for two years to support YCAP to increase its capacity to support justice-involved Latinx individuals experiencing homelessness to access and maintain private-market housing. YCAP will serve 90 people and place 68 people in private-market housing.

— Elisa

Justice Involved RFP
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Announcing Meyer’s 2021 Annual Funding Opportunity

There is no doubt that communities across Oregon are struggling, but there are hopeful signs in 2021 and good reasons to believe that better days are on the horizon. In this uncertain time, we are committed to maintaining Meyer’s largest funding program to ensure that resources flow to community-driven solutions and work across the state. This week I am pleased to share that Meyer’s Annual Funding Opportunity will open on March 15, 2021, with applications due by April 19.

Last year, our Annual Funding Opportunity opened just as the COVID-19 pandemic reached Oregon and upended daily life. We knew then — as we know now — that extraordinary times call for more, innovative support. Over the past year, we have added to our regular grantmaking with dedicated funding for COVID and wildfire responses, for example, and tapped our endowment to launch Meyer’s largest ever initiative, Justice Oregon for Black Lives. This year again, we will sustain a larger overall grantmaking commitment.

On March 1, we will hold an information session online to share more about this year’s Annual Funding Opportunity. We’ll go over each portfolio’s goals, talk about Meyer’s approach to equity and answer your questions. You can register for the Zoom session here and check out other opportunities to connect with portfolio staff. In the meantime, you can learn more about the portfolios’ funding priorities in the summaries below and follow the links for more details.

Please note that Justice Oregon for Black Lives will not be part of the Annual Funding Opportunity as the funding approach for the initiative will be developed in-partnership with community input. Justice Oregon Initiative director D’Artagnan Caliman wrote about opportunities to connect and learn about the initiative last week, here.

Building Community portfolio

Inequitable outcomes for communities of color are far from new, but the pandemic and reckoning with systemic racism have brought a heightened awareness to these challenges. To help address them, the Building Community portfolio will continue to focus on people of color, Indigenous communities and Tribes and immigrants and refugees. Applicants must have implemented strategies designed specifically to benefit at least one of these populations. In addition to focusing on these communities, Building Community will continue to use a three part criteria to guide review of funding requests: operationalized DEI, connection to systems change and community engagement.

We encourage proposals that promote a more inclusive, participatory democracy that transforms structures based on exclusion and build power for communities at the margins. We also seek proposals that will create meaningful connections within and between communities that build a strong sense of belonging.

Please visit Building Community's page to learn more.

Equitable Education portfolio

As schools across Oregon prepare for students to return to the classroom over the next year, the Equitable Education portfolio seeks to support public school districts and nonprofit partners as they strive to meet the demands of this critical moment. If we learned anything last year, it was that “business as usual” is no longer possible. Oregon student data demonstrate that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the learning trajectory of all students, but none more than priority students.

While the challenges of this past year have and will continue to test our education system, Meyer’s 2021 Annual Funding Opportunity seeks to establish student supports and accelerate innovative approaches that meet the resilience of our priority students with exceptional, relevant programming in the areas of kindergarten readiness, literacy in the primary grades, high school graduation and college and career readiness as well as attendance across the K-12 continuum. For partners seeking to advance education equity for priority students through systems- and policy-level change, successful proposals will address the immediate and urgent needs of today’s priority students while establishing a foundation for meeting the future and ever-evolving needs of tomorrow’s students.

Please see Equitable Education's page to learn more.

Healthy Environment portfolio

The varying events of the past year — the Covid-19 pandemic, reckoning for racial justice and climate change-driven wildfires — have laid bare the stark reality that there is no denying the urgent need for social transformation and supports efforts that tackle the challenges of racism and ecological collapse with solutions that address the underlying drivers of these interconnected crises.

The 2021 Annual Funding Opportunity will support efforts to build power in communities to resist the continued exploitation of people and planet, as well as create and implement innovative approaches to healing our relationship with nature and each other. To complement these approaches, we will continue to fund work to build a more inclusive and equitable movement for a healthy environment. Grants will support a mix of statewide, regional and place-based efforts in urban and rural Oregon, including Tribal nations and prioritize the needs of communities that experience environmental disparities.

Please see Healthy Environment's page to learn more.

Housing Opportunities portfolio

We’ve always known that safe and affordable housing is the foundation for family stability, health, education and inclusive communities. And advocates have made progress in recent years to remove barriers to affordable housing, secure more resources for housing development and supportive services, and address racist and colonialist systems that hold back our BIPOC neighbors and the wider housing field.

If we are to emerge from the pandemic and economic fallout without massive evictions and displacement, we need bolder solutions grounded in racial justice. Our three high-level housing goals remain the same this coming funding cycle, but we're looking to support work that matches the urgency and emphasis on racial justice this moment demands. We encourage proposals that seek to mobilize, build power and advocacy by and for impacted communities. Proposals to curb the speculators and lenders motivated to tear apart communities in search of profit. As well as proposals that align resources and systems for more equitable outcomes and racial justice. Think boldly and aim high. We don’t have time to waste.

Please see Housing Opportunities’ page to learn more.

We know that nonprofits across the state continue rising to respond to complex challenges, meeting them with creativity, heart and vision. We look forward to learning about the work you are prioritizing when our Annual Funding Opportunity opens March 15.

Kaberi, Dahnesh, Matt, Jill and Theresa

Announcing Meyer’s 2021 Annual Funding Opportunity
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Looking back, looking ahead: how we’re responding to COVID-19

Oregon passes a grim milestone this month: the anniversary of the state’s first recorded case of COVID-19. A year later, we find ourselves still in the throes of a global pandemic that is devastating our communities and deepening long-seeded racial, economic and health inequities. Though we’re looking forward to a science-based response in 2021 and widespread vaccine access, we know there is much work to do to ensure a just and equitable recovery for all. Meyer is committed to deepening support within our existing focus areas to meet this moment while continuing to align with longer-term strategies.

In March 2020, Meyer’s board of trustees swiftly approved the transfer of $1.3 million to relief efforts, including contributions to MRG Foundation’s COVID-19 Community Response Fund and the Oregon Community Recovery Fund at Oregon Community Foundation. Those awards were followed soon after by contributions totalling $600,000 to other pooled funds at Women’s Foundation of Oregon, Pride Foundation and the Oregon Worker Relief Fund.

After this initial round of emergency funds, members of our program team paused to listen and reflect on the most strategic and flexible use of COVID-specific funding. As a two-week stay-home order stretched over months, other crises emerged. The murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in May and the protests that followed in Oregon and across the nation brought the parallel pandemic of systemic racism, particularly anti-Black racism, into sharp focus. Black, Native and other communities of color shouldered disproportionate health and economic impacts from COVID-19. The worst wildfires in Oregon’s history began to devastate communities throughout our state in August.

We knew our approach had to shift to meet immediate needs while also sustaining our shared long-term vision for Oregon’s future.

Meyer awarded $500,000 of COVID-specific funding in September — including dedicated support for Native and Asian communities and a farmworker survey project — while simultaneously making emergency grants and committing longer-term funding for wildfire recovery. We also launched the foundation's largest initiative to date, Justice Oregon for Black Lives, in July with a $25 million commitment to make strategic investments in the lives of Black Oregonians. We heard from communities and partners who saw opportunities not just to build back, but to build back better.

We continued to center those most impacted by the pandemic and to support community-driven solutions with grants in December and January, including robust support for the Oregon Worker Relief Fund. This public/private partnership is a community-designed, community-led effort to support undocumented Oregonians who are ineligible for federal relief programs. In all, Meyer’s COVID-specific funding for the year totaled more than $3.6 million.

Field learning

Throughout this time, Meyer staff listened to grantees and community partners, talked with peer funders and tuned into conversations across the country in an effort to better understand how private foundations like Meyer were best suited to contribute. A number of themes emerged.

Relief, recovery and rebuilding are not fully distinct from each other. Communities do not experience these as linear phases; rather the work can overlap, cycle and iterate as circumstances evolve. We see this in the ways that advocacy organizations like Basic Rights Oregon, PCUN and Rural Organizing Project among others have flexed to provide direct service for constituents this year. Organizers know that ensuring people are safe and well maintains trust. Creating systems of care to meet immediate needs involves adaptation, resourcefulness and creative problem solving. Mutual aid efforts that have organically sprouted across Oregon this year are, as adrienne maree brown would tell us, “fractals” of an emerging future, one characterized by interdependence and belonging. Offering robust support that is oriented toward relief does not mean taking our eyes off the long game.

The crises we are experiencing — a global pandemic, systemic racism and devastating wildfires, alongside alarming threats to our democracy — are interwoven and compound long-standing inequities. Although each presents unique challenges, a truly transformative recovery cannot untangle these from each other.

It is almost too obvious to name, but we know that people are tired! Organizations are doing impressive work under incredible strain, but the stretch and stress are not sustainable. This is particularly true for nonprofits led by people of color, many of which have been historically under resourced.

Although emergency funding has been helpful for filling gaps and keeping organizations afloat, accessing funds from multiple sources with different restrictions can be labor intensive, favoring higher capacity organizations. Additionally, the long-term funding picture remains highly uncertain. Many organizations received federal funding for the first time thanks to CARES Act relief but were underprepared for the program’s onerous tracking requirements. Tracking also deters some organizations from pursuing federal aid at all, wary of the potential security risks for clients who are undocumented.

Looking ahead

The interwoven nature of the conditions Meyer is trying to impact points us to an integrated funding approach over the long term. We will maintain grantmaking through our portfolios to deepen work in those core areas of ongoing investment — each intimately tied to a just recovery — while also remaining flexible to add targeted support for other COVID-related needs or opportunities that emerge as conditions evolve.

We know, for example, that the importance of stable housing as a foundational element of healthy, resilient communities has only been amplified in a time of stay-home orders, but across the housing sector, organizations have struggled with reduced government contracts, slower and more expensive capital development, and strained fundraising capacity. Similar patterns continue across the education, environment and building community program areas for our grantee and community partners.

Meyer continues to listen and to integrate these lessons learned and emerging practices as we close out last year’s grantmaking and look ahead to our Annual Funding Opportunity in March. This pandemic is not the last storm that we will weather together with our grantee and community partners. We promise to keep leaning into community-led solutions for the revisioning and rebuilding to come.

— Erin

A foggy winding road.

A foggy winding road.

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An Annual Funding Opportunity unlike any other

Two weeks after the election, November continues to provide fresh reminders that 2020 has been anything but business as usual.

Meyer Memorial Trust’s Annual Funding Opportunity opened in mid-March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic started radically changing daily life. At the time, there was a question of whether we should even go forward with our usual grantmaking, but the moment called for more immediate action and support in the midst of COVID-19 and the need to be responsive felt paramount. We received 320 applications, requesting $45 million in funding. Our 2020 Annual Funding Opportunity grant awards total $21.3 million, funding 150 projects at organizations working to make Oregon a flourishing and equitable home for all.

As nonprofits adapted to rapidly changing conditions of the pandemic, we knew Meyer had to come alongside with the flexibility that the field has been asking for and to move further toward principles of trust-based philanthropy. We prioritized making more general operating grants and experimented with accepting proposals written for other foundations. We removed report requirements for existing grants and began rethinking our reporting requirements and how to maximize learning without burdening grantees. We also moved faster this year, finalizing a robust round of grants in the spring and another in the fall.

Responsiveness is perhaps what 2020 has required of everyone most of all, as well as living our values while finding different ways of being and working to address significant interwoven challenges. Whether it’s the global pandemic, the nationwide reckoning with racial injustice or the worst wildfires in Oregon history, communities are navigating tremendous change and we are responding with additional support by tapping into our endowment.

But even in times of great uncertainty, there are things we know for sure:

  • Grass-roots and nonprofit organizations are integral to community resilience.
  • Eliminating long-standing inequities will require shifting underlying conditions that hold them in place.
  • Centering the communities that are most impacted by a problem—almost always Black, Indigenous and People of Color—generates the best solutions for everyone.
  • A healthy democracy will always be essential to actualizing a flourishing and equitable state for all Oregonians.

Grants across our Annual Funding Opportunity reflect the latest iterations of this work and we are proud to support community efforts that, taken together, help to show the way forward.

Below we highlight some themes among the 2020 AFO grants and provide examples of opportunities for change and progress in this time of challenge. You can also view the full list of awards sorted by portfolio here.


Responsive Operations

In the weeks following Feb. 28 and confirmation of the first case of COVID-19 in Oregon, all sectors generally had to pivot their operations to meet public health demands and respond to a new set of emerging and urgent needs. Even nonprofits that typically focus at a systemic level to create change were drawn into providing services directly to their constituents.

  • All 26 Oregon Habitat for Humanity affiliates experienced a significant disruption of programs and operations due to the coronavirus. To ensure adequate social distancing, home construction projects shifted to a paid-staff/subcontractor model instead of the volunteer workforce that has bolstered the Habitat community for decades. This change significantly increased the cost of 50 homes already underway. Habitat for Humanity of Oregon responded quickly by putting together a rapid response program that would pair a zero percent interest loan with a grant to close the gap on these homes that are already in construction and move 50 families into stable housing.
  • Familias en Accion was founded in response to the need for a culturally specific organization to promote health for the Latinx community in Oregon. Prior to COVID-19 Familias was serving nearly 600 Latinx clients and family members annually through its Community Health Worker program, which helps clients navigate complex health systems, removes barriers to care and provides chronic disease self-management education through long-term engagement. In Oregon, the Latinx community has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and monthly caseloads for Familias are closer to what they would have averaged in a year. Throughout the pandemic, the program has continued to provide clients critical information and referral services, access to client service funds and timely systems navigation.

Healthy Democracy

Our democracy is not inherently just and requires ongoing collective attention. Groups received grants to advance civic engagement and create a more inclusive democracy. This includes a range of issues from Oregon’s pending legislative redistricting to voting rights and ensuring that appropriate implementation of recently passed policies such as the medical and family leave act.

  • More Equitable Democracy (MED) received a grant this year to advance racial equity through electoral systems reform. Fiscally sponsored by the Proteus Fund, MED is advancing Oregon’s voting rights protections by making it easier to challenge local electoral systems that present barriers for equitable representation.
  • Next Up (formerly Oregon Progress Forum) received a grant to serve as a political home for young people and a pipeline for civic engagement and power-building in Oregon. In the coming year, Next Up will continue to center Black, Indigenous and leaders of color in its service of equity-centered policy. This will primarily take shape in the form of leadership development, voter engagement and policy advocacy work aimed at making Oregon a place where policymakers are more accountable to younger generations.

Community-Centered Advocacy

Cascading disruptions set in motion by COVID-19 highlight the stark racial disparities in health, housing, education, environment access and economic stability in Oregon. As public officials work to address some aspects of the crisis, state and local governments are bracing for a shortage of revenue, a steep increase in people needing assistance of all kinds and competing leadership priorities at the federal level. In this environment, the need for organized advocacy by and in coordination with people directly affected by the multiple crises has never been more clear, as is the ability to define clear and compelling policy alternatives that center the needs of the communities that are most impacted by an issue or problem.

  • JOIN is helping inform public decision-making around the response to Oregon’s housing crisis, by elevating and amplifying the voices of the people who are most impacted. In essence, the priorities of these communities will help shape county, city and statewide responses to emerging housing issues, while also educating decision-makers about housing interventions that are known to be effective and equitable.
  • Unete, Beyond Toxics and PCUN are collaborating to elevate the voices of Latinx, Indigenous and migrant workers in the timber sector to help improve state forest practices and workplace safety rules. Immigrant forestry workers are typically hired to do the highly dangerous work of planting tree seedlings, spraying pesticides, setting chokers and helping get logs up steep slopes. These workers are the ones who often bear the brunt of pesticide exposure, higher temperatures and smoke inhalation on the job. The stories and experiences of migrant workers are missing from narratives about who makes up Oregon’s timber industry workforce.

Intersectional Organizing

Societies are complex. Many needs are not rigidly bound to individual topics and therefore must be addressed with an intersectional and multi-issue approach to achieve change. In support of this work, a number of groups received grants to support multi-issue organizing and advocacy efforts. Grantees addressed a range of issues such as challenging the normalization of the mass incarceration and deportation of non-citizens, building social infrastructure in rural communities for equity, supporting inclusion and participatory democracy and advocating for and securing millions in public dollars to support workers not eligible for unemployment insurance or other emergency federal relief tied to COVID-19.

  • Oregon Center for Public Policy (OCPP) received a grant to advance more equitable public policies through research and analysis and communication of findings. Working with a diverse set of coalitions and partnerships, OCPP work focuses on the well-being of Oregonians with the fewest economic resources and those who face the biggest barriers to success.
  • Hacienda CDC, Native American Youth and Family Center, Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East and Verde are partners in the Living Cully Collaborative, which works to address disparities in housing, income, health, education and natural resources in Portland's Cully neighborhood. Living Cully received a two-year grant to increase community-controlled assets, environmental investments and affordable housing, while preventing displacement of frontline communities.

Economic Justice 

The overlapping crises of 2020 have laid bare our economic system’s injustices for all to see. We have seen a growing appreciation by the public for the contributions and sacrifices that essential workers—farmworkers, service workers, health aides, hospital staff and so many more—are making for all us. The story of the unjust working conditions of essential workers— low wages, lack of health care and unhealthy workplace conditions—has also garnered new attention. A number of grants in this year are supporting work across Oregon to advance economic justice solutions that can set the stage for and deliver on the potential of a transformative economic recovery in the future.

  • Oregon Just Transition Alliance (OJTA) is a collaborative that aims to build frontline community power through grass-roots organizing around a “just transition,” a focus on building economic and political power to shift from a fossil-fuel based economy to a regenerative economy based on renewable energy. Embedded in this are economic justice goals for income equality by gender and race, good-paying jobs and allowing all people to reach their full potential. OJTA received a grant to organize communities around collective action on climate justice at a state level.
  • The Northwest Workers Justice Project supports the efforts of Oregon's most vulnerable workers to protect workplace dignity and to improve wages and working conditions by providing legal representation for individual workers as well as groups of workers, recovering stolen wages and addressing other employment issues including workplace abuse and safety.

Innovative Practices

Meyer’s flexible funding is well-positioned to support innovative practices such as pilot projects or applying familiar tools to new situations. We also look for opportunities in which our investments can support innovation and ways to evaluate its impact in a way that can bring lessons and learning to the field and advance equity in Oregon.

  • Attempts to address the multiple crises at hand has caused school districts to exceed their capacity and ability to respond. In this historic moment, the urgency of student needs cannot be overstated. Youth-serving organizations across Oregon have reaffirmed their commitment to developing innovative solutions that are designed to eliminate disparities in public education through direct response to student needs. Grantee partners such as Latino Community Association, Family Access Network and Kids Unlimited of Oregon are rapidly executing plans to address the current crisis while also keeping an eye toward long-term recovery efforts.
  • The environmental, economic and social justice problems of our global, industrial food systems are far-reaching. Pandemic-induced food shortages, such as what we recently experienced, are evidence that the global food supply chain is prone to falter in the face of shocks. Three partners of the PCUN’s Alianza Poder network, Black Food Sovereignty Coalition, High Desert Food & Farm Alliance and Warm Springs Community Action are building innovative local regenerative agriculture and sustainable food programs that also integrate cultural practices unique to Black, Indigenous and Tribal communities. As these efforts take root and scale up, they can become a driver for economic development, cultural revitalization and improving community and natural system health.

Meyer's 2020 Annual Funding Opportunity Grant Awards

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An illustration of Oregonians rallying together at the corner of NW Naito and Couch in downtown Portland. From left to right, demonstrators hold signs that depict Breonna Taylor and messages that read “Access Matters” “Jobs, Justice and Clean Energy” “Economic Justice” “Protect Democracy” “No One Is Illegal” “Support Oregon Nonprofits” “Listen To Native Voices” and “Familias Unidas no Divididas.”

An illustration of Oregonians rallying together in downtown Portland.

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Emergency wildfire relief response

The wildfires that continue to grip Oregon, burning nearly 1 million acres, have taken lives, devastated communities and compounded the stresses of multiple, ongoing disasters.

Meyer Memorial Trust mourns with Oregonians grieving the loss of life, homes and businesses, those evacuated and those struggling to breathe. We grieve the destruction of forests, wildlife and natural habitats. We appreciate the strong response by Oregonians and people from across the country that have stepped up already to provide immediate relief.

To support those most impacted by the wildfires, Meyer’s board of trustees last week approved $250,000 in new grants for communities wrestling with immediate needs, focusing on relief funds that reach the most impacted communities and people within those communities that have the least access to aid. The emergency wildfire relief fund grants are directed at bridging investment in six local United Way organizations working directly on relief, as well as relief efforts targeting priority populations hit hard by the fires and their aftermath. These grants include:

  • $60,000 to MRG Foundation for the Since Time Immemorial Fund, an effort to rapidly deploy resources to Tribal communities across the region when opportunity or need arises
  • $25,000 to CAUSA or Oregon for immediate relief support for Latinx and immigrant communities facing hardship from wildfires
  • $25,000 to MRG Foundation for the Rogue Valley Relief Fund, a crucial relief effort supporting people most impacted by wildfires in the Rogue Valley region
  • $25,000 to the United Way of Columbia-Willamette for relief support for communities facing hardship from wildfires in Clackamas, Washington and Multnomah counties
  • $25,000 to Willamette Valley Law Project for PCUN's Farmworker Emergency Fund, which provides relief support for farmworkers facing hardship from wildfires
  • $15,000 to Greater Douglas United Way for relief support for Douglas County communities facing hardship from wildfires
  • $15,000 to United Way of Southwestern Oregon for relief support for communities facing hardship from wildfires in Coos and Curry counties
  • $15,000 to United Way of Jackson County for relief support for Jackson County communities facing hardship from wildfires
  • $15,000 to United Way of Lane County for relief support for Lane County communities facing hardship from wildfires
  • $15,000 to United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley for relief support for communities facing hardship from wildfires in Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties
  • $15,000 to the Wildfire Relief Fund of the United Way of Linn, Benton and Lincoln Counties

Earlier last week, Meyer joined with Oregon Community Foundation and the Ford Family Foundation to create the Community Rebuilding Fund, a commitment to gather resources and plan for what comes next after the extraordinary devastation brought by wildfires across a state already reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and consequences of racial injustice.

Meyer is grateful to be a partner in immediate and long-term recovery efforts to restore economic vitality and livability to communities, by focusing on those who face the biggest barriers to recovery. At Meyer, we believe that a core part of our mission for a flourishing and equitable Oregon calls us to join with other Oregonians in moments of severe crisis to support the resiliency of communities facing hardships. And we understand that underlying injustices caused by systemic racism and economic inequality intersect in a moment crisis, exacerbating historic disparities with new risk, trauma and harm.

For Meyer, the wildfires are a reminder that equity be a guiding star as the state looks to make sure vulnerable populations aren’t left behind when it comes to the immediate response, planning, rebuilding and recovery, specifically Black, Indigenous and people of color, immigrants and refugees, seniors and low-income Oregonians, groups that are more likely to be renters or unhoused.

We see an opportunity to design a recovery for Oregon that centers addressing structural racism and the need to confront climate change. The potential for a recovery that builds a regenerative and just economy that scales up many of the innovative practices and policies already happening in rural and urban communities across the state. An opportunity to link this recovery with the work Meyer is already supporting in communities across the state to decarbonize our economy and create high-wage jobs and job training to build clean energy infrastructure and restore our ecosystems. A clarion call to invest in work to help communities adapt and address root causes of the destructive and frequent wildfires that we are now experiencing as a result of climate change.

While these more intense and frequent wildfires are a symptom of the climate crisis, they are also the result of decades of fire suppression and forest management that have disrupted the natural fire regime of our forests by removing large trees. That is why Meyer supports efforts to change how Oregon manages and stewards forests and other wildlands, including Indigenous fire management, to improve forest structure, restore natural systems and support a fire regime that can be managed more predictably. Predictability would help us better address smoke and economic impacts on communities.

Finally, these wildfires have created and worsened a public health emergency in the middle of a global public health emergency. Shifting smoke and air quality indicators have solidified for Oregonians the connection between pollution, health and housing; and far too many of our neighbors experience terrible air quality in their homes or lack shelter even without wildfires.

At Meyer, we believe that a core part of our mission for a flourishing and equitable Oregon calls us to join with other Oregonians in moments of severe crisis to support the resiliency of communities facing hardships. And we understand that underlying injustices caused by systemic racism and economic inequality intersect in this moment of crisis, exacerbating historic disparities with new risk, trauma and harm.


Photo credit Fred Joe Photos

Photo credit: Fred Joe Photo.

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Change is possible now: Justice Oregon for Black Lives

Three months before the heartbreaking footage of George Floyd’s murder ignited an inspiring wave of protests across the country, I had the privilege of leading a conversation at Meyer Memorial Trust with Alicia Garza, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement. She was clear: If philanthropy wants to see real change, we must be bold in aligning our actions with our values.

“Change is happening with or without you,” she said. “You get to decide if you are agents of that change or passively receiving it.”

I have worked and stayed in philanthropy because I believe that it is possible for philanthropy to show up differently and to push toward the alignment of actions and values that are rooted in racial justice. Now feels like a historic moment when the momentum has built thanks to the work of so many. Change that we’ve been pushing for feels possible.

I’ve been angry with the emergence of every hashtag documenting a life taken and don’t want to be part of talk without action. As we began dreaming about Justice Oregon, centering Black leadership, nonprofits and communities, I felt the first glimmer of hope that pushed through the rage that had been my constant companion for so long. As it started to emerge as a five-year initiative instead of a short-term infusion of dollars, a feeling of possibility replaced despair.

Today we are heeding the call to action with $25 million in new funding to launch Justice Oregon for Black Lives, the largest commitment Meyer has ever made.

The initiative will be a long-term effort, co-created with Black communities to understand how we can show up as the best possible partners in the work to advance racial justice and equity in Oregon. We are beginning by redoubling our commitment to several Black organizations in Portland with whom we are well aligned and have long-standing relationships. We know organizations working on these issues need money right now, and we have awarded five initial Justice Oregon grants, totalling $1 million. We wanted to honor and dignify the work that has been done without needing to work through an onerous process. These organizations are historically under-resourced, and we are awarding general operating grants so that the organizations can decide for themselves the best way to meet this moment’s potential.

We will move another $290,000 to organizations mobilizing in the Metro region to increase public safety and curtail police violence. Some of these organizations are new to Meyer, but their ambitions align with our own, and we want to build lasting relations as we make Oregon a state that not only has anti-racism ideals but lives up to them. There are leaders who have brilliant ideas of how to make the most of this moment to make significant progress on an issue that has long impacted Black people living in Oregon. We wanted to send a strong signal that we support these efforts and want them to have resources and support for their work now.

To make these investments, we tapped our endowment. This is a rare decision. But it is one that meets this moment. It is more important to contribute to the movement than to be afraid or cautious, to hide behind policies and procedures to keep from taking action. We need to take risks to ensure we are able to manifest the potential of this moment. We are moving resources out of the protection of the endowment to invest in the leadership that will allow us to build a more just future. This decision gives us latitude to invest in emerging leadership and space to build new relationships. A soon-to-be-hired program director will oversee this additional line of work, which will be done in close collaboration with Black communities in Oregon. Our hopes are that we can build new relationships with individuals and organizations, think creatively and holistically about how to be in partnership, and be transformational and impactful with our grants.

This decision is only made possible because of the relationships we have with Black communities, individuals and institutions, which offer us wisdom and direction. We also can tap the lessons learned from our work on equity that the foundation committed to in 2016. And, last, we are guided by Black feminist leadership that believes agitation builds momentum.

We know trust is one of the greatest resources to offer other leaders doing the hard work to achieve justice.

We need to move at the speed of trust and balance the desire to respond to the urgency of the moment with the intentionality of setting a strong foundation for the work ahead. We are excited to share the first round of grantmaking and ask for your guidance and support as we co-create what comes next.

We expect that centering Blackness will enhance the importance of all the other aspects of our equity work. As the pandemic has shown so clearly, Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities are disproportionately impacted when crisis hits, and our commitment to Black communities signals a strengthening of our commitment to all communities of color in Oregon. We stand with our Native, Latinx and Asian-American communities, believing that we can manifest meaningful change for Oregon to create a sense of belonging for all who call it home. This is especially powerful because this state originally was created to exclude so many of us. We believe that by centering those most impacted, we will build a stronger system that works for all.

All lives cannot matter if Black lives do not matter. This is the moment for us to center and focus and be active in the creation of a shared liberation.

In solidarity,

— Kaberi

Photo caption: Two siblings—one holding a sparkler and the other a sign that reads “Black Lives Matter”—stand in solidarity at a violin vigil in Portland for Elijah McClain. Photo credit: Fred Joe Photo

Photo caption: Two siblings—one holding a sparkler and the other a sign that reads “Black Lives Matter”—stand in solidarity at a violin vigil in Portland for Elijah McClain. Photo credit: Fred Joe Photo

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Accepting Applications: Housing Opportunities 2020 Justice-Involved RFP

Locally, nationally and around the world communities are demanding policing and prison reforms. Simply put: Our current justice systems are not working to provide community safety.

As we at Meyer begin to look toward the future of what is needed for community safety and justice for all, we know that we cannot forget about the individuals and families that have been harmed by incarceration or jail. The long-term negative impacts of trauma, family and community separation, extended periods of supervision and regulatory conditions, community stigma, limited income, and reduced housing options increase the chances of recidivism and reincarceration. Poverty coupled with historical and institutional discrimination have led to the over incarceration of Black and Brown communities, and mass incarceration and policies that were designed to be tough on crime have perpetuated cycles of poverty and incarceration that continue to leave devastating effects on our communities.

Philanthropy must rise to its responsibility and disrupt this system of injustice.

In Oregon, tens of thousands of people have criminal records and the Oregon Health Authority estimates that about 26,000 people are released from jails and 5,500 people from federal and state prisons back into the community every year. Data show that people of color are more likely to come into contact with the criminal justice system and people who have experienced incarceration or jail are more likely to experience higher rates of poverty, homelessness, addiction and mental health needs. There is growing recognition that successful reintegration into society for individuals involved in the criminal justice system benefits those individuals, their families and the broader community. Research from Prison Policy Initiative shows that housing can be a powerful pathway for individuals involved in the criminal justice system to transition out of the cycle of incarceration and back into the community or workforce and reduces the likelihood of an individual returning to jail or prison.

Supporting people who have been justice-involved to secure housing is one of the many ways that philanthropy can disrupt the cycle of incarceration and poverty.

In pursuit of Meyer’s vision of a flourishing and equitable Oregon, the Housing Opportunities portfolio released a Request for Proposals (RFP) on June 22 inviting applications from nonprofits, government agencies and organizations with existing re-entry programs.

The focus of the RFP is to fund interventions and supports that address housing stability gaps for people returning from state and federal prisons, local jails and juvenile facilities and those with past justice involvement and their families. This RFP will especially focus on funding work that addresses gaps in renter access due to past and present discriminatory systems and practices and efforts that advance marginalized populations in building a better life for themselves on a foundation of stable housing.

This funding opportunity will increase access to and retention of private market units for individuals living on low incomes who are also justice-involved by supporting effective strategies that engage private market landlords and management companies as partners in addressing affordable housing needs across Oregon communities.

Two funding information sessions will be available for this Request for Proposals:

  • Friday, June 26, at 11 a.m. PST
  • Wednesday, July 8, at 11 a.m. PST

During the video conference, we will provide participants with an informative overview of the new funding opportunity, offer ideas about what successful applications might look like for housing-focused organizations and much more.

You can find more details about the RFP here.

I look forward to connecting with you during the information sessions.


Applications for the 2020 Justice-Involved Request for Proposals are due by 5pm on Wednesday, July 29, 2020.

RFP details

  1. Use of funds
  2. Information sessions

Meyer Memorial Trust invites proposals that will increase access to quality private market housing units for individuals living on low-incomes who are also justice-involved. Up to $150,000, over two years, in new funding is available.

Applicants will be notified of their award status in late November, with funding available in early to mid-December.

Grant funds can be used for a variety of purposes to support the proposed project’s goals, including the following examples:

  • Project management or consulting services dedicated to furthering the project.
  • Hiring staff to support the project.
  • Approaches and strategies that will reduce screening barriers for individuals living on low-incomes who are also justice-involved such as reasonable accommodations or appeals, utility debt relief, rental applications, etc.
  • Evaluation and assessment.
  • Development of educational material, toolkits, manual of project.
  • Other uses as approved by Meyer.

Meyer staff will present an overview of the RFP and answer questions during two online information sessions on Friday, June 26, at 11am PST and Wednesday, July 8, at 11am PST. To attend, please visit the event registration page to receive details for joining the session. Attendance is encouraged but not mandatory.

To register for the session, please visit: Attendance is encouraged but not mandatory.

Apply soon!
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Working together for Oregon

Meyer Memorial Trust today announced an initial commitment of $1.3 million to fund nonprofit organizations across Oregon as the state grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects.

Two grants will fund two efforts put in place in mid-March, after Gov. Kate Brown banned public gatherings of more than 25 people to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. Meyer granted $330,000 to MRG Foundation's Community Response Fund, which is rapidly deploying resources to community-based organizations at the frontlines of the COVID-19 outbreak in Oregon.

Meyer also made a $1 million grant to fund the Oregon Community Recovery Grant program at Oregon Community Foundation, which is working to provide funds to nonprofit organizations in Oregon that are particularly affected by the outbreak of COVID-19.

“These funds support immediate response efforts to prevent spread of the virus, recovery from the effects of the public health crises and the long-term resilience of nonprofits across Oregon," said Michelle J. DePass, president and CEO of Meyer Memorial Trust. “We are committed to the goal of mobilizing funds with urgency as we begin to better understand the longer-term needs of our communities.”

Meyer opened its 2020 Annual Funding Opportunity on March 16. The 2020 funding call through Meyer's Building Community, Equitable Education, Healthy Environment and Housing Opportunities portfolios aims to support efforts to build inclusive and diverse communities, break down inequities through local and statewide policy, foster systems change and support pathways for people most impacted by decisions to sit at the tables where those decisions are made.

While the annual grantmaking window formally ends April 13, Meyer recognizes that the coronavirus may hinder some organization’s ability to meet the deadline. Those needing flexibility are asked to contact questions [at] before April 8.

— Kimberly

Mt Hood
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2020 Annual Funding Opportunity opens March 16

We open our Annual Funding Opportunity today in a moment of great uncertainty: Oregon is under a state of emergency, schools across the state are closed, offices, including Meyer, are shuttered while staff work remotely, store shelves are empty and all of us are asked to distance ourselves from one another.

Amidst the unsteady conditions caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Meyer is thinking of our grantee partners. We recognize that our nonprofit partners and the communities they serve — particularly the most vulnerable populations — are being impacted in numerous ways. Our approach will be guided, in part, by both the changing landscape and the insights of our partners.

We are moving quickly to identify ways to respond with support that complements government action and field leadership. We are currently in conversation with other Meyer trustees and staff as well as other philanthropic partners to create responses so the important work of the social sector can move carry on in the face of this crisis. We will share those as they become clearer. Please stay tuned.

In the meantime, we want to provide some stability and opportunity to access support for your work and be clear about what we know for now. Here are the current specifics related to the Annual Funding Opportunity:

  1. AFO applications may be submitted starting today and through April 13.
  2. Our funding priorities, process and timeline remain the same as last year.* We will continue to use our one-step application and staff will reach out to applicants as part of the review process.
  3. Meyer staff will work from home through March 31st and Program staff will be available to discuss grant application ideas by contacting questions [at] You can also contact grantops [at] for questions about our online application system, GrantIS.
  4. In order to provide equitable access to our process, we have created video tutorials for each of the four portfolio areas here. If you aren’t sure which portfolio your organization fits in, you might find the 2020 AFO Overview video tutorial is a better place to start, linked here.
  5. Our applicant resources page is another area where you can find answers to your grantmaking questions. While Meyer staff are working remotely, general inquiries can also be left on our voicemail at 503-228-5512, which we are monitoring.

For current grantees, we would also like to share that:

  1. We recognize this developing situation may affect your ability to carry out work that you have planned as part of our funding. As always, we want to offer you flexibility. If your operations are impacted as you respond to the coronavirus pandemic, please contact your Meyer grant contact to discuss how to best proceed.
  2. While we are working remotely, we have plans in place to ensure our ability to make grant payments with minimal disruption.
  3. As we make any possible adjustments, we will remain true to our stated values around equity, our priority populations and our portfolio areas.

* Unlike last year, the Building Community portfolio will be accepting proposals from the field — and with a particular emphasis on systems change. Applicants will be able to apply under two different goal areas, including Civic Engagement and Community Connection and Belonging. These goal areas are similar to those that have been put forth over the past few years. We’re asking applicants to demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, accountability to communities served and experience implementing strategies designed specifically to address the priorities of people of color, Indigenous communities, or immigrants or refugees.

It is times like this that reinforce the importance of your work for a flourishing and equitable Oregon. Thank you for all that you do. We are with you as our communities confront the challenges that lie ahead. And we will keep you apprised as we move forward together.

Kaberi, Matt, Jill, Dahnesh and Theresa

Meyer's 2020 Annual Funding Opportunitiy is Open
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