Justice Oregon for Black Lives was born from the depths of overwhelming heartbreak — a response to the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and multiple other overlapping traumas that fueled a growing movement to end systemic and structural racism. The initiative also recognized the urgency and opportunity we had to transform institutions, systems and narratives in Oregon, a state founded on stolen lands and explicit in its constitutional exclusion of Black people.
As we began developing a set of funding priorities in conversation with community advisors across the state, issues of public safety, education and economic justice were clearly top-of-mind. We also heard about two other important priorities that Meyer had less experience in funding — efforts to promote healing and to increase Black joy.
In February, we announced our first round of awards from the inaugural Call for Proposals that addressed the first three priorities — Reimagining Public safety, Investing in Education and Economic Justice.
Now, it gives me great pleasure to share the names of the organizations that will be doing the equally important work of Addressing Trauma and Healing and Shifting Black Narrative through Arts and Culture.
I want to emphasize equally important because it truly is. We cannot rise out of the depths of a collective trauma without also committing to the work needed to restore and reclaim our souls and our stories.
Our team has been heartened by all the different ways that grantees have addressed these outcomes in their applications and we cannot wait to see the lift in hearts and spirits that this work will inspire. We also want to express our gratitude for the patience of these organizations, some of whom have waited a year for funding as we balanced our desire for urgency with our responsibility to design a community-informed, fair and clear process.
A few highlights of the awards:
Black Art/ists Gathering will realize their vision of increasing Black joy as they host an intergenerational convening of Black artists.
Bridge-Pamoja will have resources to promote healing practice to mend cultural rifts between African and African-American communities in Oregon.
The Community Doula Alliance will support Black doulas in practicing their cultural and traditional birth and postpartum models of care.
What could be more joyful than a brand new baby coming into this world, surrounded by love and caring? It’s our hope and our future.
In all, nearly $1.9 million will go to 17 organizations, including eight first-time awardees and four organizations that work outside of the Portland Metro area. We are excited to partner with so many new organizations — to connect with you and to connect you with one another, for an even more powerful and enduring impact on our incredible community.
Though August has been designated Black Philanthropy Month, we recognize that this work is ongoing and requires sustained commitment to thrive.
In that spirit, I want to note that our 2022 Call for Proposals is now live. One key thing to know is that we are accepting applications for all five community-identified priorities in this round. In response to feedback from our community, we have also extended the window for submitting an application from four to six weeks and will continue to accept applications prepared for other funders, as well as video applications as an alternative to written narratives. More information and resources can be found here.
Intentionally funding Black joy is just one step on a long road to true liberation. As we move forward together, let’s make this path a well-worn one.
“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.
Staying Focused on Community
Helen ShumWed, 01/26/2022 - 13:10
Over the summer of 2021, Meyer's equity journey reached a new milestone with the unanimous board approval to use an anti-racist, feminist lens to build an Oregon that works for all. In pursuit of that goal, we are reimagining how we work alongside and support our partners, by desilo-ing our work to support communities, change systems and strengthen movements.
Changing the way Meyer will work has been an exercise in listening and learning . As we move away from our previous model of grantmaking (the Annual Funding Opportunity) to anexciting new direction, we're taking lessons from all we’ve learned in partnership with community through our equity-focused grantmaking and our pivot five years ago, to ensure Meyer grantees continue to be supported throughout this process.
We recognize that the needs of our communities and grantees are ever present and that time and transparency is essential to our work. As such, we have unconditionally extended many of our recent grants beyond their current scope in order to provide funding to our grantees while Meyer develops new models and processes for the future. We know the work of our grantees doesn’t stop and we are committed to supporting our partners, even as we work to find more trust filled ways to partner more deeply into the future.
Earlier this month, Meyer approved $16 million in grants to 208 organizations across the state of Oregon. Nearly two-thirds of that funding is for operating support, because that is where we heard the need was.
Thanks to the wisdom and insight of our grantees, we are also significantly easing reporting requirements. Details may vary, but on the whole, grantees will be relieved of most, if not all, of the reporting requirements that they've had to meet in the past. Meyer will be following up with individual grantee organizations with more specific guidance.
Looking ahead, we will be creating new ways of working this year, by closely partnering and listening to our communities as we collaborate to develop new funding opportunities which will launch in the second half of the year. We will continue to share information as plans emerge, including on this frequently asked questions page.
We deeply appreciate the incredible people and organizations that make up the Meyer grantee community. This new year promises many new opportunities and we are excited to continue working together for a more just Oregon.
Meyer’s Grantmaking, Now and Into the Future
Helen ShumWed, 12/15/2021 - 15:41
As I think back to the start of this year, I remember the promise 2021 seemed to hold — that a vaccine would come so we would emerge from the pandemic, and we would use what we learned to build an Oregon that works for all instead of returning to one that only worked for a few. Instead, we lived through another year of the pandemic, first with the Delta variant and now, the looming spectre of Omicron. And though I was thrilled when my two kiddos finally became eligible for the vaccine in November, that joy was tempered by the knowledge of what COVID has underscored: so many — especially BIPOC children and families — continue to be underserved in ways that are vital for their continued health, safety and future success.
Throughout this continually challenging year, Meyer has been working to meet the moment by being responsive and flexible so our grantee partners can continue to do their important work. We have simplified our processes, removed reporting requirements and moved to larger, general operating multi-year commitments. In addition, our staff and board have been working on a strategy process that has allowed us to listen, learn and think deeply about our collective future.
Through this endeavor, we’ve come to recognize that Meyer’s own system of grantmaking must evolve to better meet the needs of Oregonians. While our Annual Funding Opportunity (AFO) has served as Meyer’s open call for proposals since 2015, the 2021 AFO is our last.
Beginning in 2022, Meyer will be working closely with our communities to design a funding process that is more integrated and fundamentally community-centered. It will be a process that better aligns with our new strategic framework: to use an anti-racist feminist lens to strengthen movements, change systems and support communities to build an Oregon that works for all.
From Barriers to Bridges
For those who have been following Meyer’s work over the last few years, this change likely comes as no surprise. As Meyer’s focus on racial justice has grown, so has the recognition that the challenges facing BIPOC Oregonians are not singular or distinct in nature. As our communities named, and Audre Lorde reminds us, “there is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” In moving towards a new way of organizing ourselves and our approach to this work, we acknowledge that our identities, our challenges and our institutions are complex and intersectional.
In truth, Meyer’s portfolios have already been funding work that strengthens movements, changes systems and supports communities. Here are a just a few examples from this past year’s grant awards:
$200,000/2 year operating support grant to Forward Together, which focuses on uniting communities to win rights, recognition, and resources for all families. They bring a strong intersectional lens to their work building power among BIPOC Oregonians through political education, advocacy, cross-sector alliances and raising the visibility of BIPOC leadership.
$185,000 to The Klamath Tribes, for support of legal work and advocacy to advance the Klamath Tribes’ efforts to protect the endangered C'waam and Koptu fish through better management of the Upper Klamath Lake ecosystem. This work is vitally important, and all the more urgent due to the severe drought this year that led to the lowest water flows that have ever been recorded in the Klamath Basin.
$77,000 to Downtown Languages and Huerto de la Familia to merge with Centro Latino Americano and collectively create a Latinx wellness hub in Lane County that is focused on education and leadership development. They are also participating in civic engagement and small business development. With the proper support, including a recent general operations grant of $200,000, the expanded Centro Latino Americano is bringing together a deeply segregated and marginalized community to have a central home and space of wellness.
Increasing Collaboration and Trust
We are also looking to partner more with our communities, through deeper trust-based practices and more participatory grantmaking. Efforts like the Community Rebuilding Fund and the Oregon Immigrant and Refugee Collaborative are examples of areas in which we have found that working in coordination with peer funders and other partners allows us to leverage resources and streamline processes to more rapidly and efficiently respond to emerging crises.
Our Justice Oregon for Black Lives initiative also continues to serve as a way for us to learn and build a community-informed grantmaking process that incorporates more trust-based practices into Meyer’s grantmaking process. We’ve been inspired by and continue to draw from the wisdom and power of the Black community in designing a funding process that addresses the needs of Black Oregonians, as expressed by Black Oregonians.
As we close out this year and look to the future
In total, our 2021 AFO has distributed more than $19 million in funding through 124 grants, a significant portion of the 216 grants and $27 million awarded so far this year. A full list of all our grant awards is available here.
As we transition, we make this promise: Meyer grantmaking will continue throughout 2022. We are not pausing or stopping funding next year. We will be connecting, listening, co-creating and sharing with our staff, partners, grantees and larger community as we build towards the future.
Despite the many struggles facing our communities and challenges facing our collective well being, I am excited and energized by our shared trajectory. I want to share my deep gratitude to our internal staff and board, to Public Equity Group and to those in our broader community who have already helped us to get to this point. I hope to deepen our conversation and kinship as we chart this new course together.
Welcoming Afghan Refugees to Oregon
Helen ShumThu, 09/23/2021 - 15:05
The decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan in August and the stunningly quick fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban have led to the evacuation of more than 124,000 Afghan men, women and children from the country.
Though they are often collectively referred to as refugees, the actual legal status of these evacuees varies. About 5,500 are U.S. citizens. Those who worked directly for or with the U.S. government were eligible for Special Immigrant Visas, which offers an established pathway for permanent residency and citizenship in the United States. The Biden administration has also granted a special humanitarian parole created by the Immigration and Nationality Act to express the departure of those whose lives were especially at risk under Taliban rule, including women and girls, human rights workers and journalists.
A majority of Americans across party lines support bringing Afghan refugees into the United States. But years of Trump era anti-immigrant rhetoric and anti-immigration policies have eroded the structural systems needed to handle the administrative, legal and other complexities for those seeking asylum.
Oregon is one of 20 states that have offered to assist with the resettlement of the evacuees. But what does it mean to truly welcome and support these new arrivals? What role can Meyer — and philanthropy more broadly — play in ensuring that Oregon’s newest residents are not only allowed to exist in their adoptive home, but are truly included and integrated as valued members of our community?
While humanitarian parole allows individuals to enter and stay in the United States without a visa, it does not connect them to the established welcoming and integration services associated with official refugee status. Without this status, many of those entering the United States are ineligible for financial, food and health care benefits, employment assistance or access to English language classes.
While the Biden administration, Congress and other advocates are working on remedies, Meyer and its funder partners in the Oregon Immigrant and Refugee Collaborative (OIRFC) are working quickly to respond to the immediate need for assistance. Meyer, through the OIRFC has designated $300,000 in grants to the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO).
The following two grants will support efforts to grow legal capacity and resources for incoming Afghan arrivals. One agency offers cultural, religious and linguistic competency as well as a promising recently launched immigration legal department. The other has a fully established legal team ready to handle these complex and urgent cases. These agencies will partner to efficiently and effectively meet the human and legal needs of Afghan arrivals to Oregon.
Immigrant and Refugee Community of Oregon (IRCO)
Grant of $200,000 to prepare to provide services for an influx of refugees from Afghanistan following the fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban.
Established in 1978, IRCO works to promote the integration of refugees, immigrants, and the community at large into a self- sufficient, healthy and inclusive multiethnic society. IRCO’s 500-plus staff is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse workforces in Oregon, collectively speaking 98 languages and representing 73 ethnicities, with 72% identifying as immigrants or refugees.
Since the Immigrant Legal Services (ILS) program at IRCO was launched two years ago, it has provided legal services to thousands of immigrants and refugees. It is the only nonprofit legal service provider founded and led by immigrant and refugee community members that can provide services in more than 90 languages. ILS has provided refugee/asylee status adjustment, naturalization, disability waivers, work permits, green card renewals and certificates of citizenship. It has supported clients in deportation proceedings, including asylum and cancellation of removal applications; and has linked newcomers to basic needs and other social services.
As the only immigration law office in a community-based organization, IRCO ILS is particularly suited to provide culturally and linguistically specific services to the many refugees from a vast number of immigrant communities that will be making Oregon their home. It has applied to the Office of Refugee Resettlement and is expected to become a designated refugee resettlement agency by January 2022.
Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO)
Grant for $100,000 in preparation to provide culturally and linguistically specific services for an influx of refugees from Afghanistan.
With a mission of bringing together Oregon's diverse faith community to work for the common good, EMO offers direct service programs, educational dialogue and public policy advocacy to both address the immediate needs of Oregon's most vulnerable communities and to provide a values-based platform for the creation of a more just, compassionate, socially aware and engaged society.
EMO’s legal immigration department, SOAR Legal, has served Oregon’s low- and no-income immigrant population since 1992. Every year, it provides culturally competent and trauma-informed immigration related legal representation and education to over 2,700 refugees and immigrants. SOAR Legal plans to create a large-scale training campaign for the broader attorney population to increase their ability to serve clients.
The OIRFC will be meeting with the other resettlement agencies in Oregon — Lutheran Community Services Northwest and Catholic Charities — to discuss anticipated needs as we get more word about Afghan immigrant arrivals. We have been told to expect approximately 180 Afghans over the next few months, with possibly more to come. I am hopeful that Oregonians will do what we can to truly welcome and support each and every one.
On this day 230 years ago, an uprising in Santo Domingo (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) played a pivotal role in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Today marks the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. It is in the spirit of that remembrance — and the recognition of the ongoing anti-Black racism and injustice that continues to exist — that Meyer Memorial Trust is honored to launch its first ever Call For Proposals (CFP) for the Justice Oregon for Black Lives initiative.
The police killing of George Floyd in 2020 reenergized a national movement for structural justice, an end to systemic racism and a reckoning with the intersecting legacies of white supremacy. At Meyer, we envision a future where Oregon transforms into the antithesis of its original design as a white utopia, spurred from ambivalence towards racial justice and a culture of anti-Blackness. We’re investing in those communities, leaders and organizations that are building an Oregon where racism, particularly anti-Black racism and its creation at the behest of white supremacy, is acknowledged and long-term, systemic racist policies are dismantled.
Justice Oregon for Black Lives is a critical part of that ongoing effort, created to deepen Meyer’s commitment to Black-led and Black-serving organizations, support public safety and community well-being and foster long-term strategic change. Our funding priorities for this round will focus on three strategic priority areas identified as highest priorities by our community:
Investing in Education
Reimagining Public Safety
We are currently working on the goals and outcomes for two additional community-identified focus areas: Shifting Black Narrative through the Arts and Culture and Addressing Healing and Trauma for Black Communities.
Today we not only remember the pain and trauma of the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition, but also the resilience, resistance, joy and strength that have allowed us to persevere and persist. With this CFP, we recommit ourselves to harnessing the momentum toward racial justice.
For more information and applicant resources, please see our newly updated webpage. We also hope to meet potential grantees at one of two upcoming information sessions. Please register through the links below.
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:
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?
What ways can corrections and housing systems align to support individuals who have been justice-involved so they can reintegrate into communities successfully?
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.
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.
Looking back, looking ahead: how we’re responding to COVID-19
darionMon, 02/15/2021 - 16:08
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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