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.

Jill

Photo credit Fred Joe Photos

Photo credit: Fred Joe Photo.

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The story of the Portland Clean Energy Fund is live!

By now, most people in Multnomah County have heard about the Portland Clean Energy Fund (PCEF). The breakthrough 2018 ballot measure—led by a front-line community coalition including Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, Coalition of Communities of Color, NAACP Portland Branch 1120, Native American Youth and Family Center, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon and Verde—raising an estimated $44 million to $61 million annually to support renewable energy, job training, green infrastructure and economic justice projects. The initiative is touted for what it will ultimately accomplish through the investment of these funds, and the story of how this initiative came together is worthy of attention in and of itself.

This week the PCEF coalition released an Executive Summary and full in-depth campaign report that details the coalition’s experiences of building trust within communities of color and with white-majority organizations; securing endorsements with unusual allies; and implementing innovative campaign strategies.

Although front-line communities led the initiative’s creation, it took strong relationships with mainstream environmental and labor organizations to create a successful campaign. These bonds will be critical in achieving the city of Portland and Multnomah County’s 2017 commitment to transition all energy sectors to 100% clean energy. It will take the unique knowledge and lived experiences of each group to ensure these funds result in projects in communities most impacted by climate change while ensuring that people of color can fully participate in the emerging green economy.

As grantmakers, we at Meyer are reflecting on what role our funding might have played in the success of this effort. The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) issued a challenge to foundations to target grant dollars to address the needs of underserved communities and empower them by funding advocacy, organizing and civic engagement. Meyer joined NCRP in 2011 and began supporting communities of color in their efforts to build capacity and expand collaborative power to develop their own policy solutions.

What we’ve learned is that our support can’t stop at the policy win. Meyer has funded multiple projects since 2018 so that the coalition can continue playing a key role in the implementation of the ballot measure as it is established by the city of Portland. Without strong participation by the groups that designed the policy concept, the community values and priorities that have driven this effort are at risk of being de-emphasized or lost altogether.

The grants that Meyer has awarded since the PCEF ballot measure passed include:

  • $143,750 to Verde for the coalition to support early program design work by the nonprofit organizations that led the effort to establish it.
  • $100,000 to the Coalition of Communities of Color to pay for a dedicated staff position to organize and support partner organizations to continue playing a strong role in supporting the implementation of PCEF.
  • $27,000 to Resource Media to develop a communications strategy and tools to share the success of PCEF with other organizations working for a healthy environment

The bottom line is that front-line coalition-led efforts require ongoing, long-term support to ensure that the implementation of their initiatives truly leads to stronger, more resilient communities that will experience the worst of our planet’s climate crisis. You can learn more about PCEF’s efforts in my previous interview with Alan Hipólito.

I look forward to following up in another blog as the coalition's efforts prosper.

Best,

—Mary Rose

A photovoltaic solar panel array near Portland State University in downtown Portland.

A photovoltaic solar panel array near Portland State University in downtown Portland.

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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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Justice Oregon for Black Lives: A five-year, $25 million commitment

George Floyd begged the police for more than 8 minutes not to take his life.

Nearly two months have passed since his videotaped slaying, and hundreds of thousands of people continue to take to the streets to protest brutal policing practices against Black Americans, condemn racism, demand accountability and affirm that Black lives do in fact matter.

Diverse and overwhelmingly peaceful, the protests have had swift, wide-ranging impacts. Here in Oregon, tens of thousands from across the state have shown up amid the coronavirus pandemic to add their voices to the calls for justice. In Portland, Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero ordered “school resource officers” removed from the city’s schools, the Portland City Council approved $15 million in cuts from the Portland Police Bureau budget amidst policy calls to support broader public safety and community well-being, and new, reform-minded district attorneys have pledged to change prosecutorial practices in various jurisdictions including Multnomah County.

I’ll be plain: These local victories are the product of long-standing leadership, activism and direct action by Black leaders, steadfast allies and, especially, Black-led and Black-serving social change organizations, from established mainstays like the Urban League of Portland to grassroots efforts. Six weeks into the protests, the country is in a moment of unprecedented reckoning as systemic and institutional anti-Black racism are laid bare and growing crowds demand real change. In Oregon, we are faced with an urgent opportunity to transform and build anew. Radical change may be more possible today than ever before.

Meyer Memorial Trust, an institution with equity at the heart of our work, will meet the moment by supporting Black resilience in Oregon.

This month, our board of trustees approved the creation of a five-year, $25 million initiative to make strategic investments in Black lives. “Justice Oregon for Black Lives” is the largest initiative in our 38-year history. Its scale recognizes that racial injustice was built into the framework of a state founded on stolen lands and explicit in its exclusion of Black people. Justice is not simply an ideal; it is something Oregonians should expect to see in our everyday lives. This dedicated funding will deepen support for Black-centered organizations, uplift a just system of community well-being and invest in long-term lasting strategic change. By supporting Black-led and Black-serving organizations that intersect with other communities of color, we know that conditions will improve for all Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) in Oregon, and in turn, for all Oregonians.

In an indication of how vitally important this work is to Meyer, we are tapping into our endowment to fund this initiative beyond our usual annual grantmaking.

For six years, Meyer has built towards this moment. We’ve shared our equity journey, which has reshaped our grantmaking, our hiring practices and how we use our privilege, voice and power. Never has it been more clear that the core concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion point to racial justice, to an Oregon that lives up to the ideals it promised to some and withheld from others.

We start now and will build to make our mark. Initial general operating grants totaling $1 million go out this week to five organizations Meyer already has relationships with that are doing transformative work in Black communities. Another $290,000 supports organizations focused on a wide range of issue areas: decarceration and decriminalization, abolishment of the prison-industrial complex, hate tracking and advocacy, redefining public safety beyond policing and cross-cultural approaches to racial justice. We plan to hire a program director* with lived experience to lead the Justice Oregon for Black Lives initiative, deepening our relationships with Black-led organizations and starting new partnerships.

Philanthropic support of Black-led organizations historically falls short and with this infusion Meyer aims to reverse that trend and make this a mainstay of how we invest in Oregon’s future from now on. Oregon’s flawed founding does not predict its future. The times call on us to eradicate racism and right wrongs. We are proud to back leaders who are not only ready but determined to succeed.

Michelle J. DePass

 

*Meyer launched a search for the Director of Oregon Justice for Black Lives on Sept. 14. Learn more here.

A mural in NE Portland honoring Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. | Artist: Christian Grijalva | Photo credit: Tojo Andrianarivo

A mural in NE Portland honoring Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. | Artist: Christian Grijalva | Photo credit: Tojo Andrianarivo

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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.

—Elisa


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: eventbrite.com/e/housing-opportunities-2020-justice-involved-rfp-registration-110711621440. Attendance is encouraged but not mandatory.

Apply soon!
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75 Days

It has been more than ten weeks since Meyer’s offices closed and staff began working remotely when the pandemic hit Oregon. We thought we might be out for two weeks, but, like everyone else, we are adjusting as the world changes around us. 

One thing that hasn’t changed is our value of responsiveness and our commitment to meeting our grantee partners where they are. As a foundation that centers equity in all of our work, we wanted to partner with organizations that gave us the best chance to deliver on that promise in a matter of days, not months. We know that no organization can do it all alone in times like this, so we have partnered with a range of philanthropic peers to ensure that nearly $2 million in grants from Meyer reached all corners of the state. This collaborative and multi-faceted response allowed us to support impacted Oregonians who may otherwise be made invisible in this moment, and to do so quickly by trusting partners who are in closest relationships with those communities to move resources where they are most needed. 

Within the first week of closing our offices, we made grants to relief funds to support communities across Oregon to deal with immediate impacts of COVID-19. As realities of the pandemic continued unfolding and new relief efforts emerged, we contributed to funds addressing needs among some of the populations most impacted by the novel coronavirus, specifically undocumented workers, LGBTQ+ communities, as well as women and girls. Meyer grants in immediate response to COVID-19 include: 

  • $330,000 to MRG Foundation's Community Response Fund to rapidly deploy resources to grassroots organizations working with vulnerable populations at the frontlines of the COVID-19 outbreak in Oregon.  
  • $1 million to the Oregon Community Recovery Grant Program at Oregon Community Foundation, which provides funds to nonprofit service providers in communities across the state that are particularly affected by the outbreak of COVID-19. Meyer staff is now participating on Community Advisory panels for the fund.  
  • $175,000 to Pride Foundation’s Crisis Community Care Fund to help sustain organizations meeting the critical needs of LGBTQ+ communities in Oregon and throughout the Pacific Northwest. 
  • $150,000 to the Women’s Foundation COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund which provides support to domestic violence shelters, survivors of violence, organizations providing basic services to women, behavioral and mental health supports for children and youth as well as advocacy and organizing around gender inequities.
  • $250,000 to the Oregon Worker Relief Fund which provides financial support directly to Oregonians who have lost their jobs yet are ineligible for unemployment insurance and federal stimulus relief due to their immigration status. This fund was created by and is managed by community leaders, and draws on both public and private support, including a $10 million investment from the State of Oregon. 


While $2 million is significant, it is far from the whole of Meyer’s response. Indeed, these immediate resources were deployed at the same time that we opened our Annual Funding Opportunity, through which more than $20 million will be awarded this year. Ensuring that our largest grantmaking process proceeds uninterrupted means that support can flow to work aligned with our strategic portfolios — Building Community, Equitable Education, Healthy Environment and Housing Opportunities — all of which continue to focus on undoing long-standing inequities that are now amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this moment of uncertainty, we are maintaining Meyer’s steadfast commitment to grantmaking. Despite significant volatility in financial markets, we have not reduced our grant budget and we remain committed to staying above the 5 percent payout required of philanthropic foundations.

We prioritized keeping the 2020 Annual Funding Opportunity moving but also offered flexibility, including deadline extensions for organizations requesting a bit more time and even experimenting with a few applicants on accepting proposals they had submitted to other funders. As we continue to adapt our approach to the work to meet our communities where they are at, we will keep listening to and learning from what our grantee partners are experiencing to ensure that our annual funding is responsive to COVID-19 realities. We don’t have it all figured out, but we are trying to meet this moment with flexibility and allow the circumstances to accelerate our learning to embrace more effective and trust based philanthropic practices. 

Like many organizations and communities across the state, we are also thinking about how to address immediate needs, significant and growing as they are, while making space to reimagine the better future Oregonians deserve. We know inequities that existed prior to COVID-19 will persist — and gaps will only widen — if we don’t implement community-driven solutions to build new and more just systems. A significant portion of Meyer’s grantmaking budget for the next year is allocated for just this kind of radical reimagining work. We will continue to use our voice in advocacy and communications to lift up solutions. 

As we move into the next phase of COVID-19 response, Meyer is committed to coming into community with nonprofit partners who understand systemic inequities better than anyone — to help us identify a strategic path forward. They know and we know that a new normal has always been needed. A flourishing and equitable Oregon for all, no exceptions. We are eager and honored to partner with communities to build the future they have dreamed of and worked for. Now is the moment.

— Kaberi

Smith Rock State Park in Oregon

Looking west over Smith Rock State Park in Oregon

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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] mmt.org 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] mmt.org. You can also contact grantops [at] mmt.org 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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2019 Annual Funding Opportunity

Meyer’s grantmaking shifted this year to be more responsive and timely and we were pleased to learn that grantees appreciated this shift. Grants for work aligned with the school year were made in the summer and in the fall we made the rest of our Annual Funding Opportunity grants, a total of 142 grants, totaling $17.5 million. I was incredibly impressed by the work and commitment happening across the state of Oregon from rural to urban settings. You can take a look at the full AFO awards list broken down by portfolio and goal.

Here are the highlights of each portfolio.

Equitable Education

The Equitable Education portfolio received 98 applications requesting $13.5 million in funding, with 40 grants totaling $5.7 million eventually awarded. Similar to previous years, this year’s grant recipients include a balanced mix of urban and rural organizations reaching nearly every corner of Oregon. The Equitable Education portfolio’s continued commitment to equity requires us to remain distinctly focused on projects and programs that meet priority student needs, above all. Without these targeted investments, disparities grow, resulting in even greater inequities in the very classrooms where we are trying to eliminate them.

This year, organizations of all types affirmed their commitment to develop solutions designed to eliminate disparities in public education through policy and systems change and direct response to student needs. Among the Equitable Education grantees in the 2019 Annual Funding Opportunity, a few key themes emerged.

Oregon school districts are developing targeted strategies to advance education equity. Tigard-Tualatin School District, for example, will create a wraparound reengagement program for priority students experiencing school disconnection while Southern Oregon Education Service District will address disparities in hiring and retaining staff of color through improvements in their human resource systems.

Other grantees will bring their experience to statewide systems and policy change. Stand for Children and the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators both recognize that for education equity to take hold in Oregon, our state’s leadership, priorities and policies must better reflect the needs and rich diversity of Oregonians.

Acknowledging the need to balance long-term system and policy impact with the urgency to address and improve achievement and college and career readiness for students, groups such as Together We Are Greater Than, College Dreams and Oregon Campus Compact will focus their efforts on key transitional moments to boost student readiness and/or achievement.

Additionally, organizations such as Black Parent Initiative, Adelante Mujeres and the Center for African Immigrants and Refugees of Oregon (CAIRO) are committed to expanding programs that strategically target priority populations while introducing innovative solutions to address persistent and deeply rooted barriers to student success.

Healthy Environment

The 43 Healthy Environment portfolio grants, totaling $4.8 million, support critical work in rural and urban communities across the state to shift how we work with each other and how we interact with the planet in ways that are grounded in values of justice, ecological sustainability and cooperation. These investments will strengthen front-line and community-based leadership to tackle some of the biggest challenges we face in Oregon: reducing greenhouse gases, shifting how we manage our precious water resources and redesigning land management practices to be adaptive to escalating wildfire risks, smoke and a changing climate, while also maximizing co-benefits for communities that experience disparities.

Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians will lead work with all nine Oregon Tribes to develop tribal renewable energy, energy efficiency, and greenhouse gas policies and investment projects. A collaborative, led by Willamette Partnership, will increase capacity of rural communities of color to advocate for water justice priorities and influence state-level water management discussions that are underway. The Klamath Tribes will sustain their efforts to protect the endangered c'waam and koptu fish by advocating for better management of the Upper Klamath Lake ecosystem.

These are just a few examples of the work we are supporting that will contribute to environmental justice, healthy natural systems, an inclusive environmental movement and community well-being across this remarkable place we call home.

Housing Opportunities

The Housing Opportunities team was able to award 27 proposals, totalling $4.7 million in grants over three years. Meyer is supporting work to build and preserve housing that will be more affordable, give families room to manage their budgets and minimize instances of needing to choose between paying rent or a mortgage and paying for food, medication or school supplies. The investments will also bolster community-based work, grounded in values of equity and inclusion, to bring housing stability to people experiencing multiple forms of systemic oppression. Our partners work to foster stronger, more equitable and effective affordable housing systems using a variety of tools: community organizing and advocacy, applied research, and alignment of housing with health and other systems of care.

A few examples of the work funded in this batch of proposals: Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians is making progress to build 33 affordable homes for Tribal families in Douglas County. Unite Oregon, in collaboration with the Community Alliance of Tenants, is forming the SW Equity Coalition to implement equitable development actions that empower, stabilize and build capacity among communities in the Southwest corridor of Portland. And Clackamas Women’s Services will work with partners to provide housing support and wraparound services for domestic violence survivors of color, immigrants/refugees, and human trafficking survivors in Clackamas County. We are humbled by the challenges that our nonprofit partners regularly tackle in their efforts to increase housing justice in Oregon.

Building Community

As announced in March, the Building Community portfolio followed a modified approach this year, administering the AFO by invitation to a group of existing grantees that have made significant progress toward meeting BC’s anchor criteria: demonstrated commitment to DEI, engagement in systems change work and raising up constituent voice. In total, 32 organizations received funding totaling $2.27 million.

Organizations in this group work in a broad range of issue areas and with varied approaches. Innovation Law Lab employs a novel legal framework that breaks immigrant rights work into component parts to help visualize and realize pathways to immigrant inclusion. Unite Oregon’s work recognizes that urban models of community organizing do not easily translate to rural communities and that deep differences in language, culture and world view can inhibit potential allies from working together for solutions. Project Access NOW is formulating a referral system that can be more responsive to community health needs. They are doing this through an approach that allows community health workers at community-based organizations to broaden and strengthen impact among communities of color by referring uninsured or underinsured clients to health systems for care.

In addition, the Building Community team launched a small funding opportunity to learn alongside direct service providers that are working to deepen their work toward systems change. Twelve organizations from around the state were selected to participate in a series of three convenings and, as the program concludes, receive funding for a project to deepen their organizational capacity for engaging in systems change work. Funding is expected to total $850,000.

As you can see, there are many organizations doing incredible work in Oregon. It is an honor for us at Meyer to be partnering with these organizations that work so diligently to ensure that underrepresented people’s voices are lifted and cared for. I look forward to continuing to learn more about Oregon and the amazing organizations out there.

You can stay up-to-date with future funding opportunities from Meyer and our outreach plans when you subscribe to our e-newsletter here.

Kaberi

Meyer's 2019 Portfolio Grant Awards

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Photo caption: Foreground, waves crash along the shoreline near an Oregon coast cliff. Background, rays of light radiate from a coastal lighthouse into the Pacific Ocean. Photo credit: Jamie Francis Photography.

Photo caption: Foreground, waves crash along the shoreline near an Oregon coast cliff. Background, rays of light radiate from a coastal lighthouse into the Pacific Ocean. Photo credit: Jamie Francis Photography.

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Engaging internally for stronger impact externally

This time last year, I was in conversation with Meyer staff and leadership about the foundation’s new Director of Program Strategy position. I was excited to think about joining a team that centered equity and lived experience in philanthropy. My career has been intensely focused on building partnerships with grantees and community members, and as I relocated here in January, I eagerly looked forward to connecting with our partners throughout Oregon. I am pleased to have made a number of trips out of Portland to meet with grantees, funders and community members — and one memorable visit to Multnomah Falls with my husband and two young sons — but, candidly, most of my time has been focused on wrapping my arms around the work internally.

That means I’ve used 2019 to deepen my connection with the Meyer’s team, assess our annual funding opportunity process, evaluate our grantmaking work overall and, most importantly, try to learn what the field asks of us and to implement strategic changes to be more responsive. The opportunity for centering grantees in our strategy work is an approach I’m excited to highlight here.

In a shift from years past, we tweaked Meyer’s 2019 Annual Funding Opportunity to be more flexible and timely. All four of our portfolios worked hard to get resources out the door quickly to organizations that needed funding sooner than our typical late fall AFO announcement.

Nowhere is that shift more obvious than Meyer’s Equitable Education portfolio. Schools and districts have made clear the importance of receiving funding prior to the start of the school year in September. You spoke; we listened. This batch includes 18 grants, totaling $2.5 million, nearly all for efforts set to launch with the new school year.

You’ll find the full list of awards made since spring here.

Another big piece of work centered around our Building Community portfolio, which has awarded 39 grants totaling more than $2.4 million since April: This year, we offered an invitation-only closed funding opportunity to refine our focus on systems-level change and direct-service providers. Clarifying those changes led to a robust response to an RFP supporting direct service — you’ll notice those awards among the latest batch of general operating grants, all organizations holding up key pieces of work to make Oregon a flourishing and equitable state. The Building Community portfolio team spoke about these changes (and more) in this interview and FAQ page.

The Building Community portfolio also released a report this summer on two years of Nonprofit Sector Support, shepherded by Carol Cheney, who became Meyer’s DEI manager earlier this year. In case you missed the report summary, it outlines grants Meyer awarded to organizations in 2016 to advance leadership in support of equity and capacity building for diversity, equity and inclusion practice within the nonprofit sector. Meyer worked closely with grantees who engaged in peer learning through 2018. The report reflects shared learning. I invite you to take a look at the summary, here.

For the past several years, Meyer’s environmental funding was delivered through two streams: the Willamette River Initiative for river-related grantmaking and our Healthy Environment portfolio, for statewide work. Together, Meyer’s environmental funding since April amounted to 30 grants totaling $1.8 million. This fall, the 10-year WRI will end, actively transitioning to an independent organization. So the time had come to add a program officer to what had been our smallest portfolio. Hiring a program officer for our environment portfolio increases the team’s capacity to partner deeply with our grantees across Oregon. Meet Mary Rose Navarro.

In addition to grantmaking, Meyer’s Housing Opportunities portfolio hosted its second Equity Housing Summit this summer, a daylong event for housing-focused or homeless service providers to share strengths, insights and lessons to advance diversity, equity and inclusion efforts specifically in rural spaces. You can learn more about the summit in a new blog post from our Philanthropy Northwest Momentum Housing Fellow, Lauren Waudé. You’ll also find resources from the summit, including speeches, materials and the land recognition that started off our day, here. All told, 19 Housing Opportunities grants since April total nearly $1.5 million.

Beyond our portfolio specific awards, Meyer occasionally makes grants to respond to timely needs and opportunities. Since April, Meyer has awarded 24 such grants, totaling $470,000, in support of philanthropy and through the Oregon Immigrant and Refugee Funders Collaborative.

The change in season means we’re approaching the announcement of grantmaking funded through Meyer’s 2019 AFO in November. I look forward to sharing more with you then — and I am especially committed to connecting more directly with community over the next year.

Kaberi

From left to right, Vikram, Vikas, Kaberi and Kavi smile for a family photo in front of Multnomah Falls.

From left to right, Vikram, Vikas, Kaberi and Kavi smile for a family photo in front of Multnomah Falls.

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