We're Taking a Break from Twitter

Meyer Memorial Trust is announcing today an indefinite pause of our engagement on Twitter due to growing concerns about safety and security on the platform. As an organization dedicated to advancing justice, we cannot continue to engage in a space where hate speech and misinformation are allowed to run rampant and unchecked. Yesterday’s dissolution of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council, and other decisions that loosen content moderation standards and reinstate problematic accounts, make our continued participation untenable.

We’ve come to this decision in conversation and consultation with our staff and leadership, alongside research from organizations like the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, Queensland University of Technology and Montclair State University, which have been tracking the uptick in harmful language and misinformation in the week after the company was purchased by Elon Musk. A snapshot of the data is sobering:

  • Anti-Black tweets and retweets tripled from the 2022 average.
  • Anti-LGBTQ2SIA+ rhetoric rose 53% from the 2022 average.
  • Hate speech engagement went from 84 times per hour to 398 times per hour immediately following the acquisition.

A lack of responsible content moderation and account oversight has also fueled documented increases in COVID-19 misinformation, climate denial posts and given new life to election conspiracy theories that undermine our democracy.

Reflection and Responsibility

As the staff member who develops Meyer’s social media content, I know that no platform is perfect. Cyber hate and misinformation have become par for the course in today’s digital landscape and efforts to bolster democratized public discourse and information sharing too often contend with harmful agents for visibility.

My colleagues and I also understand that many of Meyer’s grantees, community partners and peers depend upon Twitter to share stories, spread awareness and fundraise. As a private funder, we recognize it is a privilege to even consider stepping away.

As someone who came of age during the early days of online social interaction, I still believe in the power of social media to connect people in ways that transcend time and space. The digital world is a tool for building community among diverse audiences that could rarely, if ever, exist on word of mouth alone. The ocean of possibilities within social media connectivity have the potential to make waves in transformative change at scale. As a society, we have already witnessed what can be achieved through the power of the collective in the era of virality.

But we cannot rely on a platform that weaponizes a false notion of free speech to abuse the very communities we support. The danger associated with the onslaught of harmful rhetoric and misinformation continues to mount and runs counter to Meyer's mission to accelerate racial, social and economic justice.

While building community may be at the heart of social media, it cannot act as a proxy for deepening relationships. Content is not a substitute for conversation. Purposeful communication requires an honest and transparent dialogue in spaces that respect individual differences and honor personal safety — online or IRL.

What to Expect, What’s Next

The decision to pause Twitter engagement indefinitely will give us time and space to reexamine our approach to promoting healthy conversation within the virtual landscape. We will continue to monitor the platform’s efforts toward moderating hate speech and countering misinformation to determine if and/or when it is safe to return. Our team is also investigating the viability of increasingly popular alternatives like Mastodon.

Meyer will continue to highlight the impact of our grantees and spread ideas worth sharing on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook. We have ended promotion of staff Twitter accounts on our website, but continue to share LinkedIn account information for staffers who engage on that platform. Decisions made by staff about their own personal Twitter accounts and non-Meyer related content are their own.

A Continuing Conversation

We hope to continue listening to and talking with you as we work towards a better future as thoughtful communicators. In that spirit, we’re still advocating for and with communities throughout Oregon and value your partnership and engagement. Want to share your thoughts, have a healthy debate on the future of social media or just pop in to say, hi? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at taryn [at] mmt.org.

For those who are also grappling with how best to respond to the moment, here are some practical resources that may be useful:

Regardless of how you choose to navigate through the tumult — by staying the course or swimming to a different shore — I hope you find healthy discourse and connection.

Warmly,

—Taryn

Twitter headquarters building in San Francisco, CA

Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, California, 2020.

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New Year, New Grants Management Software

Mark your calendars! Our grant operations team is excited to share that on March 1, 2023 Meyer will launch GivingData, a new grants management software and grantee portal.

Our current software, GrantIs, will be taken offline on February 23, 2023.

Why the change?

This transition has been in the works since May 2021 when we formally began our search for a grants management software that would better support Meyer’s community-informed grantmaking framework. Feedback from our grantee partners and staff also prompted us to look for a new system with a more user-friendly interface. GivingData will allow us to collaborate in real time, improve the flow of applications and reports, and keep our grantmaking data in one place. We are especially excited for the external reviewer portal, which is a feature we had on our wish list. We look forward to piloting this function with some future grant cycles.

For Current Grantees

We will be reaching out to existing grantee partners in the coming months with more details on how to navigate the new grantee portal. One substantial change from our current system is that all grantees will need to create and activate a new account for an individual user, rather than on behalf of an organization. Reports that are due after March 1, 2023 will be submitted through GivingData.

For New Applicants

If you expect to apply for a grant from Meyer in 2023, we recommend that you wait to register until our new software is in place.

When Will Meyer Begin Accepting Grant Applications? What happened to the Annual Funding Opportunity?

Meyer is still working out the details of our new grantmaking structure, so we do not yet have specific information to share on current funding opportunities for 2023 and beyond. The Annual Funding Opportunity was retired as Meyer’s main vehicle for grantmaking in 2021.

What’s Next?

We’ll be posting quick guides, FAQs and other helpful resources on our website in the coming months to support a smooth transition. We look forward to working and learning with grantee partners in this new grants management software and thank everyone in advance for their patience and support as we complete this transition.

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An illustration of analysts around a data-filled computer screen and gears in the background.

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Keeping Community In My Heart

Friends and Colleagues,

When I joined Meyer four years ago, I did so with the unwavering belief that following the lead of BIPOC communities was key to realizing our shared vision of an equitable Oregon that works for all. I still carry that vision and that dream in my heart, but will not be continuing on this journey as I leave Meyer in October.

I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to champion and partner with you on so much of the excellent work that is happening now. Deepening our strategy, shifting power, implementing trust-based practices and creating a culture of learning is work that is ongoing. They are efforts that I have worked hard to catalyze and grow. I know they will continue long beyond my tenure here.

The work we have done to move our commitment from equity towards justice and to center intersectional BIPOC wisdom fills me with pride.

In my time here, we were able to increase the grantmaking authority of our CEO and to include community members into grantmaking recommendations. Meyer’s annual grantmaking has increased from $35 million to $45 million. But more importantly, the percentage of general operating grants has grown from 12% to 45% and the percentage of grants supporting BIPOC, immigrants, LGBTQIA+ and people with disabilities increased from 59% to 82%.

Following our community’s lead has allowed us to desilo our work and address root causes — to show up for reproductive justice and other pressing needs in ways that our portfolio structure did not previously allow. I also am grateful for the opportunity to have dreamed and created Justice Oregon for Black Lives, responded to anti-Asian hate and moved resources equitably during both the COVID pandemic and the wildfires.

With our staff and partners, I strove to create a learning arc for our strategy work that allowed us to learn from social justice community members and national leaders as we pushed ourselves to our growing edge. I’ve learned so much from our community, but one lesson resonates particularly deeply: to balance our sense of urgency with the need to move at the speed of trust.

I believe that I am leaving Meyer in a stronger place to be in real service to the community by centering intersectional BIPOC wisdom and making a bold commitment to justice. Meyer has a new CEO at the helm, a dynamic new director of grantmaking in place with a director of learning soon to follow, and an engaged program staff. I look forward to the next chapter and remain, as always, a champion for justice.

In partnership,

— Kaberi

One of my favorite Meyer highlights – interviewing Alicia Garza during Meyer Learning Week

One of my favorite Meyer highlights – interviewing Alicia Garza during Meyer Learning Week

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Writing Meyer's Next Chapter, Together becca.connors Tue, 11/01/2022 - 12:20

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” ― James Baldwin

 

I’ve spent my entire career aiming for impact. My professional experience is rooted in ensuring children and families, particularly those who are furthest from opportunity, have the resources and tools they need to thrive. It’s my hope that the breadth of my experiences — teaching in low-income communities; working for a member of Congress; leading advocacy that advances equity; and serving on the board of a foundation — will serve me well as I prepare to lead Meyer.

For the last 10 years, I fought for changes in how Oregon invests in our children and the education they need to pursue their dreams. It was hard work, often frustrating, and deeply rewarding. I'm grateful for the team I led and proud of what we accomplished together. The organization I led was a Meyer grantee. I saw firsthand how Meyer approached its mission to help advance equity throughout the state.

I have also had the privilege of serving as a trustee at Meyer for the past six and a half years and became board chair just in time to help the foundation navigate the challenges of COVID-19, historic and devastating wildfires, and a racial awakening. My time as a trustee taught me more than I could have imagined — about myself, about the spirit of collaboration, about the power of purpose-driven philanthropy.

During my tenure as a trustee, the board adopted a new mission statement. I am grateful for the small part I got to play in setting the direction for this foundation:

Meyer accelerates racial, social and economic justice for the collective well-being of Oregon's lands and peoples.

I love our new mission for many reasons. Chief among them is that it calls out the need for racial, social and economic justice throughout Oregon. We have a long way to go to achieve our goal, but (as Baldwin reminds us) acknowledging the issue is the first and most important step.

On September 1, I started a new role and a new mandate: to lead Meyer — one of Oregon's largest and oldest philanthropies — into a new chapter, recognizing that change is needed at every level of our culture, and that the pace of change itself must accelerate. Luckily, I’ll have the privilege of working alongside a smart, capable and driven team whose expertise and commitment to justice will drive Meyer’s impact.

There is one staff member whose wisdom I will not get to call on, on a daily basis at least: Meyer's now-former inimitable chief investment officer, Rukaiyah Adams. For eight years, Rukaiyah led Meyer's investment portfolio to record returns, creating more resources from which Meyer could provide grants. I thank her for all she has done for Meyer and for Oregon, and am excited to see what she does next.

Author and advocate Heather McGhee notes that “the sum of us can accomplish far more than just some of us.” The challenges ahead, for our state as much as for our country and our planet, cannot be met by any one individual or organization. It will take collaboration the likes of which we have not seen before — transparent, honest, nimble, responsive, focused and sustained. I am excited to lead Meyer as we take on those challenges in partnership with public and private sector allies.

So, if you read our mission and believe that racial, social and economic justice is needed here in Oregon, let's talk. Nothing can be changed until it is faced, and I say we face it together. It is the only way to build a better Oregon for all of us.

 

In Partnership,

― Toya

A photo of CEO Toya Fick and her family

A photo of CEO Toya Fick and her family

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After Eight Years, Moving On becca.connors Tue, 11/01/2022 - 12:16

After eight years at the helm of investments at Meyer Memorial Trust, I am stepping down as chief investment officer and departing Meyer.

I am incredibly proud of the work my team — along with our stellar advisors, managers and consultants — has done together, growing the trust's endowment from $700 million in 2014 to over a billion dollars in 2022, making it possible for Meyer to grant out $322 million in charitable funds to nonprofits across Oregon. Seeing the impact of our work on the place I've called home all my life has been a true gift, especially given that I directly benefited from Meyer’s philanthropy as a kid in Portland at the Girls and Boys Clubs in North and Northeast Portland and Self Enhancement, Inc.

I also take great solace in knowing how hard the investment team at Meyer has worked to move the needle on diversity, equity and inclusion in the investment world. We've used the levers at our disposal to diversify our pool of asset managers, to push for greater transparency and accountability from those partners, and to make sure our "walk" matches our "talk" when it comes to environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles guiding our investment decisions. I thank my colleagues at Meyer and my wise external counsel for tirelessly (and mostly cheerfully) rowing in the same direction.

Lastly, I am immensely grateful to the world-class team I had the privilege of building, leading and mentoring. Katherine Porras, Stacy Westly and Sohel Hussain are consummate professionals whose brains and hearts are equally invested in their work, because they know how their work shapes Meyer, Oregon and the investment philanthropy space as a whole. The team will remain at Meyer through this transition, with Sohel ably stepping in as interim director of investments.

Change is never easy, but it is inevitable and better embraced than resisted. After eight years, it is time for a change and I am ready.

Thank you for this opportunity to serve and to lead. I'm excited for what is to come.

— Rukaiyah

Aerial view of farmland with a beautiful view of Mount Hood in the background

Aerial view of farmland with a beautiful view of Mount Hood in the background

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Helen Wong joins Meyer as Director of Grantmaking Helen Shum Wed, 06/08/2022 - 11:29

I’m incredibly excited to announce that Helen Wong will join the Meyer team as our new director of grantmaking.

Born and raised in the Seattle area, Helen is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Her identity and experience as a first generation Chinese American woman underpins her passion for equity, reconciliation, and belonging among diverse communities. Helen comes to Meyer from the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery. As a founding member of the nonprofit and its senior director of grant programs, she led the organization’s granting strategy, execution and partnership portfolio in eight countries across the world.

Prior to her role at the Global Fund, she served as a senior policy advisor for Physicians for Human Rights, a co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, and a Foreign Affairs Officer at the U.S. Department of State. Helen has built a career focused on advancing human rights in extremely challenging circumstances.

Helen’s ability to build and inspire strong teams in complex environments will be invaluable as we adopt a new strategic framework and begin the important work of elevating and centering community voice in our grantmaking. Her advocacy, passion and dedication to diverse and marginalized communities is so clearly evident in her experience and background. We are thrilled that she has chosen to bring all of her talents to Meyer.

As director of grantmaking, Helen will oversee Meyer’s program implementation and evolution. She will hold the primary responsibility for translating Meyer’s strategic framework into grantmaking opportunities and manage the resources required to meet our strategic objectives. Helen will build a new program staff structure designed to work in a non-siloed and collaborative way. She will also support the development of new trust-based and participatory funding approaches that advance Meyer’s justice-focused mission.

I am especially looking forward to partnering closely with Helen on Meyer’s strategic direction and advocacy opportunities.

She holds dual bachelor’s degrees in International Relations and Chinese Studies from the College of William & Mary, a Master of Laws in Human Rights from the University of Hong Kong and certifications in executive leadership and nonprofit management from Cornell and Georgetown University, respectively.

In addition to her professional experience in the nonprofit and government sectors, Helen is a trained yoga and empowerment self-defense instructor, a wife and mother to two daughters.

Helen will begin her work at Meyer on June 13.

— Kaberi

Portrait of Helen Wong, Director of Programs

Helen Wong begins work at Meyer on June 13.

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Meyer’s Grantmaking: Three Major Shifts Helen Shum Tue, 05/31/2022 - 11:45

Meyer recently engaged in a strategic planning process that led to a number of changes in our grantmaking process and the values we hold at the center of our work. I recently sat down with Kaberi Banerjee Murthy, Meyer’s chief impact officer, to discuss Meyer's evolving strategy, how the community has informed our decision making and funding approach, and what this all means for our nonprofit partners and allies across Oregon.

 

Roy: How is Meyer changing its approach to grantmaking?

Kaberi: Meyer is making three major shifts to how we practice philanthropy. The first is the shift of our mission, specifically from a focus on equity to a focus on justice. The second is the shift in our grantmaking approach, specifically moving toward trust-based philanthropy and participatory grantmaking. And finally, we’ve shifted to using an explicitly anti-racist, intersectional feminist approach throughout our work.

These shifts are the result of a years-long learning and reimagining process, during which we heard loud and clear from Oregonians that Meyer needs to be in deeper relationship with community and partner differently as we do our work.

Roy: How are these shifts going so far?

Kaberi: I’ve been so humbled and impressed by the hard work and dedication of our staff, nonprofit partners and community members. In my experience, it’s rare for private philanthropy to attempt even one of these substantive shifts, let alone three at once. It’s challenging work, but we’re doing it because we know we need to change in some pretty big ways to deliver on the promises we’ve made to our fellow Oregonians.

Without deliberately shifting the power that comes with Meyer’s resources, platform and prominence from the foundation to our community, we would be impeding justice, rather than accelerating it.

Roy: What do these shifts mean in terms of concrete changes that nonprofit partners will begin to see in the coming months and years?

Kaberi: To me, “trust-based philanthropy,” means embracing an approach to grantmaking that explicitly addresses the inherent power imbalances between funders, nonprofits and communities. It is fundamentally about redistributing power in ways that minimize those power imbalances as much as possible. In concrete terms, that means things like shifting to multi-year, flexible, operating grants; streamlined applications and reporting; and a commitment to building non-extractive funding relationships that are grounded in dignity, mutuality and curiosity.

Roy: Meyer has been explicitly focused on racial justice for several years, but the addition of an “intersectional feminist” framework is new — what can you share about that addition?

Kaberi: It’s no secret that institutional philanthropy was predicated on racist, patriarchal systems of dominance and control. Early philanthropists accumulated much of their wealth through utilization of extractive economies that have created intergenerational harm and have led to the most persistent problems in our society.

If we’re to find antidotes to those harmful ways of being, intersectional feminism will be critical to that unlearning. Angela Davis once said: “When Black women win victories, it is a boost for virtually every segment of society.” In that spirit, one of our guiding questions during planning, as we imagined a multicultural feminist future that works for everyone, was: What would it look and feel like to live in an Oregon in which Black women are thriving?

In addition our belief that intersectional feminism is central to the pursuit of justice, we also know that women, girls, femmes, LGBTQ folks and gender expansive people in Oregon face some of the largest gender-based disparities in the nation. As the Women's Foundation's Count Her In report identified, whether we're looking at rates of violence or child care costs, mental health disparities or wage gaps, gender-based injustice in Oregon harms hundreds of thousands of individuals and families — and our state as a whole.

If our goal is to accelerate racial, social and economic justice in Oregon, we must focus on the intersections of gender, race and class. And with less than 2% of charitable giving nationally going towards gender justice, we believe it is imperitive for Meyer to take an intersectional feminist approach to our work overall and to contribute specifically to this area of social change in our state.

Roy: What was the catalyst for making these big shifts?

Kaberi: For years, there was a growing sense at Meyer that we were making lots of grants that were values-aligned, but hadn’t fully defined what our work was in service to. We felt the need to clarify our vision and deepen our ongoing work to understand what the community is asking of us.

Funding has rarely been informed, let alone determined, by the very communities that foundations say they are committed to serving. Of course, there are exceptions to this. Over Meyer’s four decades of grantmaking, we have tried to break away from these dominant systems in various ways — sometimes we’ve been successful, other times less so.

Through our planning journey, we identified that shifting our mission, strategy, and grantmaking practices would be important changes for bringing clarity to our work. In making these shifts, we are striving to reckon with our power and privilege, centering listening and learning more than dictating and determining, and trusting the communities whose wisdom has long led social justice work.

Roy: When will Meyer begin making funding available through this new framework?

Kaberi: We have already awarded more than $28 million this year between prior commitments and transition grants, and we look forward to awarding the rest under our new framework. Most of this year’s remaining funds will be allocated through participatory means, including funds dedicated to Justice Oregon for Black Lives.

Over the next several months, we will convene advisory tables where community members will be invited to help co-create our participatory grantmaking process and inform Meyer’s strategic approach more broadly. This year we are listening, deepening relationships and trying some things out as we plan for more robust implementation of our framework next year and beyond. I’m looking forward to seeing what unfolds and how we can continue to build on it in the years to come.

 

Graphic illustration from Meyer's Learning Week 2020

A graphic illustration from Meyer's Learning Week in 2020, an important milestone on the journey towards a new strategic framework and approach to grantmaking. Credit: Fred Joe

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Toya Fick Tapped as Next Leader of Meyer Memorial Trust Helen Shum Fri, 04/15/2022 - 11:06

It is with great pleasure that I share with you that the Meyer Board of Trustees has named Toya Fick to be the organization's next Chief Executive Officer. She will be Meyer's fourth CEO in its four-decade history.

Toya is a true champion for children, youth and families throughout Oregon. She has demonstrated her leadership prowess, her understanding of Oregon and her deep commitment to advocacy through partnerships. In her decade at Stand for Children, including as Oregon Executive Director for the last seven years, Toya led the charge to draft Measure 98. Since its passing, Oregon has put over $750 million into high schools across the state, leading to a 40% increase in career-related programs offered throughout the state and a record 6-point increase in graduation rates, with students of color and low-income students making the biggest gains. Toya was also instrumental in the passage of the Student Success Act, Oregon's largest categorical investment in education in state history at $1 billion a year.

On accepting the position, Toya said, "It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as a trustee for the past six years, and I am humbled to be trusted with the awesome responsibility of continuing Meyer’s important work. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance racial, social and economic justice throughout Oregon."

Toya also knows Meyer well, both as a grantee and as a trustee. She has served on Meyer's Board of Trustees for the last six years, and served as Chair during Oregon's historic wildfires, the nation's racial-justice reckoning and the height of the COVID pandemic. In close collaboration with Meyer's executive team, Toya and her trustee colleagues navigated the convergent crises with speed, empathy and boldness, including the launch of Justice Oregon for Black Lives, a five-year, $25 million initiative and the largest in Meyer's history.

Beyond that, Toya has also been a vitally engaged partner with staff and trustees throughout the organization's strategy work. With proven organizational leadership expertise as well as deep relationships across Oregon, Toya takes the helm at a pivotal moment for Meyer, as it introduces a new strategic framework and a new mission statement: To accelerate racial, social and economic justice for the collective well-being of Oregon's lands and peoples.

A resident of Portland, Toya grew up in rural Louisiana and was the first in her family to attend college. She graduated from the University of Chicago and began her career as a teacher with Teach For America. She moved from the school halls to the halls of Congress when she joined the legislative staff of then Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Grateful as she is for the impact she gets to make in her professional life, Toya remains focused on her most important role: mother to two incredible young children who attend Oregon’s public schools.

In closing, Toya is all the things we hope and look for in a CEO: smart, passionate, experienced, empathetic and ready. It is thrilling to think about her potential to continue her strong and meaningful work at Meyer, with our new mission and as we look towards the next chapter in our story. Please join me in welcoming Toya to this new role. I look forward to her leadership in the years ahead.

With gratitude,

— Janet

Toya Fick
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Meyer’s New Mission: Grounded in Justice, Inspired by Community Helen Shum Wed, 02/23/2022 - 09:37

Four years ago, I came to Meyer Memorial Trust to deliver on the mission of a flourishing and equitable Oregon. I leave it now knowing Meyer has a dedicated team ready and excited to deliver on a renewed sense of purpose and a mission worthy of these times. The new mission better reflects what Oregon needs this organization to focus on now: Meyer accelerates racial, social and economic justice for the collective well-being of Oregon’s lands and peoples.

This didn’t happen overnight and I didn’t do it alone. Every step of the way, I was joined, guided and inspired by a deeply committed board and fiercely sharp and passionate staff willing to see the world clearly, reckon with a troubling past, dream of a better future and have the discipline to ask ourselves over and over again: Do our decisions remove barriers or reinforce them? While we looked inward to better live our values, we looked outward to our Oregon communities to show us the way.

A Shift Towards Justice

I entered an organization focused on equity. I leave it focused on justice. This shift is essential. We don’t have to wallow in the past but we ignore it at our peril. We must know and acknowledge our Native histories. We must understand the legacy of white supremacy, colonization and racial exclusion. We must learn from our shared past in order to know what we need to correct from the long-lasting harms and injustices that live on today. We must know on what false promises and faulty premises our systems were built so we can dismantle them and create new ones that deliver on our mission, not make it impossible to achieve.

My life as a Black woman and my experience in academia, government, civil rights and environmental justice advocacy have taught me that power and money are tools. And how they are wielded means everything. When we looked at who we gave grants to and saw that there were few leaders of color on our roster, we knew that meant we were not doing our part to serve all the peoples of Oregon. When we looked and saw that we had no partnerships with tribes whose ancestral lands make up Oregon, we knew that we were not in relationships with the people who we could learn from the most.

Driven by Community, A Sharper Focus on Native-led Efforts

So I committed to making those connections myself, in person. My conversations with tribal communities in all corners of the state helped to lay the groundwork for tangible commitments like adding a dedicated budget line for Native communities in our grantmaking as we continued to infuse funding for Native-focused efforts across all of our programs. But perhaps most critically and among the shared achievements I am most proud of, is the ongoing transformation of Meyer’s culture to reflect a fuller understanding of the interconnected nature of our relationship to Oregon’s land and peoples.

In long-term efforts like the Willamette River Initiative, now Nesika Wilamut, we’ve helped provide the stable infrastructure to shift towards that more evolved mindset. Nesika Wilamut describes itself as a “community-driven network that weaves together people and communities who care about human and ecological well-being in the Willamette River Basin.” I believe passionately in Meyer’s ability to continue iterating, listening and evolving to more fully realize that bolder and more expansive vision of collective well-being that our staff and board now share.

With this wider aperture, and our experience working in and with communities through times of inspiring mobilization and local power-building amid a pandemic, an uprising and a forest on fire, we are now better prepared to see connections across issues, to use our voice to speak to systems of opportunity alongside those of oppression. Meyer is poised to have the impact I imagine Fred Meyer wanted us to have. And we are set up to succeed.

Living our Mission

Words can be powerful, but they’re nothing if not backed up with action. A mission alone is a signal. But a committed staff and board behind a mission are a true force. At Meyer, we take the word “accelerate” seriously. Movement toward supporting community-led and trust-based grantmaking needs to happen faster. And then there’s that word justice. Justice goes beyond building a flourishing and equitable Oregon. It is a commitment to correction. Our commitment to repair and restore.

Meyer is already living our new mission and desire to have deep structural impact. Even before we finalized our future direction, we established Justice Oregon for Black Lives, Meyer’s largest single initiative in our 40-year history. Justice Oregon invests in Black organizations, communities, leadership, families, wisdom and opportunity. We are engaging Oregon’s Black community as the experts on how best to strategically invest in Black success as a way to not only support Black life, but also end a culture of racism that has systemically harmed our lands and peoples since our state’s founding.

By following the lead of communities, Meyer is eager to help cultivate a future where Oregonians root for each other rather than fear each other. “Without community, there is no liberation,” Audre Lorde once wrote, “but community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.”

Our Collective Promise

We need to embrace that Oregon is made up of neighbors. From building our headquarters in a historically Black neighborhood, to advancing economic justice with Latino farmworkers who have long been stewards of our agriculture, to learning from the vast knowledge of our tribal neighbors, we are rich in generational wisdom here in Oregon. Tapping it for our future, learning to live well — not only with each other, but for each other — improves everyone’s well-being.

I am leaving Meyer, but will forever remain committed to its new mission. This is my life’s work. They say it is a privilege to plant a seed for a tree whose shade you won’t enjoy, but I believe this seed is sprouting fast and growing strong. I believe Meyer’s justice-focused, community-centered philanthropy will be a beacon for all who want to live in a more just world. It has been an honor to contribute to it and Oregon’s bright future.

—Michelle

Michelle J. DePass at Meyer groundbreaking

Michelle J. DePass at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Meyer Memorial Trust building in 2019. Credit: Fred Joe

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A Heartfelt 'Thank You'

Dear friends,

As chair of Meyer Memorial Trust's board of trustees, I have had the distinct honor of working side by side with Meyer CEO Michelle J. DePass since she came to lead the organization in 2018. We've become more than valued colleagues; we've become close friends and allies in Meyer's work.

So, it is with deep appreciation to Michelle that I share with you her decision to step down as CEO by the end of February 2022. Her impact on Meyer and on the communities and organizations we serve and partner with cannot be overstated. The trustees and I thank Michelle for her vision, her energy, her focus and her leadership toward racial and gender justice in Oregon.

Below is a message Michelle shared with Meyer staff yesterday. We will be sharing more in the new year about Michelle's accomplishments, what it means for Meyer going forward and how the trustees will find the right person to assume the mantle of CEO.

Michelle – thank you, again. You've led us and inspired us brilliantly.

Sincerely,

Janet Hamada

Board Chair

Meyer Memorial Trust

___________________________

FROM: Michelle J. DePass
TO: Meyer Staff

Dear Meyer family,

When I came to Oregon in 2018 to lead this incredible organization, I had a vision for what we could do together. And as much as I dreamt about where we could go, tapping into each other's support and energy, I am prouder and more grateful than I had imagined I could be.

Over the summer of 2021, Meyer's Board of Trustees – advancing our equity journey – unanimously approved putting racial and gender justice at the center of what we do. We undertook a deep dive into our grantmaking approaches. We developed a strategy that will chart Meyer's course for the years ahead, a trajectory guided by the needs and the wisdom of the communities we serve. I am incredibly excited for us to share more in the new year with our communities about that strategic framework and how it will strengthen our work and transform this place we call home.

In short, the trustees, our executive team and the incredible folks that make up Meyer are a privilege to lead. And while we have weathered the past two years' cavalcade of challenges, we have also done some of the most consequential work in Meyer's nearly 40-year history. Providing funds to urgent needs. Launching just-in-time initiatives while charting a strategic course for the years ahead. Completing our new and green headquarters. Exceeding all expectations on our endowment. All while managing our own lives and the needs of those around us in the midst of a global pandemic and unprecedented social and economic challenges? Nothing short of excellence! I truly cannot overstate how grateful I am to each and every one of you, and to all the Meyer staff I've had the honor of knowing.

Now, as I find myself taking stock of what is needed to move the work forward, I am also thinking about where else I need to show up, lead and care for. And what I know now with total certainty is that my family — my parents, my husband, and my young and growing boys — need me now in a way I can no longer put off.

Therefore, I have decided to step down as CEO of Meyer Memorial Trust by the end of February 2022.

Like any major life decision, it was both extremely difficult and surprisingly clear. I wrestled with it, tried to see another pathway forward, thought about what signals it might send as a woman, as a Black woman, as a CEO. For those of us in the "sandwich generation," finding ourselves juggling care of our parents and our children (and our careers), this is not an unfamiliar conversation. Fair or not, ultimately I understood what I could and couldn't sustain, and where I could and couldn't hand over responsibilities.

I am extremely grateful for having had the opportunity to lead Meyer Memorial Trust to where it is today: a foundation centered in community, rooted in Oregon and focused on racial justice. I am confident that each of you will carry that work forward in ways I cannot wait to cheer on.

I am equally grateful to Janet Hamada, our inimitable and unflinching board chair, for her friendship, leadership and wisdom. And my gratitude extends to the entire board of trustees, who are wholly supportive of my decision. Their commitment to Meyer's next 40 years is beyond reproach.

And lastly, I am grateful to my colleague and friend, Phoebe O'Leary, who has agreed to step in and step up to serve as Interim CEO after I leave. Phoebe, the board and the executive team are already putting in place a transition plan and a pathway to our new CEO in mid-2022. Until then, Phoebe and I will be even more joined at the hip as she prepares to take the helm.

I have plenty of time yet to share with you all my fondest memories and proudest moments. And I am 100 percent confident in the board and the executive team to lead us through this moment, and equally confident in every one of you that your best work is just ahead.

With love and deep gratitude,

Michelle

A portrait of Michelle J. DePass, CEO of Meyer Memorial Trust

A portrait of Michelle J. DePass, CEO of Meyer Memorial Trust. DePass will step down from her position in February 2022.

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