Meyer Memorial Trust is excited to announce that Kimberly Melton will join us as our first vice president of impact. The newly-created role will oversee Meyer’s strategic implementation, specifically the work of its programs, evaluation, grant operations and communications staff.
Melton has more than a decade of experience leading teams and complex projects, working alongside stakeholders to build community-wide plans. As chief of staff to former Multnomah County Chair, Deborah Kafoury, she was responsible for developing the office’s overall policy agenda, overseeing the county’s policy offices, special projects and budget process. She also coordinated the County’s COVID-19 Policy Leadership Team to support decision-making on key issues through the pandemic, including mandates, new initiatives, partnerships, equity policies and locations for community testing and vaccinations.
As a senior advisor, Melton also led policy initiatives to transform the county’s investments in immigration, youth programs and culturally specific services.
Melton and Meyer CEO, Toya Fick met in 2012 at educational advocacy nonprofit Stand for Children. Melton was the state communications and regional organizing director and Fick was the state government affairs director.
“I have been in awe of Kim's brilliance, warmth and passion for community since the day we met," Fick said. "Kim had covered the Legislature as a journalist and was a veteran of state policy and politics. As a newcomer to Oregon politics, I spent the better part of our time together learning as much as humanly possible from her.
Her breadth of accomplishments, intelligence and lived experience uniquely position her to take on this role. Her approach to community transformation is rooted in building relationships, collaboration and leading from a place of grace and integrity.”
Melton began her professional career as a journalist in New Orleans, Louisiana and joined The Oregonian in 2004, where she covered education, state government and politics.
As a board member at Social Venture Partners, a venture philanthropy organization, she served on a team of staff and stakeholders that launched the community efforts to bring preschool to all children in Multnomah County. She was also part of the Oregon Community Foundation’s Metro Leadership Council for six years and served on the team that launched Oregon’s Black Student Success Project and the GoKids! program.
Raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Melton cites her father as an inspiration and influence.
“Though my Dad worked at a hotel by day, in the evenings and on weekends, he was also a community organizer for churches focused on social justice causes,” Melton said. “Sitting in the back of church fellowship halls watching their work helped me understand the power of listening to community voices, working across boundaries and belief systems to create real change and doing so grounded in grace, service and justice.“
Melton holds a Masters in Journalism from the University of California at Berkeley and a Bachelors in African and African American Studies from Stanford University.
She starts work at Meyer on Sept. 27.
Kimberly Melton, Meyer's new Vice President of Impact
It’s been a couple of months since the 2023 Legislative Session wrapped up. Despite the session’s bumpy trajectory caused in large part by the longest lawmaker walkout in Oregon’s history, we found lots to celebrate in the slate of new laws passed to address Oregon’s most pressing challenges.
Portfolio Director Jill Fuglister shares how the new legislation aligns with Meyer’s own understanding of how investments in our community, environment and the economy can work in concert to advance change. You can also review direct links to legislative summaries produced by our partners at the end of this post.
From your point of view, are there any themes to highlight that were of particular interest to you this session or that align particularly well with Meyer’s mission focus or future direction?
I think the bills that offer what we call cross-cutting impact - meaning they solve multiple challenges at once and/or deliver numerous co-benefits across issues is a pretty prominent theme. At Meyer we’ve been talking and thinking a lot about the interrelationships of the problems we aim to solve, so to see legislation that reflects and can work to address that complexity is really exciting.
Can you share an example?
Of course! There’s a set of climate and clean energy bills that passed that we refer to as the climate resilience package. Collectively, it puts $90 million towards increasing the use of things like heat pumps, solar panels, clean energy storage, electric trucks and buses - with an emphasis on reaching communities with the greatest needs. Also the creation of community resilience hubs which will make energy efficiency and clean energy more affordable, and support the build-out of microgrids and sequestering carbon in forests and farms.
The package offers the opportunity to support climate resilient landscapes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but they also help to generate wealth building opportunities through investment in new businesses, entrepreneurship and workforce development to support decarbonizing our economy and infrastructure.
It also puts Oregon in a position to tap into the trillions of new federal investments available from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, both of which are underpinned by a commitment to racial equity.
A lot of the challenges that are being addressed through legislation are obviously issue areas that Meyer has also been directing funding to. Can you share more about the relationship between this latest legislation and Meyer’s grantmaking?
One of the aspirations for Meyer’s future grantmaking is to de-silo our programs and work more collaboratively with other funders and across sectors to achieve cross-cutting impact. We believe this approach is central to building more holistic solutions that can consistently advance justice goals, while also supporting what’s needed to be in right relationship with nature. So in that sense, it’s heartening to see that lawmakers also recognize that taking an integrated approach to complex challenges is a smart strategy.
Can you explain what you mean by “right relationship with nature” and why that’s important?
Well, I think it starts with recognizing that we’ve been socialized and schooled over many generations to break things down and split problems, ideas and solutions into discrete pieces to understand the world around us. Yet this separation of different communities and people from nature as well as ignoring the relationships between the two, is a root cause of oppression, racism and extractive capitalism and the far-reaching, multi-generational harm they have caused.
To achieve systems change and overcome the shortcomings of focusing on problems in isolated ways, we must build an intelligence that centers interdependence and networks of relationships between issues, communities and ecosystems. Without this necessary shift, our progress toward a just and flourishing future for all will continue to be incremental and incomplete.
Any cautionary tales from that more isolated approach that you’d want to highlight?
I think what’s unfolding in the Housing Production Advisory Council is a timely example. The council is responsible for developing a plan to address Oregon’s critical housing shortage which is, of course, a laudable goal that I support, but there are also some concerning recommendations that are emerging, especially those that propose to set aside environmental protections in an effort to more quickly build new housing.
If these ideas move forward, it could mean building new housing in wetlands and floodplains, areas that will experience more frequent and severe floods as a result of climate change. It could also mean setting aside tree planting requirements, a vitally needed source of shade and cooling in our rapidly warming climate as well as a cornerstone of urban wildlife habitat. I’m worried that those who will be most harmed by this are the same folks who are already vulnerable in the face of the climate crisis and Oregon’s affordable housing crisis; communities of color, tribes and other historically marginalized communities. So I hope to see the Council course correct soon to avoid these unintended consequences.
Thank you, Jill! Any final thoughts?
I’m thinking about what happens after legislation is passed, the implementation of the policy successes of our partners. We know that they often struggle to find the resources they need to stay engaged over the long haul to ensure their hard fought wins get implemented well. This gritty work of slogging through creating new regulations, rules and responsibilities is where the rubber meets the road on policy and needs the same kind of vigilance to bring good ideas to fruition in communities. It’s yet another example of what it means to think about the whole picture, interdependence and relationships, and work in a way that reflects this.
Legislative Summaries from our Partners
Have another summary you’d like us to add? Please share it via email to: communications [at] mmt.org (communications[at]mmt[dot]org).
State Capitol Building, Salem, Oregon. Stock image.
“Realizing as I do the uncertainties of the future, I want my trustees to be able to exercise broad discretion in shaping and carrying out charitable programs which can be tailored to fit changing conditions and problems."
When Fred G. Meyer established what we now know today as Meyer Memorial Trust, he offered what I consider to be a brilliant invitation — to think expansively and creatively about how to best address the greatest societal challenges of our time. Thanks to Mr. Meyer’s vision, we have been given the freedom to dream big from our very inception.
As the fourth person to lead this organization in its more than 40-year history, I benefit from the imagination and foresight of my predecessors. I am grateful for the work of Doug Stamm, who set Meyer on a path towards a vision of an equitable and flourishing Oregon, and for Michelle DePass, who built on that effort, pushing for a bold response to Oregon’s founding as a whites-only utopia. Through her leadership and with board support, we resolved to center communities of color in 2021, recognizing that eliminating race-based disparities was central to our collective dream of community well-being.
As a Trustee at Meyer for six years prior to my appointment as CEO, I’m so proud to have been a part of our evolution from equity towards an explicit commitment to racial, social and economic justice.
I’m especially grateful for the conversations Meyer has had with Oregon’s diverse communities, for the continuing wisdom gained through our launch of the Justice Oregon for Black Lives initiative, and all that we’ve learned through a robust strategic planning process.
While we have never stopped grantmaking throughout this time, we know that grant seekers have been waiting patiently to find out what all of this listening, learning and planning will mean for them in practice moving forward.
Familiar Issues, A New Way Forward
Those who are familiar with Meyer will recognize that many of the issue areas we funded in the past continue to be represented in Meyer’s new funding priorities.
Ultimately, we are working towards an Oregon that supports and advances:
Our Empowered Youth
Where our children have access to a fully resourced education that helps them to realize their highest ambitions.
Our Collective Prosperity
Where everyone is able to support themselves, their families and their communities while building wealth for the next generation.
Our Resilient Places
Where we care for our natural and built environments in ways that are rooted in culture and community.
Woven into our collective vision of the future is the belief that:
Together, We Rise. We all benefit when we ensure organizations are effective and have the capacity to fulfill their missions, support strong networks of leaders of color and build community capacity to advocate for systems change.
In addition, we aim to deepen our focus and impact by increasing dedicated support for funder partnerships that serve Our Shared Purpose.
These last two funding areas, Together, We Rise and Our Shared Purpose, are key aspects of our new approach to funding. By working in coordination with peer funders, our business community and government, Meyer believes it can more fully leverage its resources towards efforts that improve the lives of Oregonians today and for generations to come.
I’ll be in conversation with many of you about Meyer’s new approach to grantmaking over the next few months, with special attention to learning more about where we might collaborate and partner.
Our program team continues to move dollars out the door through continuation grants and other means. We plan to share our open call application and guidance later this year. See our FAQ for more information and sign up for our newsletter to receive updates.
I am tremendously excited about the journey we are on and I am extending the invitation, as our founder did more than 40 years ago, to dream and think big with us.
Educators of color sing during a mindfulness activity at the 2023 Oregon Collective Summit
Gathering during a pandemic, as a diaspora, as visionaries of an abundant future — in every and all ways — is revolutionary. There is power in coming together.
From August to October 2022, Latine/x/a/o community leaders across Oregon came together to envision the future for their community, provide candid feedback to inform Meyer’s developing work and grantmaking, and make a call to action for Meyer and philanthropy at large. I am excited to share this resulting report in english y en español as a witness to those conversations, which were part of a series of community engagement sessions hosted by Meyer.
The wisdom and foresight shared in these pages invite private and public funders to join in a reciprocal partnership with the Latine/x/a/o community and to take the bold action that is needed to address inequities in complex systems.
Representing the youngest ethnic community nationally and the largest in the state, participants brought their unique perspectives and challenges to these conversations. Yet, their framework for creating change is expansive and rooted in collective liberation, allowing room for creative tension. We invite you to experience this report as documentation of a community's dynamic imagination as they join in solidarity with the intent to hold each other and institutions accountable to a collective vision for the future.
Witnessing the individual and collective power summoned by these conversations left me feeling hopeful for what is possible as we, in philanthropy, lean into the community's lead.
After a year and a half at the helm of communications, Roy Kaufmann is leaving Meyer.
Roy joined the organization in 2021 and partnered with former CEO Michelle J. DePass, to guide Meyer to its new mission of accelerating racial, social and economic justice in Oregon. During his time with Meyer, Roy provided a steady hand as the organization navigated leadership transitions and a strategic planning effort. We will remember his commitment to the work, sense of humor and candid voice as he moves on to his next chapter.
His last day will be March 1.
Roy Kaufmann, Meyer Memorial Trust 2021
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:
- Thinking of quitting Twitter? Here’s everything you should know
- How to Quit Twitter—Safely
- Guidance for the New Twitter Reality: Community, Security and Quality
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.
Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, California, 2020.
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.
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.
An illustration of analysts around a data-filled computer screen and gears in the background.
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.
One of my favorite Meyer highlights – interviewing Alicia Garza during Meyer Learning Week
“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.
A photo of CEO Toya Fick and her family
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.
Aerial view of farmland with a beautiful view of Mount Hood in the background