Funding to advance equitable outcomes for marginalized communities

The Building Community portfolio is excited to share this year's open call for applications between March 15 and April 18. Approximately $4.3 million in funding has been designated to advance three goals:

  • Community connection and belonging.
  • Strong nonprofit leaders and organizations.
  • Civic engagement and systems change.

Our portfolio's goals for this coming year represent an adjustment from what we had been using over the past two years. The adjustments were made, in part, based on feedback we received from grantees and applicants and are an attempt to more clearly communicate the focus of the portfolio. Arts and culture aimed at encouraging inclusion, for example, had been a distinct goal in the past. With the new changes, arts and culture organizations are eligible to apply in any of the goal areas. More information on these three goal areas can be found in the Goals and Outcomes section of our website. Additional insight on arts organizations can be found here.

This portfolio is focused on both creating opportunities to equitable outcomes and removing barriers that make these outcomes difficult to achieve. Equitable outcomes for communities that have been and continue to be marginalized are of particular interest to us as are the different ways in which these communities have a voice in decisions that impact their lives. We believe that when people are part of inclusive and supportive communities — when they can see promising paths for themselves, influence decisions that affect them and connect with others and express their shared humanity — they can truly thrive. And we all benefit.

Put another way, the Building Community portfolio is interested in who is served and how they are involved in achieving equitable outcomes for themselves. Through our investments, we hope to encourage a sense of shared responsibility for creating a multicultural society in which all people can thrive and realize their full potential. More insight on how we think about determining whether or not there is a fit between your work and Meyer's goals can be found here.

Learning from the past two years

With the benefit of two years of grantmaking as a program, the Building Community team and board of trustees have tried to learn from applicants and grantees about how the priorities of this portfolio are understood and how the work toward equitable outcomes takes shape. We always appreciate feedback!

In our 2017 round of funding, we received 284 applications or roughly $31 million in requests. With a budget of $4.6 million, we were able to make 66 grants — about 23 percent of all applicants. Notable characteristics from last year's batch include:

  • An increase in the percentage of applicants from rural communities (from 30 percent in 2016 to 37 percent in 2017) and from those who work statewide (from 14 percent to 20 percent over the two years).
  • A slight increase in the percentage of first-time applicants (15 percent in 2016 to 18 percent in 2017).
  • An increase in applicants seeking capacity building support (from 30 percent to 42 percent).
  • A drop in those requesting operating support (from 15 percent in 2016 to 10 percent in 2017).
  • About 60 percent of applicants in 2017 reported that they were in the early stages (i.e., Not Yet Started, Ready to Start or Launched) of our diversity, equity and inclusion spectrum tool.

Get more information

Over the next month, Meyer staff will be traveling the state to share information about the 2018 funding opportunity and our four portfolios. A list of information sessions can be found here. The Building Community team will be hosting two portfolio-specific webinars on April 3 and April 6, where we will provide more details about our grantmaking and respond to specific questions.

Of course, you can also visit our new Applicant Resources page for more information. And feel free to contact us at questions [at] mmt.org.

Dahnesh

Photo caption: A Meyer grantee speaking to a group a cohort members during a 2017 Leadership Development and Learning convening
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The DEI journey: Is your organization ready?

“A journey is called that because you cannot know what you will discover on the journey, what you will do, what you will find, nor what you find will do to you.” — James Baldwin

In 2017, Meyer received numerous proposals from organizations seeking to increase equitable outcomes by including diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in their missions, diversifying staff and leadership, providing DEI training, or creating an equity lens through which to filter policies and deliver programming.

We know that embarking on a DEI journey can be an incredible growth period for an organization, but the destructive history of oppression and ongoing persistent injustices are big and personal, which can make stepping onto this path really scary! The 2017 Race to Lead report published by the Building Movement Project reported results from a survey and interviews conducted with more than 4,000 nonprofit staff, capacity builders and funders around the United States. One finding indicated that 48 percent of people of color and 39 percent of whites agreed or somewhat agreed with the statement “nonprofits trying to address race and racial equity in their organizations often create tensions they are not equipped to resolve.”

This statistic made me curious. What does it take to be “equipped” for a journey toward diversity, equity and inclusion? Are there common pitfalls that we can anticipate? What are the “tensions” that show up and how can we address them effectively? To reflect on these questions, I turned to leaders I know who have done this work from different vantage points: Jeana Frazzini, former director of Basic Rights Oregon; Cliff Jones, a Portland-based DEI consultant of more than 30 years; and Dr. Gail Christopher, who has designed racial equity and healing work for decades and most recently led the development of Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation implementation and guidance at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

In a series of blog posts, I’ll share what I heard from each of these leaders about organizational readiness for DEI. We’ll hear about practical strategies, success and challenges, and the personal impact that the DEI journey has had on them. Through this process, I’ve learned so much from these colleagues through their candor, courage and their willingness to share - and about what might be the true costs of integrating DEI into an organization’s work. My hope is that, while each experience is different, you will also be able to use the wisdom from these leaders for your own organizational and personal journeys.

Read Jeana's bio, here.

Jeana Frazzini served in board and staff leadership roles at Basic Rights Oregon (BRO) from 2000 to 2016, including eight years as executive director. During that time, BRO was tackling big issues like marriage equality; a statewide nondiscrimination policy; inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) students in schools; and a shift in the lesbian, gay and bisexual community to be inclusive of people who are transgender.  

As a movement, the LGBTQ community has struggled with marginalization and exclusion of LGBTQ people of color, despite overwhelming evidence that LGBTQ people of color experience some of the most inequitable outcomes related to health, employment and poverty due to the compounded impacts of racism and heterosexism. Jeana, a white woman, recognized that Basic Rights Oregon was not meeting their mission of serving and including all LGBTQ Oregonians in their movement building and advocacy work. With the support and leadership of her board of directors and staff, BRO embarked on their DEI journey in 2005 and intensified it over the next five years. The work is ongoing. (BRO’s leadership benefited from significant technical assistance and support from Western States Center throughout this process.)

Jeana and I sat down over breakfast to talk about what she and BRO learned about DEI and organizational readiness (a meaty topic, with food to match!).

Basic Rights Oregon’s journey

For Jeana, engaging in DEI work meant not starting with something like diversifying the board and staff and getting some training.

“It was important to line people up on the what and why,” she said. “The what was the intention and it was explicit: to become an anti-racist organization. The why was more a process of discovery, achieved by getting some challenging feedback from people of color in the community who shared that Basic Rights Oregon was not meaningfully engaging — and often tokenizing — LGBTQ people of color and that BRO’s inability to address race issues meant that their opposition was able to advance discriminatory policies, including the 2004 constitutional amendment defining marriage as between ‘one man and one woman.’”

As hard as the feedback was, it was meaningful and honest, and it helped BRO leadership more deeply recognize that the organization had a problem it needed to address.

With buy-in on the what and why, the organization began to assess the scope and scale of the issue and identify areas of growth. It was at this point that they put a training plan in place to more directly address real-time training needs and aligne staff and board with basic terms, language and understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion. That created a shared foundation from which to move forward.

“Even with this ‘prework,’” Jeana said, “not everyone had the same vision of what the end result will look like or where the ‘end’ is. The process is like a series of waves.”

In Jeana’s example, the bottom of the wave could be the need to increase staff diversity. But, she said, people shouldn’t cut corners to get to the “crest” by simply recruiting and hiring diverse staff, where nothing has changed but the diversity quotient. The old ways have to change, and the next trough will be trying to figure out why diverse hires are not retained and what are the barriers that are keeping the old ways in place.

Lessons learned about equipping the journey

Basic Rights Oregon’s vision was to transform the organization.

But along the way, Jeana, the board and staff quickly discovered that this work is more than that.

“Leaders need to recognize that this is not only about organizational transformation but individual transformation,” she said, “and then support people to take a personal journey as well as an organizational one.”

Some things that helped BRO navigate and balance personal and organizational needs included establishing principles and practices that went beyond the usual ground rules for group process and organizational planning:

  • Create a “brave” space, not just a safe space. This ground rule allowed people to step further into risk-taking.
  • If the organization is large enough, have a cross-program, cross-positional “Transformation Committee,” charged with being a place where people can bring questions, ideas, feedback and concerns.
  • Don’t lose sight of the environment in which we are operating. Recognize that our organizations and we as individuals are part of a larger system of inequality that is continually reinforced in our society into everything we do.
  • Explicitly identify the expectation that things will get emotional, and that’s OK. In dismantling systems, it can be really painful for people to become conscious of their own biases. This is not business as usual. You can’t continue to do the same things and except the same results.
  • This is long-term work, but without a way to measure progress and accountability, staff may feel that it’s a waste of time or just another exercise to “check the DEI box but doesn’t result in meaningful change.” Once shared goals are established, spend time collectively identifying a set of benchmarks to measure progress to your goals. A map of the journey can also help people see that their own priorities have a place on the journey, even if it’s farther off.
  • Examples of benchmarks Basic Rights Oregon established included having all staff and board go through training within a certain amount of time, committing paid staff time to the work, setting benchmarks for meetings with leaders of color, and creating supports for those meetings such as work plans and conversation guides.
  • At the same time, hold the process loosely enough so it develops as it needs to develop, while maintaining accountability and understanding of what progress looks like.
  • Be mindful of the leadership in the room, about how much space leaders take up, and be a role model. As a leader you have a dual role: You are managing your own emotions and find your own counselors outside the room.
  • Include support for staff, such as coaching and space for people of color to be together and for your white staff to do the work they need to do separately.
  • If you are working with both staff and board, keep in mind that the staff are together every day, working out issues and may outpace the board’s ability to do the same.

I asked Jeana if there was anything she would do differently now that she’s had this experience at Basic Rights Oregon.

“BRO had a typical policy that employees should bring concerns to their supervisors in the course of regular check-ins,” Jeana said. ”But because conversations about race can be so difficult, it would be good to establish a shared approach and specific policies to address concerns. One option that comes to mind is to bring on a mediator who builds trust across the team and can be called upon as conflict comes up.

“Personally, I  would have liked to do more work early on to understand white supremacy and white privilege. Our process wasn’t inclusive enough about white people doing work to understand our history and ongoing role in upholding these systems. I recently listened to the ‘Scene on Radio’ podcast, which includes a series called ‘Seeing White.’ The series illuminated the work that white people need to do to understand the construct of whiteness.”

Commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion

I wondered what it meant for Basic Rights Oregon to be committed to this work. Jeana shared that the commitment evolved over time.

“Early on we had a general idea that we had a responsibility as an organization to meet the needs of all queer and trans people in Oregon — including people of color,” she said. “As we did the work, the commitment became operationalized through investing in the leadership of people of color in our organization and in our programming, which meant how we allocated resources and how staff were supported to do their work. Commitment goes back to getting clear about what your values are — the commitment and values will be tested in the context in which we work: white supremacist culture.”

One example, Jeana said, would be turning down funding when funder values don’t align.

“For every donor or volunteer who didn’t understand, 10 other donors or volunteers stepped up,” she added. “So fears about losing funding are totally unfounded, in my experience. We had hard conversations with donors and funders and practiced with role plays. Again this is where humility comes in — knowing ahead of time you don’t have all the answers.”

I asked Jeana about surprises along the way.

“We had this rich experience internally, then we had to figure out how to operationalize our plans and discover how to work this in — it’s so important to figure out how people can see and feel it becoming real,” she said. “We had a process to build work plans. On every person’s work plan there was a place to ask, ‘What are your racial justice goals?’

“There were a lot of surprises along the lines of unexpected benefits of the process. The way in which it deepened relationships across teams. We had a very pleasant surprise in the way the work expanded the organization and opened BRO up to funding, opportunities for partnerships, volunteer activism/engagement.” For Jeana personally? “Because the process required difficult conversations, I surprised myself in my capacity for courage,” she said

I wondered if there was one thing Jeana wishes all nonprofit leaders knew as they step onto the DEI path?

She thought for a moment.

“This is the work — this isn’t a distraction from the work, or really even optional, particularly in this moment,” she said. “It really doesn’t matter what issue area, geography or constituency that your organization prioritizes. We had a realization that our view of what was possible, necessary or needed was so limited by our lack of organizational diversity. Just the way we thought about what was needed in the community was based on such limited information and was reflected in our policies. Our work then became so much richer.”

I’m so grateful to Jeana and to Basic Rights Oregon’s current co-directors, Nancy Haque and Amy Herzfeld-Copple, for allowing us to share BRO’s DEI journey!

Next time, I’ll share a conversation with consultant Cliff Jones, who has helped organizations establish strong DEI principles and practices for more than 30 years.

— Carol

 

Jeana Frazzini, Director of Philanthropic Partnerships at Forward Together
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A whole new magnitude of change for LGBTQ communities in Oregon

Meyer Memorial Trust and Pride Foundation have been long-time partners, and share a deep and ongoing commitment to advancing equity in our foundations and more broadly in the field of philanthropy. Pride Foundation is a community foundation working in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho and Alaska to inspire giving to advance opportunities and expand full equality for LGBTQ people.

Ever since Meyer CEO, Doug Stamm, and Pride Foundation CEO, Kris Hermanns, participated in a CEO learning cohort to help them advance equity, diversity, and inclusion at their foundations, we have found ways to learn from and support one another’s journeys over the years.

In 2015, Meyer offered critical financial support to help us deepen our racial equity work and host a Philanthropy Northwest Momentum Fellow, a fellowship program to create a pipeline for underrepresented professionals, particular people of color, to find entry points into philanthropy. Pride Foundation has offered our knowledge and expertise about the issues LGBTQ communities face in Oregon to help Meyer further integrate LGBTQ issues within their equity lens over the past few years, including coordinating all-staff trainings and programmatic support.  

This year, Pride Foundation is deeply honored that Meyer has chosen to make another significant investment to support our work in Oregon.

This could not have come at a more critical time for community philanthropy and the LGBTQ community in Oregon. As Pride Foundation finalizes our merger with Equity Foundation (an LGBTQ community foundation that had been working just here in Oregon), the opportunity to grow the resources to create safe, affirming communities for everyone in Oregon is enormous. More broadly, LGBTQ people in our state still face structural discrimination and racism, and our movement continues to experience significant backlash to the progress we have made. On top of this, the organizations working on our behalf have been chronically underinvested in, resulting in lean and unstable infrastructure to support our community.

Over the next three years, Meyer is awarding Pride Foundation a total of $225,000. $150,000 will help to grow our capacity and continue to deepen and expand our work in Oregon. Meyer is also investing an additional $50,000 for us to fully implement our racial equity innovation plan to center racial equity in everything we do at Pride Foundation.

To help us further solidify our efforts and encourage others to make similar investments, Meyer has also put forward a $25,000 challenge grant. Over the next few months, our supporters will have the opportunity to make a critical investment in our work in Oregon — and have that support doubled by Meyer.

"Meyer is excited to partner with Pride Foundation in expanding opportunities and advancing full equality for LGBTQ people across Oregon," said Candy Solovjovs, Meyer's Director of Programs. "We hope our investment inspires others to join us in providing philanthropic support and helping to create an Oregon where all LGBTQ people are valued, safe, and supported."

We are profoundly appreciative of Meyer’s continued investment in our work — and in LGBTQ people and communities throughout Oregon.

Data from the National LGBTQ Task Force and Center for American Progress demonstrates just how at-risk LGBTQ immigrants and refugees are from this administration’s actions:

  • Nationwide, there are more than 267,000 LGBTQ adults who are undocumented without a path to citizenship — nearly one-third of all LGBTQ adult immigrants.
  • LGBTQ people who are undocumented are disproportionately more likely to be arrested and detained by ICE.
  • LGBTQ detainees are fifteen times more likely to be assaulted when they are in detention — particularly transgender women.
  • Over 75 countries have discriminatory laws that target LGBTQ people, and in 7, a person can be put to death for being LGBTQ — resulting in thousands of people applying for asylum each year.

This grant award is certainly significant to us locally, but it also points to a critical step on Meyer’s part to address some troubling statistics about the level of institutional investments in LGBTQ communities more broadly.

Despite the growing need for support and services, funding from private, community, and corporate foundations for LGBTQ issues continues to be alarmingly low — and is steadily decreasing. While we have made progress, LGBTQ communities are still not invested in at the rate that is required to fully address the needs of everyone in our community.

This underinvestment, coupled with the fact that LGBTQ people continue to face harsh conditions across many aspects of our lives — especially elders, people of color, transgender people, Two Spirit people, youth, immigrants and people living in rural communities — paints a stark reality for so many in our community.

Impacting these deep-rooted issues and creating lasting change will take continued, focused effort — and resources. This fact makes us that much more grateful for Meyer’s ongoing partnership, leadership and commitment to LGBTQ issues and communities in Oregon — because it is a clear indication that change is indeed happening.

— Katie Carter

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Pride Foundation’s 2017 Oregon scholarship recipients, receiving their scholarship awards and being honored for their leadership at the 2017 Scholarship Celebration in Portland.

Pride Foundation’s 2017 Oregon scholarship recipients, receiving their scholarship awards and being honored for their leadership at the 2017 Scholarship Celebration in Portland.

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Inclusion reimagined: Centering the experiences of people with disabilities

On-The-Move Community Integration envisions a truly inclusive society in which everyone has a chance to interact with and learn from each other. On-the-Move offers employment guidance for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their support networks, and educates and partners with community members, organizations and businesses to organize meaningful activities that create relationship-building opportunities.

On-The-Move’s efforts align with the Building Community portfolio’s goal of dismantling inequities and creating opportunities to advance equity.

The Portland-based organization advances its diversity, equity and inclusion goals in four ways. First, it highlights the contributions people with developmental disabilities make in their communities. In addition, it flips the notion of inclusion on its head: The broader community benefits from the opportunity to interact with and learn from people with disabilities as much as people with disabilities benefit from contributing to and being active members of their community. Further, it creates community-integrated spaces that are inclusive of people with developmental disabilities. And finally, it intentionally designs its programs and services to ensure clients are able to express their individuality, have autonomy and direct their own lives.

On-The-Move recognized that to better serve its community, its diversity, equity and inclusion work needed to continue to evolve and take shape at all organizational levels. A Meyer grant of $137,956 over two years will help its board receive training and consultation to become stronger advocates for diversity, equity and inclusion. The grant will also help its staff review policies, procedures and practices to ensure the implementation of an equity lens throughout the organization, and support On-The-Move’s work with a consultant to implement a community-grounded evaluation process and strengthen its fundraising capacity.

We are thrilled to partner with them to support their important community-based work.

— Violeta

On-The-Move participants, Elizabeth and Spencer, flex their muscles after boxing at a local gym. Photo courtesy of On-The-Move Community Integration

On-The-Move participants, Elizabeth and Spencer, flex their muscles after boxing at a local gym. Photo courtesy of On-The-Move Community Integration

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Focusing on equity to better support health care and Reproductive Justice

Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette provides, promotes and protects access to sexual and reproductive health care. The Portland-based family planning and reproductive rights organization serves communities across Oregon and Southwest Washington that have few options for health care due to cost, immigration status or need for confidentiality.

Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, an affiliate of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, recognizes that health care accessibility and delivery have historically been politicized or manipulated to benefit specific populations over others. Planned Parenthood aims to reduce health disparities experienced within its service population. The 54-year-old organization has been exploring how to define, understand and increase equity within its ranks so that it better supports Reproductive Justice and that the health care it provides is more equitable.

Its work dovetails with Meyer’s goal to increase commitment to equity among organizations and improve understanding of how best to advance equity. A Building Community grant of $169,799 over three years helps support the organization as it moves deeper into goals outlined in its existing equity plan. Those include embedding equity principles into its policies and practices, building relationships and accountability mechanisms with community partners, and assessing and strengthening cultural competence within the organization.

The health organization has already committed to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in a number of specific ways. A cross-functional group of staff and board members began working on the organization’s equity plan in 2016 by conducting an organizational assessment using the Coalition of Communities of Color’s “Protocol for Culturally Responsive Organizations,” which revealed priority areas for growth. In addition to having staff across the organization engaged in different ways, Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette has invested in two staff positions dedicated to leading and supporting this equity work. (The organization employs about 200 people.) PPCW’s director of equity and inclusion, in particular, has positional authority as a member of its executive team and as a direct-report to the CEO. And Planned Parenthood’s board of directors has been supportive of and engaged in the organization’s equity work from the start.

As part of their grant activities over the next three years, the group will further its work in data gathering and institutionalizing practices, measuring its progress on cultural competence by administering an assessment to all staff members, using those results to create differentiated learning opportunities, and administering a follow-up assessment. And it has set a goal of allocating all its health care resources through its equity lens (i.e., in alignment with principles of diversity, equity and inclusion) and plans to create policies over time to support this.

We are thrilled to partner with them to support their efforts to delve deeper into equity.

 

— Erin

Staff members from Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette provide, promote and protect access to sexual and reproductive health in Oregon and Southwest Washington.
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A commitment to advance equity for Native families

Relief Nursery was founded 41 years ago to address child abuse and neglect in Lane County. Their mission: to prevent the cycle of neglect and abuse by providing early intervention that focuses on building successful and resilient children, strengthening parents, and preserving families. The agency offers comprehensive family support services to Lane County families living on low incomes who have a child younger than 6 years old and a family profile that places their children at high risk for child abuse or neglect.

In 2005, Relief Nursery embarked on an effort to better serve the growing number of Latinx families in its region through their "La Familia y los Hijos" program. Recognizing the need to better engage and serve this population, Relief Nursery went beyond providing interpreters and translating materials to establishing a process to engage community to help inform new culturally specific programming, embedding bilingual and bicultural services throughout the organization, and creating opportunities to diversify its workforce. As a result of the work, the number of Latinx families served has increased sixfold over the last decade.  

Lane County has one of the fastest growing American Indian populations in the country, yet Relief Nursery has seen a decline in service utilization by Native families. To address increased need, Relief Nursery draws on the approach used in its successful La Familia y los Hijos program to increase the number of Native families engaging in services such as immediate crisis intervention, home visits, respite care, home safety assessments and parent support.

Meyer is providing a grant of $175,000 over three years to advance our goal of dismantling inequities and creating opportunities to advance equity. Grant funds will be used for staff to conduct outreach and develop and deliver a culturally appropriate program for Native communities.

How their work advances equity

The Building Community team identified some key strategies in Relief Nursery’s proposal that are considered “best practices” to advance equity and increase the likelihood of reducing disparities for Tribal families and for all the communities Relief Nursery serves.

Relief Nursery began by collecting and analyzing disaggregated race and ethnicity service data that revealed service inequities for Native families. The effort helped the Eugene-based organization to hone its focus on the biggest gaps in service. This strategy led to an “equity” approach to developing new services, rather than a “one-size-fits-all” approach that may not be relevant to the specific community Relief Nursery wanted to serve.

In addition, Relief Nursery devoted time and attention to building authentic relationships with Native community members and leaders. Building trust with and accountability to communities that have been historically marginalized is vital to ensuring that barriers are identified and addressed and that services are utilized.

Relief Nursery also convenes a Native-led project steering committee to help maintain accountability and support continuous improvement strategies through program review. As a result, services are more likely to be culturally appropriate and accountable to the community they serve, which in turn increases engagement and cultural relevancy.

As a result of this “pre-work,” Relief Nursery decided to utilize a culturally appropriate peer support strategy. Peer support services involve trusted community members who bring lived experience and community-level wisdom to their work. This evidence-based practice has been shown to effectively break down barriers to services and improve results for communities that haven’t been well-served by mainstream approaches.

Relief Nursery has demonstrated a commitment to advancing equity through its work, and we are thrilled to partner with them to support Native families.

— Carol

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Diversity, equity and inclusion work takes shape

The Building Community portfolio was pleased to receive 284 applications as part of Meyer’s 2017 Annual Funding Opportunity. Applicants came from rural and urban parts of the state and collectively represented more than $31 million in requests. Following our review process, 66 organizations were recommended to receive approximately $6.6 million available for grants. Among these, nine organizations received their first grant from Meyer.  

The entire Building Community team is grateful for the applicants’ time and effort to apply. Like last year, we are available to provide feedback on applications that were not funded. You’ll find the full list of Building Community 2017 Annual Funding Opportunity grantees here. If you are interested in having a conversation with a member of our team, please contact us at questions [at] mmt.org.  

FUNDING BY GOAL AREAS

Much like last year, 44 grantees (or two-thirds of the entire portfolio) came through our Goal One: Dismantle inequities and create new opportunities to advance equity. The grantees in this goal area are working to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and we have highlighted three grantees doing this work: On-The-Move Community Integration, Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, and Relief Nursery. Working on DEI can take many forms. For some organizations, it involves building internal capacity while for others it is about programming and services. In many cases it takes shape as a combination of both.

Having offered funding through this portfolio for two years, we are learning more about how different organizations think about advancing DEI. Among this year’s applications, we observed a few forms of such work, including:

  • Programming that deepens work with culturally specific communities;
  • Projects to build internal capacity for DEI work; and
  • Culturally specific organizations deepening their work in DEI.

Deepening Connections With Culturally Specific Communities

A number of organizations provide programs and services to the general public or a broad cross-section of Oregonians. These organizations work on creating access to healthy foods or advocate on behalf of working families. This year, some of these broadly focused organizations received grants from Building Community to deepen their work with culturally specific communities. Although not shifting from a focus on the general public, these groups identified the need to build or strengthen connections with communities that might be underserved or not connected to their work. Program Officer Carol Cheney writes about Relief Nursery, an organization that is linking its work to the Native American community in an intentional way.

Internal Focus On Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

In contrast to an externally focused effort at advancing DEI, many groups in this year’s applicant pool recognized the need to devote attention to their internal or operational work. Groups applied for funding to better understand their own biases, build understanding of historical oppressions, and create policies and practices that put them in a stronger position to carry out their mission in a way that is attentive to equity. Program Associate Erin Dysart describes work underway at Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette.

Culturally Specific Communities Deepening Their Work in DEI

While some organizations support the general public, others are organized around a specific and culturally defined community that represents their primary focus. These include organizations that work with an ethnic or racial group, with youths or elders, or with other historically marginalized populations.  
These organizations may have a deep understanding of their particular cultural group, but many also recognize that work in DEI involves other, often intersecting dimensions. In this funding round, we saw culturally specific organizations interested in creating stronger connections with other cultural groups or providing their staff or board with training on some topic that advances their ability to keep a focus on equity. Program Associate Violeta Rubiani writes about how On-the-Move Community Integration is deepening its work in DEI.   

Through the work outlined in their proposals, Relief Nursery, Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette and On-the-Move Community Integration all approached DEI in ways that were a match with current needs and in support of their mission. Moving forward, we hope to pass along what we learn from groups like these and how our thinking on DEI continues to evolve.

Civic Engagement and Arts and Culture Initiatives

A smaller portion of grants were made under our other two goal areas including Goal Two: Strengthening civic engagement and public participation in democratic processes. We funded 10 grantees, mong them, the Umatilla County Board of Commissioners. It is receiving funding for consulting support to create an “Equity Framework” for delivering public health services as part of a statewide effort to modernize public health.

In Goal Three, Support for arts and culture initiatives that create inclusive communities, we funded 13 grantees, including The August Wilson Red Door Project, which seeks to continue production of Hands Up! and to deepen engagement with the Portland Police Bureau through the development of a new play, Cop Out!?

If you applied for a grant  this year but weren’t funded, we invite you to questions [at] mmt.org (contact us) to receive feedback on your application. And if you applied for support around implementing DEI within your organization, check out our self-assessment tool, which we hope will help groups think about where they want to focus. Let us know what you think!

— Dahnesh

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Building Community portfolio awards $6.7 million to 67 organizations
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The dream doesn't end

For five years, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) has given nearly 800,000 hopeful young strivers brought to the United States as children the legal protections they need to work and study in this country, despite the immigration status of their parents.

Known as “Dreamers,” these young people have deep stakes in the U.S. Through DACA, they’ve achieved many of the milestones that frame the American dream: earning better wages to support their families, pursuing higher education, buying cars, and setting down roots in their communities through home ownership. They are students in our classrooms, teachers in our schools, soldiers in our armed forces, leaders in our cities and towns. They represent the best of us. Those who qualify for deferred action pose no threat to public safety or national security.

Nearly 8 in 10 voters support allowing DACA recipients to remain permanently in the country and just 14 percent believe they should be forced to leave.

In Oregon, the 11,300 young people registered under DACA have a powerful impact not only on immigrant communities but also on all Oregonians. According to an Oregon Center for Public Policy report, undocumented Oregonians pay roughly $81 million in taxes to help fund schools and other public services that strengthen the state’s economy, through property taxes, personal income taxes, and sales and excise taxes. If every undocumented immigrant left the state, Oregon would lose up to $3.4 billion and nearly 20,000 jobs. Ending DACA would cost Oregon more than $605.6 million annually in gross domestic product losses. Without DACA protections, deportation will tear more families apart and shatter the foundation of local economies.

The Trump administration’s decision to phase out DACA feels like a sucker punch. It will go down as a decision that is equal parts small, short-sighted and destructive. It threatens DACA Dreamers with expulsion from the only country most have ever known. And it reneges on the promise that registering as an undocumented immigrant would not be used against them.

They deserve better. We all do.

So here’s what you should know:

Earlier this year*, The Collins Foundation, MRG Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation and Meyer Memorial Trust partnered to create the Oregon Immigrant and Refugee Funders Collaborative, a collective effort to support the successful integration of immigrants and refugees into our communities. All four organizations share an unshakable belief in the value and importance refugees and immigrants bring to our state.

We remain committed to our grantee partners and to the immigrants they serve.

We are also urging grantmakers and philanthropists in our state and across the country to join us in funding essential services and supports to assist these immigrants and their families.

We support the bipartisan Dream Act of 2017 and urge our neighbors to take action to protect DREAMers. Without intervention, young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children could face deportation as early as March 6, 2018.

As Darren Walker, CEO at the Ford Foundation, wrote in a forthright blog after the DACA decision: “Soon, it may be too late for courage, too late to take the necessary steps to mend our society. We risk reaching a day when whatever ability we had to influence change or protect our democratic values will have been squandered.”


— The Collins Foundation, MRG Foundation and Meyer Memorial Trust

 

*In late 2017, Pride Foundation joined the Oregon Immigrant and Refugee Funders Collaborative.

A demonstrator at a Portland DACA rally holds a sign that reads "Revive DACA"

Hundreds gathered at a Defend DACA Rally in Portland after the Trump administration announced it would end the program. Photo credit: JoeFrazierPhoto.com

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Taking stock of the changed political environment

Soon after the 2016 presidential election, many of us began wondering how the changed political landscape would impact our work. A number of Meyer grantees, including those in the Building Community portfolio, raised real concerns and questions about how this new reality would affect, among other things, our civil liberties, immigrants’ rights, the rights of LGBTQ people, equity and justice. As a direct result, Meyer added two new tools to our real-time response kit: rapid response grantmaking, and the Oregon Immigrant and Refugee Funders Collaborative.

In an effort to take stock of how changing realities are impacting the work related to social justice, Meyer recently helped organize and participated in an event called “Strengthening Action for Justice.” The event focused on how the changed political environment is likely to impact our work and identified shared values and ways we can support each other moving forward.

More than 60 participants representing 30 community organizing and advocacy groups and a dozen funders attended the May 25 event in Portland. Extra efforts were also made to support the participation of key representatives from rural communities, and some traveled from as far away as Ontario in eastern Oregon. In some respects, the meeting was experimental. The planning group included both funders and community groups, and though there were some specific recommendations that came out of the conversation, the main objective was to create a space for folks to learn from each other.  

Through the process of designing and carrying out the meeting, participants named and affirmed shared values, identified root causes of challenges, and began thinking about how to leverage the strengths of both philanthropic and community-based organizations. Through discussion on root causes, participants began to think more broadly than their own organization, consider possibilities for alignment and move beyond the symptoms of problems.

Impacts of the changed political environment

A pre-meeting survey as well as discussion revealed that the current environment has raised levels of fear: fear of deportation, hate crimes and harassment and concern about losing health care and other key services that disproportionately impact marginalized communities. Quickly shifting policy changes have also forced many community-based and philanthropic organizations to respond rapidly (e.g., keeping up with potential changes in Medicaid, providing Know Your Rights* education) and in a way that is often reactive rather than proactive. For all, a sense of urgency has created the challenge of balancing existing work while also responding to immediate and, in many cases, unforeseen needs. (*Know Your Rights refers to programs that provide community members with critical information on their legal rights in a number of areas including civil liberties, housing, education, immigration status, etc.)

When asked to identify the root causes to many of the current and anticipated challenges of operating in this political environment, the group noted the prominence of racism and xenophobia. Other, and often related, causes included disenfranchisement of communities of color, concentration of wealth and power, misinformation and lack of cross-community communication.  

Looking forward

The pre-meeting survey and discussion also provided insights on shared beliefs and values.  Some of these included the importance of cross-sector collaboration, dismantling systems of oppression, working toward racial equity, the need for organizational sustainability and the commitment to authentic community engagement.   

Recognizing that community and philanthropic organizations can learn from each other, participants also talked about how these two sectors could work together effectively. Along these lines, a number of suggestions related to increased communication, cross-sector (community and philanthropic) conversation and finding ways to engage in direct action.

Some specific recommendations included:

Focusing together on shared goals — Convenings like Strengthening Action for Justice hold the potential to proactively identify short- and long-term solutions on topics tied to justice and equity.  

Collaboration — Efforts that build understanding, shared language and collective power are crucial in this political climate. This work might involve activities such as collaborations with government and public officials or focus on specific issues such as fair access to housing or public education.  

Investments in capacity — Any efforts to improve organizing capacity would be helpful. This might include helping participants interpret changes in policy (e.g., new IRS rules), providing access to specific forms of technical assistance such as legal expertise, and providing general operating support funding.

Investments in justice organizing — the changed political environment has increased interest in organizing individuals and communities for collective action, many felt it is crucial to direct new energy and in a way that connects it with justice movements that have been deeply engaged in this work over time.  

A focus on rural communities — Recognizing that many communities are feeling anxious about unpredictable federal and state policy shifts, the group felt that rural communities may be particularly vulnerable.  With this in mind, participants in the meeting felt that a specific focus on rural communities was warranted.  

Tracking social services alongside social change — Organizations that provide some form of direct service can be powerful voices for highlighting broader/more systemic issues and root causes. In this climate, both services and organizing are needed to address immediate issues and mobilize people for larger change.  

Though the outcome of this meeting will continue to unfold, the timeliness of this type of dialogue was evident the very next day, when three men sought to disrupt an Islamophobic attack on a MAX train in Portland. Two people were killed and another sustained serious injury, but the incident reminded us that bias actions and injustice must be confronted strongly and directly. For those who have been working on these issues for years, it brought home the importance of continued commitment to the shared values identified in meetings like Strengthening Action for Justice.

 

— Dahnesh

 

(Special thanks to Western States Center, meeting coordinator Katie Sawicki and the Collins Foundation for their work to make this meeting possible.)  

 

A demonstrator speaking into a bull horn during the “Strengthening Action for Justice.” convening. Photo credit: Jamie Francis

Photo credit: Jamie Francis

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Funding for LGBTQ Equity

As a Korean-American, there isn’t really a day when my racial identity is mistaken. My identity as a lesbian can be, though.

When I came out to my parents, my mom even pointed out that I wasn’t one of those lesbians who “cut their hair short and wore clompy shoes.” (My butch partner, Kris, however, looked down at her shoes and said, “I think I’m your mother’s worst nightmare!”) Unlike with my obvious racial status, I get a pass on my sexual orientation and gender identity. In some of my previous workplaces, the assumption that I was straight led to a significant amount of worry that my acceptance and safety hinged on that mistake.

I am fortunate to feel safe being “out” at Meyer. It’s not always so easy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people whose identities and gender expression do not match the binary male/female “norms,” particularly when they work in organizations rife with implicit or explicit homophobia and transphobia. LGBTQ people have shouldered the burden of these phobias: everything from the inability to be out in the workplace and lack of funding for LGBTQ organizations to significant inequities among the population, personal violence and even mass murder.

At two recent events hosted by Funders for LGBTQ Issues and the Pride Foundation, I was reminded that those of us in “mainstream” philanthropy (i.e. foundations that are not LGBTQ-specific) need to do more to increase safety for LGBTQ employees and to advance equity for the LGBTQ communities we serve. In a workshop titled “How Foundations Can Better Support LGBTQ Staff and Movements: Stories from the Field,” Tamir Novotny from Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy and Brian Schultz of the Foundation Center presented preliminary data from a survey of LGBTQ staff in foundations around the country and led an informal “data gathering” discussion about participants’ experiences.

The survey’s early findings were not surprising to the group. Remaining closeted and “navigating your workplace as your authentic self” resonated as ongoing challenges with workshop participants. Heads nodded as our discussion turned to the fear of being seen as biased should we bring up LGBTQ issues. Some noted that questions about personal life, family and home aren’t as frequently asked of LGBTQ staff, and both big wins, such as marriage equality, and terrible losses, such as the Pulse Nightclub massacre, can feel isolating when no one else talks about them. The underemployment of transgender employees in the workforce was particularly notable. And finally, the level of funding to address LGBTQ inequities sends a message to LGBTQ employees regarding awareness or willingness to take action.

A recent report from Funders for LGBTQ Issues revealed that, while on the rise nationally, funding for LGBTQ issues and organizations in the Pacific Northwest dropped by nearly half between 2011 and 2015, from a high of $4.9 million to $2.6 million. Much of the drop can be attributed to a decrease in funding after marriage equality wins. But backlash to that decision is ongoing, and in today’s political climate,  LGBTQ civil rights are increasingly at risk for a population that has long faced significant and persistent inequities. (see cardstack)

Here's a lesson for funders focused on providing resources to alleviate poverty, hunger and violence or determined to change systems to improve conditions by tackling issues such as criminal justice, health care and housing: Including LGBTQ populations in those frameworks, lenses and resource-sharing is not added work … it is the work.

The good news is that as mainstream Oregon funders develop more nuanced and evolved approaches to diversity, equity and inclusion — and our grantees have helped us recognize the inequities and intersectionalities experienced by the LGBTQ community — support for LGBTQ employees and community members seem to be increasing. Four mainstream Oregon foundations made the Funders for LGBTQ Issues 2015 honor roll by increasing their LGBTQ grantmaking by 25 percent or more: The Collins Foundation, MRG Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation and Meyer. And the Pride Foundation, with dedicated staff in Oregon, also provides 23 percent of the LGBTQ-specific funding in the Northwest. All of this suggests more LGBTQ-focused discussions are happening within local philanthropy, and that’s a very good thing.

Supporting staff to go to conferences focused on LGBTQ issues, establishing and sponsoring affinity groups, and creating gender inclusive bathrooms are other relatively easy ways to support LGBTQ staff. We recently installed new signs marking Meyer’s gender inclusive bathroom this spring, a simple move that makes visiting our offices somewhat more pleasant for any visitor. But the signs are on just one of the two bathrooms; we still have a ways to go.

So do Northwest funders when it comes to funding to address LGBTQ inequities. There really isn’t a choice: If we are committed to advancing equity, then increasing inclusive and safe workplaces and funding for LGBTQ issues must follow. That, too, is the work.  

—Carol (with brilliant contributions by my trusted LGBTQ colleagues and our allies)

*Data sources: Federal Bureau of Investigation, socialexplorer.com, Census Bureau, Pew Research Center, Williams Institute, National LGBTQ Task Force.

Photo credit: Carol and Kris, her partner of 22 years, at their 2003 wedding.

Carol and Kris, partners of 22 years, at their 2003 wedding

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