At the Intersection of Philanthropy and Tech (Part II): What philanthropy can teach the tech sectordarionFri, 05/03/2019 - 11:08
This is the second blog in a series recapping “At The Intersection of Philanthropy and Tech,” a breakout session I presented last July during ACT-W Portland — an annual conference for women in tech hosted by our city's local chapter of ChickTech — that centered on what the philanthropic and tech sectors can learn from each other and where I think they will succeed by working together. The first blog detailed what the tech sector is doing well. In this one, I’ll outline what philanthropy has to offer tech. The most obvious thing that the philanthropic sector can teach the tech sector is how to deploy financial assets, our raison d’être. The philanthropic sector has made great strides in the areas of financial investments, social change and planning for long-term impact, and it is our charge as philanthropists to share these insights.
The philanthropic sector, or as it’s sometimes called “organized philanthropy,” came into its own half a century ago as a side effect of Congress’ decision to regulate charitable giving and track the flow of money.1 Since that time, the sector has come to encompass grantmaking institutions, including private, independent, family, corporate and community foundations; public charities, corporate giving programs, tribal governments, government funders, and operating foundations; infrastructure organizations, including regional associations, issue-based and affinity-based national groups, and international associations; and consultancies and companies providing everything from DEI training to legal advising to grants management software. Billions of dollars move through this sector every year, and it takes expertise to continuously improve on established practices.
Oregon’s tech sector has grown steadily in the last decade, plateauing last year at about 11 percent of Oregon’s jobs.2 Many high-tech corporations headquartered in Oregon have been involved in grantmaking for some time, including Intel, Nike, Adidas, Columbia Sportswear and (recently) New Relic. Many others are supporting nonprofits but haven’t established a formal vehicle for this work. In my opinion it is both desirable and necessary that they do, especially around issues that are directly caused by the movement of a technically skilled workforce into the state. For example, affordable housing is a major issue in our state, and part of the problem is that we have such a hot job sector, especially among high-paying tech jobs, that the housing supply cannot keep up with the demand. As Oregon’s lower-income population is displaced, the tech industry has an opportunity to step up as funders to invest in developing a homegrown workforce and to mitigate their own impact on the people being pushed out.
The technical aspects of grantmaking vary depending on the type of grantmaking entity, and a company’s leaders would need to consider whether an independent foundation, corporate foundation or corporate giving program best suits their vision. These are all questions no one should have to solve alone. Fortunately, the philanthropic sector is primed to educate tech companies on how to give money away, from legal and compliance issues to evaluation and reporting best practices to collaboration with other funders. The other part of “how to give money away” is the relationship piece. Being in relationships with nonprofits over a period of time means foundations like Meyer have access to real expertise in the form of constituent voice.
There are many causes that sound good to the untrained ear, but nonprofit professionals and their customers — who are engaged in social change all day every day — know what is effective and what isn’t. To that end, I believe that tech companies that want to create social change through giving will need to cultivate relationships within the social sector. There are numerous entry points, especially in the Portland area. One example is the CTE-STEM Funder Round Table, a group that meets quarterly to discuss shared interests in funding career-technical and STEM education. I believe that when they come to the table, they will find themselves more than welcomed by our philanthropic community.
Full disclosure: One of the reasons I wanted to speak at ACT-W and share my thoughts on this topic is that I was annoyed with Amazon-founder Jeff Bezos. In 2017, Bezos announced on Twitter that he wanted to do something big with his money and asked for suggestions. My suggestion to him then (which was not unique) was to get connected to a regional or issue-based association of grantmakers. At the time, I worked for one such organization and knew that it was a basic but crucial first step to anyone wanting to establish a formal giving program. Ignoring all the feedback he solicited, Bezos decided the best use of his money was not to help with any real problems the world currently has but to solve imaginary problems (and possibly enrich himself further while doing it). The intense criticism that followed led to Amazon announcing in October 2018 that it would raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour and join the fight for 15. In a statement reported by the Washington Post, Bezos said “We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do and decided we want to lead.”
He didn’t decide to “lead” on this issue because it was the right thing to do; just just eight days before the announcement, Amazon was handing out 25-cent “damage control” raises. He certainly didn’t commit to rebuilding Puerto Rico or reuniting families detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or any of the great things that a pile of money like his could do. However, this story demonstrates the importance of sincere, intentional and strategic philanthropy that listens to constituent voice and focuses on the social return on investment of all that it does.
If you want to change the world, it’s not enough to throw money around. Your entire body of work — from start to finish — can be treated as an investment in the kind of world you hope to create. Meyer’s own investment team has been at the forefront of creating investment strategies and vehicles that place our assets in service to our mission. This isn’t easy work and it doesn’t happen overnight, but that should not deter anyone from doing it. Anyone can decide to lead, even before the critiques start coming. Tech companies have additional opportunities to create positive social ROI as well, in their core market offerings.
There are no bug fixes in social change philanthropy
There is such a thing as negative social ROI. Michelle Alexander detailed the implicit racism that is baked into “e-carceration” software in “The Newest Jim Crow.” Tech Workers Coalition works to stop the use of the tech labor force to support injustices such as the creation of software for ICE’s unconstitutional activities. Even the fact that the majority of apps that get funded and developed reflect the needs and desires of their mostly white creators is a form of negative social ROI. Some of these negative returns can’t be fixed. The court system is slower by design than artificial intelligence, but if AI puts more people of color in jail and their only recourse is a slow system we are taking years away from a human life that can never be replaced.
Philanthropy is often criticized for being too slow, but I believe slow can be good — especially if the goal is to make time to fully consider the implications of what we create. The last thing any tech company should do is rush into a grantmaking program with no clear idea of their goals, the environment they’re operating in or the people who inhabit it. As much as the philanthropic sector can learn from tech about being less risk-averse, it can also teach.
Some of the insights will be learning from philanthropy’s mistakes. The history of our sector is problematic, but we continue to work steadily toward social justice.
Come and learn with us.
The Foundation Center was established in 1956 to document charitable gifts in response to the pressures of McCarthyism and fears that foundations were somehow funding communism. Before this, there were foundations, but they each functioned as if in a vacuum. Click here for a more complete synopsis. Return to top ↩
Drawn to Meyer’s commitment to equitydarionMon, 04/15/2019 - 18:13
The start of the year initiated a new chapter of life for me. I joined Meyer with 20 years in philanthropy, most recently serving as vice president of programs at the Brooklyn Community Foundation in New York.
Why did I come to Meyer? It was simple: I was drawn to Meyer’s top-to-bottom commitment to equity, both internally and externally, and the ability to guide this level of resources to invest in critical issues. Not only is equity guiding the grantmaking work but it is also guiding investment decisions as well, building to use all of our assets to advance our mission. Plus, I was pleased to see the hard work of living equity values internally has started here as well.
Meyer has one of the most diverse teams I’ve seen in philanthropy: an all-women, majority people of color executive team led by a visionary African-American woman; a diverse board, also led by an African-American woman; and a bold, diverse and thoughtful team. Among Meyer’s staff of 41, more than half identify as people of color or Indigenous, more than half have taken part in nine or more days of equity training and a third were raised in a home speaking a language other than English. My partner jokes that it took a move from NYC to Portland to find a foundation as diverse as Meyer, but it is indeed an amazing organization and I am excited to be a part of this thoughtful, talented and committed team.
I am thrilled to be here in Oregon. I moved with my spouse and two sons in January and have been welcomed with friendliness and warmth, and we respect and are falling in love with our new home state. For me, taking part in visits to Tribal councils and Native communities around the state has been a wonderful start to learning more about the land and communities here. And I am looking forward to getting out of the office to meet all the grantees and communities that we are in service to and partnering with.
My role isn’t a new one entirely at Meyer, but adding the word strategy to my title was an important shift for the organization. I’ll be working to foster organization wide collaboration and making sure we build a stronger learning culture inside Meyer, while also developing and implementing programmatic strategies that reinforce the foundation’s four portfolios and leverage underlying intersections among them. The goal is to implement best practices of the sector to help Meyer continue as a leader in the field, specifically to move from a culture of metrics and compliance to a culture centered on building connections with communities.
I look forward to working with you to tackle inequity and disparity and make our home of Oregon a place that is equitable and flourishing for all. I look forward to meeting with you soon.
Spring has finally arrived and so has our 2019 annual funding opportunity! Our team is excited to accept a new round of proposals through the Healthy Environment portfolio’s statewide program that align with our vision of nurturing a resilient natural environment, while supporting the well-being of Oregon’s diverse cultures and communities.
This year we anticipate awarding grants totaling $3.5 million. Applications are due by 5 p.m., on Wednesday, May 15. We encourage you to consider submitting a day early to give yourself a cushion in case anything needs a little extra time.
The biggest change to the Healthy Environment portfolio this year is that we’ve tightened up our Statewide Program goals. If you are a previous applicant or grantee, you may remember there’s been a fourth portfolio goal the past three years: Achieve the mutual goals of community well-being, economic vitality and environmental stewardship (triple bottom line).
This will no longer be a standalone goal. We changed this because applicants often struggled to decide between the triple bottom line goal and the other goals when preparing their applications. As we considered this change and our continuing value of work that delivers on social, economic and environmental impact, we took a close look at what grants we’ve made in support of the triple bottom line goal over the past three years. What we found is that all of these triple bottom line grants could fit under one of the other three goals.
So, we made the decision to revise our goals. We believe that keeping the three remaining goals of environmental justice, diverse movement and healthy natural systems with brighter lines between them will make the goal selection process for applicants much simpler. Despite making this change, we continue to value triple bottom line thinking and approaches and expect to continue funding work that aligns with this value.
We’ve begun to take a number of steps to simplify the grantmaking process. The biggest change toward simplification that we are rolling out this year is that our application is only one step. As a result, there are a couple of additional questions (but fewer in total than the combined questions in our first and second proposal applications used the past three years). We’ve also upped the word count limit from 1,500 to 2,000 to give you more room to explain your request and how you plan to carry out the work.
In addition, you may hear about a pilot “renewal grant process”, an idea we are testing with a handful of current Healthy Environment portfolio statewide program grantees. This is another strategy to simplify the process and create more space for grantees and our team to find new ways to partner beyond the transaction of a grant application.
What’s the same?
Pretty much everything else.
We will continue to partner with organizations that share our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and working toward a more reciprocal, restorative relationship with each other and the planet.
This means that strong proposals will demonstrate an approach that recognizes the need to change policies, relationships, roles and practices in institutions, structures and systems that govern how people relate to nature and make environmental management decisions. The most competitive proposals will include strategies that aim to address disparities in access to the benefits of a healthy environment and environmental protections in communities, particularly communities of color, indigenous communities and Tribes, low-income communities, and immigrants and refugees, in rural and urban areas.
We also welcome your questions about your plans for a grant application or how to navigate GrantIS, our online application system. Please send your questions to us at questions [at] mmt.org ( )or call us at 503-228-5512.
Thank you for your continued work for a healthy environment that benefits all of Oregon’s diverse cultures and communities.
Building Community’s new approachdarionTue, 04/09/2019 - 12:44
Kimberly A.C. Wilson, Meyer’s director of communications, recently sat down with Building Community portfolio director Dahnesh Medora and program associate Erin Dysart to talk about changes in the portfolio this year, including accepting applications by invitation.
Before we talk about the shifts within the Building Community portfolio, let’s spend some time capturing the evolution of the portfolio. Since Meyer redesigned its programs, there are often questions about the purpose or vision for this portfolio. Can you share some of that background?
As I understand it, the vision was always broad. As Meyer moved away from a responsive grantmaking model, the Building Community portofolio was meant to serve as a space where a range of groups could see their work and access support generally. The initial outline for the portfolio had an emphasis on capacity building, with an added focus on civic engagement and the arts. Those were the three buckets that were most distinctly carved out.
What Building Community didn’t have, in contrast to the other portfolios, was a more topical focus that tied these things together. The closest thing we had was a focus on equity, which essentially meant that the Building Community portfolio mirrored the overarching focus of Meyer as a whole. In practice that meant Building Community was the “widest door” to apply for Meyer funding, and so we’ve consistently seen a high level of interest from the field.
This has been Meyer’s largest portfolio in regard to the range of topic areas covered and when it comes to application volume through the Annual Funding Opportunity. Can you say a bit more about what that has looked like?
Sure, over the three annual funding cycles, Building Community received about 1,000 applications, well over half of what Meyer received across all four portfolios. We funded just over 200. So about 80 percent of applications were declined each year. In terms of dollars, upward of $127 million was requested and about $22 million was granted. It has been a very competitive process.
Yes, the door has been wide, but the funding hasn’t been quite as much. Let’s come back to that 80 percent in a minute. I do want to touch on the breadth of topics you asked about. When we reviewed a pool of applications, we found folks who were working on recidivism, arts organizations that were focused on youth development and groups that were in the traditional public policy and advocacy space, including collaboratives. We’d see organizations offering direct services for basic needs and family supports for early childhood ...
… organizations working in or on health care, media, legal services, cultural preservation, out-of-school programming, community facilities, food systems, employment support … the list goes on.
So it sounds like this portfolio, at least in its earliest days, carried forward some remnants of Meyer’s previous responsive grantmaking model.
I think there’s some truth to that. We put this broad container out into the world, so although we did adjust and tighten a bit each year, we continued to receive a high volume of applications covering a vast range of issues.
For a variety of reasons, I don’t think it’s ideal that we turn down 80 percent of applicants. That means a lot of people put time and energy into an application, they base their planning around this work and our process can take between six to nine months before they even find out if they’ve been accepted as a grantee. I don’t know that there is an ideal acceptance rate necessarily — I think Meyer’s other portfolios tend to be closer to 50 percent — but I’d like to get to a place where Building Community can provide clearer guidance in advance that supports folks in making self selections and ultimately leads to a smaller number of declinations.
Funding will likely always be competitive to some degree, but we know we can make some improvements. That’s one of our goals in reformulating what we’re doing, to make the process less arduous for applicants generally. This also means that our staff will be able to focus and be more strategic with their use of time. If we’re not culling through those large numbers, we’re able to devote more time and attention to individual applications and make the case for why they should be funded to our trustees. That’s exciting to me, being more strategic.
Me, too. And that relates to something I hear consistently from our portfolio colleagues as well, that we’d all like to be out in the field more and be able to work in more relational and less transactional ways.
You mentioned adjusting and tightening each year, I think referring to the Annual Funding Opportunity. How has that played out?
We have been working incrementally on narrowing the portfolio. We’ve made adjustments to our funding goals and intended outcomes each year, in collaboration with our trustees, for example naming systems change as a goal. So we’ve experimented with some of those sorts of modifications.
Of course, some narrowing has also happened as we’ve made hard choices about what gets funded and what doesn’t. Again, the door to apply has been wide, but the funding has always been more narrow. Part of what has emerged and guided us and grown stronger in doing so over the course of these three years are what we’re now calling our anchor criteria, three qualities that we look for in partner organizations.
Those are, one, an active commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion both in external programming or services and, importantly, in internal operations and leadership. We’re looking for indications that go beyond some initial training. Two: centering, listening to and remaining accountable to the service community. We sometimes call this raising up constituent voice. Finally, three, and this is a big one for us, we’re looking for organizations that ensure that their work fits within broader efforts to address systems that perpetuate economic, political and other disparities.
You might notice that these are “issue agnostic” characteristics or rather that these are about how an organization works rather than what issue they might be focusing on. In some ways the “how” has always been a bit easier for us to pin down.
One other thing to mention, and this is connected to our anchor criteria to some degree, is that we’ve grown more clear about the need to prioritize racial equity. That’s not at the exclusion of thinking about other issues of oppression, of course.
Moving forward, we’re going to be more clear that we are looking first and foremost at work that is designed to support communities of color and Indigenous people and Tribes, and then particularly where they may experience overlapping oppressions related to gender identity, sexual orientation, immigration status ...
… or other oppressions that might be specific to a community.
Can you share what’s ahead for the Building Community portfolio in the 2019-20 funding cycle?
Some things are different, but I want to be clear that the foundational pieces remain the same. Our vision, for example. We want to create a just, complex, multicultural society where everyone can thrive. That’s been a consistent aim, and that will remain the same.
In support of that, we’re going to provide funding in the amount of roughly $2.5 million for groups that have a strong track record of work around systems change. These are organizations that will be invited to apply, so we won’t have a broad open funding call. That is the biggest difference that folks in the field are going to notice.
Again, our anchor criteria are key: The organizations invited to apply for this funding are working explicitly on systems change, as Dahnesh said, and are also strong on our other two anchor criteria, constituent voice and DEI.
We will also put out a dedicated request for proposals this spring that will focus about a million dollars of funding on organizations that are primarily in the direct service space that have an interest in focusing on systems change. Grantees of this RFP will also participate in a cohort or a community learning process that will be supported by subject matter experts in the field.
So this is for direct service providers who are really thinking about root causes?
Exactly, organizations that want to create a condition where their service isn’t needed. We work with some organizations who have figured this out beautifully. They have a vision of what it would take to ultimately work themselves out of a job. And they’re working on it! The cohort programming isn’t fully worked out yet, but we may end up reaching out to some of the groups we know that are already strong on this to see if there is an appropriate (resourced) way for them to share some of their experience with other organizations looking to build this muscle.
So this is an area — direct services to systems change — where we’re going deeper, in a sense, both for the purpose of supporting the field but also to support our own learning. Our own learning is a piece of what we’re hoping to do this next year through engagement with organizations that are in the field.
Are there other ways you’re pursuing that learning during this interim year, other elements of work not tied specifically to the two funding streams you’ve talked about? Are you in fact thinking of this as an interim year?
We are thinking of this year as unique, yes. And I’d say that all of the learning we are pursuing is in some way tied to systems change, that’s the big theme. The idea of systems change has become more and more central to Meyer’s work, but it has been defined somewhat loosely. In Building Community, we’re thinking about how we can make that more tangible. What does systems change really look like? How can we best support it? Where are the levers and opportunities in Oregon that we might be well suited to move?
We’re also talking more about how policy change and systems change overlap but aren’t the same. Policy change is part of systems change but isn’t the entirety of it by any stretch.
That’s a good way of putting it. And in that sense, the policy and advocacy component of our work has been there all the way through, and I think we’re now making more of a distinction between the two, between policy and advocacy and broader systems change efforts.
In the future, we’ll make an effort to try to convene our grantees a little more than we have in the past. You might think of it as formal convenings or meetings, but there’s also a great benefit in just deepening relationships with individual organizations and those are one-on-one conversations. Our hope is that we create enough space for our staff this year to actually go out and engage with groups one on one.
And that could go beyond grantees, too. We know there may be groups doing great work in Oregon that connects well with what we’re trying to achieve but that we haven’t partnered with or even met yet for one reason or another.
We also have Building Community staff members who represent Meyer on some important funder collaboratives — Sally Yee on the Oregon Immigrant and Refugee Funders Collaborative and Erin on the Census Equity Funders Committee of Oregon — so that is work that is also ongoing on a parallel track that can inform how the portfolio evolves.
We’ll also try to keep our tools sharp by attending conferences, working with other funders, intermediaries and peer organizations that dig in on a particular issue or have an approach that we think might lend itself well to the other efforts we see in the sector. That’s definitely a piece of the field engagement. We’re going to focus some exploration on issues related to immigration, democracy and wealth creation, themes that have emerged from our first three years that feel like they might have potential to help us sharpen our approach. We are open and ready.
This all really ties back to when Meyer’s trustees chose to shift to strategic rather than responsive grantmaking. That’s about naming the impact you want to see in the world and focusing resources on the strongest opportunities to make it happen. So when we talk about narrowing, reformulating or possibly identifying topical focus areas, these are all essentially different ways of saying that we’re trying to get more specific about the highest impact strategies that are going to help us actually shift power and achieve the transformational change we want to see in the world––and that communities have been working toward for decades!
And I think Meyer is at an inflection point more generally. As a whole organization, we are trying to understand: Where can we have the greatest impact? Our board and staff are constantly asking that question, and I think a healthy organization has to do so on an ongoing basis. To not just ask it once.
So what comes next after this year? And how can people in the field connect with you or stay tuned into what you’re working on this year?
We don’t know exactly what the year after next will look like. I know that’s not a terribly satisfying answer, but that is the genuine truth of where we are. Again, we do have core elements of the portfolio that won’t change, but the pieces that may feel most urgent to folks in the field, such as specifics of what funding opportunities will look like, we just can’t say yet. But we will stay in communication with the field about this as we have more information available. We’ll share updates online via our portfolio-specific newsletter and Meyer’s website. If folks want to know more or have specific questions, we encourage them to reach out to us directly.
Right now, as we’re announcing these changes, we’re also encouraging folks to reach out via questions [at] mmt.org so we can compile questions and share a FAQ with the field if we find themes that would be helpful to share out. Additionally, we’ll host an online Q&A session with the field at 10 a.m., Wednesday, April 24. (Register here)
Dahnesh Medora, Building Community portfolio director, joined Meyer in November 2015 in the late stages of planning for a major programming restructure. The portfolio was still taking shape at the time and was then referred to as the Resilient Social Sector portfolio. (Its name was later changed to Building Community based on field feedback.)
Erin Dysart, Building Community program associate, joined the team in March 2016 when Meyer’s strategic grantmaking structure publicly launched and its first Annual Funding Opportunity opened.
ICYMI: “Disrupting the Legacy of Colonialism.” An Oregon Funder Partners With Tribes on the EnvironmentdarionMon, 03/11/2019 - 11:40
A partnership between Tribes of the Pacific Northwest and Meyer seeks to integrate and honor Native wisdom within the environmental movement.
Inside Philanthropy examines a recent batch of grants awarded through Meyer's Healthy Environment portfolio and the unique role its grantmaking plays in supporting Tribal communities:
"[We] are excited to learn more about how traditional ecological knowledge of indigenous communities and Western science can work together to support healthy natural systems and communities," portfolio director Jill Fuglister wrote in a blog at the end of 2018. She tells IP this integration "opens the door to addressing the disparate impacts of environmental problems that indigenous communities experience by creating space for indigenous leaders to bring their concerns, priorities and solutions to environmental protection efforts."
By turning to local Native American communities to help steer its environmental grantmaking practices, Meyer may create a rich example of how environmental and social movements can come together. We see more, but arguably not enough, environmental, social justice and human rights-focused groups acknowledging and exploring how their causes overlap. At the crux of this intersection is the fact that minority groups are often the most affected by environmental degradation and calamity, and the recognition that these same communities can be a source of experience-based, authentic responses to these problems.
ICYMI: Chinook Nation buys an Oregon footholddarionMon, 02/11/2019 - 11:00
The Chinook Indian Nation recently bought about 10 acres of heavily forested land in Warrenton around Tansy Creek, one of many locations where Chinookan tribes — Clatsop, Cathlamet, Lower Chinook Wahkiakum and Willapa — were pushed off by European settlers. The plan: to purchase, protect and revitalize the Tribes’ historically important 1851 Tansy Point treaty grounds.
The Daily Astorian documents the purchase, made possible by grants from organizations such as the Oregon Community Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, Collins Foundation and others:
“'The Clatsop folks covered this whole south shore of the Columbia, really, from around Astoria itself heading west, and then of course down the adjacent seashore all the way down to Tillamook Head, that country,” (Tony Johnson, chairman of the Chinook Indian Nation) said. “But all the main country people think about here in terms of Hammond, Gearhart, Seaside — that’s all Clatsop territory.'
The property near Tansy Point is near where, in the summer of 1851, members of all five Chinookan tribes gathered to negotiate with Anson Dart, the first superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Oregon Territory, to avoid relocation east of the Cascade Mountains. It is the only known instance when all tribal ancestors were gathered in one place, Johnson said."
"Yesterday's injustice remains today's inequality," wrote Meyer President & CEO Michelle J. Depass. "The racial wealth and income gap endures, wider, even, than it was in 1968, when King was killed. Built, as it is, on the great fortunes of America, U.S. philanthropy holds a key role in closing that racial wealth and income gap.
Since refocusing its work to address inequities in Oregon, Meyer Memorial Trust has been working to dismantle structural and systemic inequities at the root of disparities in education, housing, the environment and communities, both rural and urban."
Six projects help extremely low-income people access private market housing
If you are apartment hunting, an already daunting task can feel impossible if you are low-income and have a spotty rental history, especially in a neighborhood of your choice.
When low-income tenants find housing that they can afford, they are often subjected to stringent screening criteria and considered "high risk" tenants, in addition they are rejected for reasons such as relatively minor nonviolent criminal records, prior evictions, poor credit histories, limited or no rental histories and outstanding debt. Families with children, people of color, non-English speakers, people who have experienced homelessness and people who were formerly incarcerated also face increased challenges to finding affordable housing. These renters are at increased risk of homelessness, unstable or unsafe housing situations, extreme rent burden and being asked to pay exorbitantly high security deposits.
Five years ago, case managers tasked with helping clients find housing had a group of landlords they could call regularly and access to tools for renters who were considered "higher risk." Today, that is no longer the case. In a nutshell: The housing market has changed dramatically over this time and the cost of housing has drastically increased, and incomes have not kept up. Market rate housing on the lower end of the pricing spectrum is limited and very competitive. Housing placement agencies and case managers are finding that strategies that used to work just a few years ago are no longer as effective. Even if a renter has a rental assistance voucher, if they can't pay for multiple applications or the security deposit, it may be several months before they can secure housing. This all contributes to lost individual savings, longer shelter stays, housing instability, increased trauma and lower utilization of public support systems like rental vouchers if families can't find a home.
Last summer, Meyer released a Request for Proposals for pilot and demonstration projects with potential for future scaling or replication that would increase low-income people's access to rental homes with private market landlords. Projects that proposed replicating an existing strategy to a new population or geographical community or significantly scaling an existing project were also encouraged. Meyer received 18 proposals from across the state requesting a total of $2,060,754. With a strong field of proposals, six projects were funded totaling $809,600 over two years.
These six grants wrap around Oregon, from the coast and southern regions to the central most parts of the state. Most of the proposals recommended for funding are aimed at supporting households exiting homelessness or families that are at high risk of homelessness. Each project actively leverages other resources, especially public funds like rental assistance vouchers. These projects are designed as proof of concepts of a missing element in current available housing support that is needed to effectively utilize public resources. We are confident that the selected proposals will complement efforts to address the housing crisis across Oregon.
Meyer's hope is that with more flexible and risk-tolerant funding, organizations can develop new or modified housing placement strategies to support low-income people to overcome housing barriers, enabling a family to lease a long-term rental home faster and reducing time spent in shelters or homeless.
Meyer awarded the following organizations through the 2018 Private Market Request for Proposals. These grantees will document the impact of their work and hope to demonstrate the effectiveness of these strategies for broader learning:
Hacienda CDC (For work in Multnomah County) $125,000 - To plan an equitable and inclusive community-based accessory dwelling unit (ADU) development and rental program structured to serve tenants at or below 60 percent Median Family Income (MFI) in the displacement-risk neighborhoods of Cully, Lents and Inner North/Northeast Portland.
Homes for Good (For work in Lane County) $150,000 - To expand the Move Up Initiative, Homes for Goods permanent supportive housing program, by adding a housing navigator and piloting a leasing bonus strategy for landlords housing 50 high-risk and high-barrier households.
NeighborImpact (For work in Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties) $150,000 - For piloting a debt-relief strategy for 60 high-barrier tenant households exiting homelessness.
Northwest Credit Union Foundation (For work in Clackamas, Multnomah, Washington and Yamhill counties) $149,600 - To develop a demonstration project of a low-cost security deposit loan program led by credit unions that can rapidly be scaled to meet the needs of 120-150 low-income households a year, in Clackamas, Multnomah, Washington and Yamhill counties.
Oregon Coast Community Action (For work in Coos, Curry and Douglas counties) $115,000 - For replication of Yamhill Community Action Partnership's (YCAP) landlord engagement and retention program to support 30 families receiving case management services who are exiting homelessness or unstably housed.
Yamhill Community Action Partnership (For work in Yamhill County) $120,000 - To scale YCAP's landlord engagement and retention program and add a debt relief strategy for households exiting homelessness, serving 123 high-barrier and extremely low-income tenant households.
We know that these grants will only address a fraction of the statewide need, if proven successful, but have potential to create game changing strategies for the entire housing industry.
Today, Meyer's Housing Opportunities portfolio released a new Request for Proposals to support housing advocacy efforts around the state.
We think of "advocacy" pretty broadly, including community organizing and mobilization, policy analysis and research, focused communications and education around housing issues, as well as targeted approaches to achieve specific policy goals. Proposals under this RFP can address local, regional and/or statewide issues but must have a strong connection to affordable housing.
This RFP will focus on two tracks: Campaign Leaders, for work that is focused on a clear policy or systems change goal and is led by a strong coalition of partners, and Advocacy Mobilizers, which may be more broad and less focused on one specific issue or for the early stages in mobilizing support for more affordable housing opportunities.
For either track, strong proposals will reflect a strong commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion; a clear sense of the issues to be addressed and obstacles to be overcome; and some track record doing the kind of work proposed. We strongly encourage proposals that bring in voices and collaborators that may not have been part of affordable housing advocacy in the past.
Those awarded grants under this RFP will be invited to participate in one or more convenings and will have a chance to network with and learn from other grantees in the cohort.
An application under this RFP does not preclude organizations from submitting proposals for other Meyer funding opportunities and grantseekers may apply to this RFP regardless of any other active Meyer grants.
Two information sessions are scheduled to explain the RFP in detail and answer questions. Register to attend a session at 10 a.m. on Jan. 29 or 3 p.m. on Feb. 5. Register online here.
Proposals will be accepted online (via grantis.mmt.org) until Feb. 26, 2019. Funding decisions are expected in late spring, with grant payments going out shortly thereafter. Make sure you're signed up for our Housing newsletter to stay current on this and other funding opportunities!
Campaign Leaders:grants intended for focused and targeted efforts with a clear policy or systems change goal led by a strong coalition of partners with a credible plan to succeed. Maximum of $75,000 available per year, for a total of $150,000 over two years.
Advocacy Mobilizers:for organizing efforts that may be more broad-based and less focused on one issue, or in an earlier stage of mobilizing support for more affordable housing opportunities. Maximum of $40,000 available per year, for total of $80,000 over two years.
Final award decisions are expected in May 2019, with first-year payments released in June 2019.
Meyer staff will present an overview of the RFP and be available to answer questions at two information sessions:
As most folks packed up their belongings and headed home after the Philanthropy Northwest annual conference, I boarded a bus with several other PNW members and staff and headed to Jerome, Idaho to visit the Minidoka National Historic Site and view what’s left of the former incarceration camp that held my family, along with 13,000 other people of Japanese ancestry during World War II.
As you step onto the ashy soil of the high desert plain, it’s hard not to notice how little of the camp is left and the expansive scale that it once occupied. Originally 33,000 acres, the camp became the seventh largest city in Idaho at the time. I try to imagine what life would’ve been like behind these barbed wires and underneath the ever-present gaze from the guard tower. I think about how terrified my grandmother must have been, younger than I am now with two young children and pregnant with a third, having just lost everything and now forced to live in a shabby barrack with several other families and no idea about what will happen next. Everything unknown.
I grew up with stories of my family just trying to maintain as much a sense of community as possible, and I can feel that when walking along the baseball field or stepping into the fire stations at Minidoka. Scanning photos of the makeshift holiday celebrations and the community gardens, knowing how my family had to completely rebuild their lives after leaving the camps, the resiliency of the Japanese American community is not lost on me. I feel the strength of my relatives under the face of oppression in the core of my being and in my motivation for supporting communities of color in this work.
My grandmother was vocal about sharing her experience at Minidoka so that it would never happen again. As a yonsei, fourth generation Japanese American, I also know that the trauma of this experience lasts for generations. As I continue to grow within the field of philanthropy, I carry my family’s strength and experience with me and I move towards the ways that philanthropy can play an active role in fighting the oppression of communities of color by centering them in our work, following their lead, elevating their voices and supporting their work. Because “never again” is right now.
A stone monument near the entrance of Minidoka Relocation Center, reminding visitors of “what can happen when other factors supersede the constitutional rights guaranteed to all citizens and aliens living in this country.”