ICYMI: Three Governors on How They’re Fighting Trump’s Census Manipulationdarion Fri, 08/02/2019 - 10:53

Years of uncertainty about whether the 2020 U.S. Census would include a question about citizenship ended in June when the Supreme Court blocked its inclusion.

Three Western governors — Gov. Kate Brown (OR), Gov. Gavin Newsom (CA) and Gov. Jay Inslee (WA) — applauded the court’s decision in a New York Times op-ed about the importance of the Census and the devastating impact of undercounting the nation’s population.

“... just because the citizenship question will not be included doesn’t mean an end to the confusion or anxiety. We will not sit idly by, and we are committed to reassuring our communities that they can feel secure in taking part in the census and that their participation matters.

A miscount would have huge consequences. It would significantly erode the political power of communities of color and reduce funding to vulnerable communities for things like health care services, education programs and bridges and roads.

Our economies could also suffer. Businesses use census data to make $4 trillion in annual private investment decisions. And the information helps them decide where to build, invest in other businesses and what to sell to whom. Utility companies use it to influence where they add infrastructure and invest in new technology.

Everyone must be counted.”

Many challenges remain to achieving an accurate count in 2020 — budget cuts, minimal advance testing, rollout of the nation’s first digital census, continuing fear and mistrust in communities. The 2020 count will require stronger statewide efforts than ever before.

Meyer is proud to join with philanthropy peers from across the state in the Census Equity Funders Committee of Oregon (CEFCO) to ensure that each Oregonian is counted.

Read the Governors’ full New York Times Op-Ed piece here.

Photo source: A woman protesting the citizenship question outside the Supreme Court in April.CreditCreditAurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images (NYTimes)

Photo source: A woman protesting the citizenship question outside the Supreme Court in April.CreditCreditAurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images (NYTimes)

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Housing shouldn’t depend on immigration statusdarion Sat, 06/29/2019 - 10:33

Equity and fair access to opportunity are core values for Meyer Memorial Trust. 

It’s rare that Meyer uses its voice to call out federal policy, but we felt called to comment on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s proposed rule about mixed-status families. The more we heard from partners about HUD’s plans to evict thousands of families, seniors and children into homelessness, the more we knew we had to speak up and use our platform to support Oregonians on this important issue. 
On May 10, 2019, HUD proposed a rule change that would no longer allow “mixed-status” families — households with both documented and undocumented members — to qualify for federal housing assistance based on their immigration status. This proposed rule would force families out of public housing and Section 8 programs, effectively spurring homelessness, forced family breakups and/or loss of housing assistance. The proposed rule would give current residents nearly no time to react or prepare. There are some great in-depth explainers here, here and here about the proposed rule and its effects. 

This is even worse than it looks. It would have a devastating impact on not just the families directly affected by this rule but also our local communities across Oregon. Not only would the proposed HUD rule revoke housing assistance to families who are entitled to federal housing assistance but it would also without a doubt increase homelessness in Oregon. It also would impose new reporting and documentation guidelines on legal residents and U.S. citizens that feed a climate of fear, distrust and division.

It’s time for more people to say “enough.” Enough using families and children as props for a political gain. Enough terrorizing some of our most vulnerable neighbors with intimidation, fear-mongering and inciting hatred from other groups. The proposed rule change is racist. It’s not a strategy to address immigration or housing. It seeks to target the Latinx community, and HUD itself has admitted that there would be no benefit to families on housing wait lists and the rule could lead to reduced quality in housing. If it takes effect, it would jeopardize the housing stability of American citizens and legal residents of the U.S., as well as undocumented residents (who are already prohibited from receiving federal housing assistance). It is estimated that nearly 700 Oregon households, including 1,700 children, would be directly impacted by this proposed rule. This would create a significant burden on communities and local governments across Oregon that do not have the resources to respond to an increased wave of homelessness and emergency support needs.

Meyer stands with all Oregonians to make Oregon the best it can be for everyone who calls it home. And Meyer intentionally stands with communities of color. We strive to use our position of power and privilege to call out policies and programs that threaten the livelihood of our neighbors and communities. 

Every day our nonprofit partners doing on-the-ground work across the state change individual lives and transform communities. This proposed HUD rule is a direct assault on those efforts and on Meyer’s vision of a flourishing and equitable Oregon. 

— Michelle J. DePass, President and CEO 

Read Meyer's public comment on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s proposed rule about mixed-status families here or below:

I am writing on behalf of Meyer Memorial Trust in response to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) proposed rule to express our strong opposition to the changes regarding "verification of eligible status,” published in the Federal Register on May 10, 2019 (RIN 2501-AD89; HUD Docket No. FR-6124-P-01). We urge the rule be withdrawn in its entirety and HUD’s long-standing regulations remain in effect.

Meyer Memorial Trust is a private foundation in Portland, Ore., whose mission is to work with and invest in organizations, communities, ideas and efforts that contribute to a flourishing and equitable Oregon. We see the proposed rule as a direct affront to our core values — and to the values that define America. Foundations have long devoted resources to address society's problems, including funding programs to help address and alleviate the homeless and housing crisis.

This is likely the first time Meyer Memorial Trust has commented on a pending federal housing rule. We are moved to do so by HUD’s willingness to use families and children as props in a political drama that will destabilize communities across the United States and directly increase homelessness and trauma among Oregon’s 4.2 million residents. We are deeply alarmed at this effort to divide Americans, to sow fear and distrust and anger, and to stigmatize our most vulnerable neighbors.

The proposed rule will hurt tens of thousands of immigrant families, including many citizen children.

There is no legitimate policy purpose behind the proposed rule. HUD itself has admitted that there would be no benefit to families on housing waiting lists and it could lead to reduced quality in housing. If it takes effect, it would jeopardize the housing stability of American citizens and legal residents of the U.S., as well as undocumented residents (who are already prohibited from receiving federal housing assistance). It is estimated that 100,000 households, including 55,000 children, would be directly impacted by this proposed rule. This would create a significant burden on communities and local governments across Oregon that do not have the resources to respond to an increased wave of homelessness and emergency support needs.

The proposed rule would bar children who are U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents from maintaining and seeking federally subsidized housing. The proposed rule would severely and immediately impact thousands of people, many of them children, in Oregon. We know all too well the human, social and financial cost of homelessness; we are appalled to see the federal government propose policies that would make this crisis worse. And the message behind the proposed rule is already contributing to a climate deeply at odds with the work Meyer aims to support. We know from our partners working with Latinx communities across Oregon that the federal government’s demonization of undocumented workers, families and children is having a chilling effect — preventing people from accessing services and benefits to which they are eligible, feeding a reluctance to have any contact with government, and feeding a climate of fear and distrust. The proposed regulations are in direct conflict with their underlying statute and ignore amendments that Congress made to Section 214.

HUD has not adequately addressed the administrative burdens created by the proposed rule.

Housing providers and landlords would be significantly burdened by the rule. The rule’s impact would not be limited to immigrants and their families. Under the proposed requirements for documentation, tens of thousands of public housing agencies and private property owners and managers would need to collect documents “proving” the citizenship of over 9 million assisted residents receiving HUD assistance who have already attested citizenship, under penalty of perjury. They would also have to collect documents on future applicants for assistance. Housing providers would also need to collect status documentation from 120,000 elderly immigrants. Additionally, the proposed rule calls for public housing authorities to establish their own policies and criteria to determine whether a family should receive continued or temporary deferral of assistance. These requirements would place a significant cost burden on housing authorities and other subsidized housing providers that are completely unaccounted for in the rule. Housing authorities, charged with administering the public housing and Housing Choice Voucher programs, have spoken out against the proposed rule.

For the past five years, Meyer has worked to foster relationships between housing service agencies, public housing authorities and private landlords. Nonprofits and landlord groups have made significant progress to work together and streamline better public housing authority processes across Oregon, making housing placement smoother and faster, benefiting all parties involved. Most Oregon landlords own and self-manage fewer than 20 units. The proposed rule would create an undue burden on hundreds of Oregon landlords and small public housing authorities, strain existing positive relationships and complicate housing placement of all low-income families eligible for public assistance.

Meyer Memorial Trust strives to use our position of power and privilege to call out policies and programs that threaten our neighbors and communities. This proposed HUD rule is a direct assault on our core values and on our vision of a flourishing and equitable Oregon.

We urge HUD to immediately withdraw its current proposal and dedicate its efforts to advancing policies that strengthen — rather than undermine — the ability of immigrants to support themselves and their families. If we want our communities to thrive, everyone in those communities must be able to stay together and get the care, services and support they need to remain healthy and productive. We urge the secretary and the administration to join us working on positive solutions to the issues affecting us.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments on the proposed rulemaking. Please do not hesitate to contact me at michellej [at] mmt.org if further information is needed.

A residential complex for multifamily housing.
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ICYMI: Lane Community College’s Rites of Passage bolsters students of colordarion Tue, 06/25/2019 - 14:14

Lane Community College’s Rights of Passage program — a multicultural curriculum focused on serving students from African American, Asian, Pacific Islander, Latinx and Indigenous communities — increases participation and graduation rates for underserved middle and high school students of color in Lane County, encouraging them to learn more about their own cultural history, traditions, folklore, literature and heritage.

“What’s the importance of having an instructor, educational leader or other role model who looks like, talks like and comes from a similar background as their students?” asks journalist Alisha Roemeling in a Register-Guard article covering the Rights of Passage program based in south Eugene, Oregon:

“We provide [students] with the role models they need, like educators and other professionals in our community, to help them see that they can achieve great things too,” said Greg Evans, founder of Lane Community College’s Rites of Passage program. “They don’t see teachers and other support staff who look like them all day, every day at school, but they’re in this program and they come from the communities that they represent.”

Meyer's Equitable Education portfolio awarded a $185,000 three-year grant to support expansion of the Rites of Passage program. You can learn more about LCC’s Rites of Passage program here.

Jim Garcia, coordinator of Lane Community College’s Chicano/Latino Student Program, listens to a student while teaching. Photo credit: Andy Nelson at The Register-Guard

Jim Garcia, coordinator of Lane Community College’s Chicano/Latino Student Program, listens to a student while teaching. Photo credit: Andy Nelson at The Register-Guard

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ICYMI: Housing and Health Care Under One Roofdarion Tue, 06/25/2019 - 08:59

Central City Concern is building a six-story, $52 million development, the Blackburn Center, to increase stock and access to health care integrated housing in Portland.

Affordable Housing Finance recently published an article about the new building that will include a 40,000-square-foot integrated health care clinic and 165 units of respite care, transitional and permanent housing units:

“This is our 40th anniversary as an organization, but this is the first time where everything we do and offer will be available under one roof. That’s really the exciting part here,” says Central City Concern chief housing and strategy officer Sean Hubert. “For us as an organization, it gives us the opportunity to pilot a new way of doing business, and I think it gives us an opportunity to put the client at the center of our work and to align and build the services around the client.”

Click here to learn more about CCC's new campus of integrated housing.

A rendering of Central City Concern's Blackburn Center | Courtesy Ankrom Moisan Architecture

A rendering of Central City Concern's Blackburn Center, courtesy of Ankrom Moisan Architecture

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ICYMI: Rukaiyah Adams receives Stanford Graduate School of Business Tapestry Awarddarion Tue, 06/25/2019 - 08:26

In May, Meyer’s chief investment officer Rukaiyah Adams received the 2019 Stanford Graduate School of Business Tapestry Award, which honors the contributions of African American Stanford alumni who have woven inspirational leadership, intellectual excellence and service to others through their professional and personal life’s works.

Voices of Stanford GSB highlights Rukaiyah’s efforts in a recent feature:

“If we invest for 15- or 20-year horizons, the reality is that it will be today’s 20-year-olds who help us realize those investments and achieve our expectations over the long run,” said Rukaiyah Adams, chief investment officer at Meyer Memorial Trust. “And if their points of view are significantly different than generations before — if they delay homeownership or stop buying cars and decide to ride bikes instead — we have to think about their values and what matters most to them because those dramatic changes have become investment risks.”

Read the entire piece here.

Stanford Graduate School of Business recognizes Meyer CIO Rukaiyah Adams for outstanding leadership, authenticity, courage and humility
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ICYMI: Trail Blazers Honor Trail Blazers

In celebration of Black History Month, the Portland Trail Blazers honored six leaders in Oregon — including Linfield College president Dr. Miles Davis, Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, Oregon Health & Science University president Dr. Danny Jacobs, Oregon Supreme Court Justice Adrienne Nelson, Portland Police Bureau chief Danielle Outlaw and Meyer Memorial Trust president & CEO Michelle J. DePass — to recognize their groundbreaking leadership, each as the first African American to hold their executive-level position within their respective institutions.

Read the Skanner News’ reporting on the event that took place during the Feb. 5 🏀 basketball game between the #RipCity Trail Blazers and Miami Heat here.

A photo of Trail Blazer honorees, from left to right: Linfield College president Dr. Miles Davis, Meyer's president & CEO Michelle J. DePass, Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, Portland Police Bureau chief Danielle Outlaw, Oregon Supreme Court Justice Adrienne Nelson and Oregon Health & Science University president Dr. Danny Jacobs.

Honorees Linfield College president Dr. Miles Davis, Meyer CEO Michelle J. DePass, Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, Portland Police Bureau chief Danielle Outlaw, Oregon Supreme Court Justice Adrienne Nelson and OHSU president Dr. Danny Jacobs.

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ICYMI: Will “opportunity zones” help or hurt low-income neighborhoods? The jury is out

The Opportunity Zone program — a federal strategy that provides preferential tax treatment to investors, allowing them to sell a good that has increased in value, such as stock or real estate, but delay paying taxes on capital gains if they immediately reinvest in a building or business that is located in a recognized site — has selected the Rockwood neighborhood as a new opportunity zone in Oregon.

Rockwood, between the borders of Portland and Gresham, has historically been a disinvested neighborhood in the Portland area. Zoning the region as an opportunity zone will make it a tempting investment opportunity for private investors and real estate developers.

The Oregonian reports on the selection of Rockwood as an opportunity zone:

Rockwood, just inside Gresham’s borders, stretches from roughly 162nd to 202nd avenues, along East Burnside Street and the MAX Blue Line. A high percentage of residents live below the poverty line, and many are members of racial or ethnic minorities. It’s long suffered under a reputation for high crime, though its crime rate is similar to other neighborhoods considering its population.

“There are a lot of complex reasons why a neighborhood like Rockwood gets overlooked, but the systems have really failed our neighbors, and getting unstuck has been a really complicated problem,” said Brad Ketch, founder of the nonprofit Rockwood Community Development Corp.

Read the full story here.

The Rockwood Rising site, owned by the city of Gresham, was the site of a Fred Meyer that closed in 2003. The city plans a major redevelopment it hopes will spur more development in the neighborhood. Photo credit Elliot Njus at the Oregonian

The Rockwood Rising site, owned by the city of Gresham, was the site of a Fred Meyer that closed in 2003. The city plans a major redevelopment it hopes will spur more development in the neighborhood. | Photo credit Elliot Njus at the Oregonian

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Teachers are telling us something, let’s listen

On May 8, public school teachers across Oregon planned a walkout to advocate for more state funding. Districts responded by cancelling school for the day, adjusting calendars and, in the case of Portland Public Schools, demonstrating support for increased public education funding: “Our educators and students deserve better. It is long overdue that we prioritize schools in Oregon,” said Guadalupe Guerrero, Portland Public Schools superintendent.

As Oregon teachers continue to advocate for deeper investments in schools statewide, Meyer supports their efforts by investing in a system that not only guarantees teacher voice, but also sees it as a trusted, integral part of how schools operate and how students learn. As we elevate the voices of all teachers, Meyer is deeply committed to centering those who have been our communities’ most marginalized: teachers of color.

Meyer’s Focus

A key outcome for Meyer’s Equitable Education portfolio is diversifying Oregon’s public education workforce. Data show that racially diverse teachers have a significant positive impact on the achievement of priority students, specifically students of color, but we and others would argue all students benefit. The Oregon Legislature is seeing this need, too; the Joint Committee on Student Success is currently reviewing House Bill 2742, which directs the Department of Education to distribute grants for the purpose of developing and diversifying Oregon’s educator workforce, from pre-kindergarten through grade 12.

Meyer believes incorporating teacher voice is crucial to our state’s education puzzle. Legislation, district policies, grants and scholarships alone will not move the dial on our biggest challenges: We must build mechanisms designed for inclusion, created to recognize expertise where it exists and engendered to promote agency in determining the most effective solutions. Led by these principals, Meyer has sought opportunities to participate in education discussions centered on this topic. We discovered that those who are the most critical to defining challenges and creating solutions are often missing from the conversation entirely.

For Meyer to make informed decisions on investments that further our outcome of diversifying Oregon’s public education workforce, we needed to engage those closest to the subject. To do so, we connected with our statewide networks and gathered together teachers of color from across Oregon who are known equity champions in their schools and districts. This diverse group of 23 teachers of color discussed what brought them to teaching, what keeps them teaching and what daily challenges push them to consider leaving the profession. Most importantly, we discussed their recommendations for how public education in Oregon can attract, sustain and retain teachers of color.

The information below was collected during our gathering. It has informed Meyer’s present work and will serve as a guide for future investments.

Group Profile

Meyer’s Teachers of Color Gathering was facilitated by Zalika Gardner, a teacher of color who taught for more than 15 years and now serves as education director for KairosPDX — a school she co-founded in North Portland in 2012. The 23 participants were from different racial and ethnic groups and identified as Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, Latinx, Native American, South Asian and multiracial (identifying with two or more races). The educators’ experience teaching varied from less than five years to more than 20 years and one administrator with five years of experience. The teachers came from cities and school districts across Oregon: Portland, Hood River, Clackamas, Medford, Gresham, Eugene and Seaside. Most teachers had earned their teaching credentials in Oregon. The few who earned their credentials out of state earned them in California or New York. One participant was a credentialed teacher in Mexico but was not able to teach in Oregon without earning a master’s degree in education in the United States.

Many participants commented that they had never been in a space with such a diverse group of teachers, primarily folks of color. Those who had experienced a similar space said that it did not happen in Oregon. Within the first few hours of the gathering many teachers began to express that eight hours would not be enough time to grapple with the topics of the day. It was clear that the event itself was serving a crucial need for networking and relationship building among educators of color within Oregon.

What We Heard

Teachers of color are mission-driven. The core message from participants was their love for their students and communities compelled them into the teaching profession and that passion for their students and communities keeps them teaching and persevering through common challenges.

Throughout the gathering, four themes emerged as central to transforming Oregon’s public schools and education system into an institution that attracts and retains teachers of color:

  • Teacher preparation programs must do a better job of educating emerging, pre-service teachers in culturally affirming pedagogy. At the same time, programs must create honest and nurturing spaces for pre-service teachers of color to share experiences and build support networks with other teachers and mentors of color that will sustain them as they enter the teaching workforce and face biases on a daily basis. Key programs cited as exemplary: Sapsipkwala program, Portland Teachers Program, and the Bilingual Teacher Pathway program at Portland State University.
  • Excellent, culturally matched mentors matter. In almost every activity, the necessity and influence of effective mentorship surfaced as a central reason participants remained in teaching. Participants insisted that placing emerging teachers with content-specific and grade-level specific mentors who are honest, culturally empowering master teachers is critical to achieving and retaining a diversified teaching workforce.
  • Teachers of color need an organization that shares the values and concerns of diverse teachers. This idea emerged as a “collective” or hub that offers resources for professional coaching, mental health support, legal support, lobbying and advocacy services. Teachers of color don’t always feel represented by their unions; leadership is predominantly white and trails behind national educator organizations on issues of equity. Because the majority of Oregon’s teaching workforce is white, the union serves the agenda of the majority of its constituents. Some participants felt they were vulnerable to being marginalized, tokenized and forced to stay quiet when union decisions and actions put them directly at odds with the organization charged with representing them.
  • The higher you move up in education leadership in Oregon, the whiter the population becomes. Currently there are 197 superintendents across Oregon and just seven of them are leaders of color: Guadalupe Guerrero (PPS), Paul Coakley (Centennial), Danna Diaz (Reynolds), Katrise Perera (Gresham/Barlow), Gustavo Balderas (Eugene), Koreen N. Barreras-Brown (Colton) and George Mendoza (La Grande); less than 4% of district leaders. Oregon’s teachers of color rarely have leadership that understands what teaching or leading in a school building feels like as a person of color. The cohort of teachers identified more responsive, culturally affirming training for emerging school building administrators and thorough ongoing professional development and equity training for those already leading buildings. Teachers believed that school building leaders set the framework for cultural norms in the building. Thus, this is a crucial role, one that has an immense effect on whether or not a teacher of color remains a teacher. It’s important that these leaders know how to lead, affirm and develop a diverse teacher workforce.


Meyer’s Teachers of Color Gathering uncovered clear alignment in why participants chose the teaching profession: their love for their communities. Teachers also shared the central issue that challenges them to stay: biased co-teachers, building administrators and others openly dismissing, belittling, disparaging and underestimating teachers, children and families of color.

If we truly seek to create an educator workforce that reflects Oregon’s increasingly diverse student population, we must not only examine how we prepare and train teachers of color, but also radically reshape the expectations for pre-service white teachers and administrators. A training system that exposes and examines biases isn’t one class or a few discussions but a central area of mastery essential to becoming a teacher or administrator in the state of Oregon.

Next Steps

Meyer remains committed to elevating the voices of teachers and administrators of color. We will continue to work with this core group of educators to determine meaningful investments toward our outcome of sustaining and increasing Oregon’s education workforce diversity. Heeding the feedback we received from the first gathering, we will hold another gathering in winter 2019, bringing back this core group of educators and adding more, including administrators of color who are leading for equity. We also plan to connect pre-service teachers of color with this incredible collection of educators to promote networking and relationship building for these burgeoning teachers.

We look to our partners: Oregon Department of Education, Educator Advancement Council, Counsel of School Supervisors and Administrators, Oregon Education Association, Portland State University, University of Oregon, Western Oregon University, Chemeketa Community College, Columbia Gorge Community College and school districts around the state and others to share in our commitment. All Oregon’s public school students deserve an educator workforce that is representative of their communities in their school buildings and district offices, and we’ll work diligently to support those dedicated to this equitable goal.

— Bekah

Five educators participate in a group activity during Meyer’s 2018 Teachers of Color Gathering at Northwest Health Foundation.

Five educators participate in a group activity during Meyer’s 2018 Teachers of Color Gathering at Northwest Health Foundation.

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At the Intersection of Philanthropy and Tech (Part II): What philanthropy can teach the tech sector

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.

Story Time

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.



  1. 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 ↩

  2. Rogoway, Mike. “Oregon’s tech industry appears to have plateaued,” The Oregonian, May 3, 2018. Return to top ↩

Photo caption: Five people fist bump.
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Drawn to Meyer’s commitment to equity

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.


Meyer staff and Asian Health & Service Center CEO Holden Leung, attended a two-day program team retreat to delve deeper into equity work and programmatic strategy.

Meyer staff and Asian Health & Service Center CEO Holden Leung, attended a two-day program team retreat to delve deeper into equity work and programmatic strategy.

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