Oregon Philanthropy: Recent Trends and Top Funders to Watch

Portland. photo: Jon Bilous/shutterstock

Portland. photo: Jon Bilous/shutterstock

With the city of Portland at the epicenter of statewide giving, philanthropy in Oregon has been on the rise in recent years. As part of our expanding coverage of this region, we’re taking a look at each Northwest state, one by one, to highlight a few trends and key players making waves on the local philanthropy scene.

As is the case in many places, Oregon funders are most concerned with health and education. According to data from Philanthropy Northwest, funders have given approximately 30 percent of grants in Oregon to health causes, giving around 21 percent to education. Health grants tend to be larger, but funders make higher numbers of education grants each year. Human services is the next largest funding category in the state, coming in at around 10 percent of total grantmaking. Environment and animals, arts and culture, and nonprofit management are 9 percent, 7 percent, and 4 percent, respectively.

A big grantmaker in Oregon to always keep an eye on is the Meyer Memorial Trust. This is a foundation working toward a more equitable Oregon in the areas of community development, education, environment and housing. Other Oregon-based private funders that give big in the state are the Ford Family Foundation (not to be confused with the Ford Foundation) and the Collins Foundation.

The Ford Family Foundation has five focus areas: children, education, community, arts and economy. Meanwhile, Collins also has a strong equity focus and funds everything from health to social services, education, housing, employment, arts and culture and the environment.


But it’s the Oregon Community Foundation that has emerged as the top grantmaker in the state in recent years. With offices in Portland, Bend, Medford, Salem and Eugene, this funder supports the arts, education, the environment and health statewide. It has an open application process and donor-advised funds to funnel grants through, and annual giving consistently tops $100 million.

Moving on to corporate giving, the Portland Business Journal recently released its list of top corporate philanthropists in the state. It recognized at least 40 companies in its 2017 Corporate Philanthropy Awards based on 2016 figures. The news, here, is positive for Oregon nonprofits because the number of companies that made charitable contributions rose from 115 in 2015 to 128 in 2016. Also, corporate philanthropy cash contributions went up to $113.4 million from $89.1 million.

The top small company in terms of corporate giving was the First Federal Savings and Loan Association of McMinnville, and Directors Mortgage won the top spot for medium companies in Oregon. Windermere Stellar was the most generous large company, and Intel made the most local cash contributions among enterprise companies.

Finally, let's not forget that Oregon has some very wealthy individual donors, starting with Phil and Penny Knight, who've made mammoth gifts lately to higher education and research in the state. 

For more state-specific news and insights, make sure to follow Philanthropy Northwest’s Oregon page and also IP's local Northwest section.

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