Equity in Oregon: Here’s a New Opportunity for Local Groups

Last fall, we wrote about how the Meyer Memorial Trust, one of the biggest players in Oregon philanthropy, had been shifting its grantmaking to take an equity approach. That move is part of a larger pattern of more foundations giving attention to equity, often after “learning and listening tours” to assess local needs.  

Related: Here's the Latest Foundation Putting Equity at the Center of Everything

On the heels of Meyer’s grantmaking redesign, the foundation recently opened up a new opportunity for organizations working to fight inequities across the state. The four portfolios at the foundation are still the same: Building Community, Equitable Education, Healthy Environment and Housing Opportunities. But each one has been tailored a bit to put equity at the forefront. There's now $17.1 million up for grabs as part of the funder’s second annual funding invitation.

Let’s take a closer look.

Local nonprofits have been providing feedback to Meyer ever since the funder sharpened its focus on Oregon’s equity challenges. This feedback has included suggestions about how to solve disparities involving race, ethnicity, national origin, citizenship status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion, and other oppressions. Accordingly, Meyer has updated its grant application process this year in a few key ways.

The funder is now offering a new diversity, equity, and inclusion tool to help nonprofit discover ways to take their equity missions further. There will also now be a requirement for grantees to integrate this tool into their operations. More applicant resources can be found on the funder’s website, and in-person and online information sessions are being offered during the application period. Upcoming dates, times, and locations can be found here. Overall, the funder was told ways that it could be clearer, more informative, and simplify the process for grantees. And it listened. Read Director of Programs Candy Solovjovs’ article to learn more.

In this next grantmaking round, the most money will be dedicated to equitable education, $5.2 million. These grants are designed to support meaningful public education by offering opportunities for all Oregon students. Most funding typically goes to help underserved communities of color, English language learners, first-generation postsecondary students, people living in poverty, and individuals with disabilities. Operating, capacity-building, and project grants are awarded in this focus area.

The next biggest priority area of the moment is building community, which largely deals with civic engagement and arts and culture for inclusion. Project, capacity building, capital, and operating support are all provided for these grants. The funder plans to invest $4.8 million for these types of causes.

The other two current topics for this funder are affordable housing (approximately $3.8 million in grants) and the natural environment (approximately $3.3 million in grants). Programs that help underserved populations gain access to healthy environments and provide equal access to good housing conditions often see Meyer's support.

New grants will range in size from $10,000 to $25,000, and the deadline to apply is April 19. Last year, Meyer awarded $36 million across 151 grants, and this year is expected to be pretty much on par with those figures.