We’ve been following the Opus Community Foundation (OCF) for a while now in regard to its giving in the Southwest and the various parts of California. But this funder, which is the philanthropic arm of Opus Bank, is also active in the Northwest.
With recent announcements in back-to-back months, OCF introduced new grants made to groups in Washington, Oregon, California, and Arizona. First came 17 grant awards, with one going to Arizona, 10 to California, one to Oregon, and five to Washington. The Oregon grant went to a group called Financial Beginnings, which is using the funds for a program to provide finance education to low-income high schoolers in the Portland metro area. Financial literacy support was a priority in Washington during that grantmaking round as well. For example, OCF awarded a grant to Community Big Give to provide both financial literacy support and school supplies in underserved communities.
Historically, OCF giving in the state Washington has been very strong and quite diverse. Other grants in that spring cycle went towards distributing food to low-income people in Western Washington, childcare and preschool programs, and a summer internship program for teens. The funder also has an interest in job training for financial careers here. For example, the YWCA Seattle/King/Snohomish secured OCF’s support to train local people for careers in banking.
Then about a month and a half later, OCF came out with another round of grants for its target states. In this round, Oregon only received one grant again. Meanwhile, California and Washington solidified their spots as top priorities for the funder. Washington groups received four grants in this most recent giving too. But this time, the topics of interest were a bit different.
The Oregon grantee was the Portland Opera Association, which is using OCF’s money to bring fine arts performances to audiences that would probably never experience them otherwise. To support the arts in Washington, OCF awarded a grant to the Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas, which hosts arts education programs to improve writing, creativity, and personal growth.
Affordable housing was another area of interest here, as the Home Trust of Skagit received a grant to support acquisition, redevelopment, and affordable housing management projects. Taking a sidestep from the financial focus, OCF grants had a more general approach to youth and education in this round. It awarded a grant to InvestED to reduce barriers for low-income students to participate in non-academic activities and also to the Snohomish Educational Foundation to fill summer learning gaps. Low-income, K-12 kids remain the target demographic of this funder.
So, while financial literacy and economic self-sufficiency remains at the heart of what this funder does in its service area, much of its Northwest support has been coming through community support grants, too. These types of grants cover everything from affordable housing to education, youth development, and the arts. And we’ve been seeing quite a bit of this type of support in the region lately. One other of giving that the funder is open to is community health and human services; however, not as many of these grants have been flowing in the Northwest lately.
Unsolicited OCF grant requests of $10,000 or less are accepted on a rolling basis, but you’ll have to receive an invitation from the bank to apply for anything more than that. Keep in mind that big cities, like Seattle and Portland, tend to see the bulk of OCF grants in the Northwest. But if you have an Opus Bank location nearby, this is a good funder to know for support in the $5,000 range.