Opus in the Northwest: How This Bank Funder Gives in Oregon and Washington

Homelessness is one issue the Opus Community Foundation cares about. photo: Phil Lowe/shutterstock

Homelessness is one issue the Opus Community Foundation cares about. photo: Phil Lowe/shutterstock

In various regions of the U.S., corporate bank funders are some of the steadiest supporters of local nonprofits you’ll find. Lots of neighborhood and regional banks establish grantmaking foundations to give back to the communities they operate in, and their geographic reach rarely expands from there. Bank funders typically operate through broad grant categories and accessible guidelines that welcome inquiries from local groups. Yet there’s a lot of diversity among bank funders in terms of size, geographic coverage, and involvement of bank staff with nonprofit grantees.

While big banks often take a nationwide approach and small community banks operate within a single city or state, others serve a scattering of areas that are really quite different from one another. For example, the Opus Community Foundation (OCF) is a bank funder that serves Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington with its grantmaking. Each of these states has its own unique challenges and assets, but the OCF grant categories are still the same in each place. In the past, we’ve highlighted how this funder gives in Arizona and California, so today, we’re taking a closer look at how Opus funds the Pacific Northwest.

In its most recent grant cycle, OCF awarded 45 grants across its four-state region of focus. As with many other bank funders, OCF broadly supports affordable housing, education, financial literacy, community health services, work readiness programs and the arts. The funder is based in Irvine, California, and the bulk of grantmaking tends to stay within the state of California. However, Washington groups also fare very well with OCF, and 15 of the new grants went north to the Evergreen State.

In terms of Washington-specific giving, here are the issues that OCF has been most interested in lately:

  • High school and college success
  • People with disabilities
  • Hunger and homelessness
  • Arts education
  • Youth employment
  • Nonprofit capacity-building and leadership
  • Financial literacy for vulnerable populations

Overall, OCF provides program support in Washington and often focuses on Seattle and the Puget Sound region. Recent grantees include Financial Beginnings, the College Success Foundation, and Housing Hope.

Grantmaking in Oregon is considerably more modest, with just four grants going to Oregon-based groups in the most recent grant cycle. Here’s what OCF has been funding in Oregon lately:

  • Out-of-school programs for kids
  • Foster care youth
  • Programs for underserved youth
  • Care for the elderly

As a general rule, grantmaking in Washington is much broader and more varied than in Oregon, although vulnerable populations are addressed in both states. Vulnerable youth and seniors are OCF’s biggest concerns in Oregon right now, with basic needs and physical/mental development at the heart of its statewide giving strategy. Recent Oregon grantees include Store to Door and Kinship House. Most OCF grants are around $5,000 each.

Review grant guidelines and eligibility requirements here. In the Northwest and elsewhere, priority is given to communities that have a physical Opus Bank location, not just an ATM in town.