About this Assessment

Established in 1973, The Oregon Community Foundation’s (OCF) mission is to “improve the lives of all Oregonians through the power of philanthropy.” Today OCF ranks eighth among the nation’s community foundations by assets and is the largest foundation in Oregon. It manages $1.5 billion and hosts 1,900 funds. In 2014, the foundation awarded $83.3 million, which included grants to 4,800 nonprofits and $7.5 million for 3,200 scholarships. Funding priorities include: education, health and wellbeing, livability, arts and culture and economic vitality.

OCF has crafted a statewide structure with regional offices and extensive volunteer and donor networks to support Oregon’s geographically extensive urban and rural communities. As the state has become more diverse, OCF has attempted to respond, for example, by establishing a Latino engagement initiative. Today OCF’s leadership is positioning the foundation to be more responsive under a new strategic plan and an equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) process. OCF’s intent is to become more strategic, drive systemic change and prioritize the needs and voices of those suffering the greatest disparities in Oregon.

OCF is well-respected by many of its Oregon constituents, but some communities of color and LGBTQ groups have felt historically marginalized and do not see signs of progress, despite the foundation’s commitment to equity and inclusion. Connecting the OCF staff, board, volunteers and donors to social change organizations, and making greater allocations of its myriad resources (discretionary, donor-advised, mission investing) to nonprofits led by LGBTQ and communities of color that organize and advocate for equity, would be impactful and tangible signs of its commitment. Increasing transparency and communication would help stakeholders better understand the foundation’s progress on these important fronts.

Lisa Ranghelli and Caitlin Duffy conducted the assessment of OCF.

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Key Finding and Recommendations

Build on foundation’s statewide responsiveness to urban and rural communities by funding more core, multi-year support.

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Build on regional staff and volunteer structures that serve geographically diverse constituencies by making them more inclusive and providing more discretionary core support and multi-year grants. Continue experimentation with various mission investing tools to promote equitable economic development statewide.

Background:
OCF’s statewide structure and grantmaking presence are widely regarded as innovative and effective at serving rural regions. However, this structure is still learning how to effectively respond to diverse racial, ethnic and LGBTQ communities.

Grantee quote: “Keep innovating with ‘proactive outreach and engagement’ with community, rather than waiting for grants to arrive. OCF is the best at this. … Keep placing staff in the keystone areas of the state. Very helpful for those not in Portland- Metro area.”

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Fund more grassroots organizing and advocacy to have greater impact.

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Background: OCF pursues equity and long-term policy change primarily through strategic projects and funder collaboratives, such as its dental health initiative and the Chalkboard Project. The foundation provides limited support for marginalized communities to advocate and organize on their own behalf.

Grantee quote: “[Make] more investment in policy advocacy by community-led and identified efforts; in community organizing as a means to foster civic engagement and make an impact on disparities in Oregon.”

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Build on recent advocacy stances to be bolder and nimbler as a public leader and champion for equity.

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Build off of recent leadership efforts, such as OCF’s support for a dental health ballot initiative, to be bolder in taking public stands, especially on equity-related policy issues. OCF can follow the lead of constituent-led organizations fighting for equity in determining which issues would benefit from OCF’s advocacy.

Background:
Under new leadership, OCF is changing its risk-averse reputation to become nimbler and bolder, and stakeholders see opportunities for the foundation to take greater public leadership roles on equity issues.

Grantee quote: “Take positions on important issues and use clout to bring people to the table.”

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Be more open about progress in becoming equitable, diverse and inclusive. Grant more funding to communities of color and LGBTQ groups.

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Direct a higher proportion of grant funding toward groups facing disparities. Publicly share OCF’s equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) goals, benchmarks and data on its progress. Create transparent and consistent feedback loops with community leaders to ensure the foundation is on track with improving relationships and building an equity-focused organization.

Background:
OCF’s leadership and staff are giving thoughtful attention to the foundation’s EDI commitments. Despite these efforts, many stakeholders, particularly leaders of color and LGBTQ leaders, are frustrated by the slow pace of progress after what they perceive as long-term underinvestment in their communities.

Grantee quote: “I’d support larger capacity building awards to groups that advocate and organize with low-income people and people of color.”

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Build on effective donor cultivation and engagement by connecting donor advisors to communities of color, LGBTQ groups and social change organizations.

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Expand OCF’s efforts to diversify donors, engage them on equity issues and connect them to culturally specific organizations and other constituent-led groups working for systems change.

Background:
OCF’s robust and creative donor engagement program is praiseworthy. Yet this does not dispel the perception among social change organizations and other nonprofits that donor-advised funds (DAFs) are mysterious, opaque and guarded by cautious foundation “gatekeepers.”

Grantee quote: “Host open houses where charities can meet donors who are interested in their work to help build relationships. Host workshops explaining the grant evaluation process, especially how community grant applications are also ‘shopped around’ to donor-advised funds, where both donors and charities can participate together, so everyone is on the same page with understanding the somewhat cryptic, convoluted process.”

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