A Time of Impact and Transition: 2022 in Review 

By: Lisa Mensah
President and CEO

As we approach the end of another busy year at OCF, let’s take a moment to reflect on all we have done together, as Oregonians, contributing to this very special place we call home. Our identity as Oregonians unites us in a shared vision of thriving communities, especially as we work with determination to innovate local solutions to some very thorny challenges. As a community of over four million people, Oregonians look after each other and lift up our neighbors by acknowledging our collective strength.

We are so grateful to all of our neighbors for reaching out, stepping up and caring for one another. The evidence of neighborliness in Oregon is abundant, including an outpouring of OCF donor-funded and volunteer-supported investments to bolster Oregon child care, healthcare, educators, arts and culture institutions, entrepreneurs, and fire-impacted communities — many still rebuilding, individually and collectively, after a calamitous two years.

With donor support, in 2022 OCF awarded nearly 10,000 grants and 3,000 scholarships, enabling organizations across the state to improve life for Oregonians through diverse, community-based programs. OCF awarded more in scholarship funding than in any previous year — more than $11 million — to ensure that Oregon’s students have the opportunity to realize their potential and pursue their dreams.

As we look forward to advancing OCF’s 50-year tradition of bringing people together to create meaningful, lasting impact for our neighbors in need, please join us in celebrating YOUR impact and the contributions of so many to this beautiful place we call home:

Project Turnkey 2.0 funds much-needed shelter space 

In 2020 the Oregon Legislature allocated $65 million for Project Turnkey to acquire motels for use as safe shelter for people experiencing homelessness, at-risk of homelessness or displaced by wildfires. Shepherded by OCF, Project Turnkey 1.0 distributed grants that created 19 new shelters in 13 counties in less than seven months. In March 2022, in the face on ongoing need, the Oregon Legislature allocated $50 million in new funding for more emergency shelters around the state for Project Turnkey 2.0 

Albina Arts Center collaborative vision takes shape 

A source of many cherished memories, Portland’s Albina Arts Center was a gathering place complete with classrooms, studios, and galleries and performances of live jazz, dance, and much more. But most importantly, it gave intentional space to develop artistic and intellectual resources within the historically Black Albina neighborhood. OCF is serving at the request of the State of Oregon in a temporary, administrative capacity until the building can be transferred to a new owner and restore the Arts Center to the Black community. In 2022, OCF’s department of Equity and Culture engaged a steering committee of community leaders to allow community leaders and stakeholders to engage in visioning for the future of the building and the selection of the new owner. This work has been underway for more than six months and is viewed by many community participants as a model for healing and restoration. 

Innovation fuels grantmaking 

The educational challenges that face marginalized Black children in Oregon are too great for one organization or group to tackle alone. Success requires strategic, ongoing collaboration. The OCF Black Student Success Initiative awards grants that supports the operation and programming of Black-led, Black-serving organizations across the state. OCF learned that many of these organizations need additional support. In 2022 the Black Student Success Initiative introduced a new grant opportunity for multi-year capacity building grants. OCF just announced the recipients of the capacity building grants that will strengthen and stabilize Black-led, Black-serving organizations across Oregon with funding to create new positions, hire consultants for strategic planning, support leadership development and technology investments. 

In August, the OCF board approved the final grants from the Community Rebuilding Fund, the fund established by OCF, Meyer Memorial Trust, the Ford Family Foundation, and the American Red Cross after the Labor Day 2020 wildfires. This brings the fund’s total distributions to nearly $11 million since inception for 119 grants. OCF has engaged consultants to assess our response to the 2020 fires and the pandemic, review best practices among community foundations, and prepare a report to inform the response to future crises.  

Understanding and amplifying economic vitality  

The OCF Research and Learning Team has been developing a new report focused on OCF’s portfolio of grants, equity investments, and loans made in support of Oregon’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Drawing on a set of conversations with program staff and leaders from 11 organizations, the report’s stories will highlight examples of what this funding has been enabling in communities across the state. Together, these illuminating stories provide a snapshot of the diverse ways OCF’s investments have been supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem over the last five years. The report will be released later this month.  

Onward Eugene

Last month, OCF announced the second cohort of Thriving Entrepreneurs grants. The program, launched in 2021, prioritizes funding for organizations that serve people of color, women and rural entrepreneurs. These grants, totaling $600,000, will support 26 organizations that provide technical assistance, mentorship, and access to capital for under-resourced entrepreneurs around Oregon. We are grateful to last year’s cohort of grantees not only for their important work but also for their willingness to share their experience and expertise with OCF’s Research and Learning team; their feedback helped pave the path for this second year of the grant program. 

A time to gather once again  

May 2022 OCF friends joined in person and virtually for the annual meeting, “NeighbORly: Inspiring Kindness Across Oregon.” We reconnected and found inspiration in keynotes Reverend Nontombi Naomi Tutu and Ron Suskind’s reflections on common ground and the value of working together for the greater good. We left uplifted and renewed for the collective work ahead.

Leaders Gathering

October was the first time since 2018 that we gathered OCF volunteers and stakeholders for our Leaders Gathering. Nearly 200 people came together to engage in sessions on critical topics for Oregon including housing, childcare, and rebuilding after fires, to name just a few. In addition to the educational sessions, participants were enriched with the arts, including the participation of our Fields Artist Fellows and a performance by our very own Arts Committee member, Darrell Grant. 

Touring Oregon  

I returned home to Oregon to lead OCF as President and CEO in September, after 10 years of growth and impact under the leadership of Max Williams. I have been touring diverse regions of the state to listen to the experiences of our grantees, volunteers, donors, and other stakeholders. I spent four days prior to the Leaders Gathering in Sunriver in October, seeing OCF work and donors in Warm Springs, Madras, Redmond and Bend. In November I traveled further east to see OCF work and donors in Echo, Pendleton, Athena, Elgin, Enterprise, and Joseph – and the journey will continue. 

Looking forward to 2023, OCF’s 50th year 

Throughout five decades of tremendous change, Oregon Community Foundation has worked across the state to meet the moment, engage communities and support all Oregonians. The important lessons learned over the last 50 years serve as beacons for where we’re headed and how we navigate the future. The rich partnerships and collaborations—donors, nonprofits, volunteers and community leaders across the state—have resulted in far greater impact than any one organization working alone. Oregonians have differing opinions on many things, but across the state, we find common ground in the power of collaboration to inspire kindness, community, and improve lives. In 2023, we’ll celebrate this heritage even as we look toward the future. In 2023, we’ll share stories and inspiration from OCF’s five decades and connect you with resources to help celebrate 50 years of Oregonians helping Oregonians.