September 03, 2020

August 2020 Board Retreat: Reflection and a Look Ahead

By: Max Williams
Past President and Senior Advisor

During moments of significant change, it’s important to reflect on what we’ve learned and simultaneously assess and prepare for the long term. That’s just what we did at the OCF Board of Directors retreat in August.

While in-person connections are momentarily replaced with Zoom sessions and virtual technology, we appreciate the ability to come together in service to our vital role as a statewide community foundation: mobilizing and deploying resources where they’re needed most.

Zoom meeting screen shotLike everyone else over the past few months, OCF, our donors and philanthropic partners have had to adjust to the impacts of the interwoven crises facing our state. We have seen an overwhelming outpouring of generosity in Oregon and across the country. Philanthropy responded quickly and vigorously to the pandemic, the economic devastation it wrought and the subsequent protests for the Black Lives Matter movement. Nationally, community foundations alone mobilized more than $1 billion in response to the crisis.

Here in Oregon, there were incredible examples of generosity at virtually every level. Emergency relief funds emerged in most Oregon communities, and numerous organizations worked with their volunteers and resources to respond to the immediate–and ongoing–need. OCF, in collaboration with funder partners, donors and business leaders, acted quickly.

In a few short months, we were able to support Oregon nonprofits affected by COVID through three pooled community recovery funds supported by hundreds of donors, businesses and partners in philanthropy. We received more applications to these funds than we typically see in a full year. We distributed more than $27 million in grants to nearly 1,200 Oregon nonprofits; the total grants awarded in the first half of 2020 are 128% higher than in 2019. 

And we acknowledge our imperfections and where we can do better to build trust and strengthening relationships.

We recognize the need for continued investment and education, alongside OCF donors, to better understand and address underlying systemic issues such as wealth inequity, historic under-investment in Black-led and similar culturally-specific organizations and achievement gaps that we have been studying and reporting on through our Research department (and reflected, for example in our annual TOP Report – Tracking Progress in Oregon).

It’s worth noting, too, our unique role as a community foundation. We proudly support the charitable goals of thousands of donors all across Oregon who care about all sorts of issues and organizations–from kids’ programs, arts and culture, conservation and the environment, to supporting the local food pantry or funding a scholarship for local high school graduates. The generosity of these donors is reflected not only in their immediate response to the COVID pandemic, but also in their ongoing sustained giving year after year. Notably, in 2020 OCF donors have doubled their giving in the first half of the year.

Bringing these voices and opinions together, for greater impact, for long-term sustainability and health of community is core to our mission to improve lives–it’s part of our role as a “community table” to encourage a diversity of perspectives, ideas and strategies in service to strong and thriving communities.

Our cause is large: to bring together all facets of our communities so that every Oregonian has an opportunity to live their best lives.

  • Too many continue to face the historic barriers of systemic racism that painfully impede their livelihoods, health and well-being.
  • Children face constraints that come with a less-fortunate ZIP code which dictates the trajectory of their health, education, economic mobility and more.
  • Communities around the state face economic hardship that results in homelessness, unemployment, business stagnation and the loss of cultural touchstones that bring them together.
  • We all face the impacts of not appropriately stewarding our natural environment, some more acutely than others.

During our August Board of Directors retreat, we discussed a number of recommendations for OCF to continue existing work and explore new opportunities to support racial equity and justice. We are assessing and thinking more broadly about these issues, listening to communities and assembling culturally specific advisory teams to guide us in developing impactful strategies. We are exploring ways to deepen investments in areas such as leadership development and wealth creation as core elements to support and strengthen BIPOC communities.

Philanthropy is one small part of a comprehensive approach to addressing the magnitude of need in Oregon. And OCF is honored to be an organization that works to build a common table where people can come together and dive into the hard work ahead.

Together, we can help, heal and work toward recovery through community philanthropy.

Join us in learning, giving, volunteering and cheering for that recovery for Oregon communities.