December 03, 2020

Crises, Response and a Look Forward: 2020 in Review

By: Max Williams
President and CEO

The past year has been unlike any other in OCF’s history. Working alongside countless partners in communities across the state, we are addressing urgent near-term needs in a time of crisis and planning for long-term recovery and rebuilding of Oregon’s communities.

Together with OCF donors, philanthropy partners, community and business leaders, government officials and nonprofits, we have learned, responded and adapted to multiple crises gripping our state and rededicated ourselves to our most vital role: mobilizing and deploying charitable resources where they’re needed most. 

In 2020 we facilitated distribution of a record-setting $170 million in charitable dollars to address needs in public health, education, racial disparities, economic hardship and accompanying homelessness, unemployment, business stagnation and loss of cultural touchstones that connect Oregonians.

Responding to COVID-19

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, as the magnitude of need became clear, OCF collaborated with and convened partners in philanthropy, businesses, community-based organizations and donors to launch three emergency pooled funds to distribute grants across the state. Combined, these funds deployed nearly $30 million in grants to more than 1,200 nonprofits supporting small businesses, arts and culture organizations, and a range of nonprofits delivering critical services to Oregonians most impacted by the pandemic.

  • Grants from the Oregon Community Recovery Fund are addressing the needs of communities facing disproportionate impacts of the pandemic, funding basic services, childcare, education, housing, mental health, and other needs. Population-specific community action teams made up of community leaders are providing valuable guidance and advice.
  • The Small Business Stabilization Fund, seeded with a $300,000 investment from OCF and bolstered by donor support, provided $2.6 million to nonprofit lenders to offer emergency grants, low-interest and no-interest loans and technical assistance to small businesses dealing with reduced sales and revenue.
  • The Arts and Culture Recovery Program supported organizations affected by COVID-19, aiming to reach as many groups as possible, with a focus on communities of color, rural, LGBTQ+ and low-income populations, people with disabilities, and immigrants or refugees. A streamlined application process provided arts nonprofits access to pooled funding opportunities by seven foundations and many individual donors. OCF facilitated a collaborative selection process involving nine community review committees across Oregon and has made 417 awards to-date, totaling just over $4 million.

We also worked with community partners and the state to help distribute over $50 million in state and federal relief funding to Oregonians through the Oregon Worker Relief Fund, the Worker Relief Quarantine Fund and the Washington County CARES Nonprofit Emergency Assistance Program.

Addressing Dual Crises

In a seemingly never-ending cascade of crises in Oregon, Labor Day fires blanketed the state, destroying businesses and more than 4,000 homes, displacing thousands and causing disproportionate impact on already vulnerable populations.

Once again, generous donors stepped up in many ways – with $1.5 million in immediate response to nonprofits providing temporary housing, food and essential services to displaced Oregonians.

Recognizing the tremendous long-term recovery work ahead, the 2020 Community Rebuilding Fund — established at the request of Governor Kate Brown, and launched in partnership with Meyer Memorial Trust and The Ford Family Foundation — is bringing private and philanthropic donations together to work collectively for Oregonians whose communities have been leveled by the fires.

Oregon’s housing issues were already at crisis before the pandemic hit. Pre-pandemic, tens of thousands of Oregonians were experiencing homelessness — the same communities who are experiencing disproportionate harm as a result of the pandemic.

Working in public, private and civic partnerships, OCF became the fiscal agent for “Project Turnkey,” a unique and innovative opportunity to address two housing needs with one investment. The State of Oregon approved $65 million in general funds to purchase motels in locations throughout state — facilities that can support at-risk Oregonians without housing and those displaced by Labor Day fires with the ability to quarantine and shelter, especially in the face of impending winter months. In the long term, these facilities can be converted to transitional or permanent supportive housing units. The strategy addresses changing housing needs throughout the COVID pandemic and cold winter months, during recovery and beyond.

Adapting, Learning and Moving Forward

As a learning organization, OCF engages in a continuous feedback loop and receives support from a strong statewide network of partners including donors, foundations, businesses, statewide and local governments, nonprofits, individual community members and volunteers. The magnitude and complexity of these crises is challenging, but also present important opportunities to think and act differently to address critical needs and build a more resilient future.

This year’s challenges have brought into stark relief the importance of relationships, trust, social capital and civic engagement. Our understanding of the inequities facing Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), low-income, and under-resourced rural communities deepens. We recognize that we need to continue to engage with and learn from these communities so we may support them in implementing their own solutions.

We’ve been through difficult times in 2020. OCF will be here months and years to come — strengthening our partnerships and building trust with local communities, donors, government leaders, the nonprofit and business sectors and fellow funders to rebuild homes and schools, provide critical services and ensure that our communities are better prepared for the next disaster. We know that many of these challenges will be with us or even greater in 2021, and we will continue to be nimble, forward-thinking, and collaborative as we build solutions to address Oregon’s biggest challenges.