Report Urges Oregon Community Foundation to Focus on Disparities

Although the Oregon Community Foundation is committed to advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), it needs to step up its efforts to address the most pressing disparities in the state, a report from Philamplify, an initiative of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, argues.

Based on surveys, a document review, interviews with stakeholders, and data analysis, the report, The Oregon Community Foundation: Can It Build a Statewide Legacy of Equity and Inclusion? (72 pages, PDF), found that Portland-based OCF, the eighth-largest community foundation in the country, is applauded by its constituents for its investments in rural and urban areas, its culture of volunteerism and proactive donor engagement, and its responsiveness to the Latino community. But the report also found that the foundation's effectiveness is hampered by a perceived cautiousness, lack of inclusion, and underinvestment in grassroots, LGBTQ, and people of color-led organizations. According to the report, only 3.6 percent of OCF's grant dollars in 2012 supported grassroots social justice efforts aimed at empowering communities of color and other marginalized groups, while only 6 percent of the grant dollars it awarded between 2012 and 2014 supported LGBTQ- and people-of-color-led organizations.

While the foundation has established strong benchmarks for its equity, diversity, and inclusion work and, under new leadership, is addressing its reputation for risk aversion, a number of leaders of color interviewed by NCRP said it was moving too slowly on equity issues and that its efforts in that area had yet to show results. Among other things, the report recommends that the foundation embed social justice in its grantmaking and make specific commitments to increase its funding for grassroots organizing and advocacy; better communicate its EDI framework, benchmarks, and data and encourage more feedback from community leaders; and expand its efforts to diversify its donor base and engage donors on equity-related issues.

"Given the critical issues that Oregon is facing such as widespread homelessness, racial inequity, and public underfunding of education, many from Oregon's nonprofit community are impatient to see OCF respond more decisively," wrote Lisa Ranghelli, director of foundation assessment at NCRP and co-author of the report, in a blog post.

In response to the report, OCF said in a statement that as a statewide community foundation with many actively involved donors, it must "reflect and respond to a diverse set of needs, populations, and circumstances....We will publicly share our efforts related to equity, diversity, and inclusion, and will encourage funding partners, the nonprofit community, and community and state leaders to put and keep equity, diversity, and inclusion at the front and center of their work."

"Oregon Community Foundation Isn’t Supporting Enough Groups Led by People of Color, LGBTQ, Says New Philamplify Report." National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy Press Release 06/22/2016. Lisa Ranghelli. "How Is One of the Country’s Largest Community Foundations Responding to the Needs of Its Residents?." National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy Blog Post 06/22/2016. "Oregon Community Foundation's Response to NCRP’s Philamplify Report." Oregon Community Foundation Statement 06/22/2016.