Letter from OCF President and CEO Max Williams
February is a busy time at The Oregon Community Foundation. But before we head too deep into our 41st year, I've been reflecting upon some of the highlights from our momentous 40th year. I thought I'd share a few of these with you.
OCF was delighted to receive the Founder's Award from Neighborhood Partnerships, who are now in their 25th year and going strong. Last year also saw OCF's K-12 Student Success Initiative partner with the Ford Family Foundation to bolster student achievement among rural, low-income, and minority middle-schoolers. Our Arts and Culture Grant programs rolled out the first of three grant initiatives aimed at strengthening statewide access to arts and culture. At our Statewide Leadership Gathering, OCF volunteers and staff convened at Sunriver for two days of collaboration and learning culminating in a speech by special guest U.S. Senator Ron Wyden.
A number of last year's highlights focus on the numbers – and they are impressive. OCF awarded more than $8.1 million in scholarships, changing the lives of more than 3,200 Oregon students—our largest cohort of scholars yet! It was also a landmark year for grants: OCF distributed more than $72 million to more than 4,800 nonprofit recipients. And at the core of everything we do are our donors, who have proven themselves exceptional once again. In 2014, we received more than $100 million in new donations to OCF. And Oregonians set up 113 new funds at OCF to help our state grow and flourish. Truly inspiring!
In other groundbreaking news, OCF's board formally affirmed our commitment to reducing socio-economic inequities for people of color and other populations by ratifying our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion statement. It will drive forward all of our future work.
And finally, my number one 2014 highlight was actually eleven events—our 40th Anniversary celebrations held around the state. It was wonderful to see all of you, and to celebrate the amazing work of our donors, volunteers, and nonprofits. Your support of OCF throughout 2014 guarantees a stellar 2015 for Oregon!
Bob Mace's Vision for Watchable Wildlife
When the late Bob Mace coined the term “watchable wildlife” in 1979, he couldn't have imagined the opportunities for wildlife observation his vision would help make real. Mace's fresh approach helped instill new cultural, economic and political value in non-game species and their environments. Through public-private cooperative efforts of the Bob and Phyllis Mace Watchable Wildlife Fund of OCF, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and the Knife River Corporation, the results of his determination are coming to fruition.
Bob retired from the Oregon Game Commission (now ODFW) in 1981. In the mid-1990s, Mace and partner Phil Scallon began to mine the Mace property on the banks of the Rogue River for aggregate river rock, with an environmentally conscious reclamation plan to turn the spent quarry into a publicly owned and operated wildlife refuge.
With the cooperation of ODFW and the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, the 160-acre project has begun on the Mace property. Mace's daughter, Linda Marr, said, "Once it is mined, it will leave a wonderful place for a recreational area, a 75-acre lake adjacent to the Rogue River."
The Mace property is held in trust while Knife River runs the mining operation, and then ownership will transfer to ODFW. A percentage of the mining royalties goes to the fund at OCF to support ongoing rehabilitation projects, parts of the actual reclamation, and educational efforts.
While complete reclamation may be as much as forty years away, the Mace family and ODFW are getting a head start on Highbanks Bottom, a beautiful wooded stretch along the Rogue. This lush riverside borders the mining area but lies out of sight below the high bank. According to ODFW's Russ Stauff, "The Mace property will offer a tremendous public asset in concert with the other attractions there."
Groundbreaking began in 2013 with approval of a $24,000 OCF grant, along with funding provided by ODFW to restore the riverbank. Amenities will include a boat launch and restrooms. "
Stauff added, "Reclaiming the lake will offer tremendous opportunity for family recreation and watchable wildlife in the heart of the Rogue Valley."
OCF's Giving in Oregon Report
OCF's 2014 Giving in Oregon report has found that Oregon nonprofits received more than $1.8 billion in donations in 2012, up from $1.6 billion in 2011. The education sector in Oregon was a big beneficiary of contributions, receiving 35 percent of total contributions to nonprofits in 2012. And, according to data collected by the Corporation for National Community Service's Volunteer and Civic Life in America Project, for yet another year, Oregonians are volunteering more than the national average and are giving more of their time.
And, according to data collected by the Corporation for National Community Service's Volunteer and Civic Life in America Project, for yet another year, Oregonians are volunteering more than the national average and are giving more of their time.
OCF has been publishing the Giving in Oregon report for more than a decade in order to track contributions to Oregon nonprofits. Find more data by reading the Giving in Oregon report.
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
OCF's board of directors adopted a new strategic plan designed to further our effectiveness in supporting equitable outcomes for all communities. The board's action included adopting a clear statement on equity, diversity and inclusion.
This statement clarifies our belief that persistent disparities based on characteristics such as race, gender, national origin, ethnicity, culture, age, faith, physical ability, gender identity, sexual orientation and other characteristics, together with barriers imposed by poverty, prevent OCF's vision of a healthy, thriving, sustainable Oregon from being fully realized. Read more about OCF's EDI commitment.
Nonprofit Roundup in Eastern Oregon
Nonprofits from Condon, Arlington, Fossil and Pendleton met in December at the Historic Condon Hotel for the first of a series of Rural Resource Roundups, presented by OCF and the Nonprofit Association of Oregon. OCF and NAO want to help rural nonprofits learn about the OCF grant process and connect with other nonprofit resources available through NAO.
"We want to share tips on how to write a strong and competitive proposal when applying for community grants through OCF," said Cheryl Puddy, OCF's associate program officer for Central and Eastern Oregon.
Other Roundups have been held this year in Redmond and La Pine.
Latino Partnership in Medford
On December 11, nearly 100 Southern Oregonians attended Celebrando Tu Exito (Celebrating Your Success) at the Inn at the Commons in Medford. Hosted by OCF's Latino Partnership Program (LPP) and Una Voz Latino Leadership, the event was a chance to welcome the holiday season and to forge strong ties between the Latino and non-Latino communities. Speakers included three community leaders who are new to Southern Oregon: Dr. Roy Saigo, president of Southern Oregon University; Brian Shumate, superintendent of Medford School District 549C; and Jay Hummel, superintendent of Ashland School District. These long-time educators shared their experiences in working with diverse communities elsewhere and their visions for doing so in Southern Oregon. In addition, members of the Southern Oregon LPP advisory committee presented five grants recently approved by the OCF Board for Latino youth-strengthening programs.
Natalie Choate Seminar in Eugene
In November, OCF co-sponsored "Planning for Retirement Benefits", a continuing education seminar for professional advisors held at the Eugene Hilton. The sought-after speaker, Natalie Choate of Nutter McLennen & Fish in Boston, MA, is widely regarded as a leading expert on estate planning for retirement benefits, and maintains an active schedule of writing, teaching and practicing law. 183 professionals were registered from throughout the state, including attorneys, CPAs, planned giving officers, financial planners, insurance professionals, and retirement planning specialists.
Sponsoring professional organizations were the Eugene Estate Planning Council, Eugene Springfield Tax Association and Mid-Oregon Financial Planning Association. Corporate sponsors were O'Connell Pension Consultants and Guardian Retirement Solutions.
First Grants Through OCF's Small Arts and Culture Program
Many of us take for granted the programs that enhance our quality of life, whether it's the after-school painting class your son takes or the local history organization working to rescue your favorite building. The nonprofits that do this work are often very hand-to-mouth: 60 percent of arts and cultural nonprofits in Oregon have budgets under $100,000. Small budgets leave them ineligible or uncompetitive for many traditional grant programs, which in turn keeps their budgets small—a frustrating cycle for many.
Last year, OCF was proud to debut a new program of grants for small arts and cultural organizations to help them strengthen their capacity and programs. Our Small Arts and Culture grants will distribute $300,000 annually and are already making a difference in Oregon's communities. In Malheur County, for instance, the Drexel H. Foundation has been helping kids engage in arts and culture for more than 20 years. OCF's grant has helped them reach their target youth audience by developing their online presence. "We so appreciate this OCF grant," says its director, Sandra Jean Feason. "It's really brought us into the digital age."
And support for Salem's Paradise of Samoa Polynesian dance troupe came just in time. For Craig and Tasi Keener, its leaders, the troupe has been a labor of love for many years. "We have 32 kids mostly from low-income households: it's open to all backgrounds and no one pays a dime. We've been operating with nothing," Craig says. They paid the troupe's expenses out of their ever-dwindling vacation fund. But now, with OCF support, the troupe has a catchy new website and much-needed new equipment for their fire dance. "We're so excited about the grant. We're trying to teach these kids that the arts are valuable, that dance is valuable, and the OCF grant will really help!"
In addition to Small Arts and Culture grants, OCF awarded a total of $7.6 million in grants statewide.
OCF Invests in Small Business Loans for Rural Oregon
Historically, it has been challenging for businesses in rural Oregon to access the capital they need to grow. In the wake of the 2008 recession the problem grew worse. Today, while access to traditional capital is improving, entrepreneurs still have difficulty in obtaining the credit they need – and that credit is key to the creation and retention of much-needed jobs in rural areas of the state.
As part of its new impact investing program, OCF is lending $1M to Craft3, a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), to make loans available to small businesses in rural Oregon. Craft3 serves low- to moderate-income communities in Oregon and Washington, specializing in loans to small businesses unable to access traditional credit. To date, two loans have closed; one for property redevelopment on Astoria's working waterfront and the other to a family farm in Milton-Freewater. As the loans are paid off, those dollars go back into the revolving loan fund to assist other businesses.
Last year, OCF joined other foundation, private and public partners to commission a report on the availability of capital around the state. Read more about CDFIs and other sources of funding in the Oregon Capital Scan.