Doug Stamm, Meyer Memorial Trust
September always brings change: weather shifts from hot to cool, busy autumn mornings replace leisurely summer afternoons, days grow incrementally shorter.
Here at Meyer Memorial Trust, in a year filled with changes, the month offers a moment to reflect on where we have been and on where we are heading.
Six months ago, we suspended our responsive grantmaking programs to refocus what we do to make a greater impact. We accepted our last batch of grant applications then, over 300 requests in all. The spring and summer have been extremely busy and productive. Since April, we have done due diligence on the requests, awarding 188 grants and loans, totaling nearly $16 million, to nonprofits in Oregon and southwest Washington. Last year, Meyer awarded more grants than ever before — 515 grants and loans just over $46 million; we are again on track to make the largest payout in the foundation’s history.
But we haven’t only been making grants this year. While we wound down our Responsive and Grassroots grants programs and worked through our pipeline of applications, we began outreach in several of our four priority focus areas — housing, education, the environment, and supporting a vibrant nonprofit sector. More than 1,000 nonprofit leaders from across the state have taken part in surveys, interviews and listening sessions aimed at helping us shape the strategy of our new programs. We’re grateful for the input and guidance. It is helping us get closer to our goal of new programs that highlight the best of responsive grantmaking and initiative-based funding, all in the pursuit of achieving greater impact.
It’s also allowed us to learn more about the equity work being done in the community so that we can support it and also use our leadership to expand its impact.
As summer ends, Meyer continues to make awards focused on affordable housing under our Affordable Housing Initiative, to support watershed restoration efforts under the Willamette River Initiative and to underpin education work through the Chalkboard Project. And those initiatives have been busy working on special projects in support of their fields — look for the release of a cost efficiencies report on October 1 that helps identify opportunities to reduce the costs of developing quality affordable housing in Oregon and the first Willamette River report card, set for release later in October.
And we continue to listen to our stakeholders on housing, the environment and the resilient social sector portfolios. Groundwork for our education portfolio has begun but will get underway in earnest in the coming weeks.
We are on track to announce Meyer’s overarching framework for our new programs in December. It will be a high-level outline of our general funding strategies and direction. Look for additional information, including details, application criteria and timelines to be announced early in the new year. We anticipate opening the first opportunity to apply for grants under our new programs late in the first quarter of 2016. Our education portfolio may roll out a bit later due to the sequencing of the work.
Stay tuned as we work through our transition!
Doug Stamm is CEO of Meyer Memorial Trust and a board member of Philanthropy Northwest. This post originally appeared on the Meyer Memorial Trust blog.