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Report Assesses Oregon's Largest Charitable Foundation

The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy has released an assessment of The Oregon Community Foundation, the state's largest charitable foundation. (Kyle Pearson/Flickr)
The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy has released an assessment of The Oregon Community Foundation, the state's largest charitable foundation. (Kyle Pearson/Flickr)
June 22, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Oregon's largest source of funding for nonprofit groups has built a strong network statewide, according to a new report.

The Oregon Community Foundation, the eighth largest of its kind in the country, distributed $103 million in 2015 to fund charitable causes and scholarships. Lisa Ranghelli, co-author of the the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's report, said the OCF's regional approach has served rural communities well.

"Oregon's geography is diverse. There's a lot of rural parts of the state, as well as more urban parts, and there's diversity within those different regions," she said. "So, we were impressed with the ways that the foundation has tried to respond."

However, Ranghelli said the foundation needs to work harder to serve racial, ethnic and LGBTQ communities. According to the report, leaders in these communities said they felt that accessing funding still was difficult, despite recent efforts by the foundation to focus on equity, diversity and inclusion.

Stakeholders in the foundation said they could see the OCF's good intentions, Ranghelli said, but often compared it to a slow-moving ship.

"There's kind of this echo chamber of voices saying, 'They're a big institution and we see that they're trying to change course, but they haven't quite gotten all the way in that direction yet,' " she said.

The foundation has responded within its own organization. A decade ago, the OCF established the Latino Engagement Initiative to serve Oregon's growing Latino population.

OCF communications director Joan Vallejo said it's important to keep the complexities of funding in mind for this type of organization, where donors come from a variety of backgrounds and have different missions. She said the whole foundation has made an emphasis on underserved communities in recent years.

"We really have, in the last couple of years, changed our grant-making application process and our priorities," she said, "to ensure that underserved communities and communities of color have access to our grant-making in the same way that everyone else has."

While OCF has made strides toward equity and inclusion, the NCRP report recommended that the foundation make a better effort to communicate these goals, and its progress, to the communities it wishes to serve.

The report is online at philamplify.org.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR