Deep gratitude and appreciations go to the staff, Board Members, Grants Committee*, and grantees who make this work possible. We also acknowledge the support and contributions of stalwart individual donors and the regional funding partners Collins Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, Seeding Justice (formerly MRG Foundation), Northwest Health Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation, Ronald W. Naito MD Foundation, and Yarg Foundation.
*Grants Committee consists of Board members and makes decisions with support from the Executive Director and Grants Program staff
Uplifting Our Grantee PARTNERs
2020 was an exceptional year for many individuals, families, communities, and organizations in Oregon. Despite the degree of uncertainty, the Women’s Foundation saw love in action.
Immediate impact funding is a crucial feature of the Women’s Foundation of Oregon grantmaking approach. The Women’s Foundation began offering this funding in 2017 as one opportunity for women, girls, transgender, and gender non-binary Oregonians to access financial support in cases of immediate need. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and Oregon wildfires revealed the significant strain on our safety net when personal needs require reliance on broken systems. In addition, Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities directly experienced disproportionate disparities in access to testing and treatment. Our communities and direct service providers deserve better and require philanthropic entities to be agile and flexible in their responses.
The Women’s Foundation is part of an expansive ecosystem of funders who actively support the vast and immediate needs of the non-profit sector and the communities they serve. Historically, the Foundation has operated with an Immediate Impact Fund of approximately $50,000 - $60,000, awarding between 10 - 15 organizations per year. By working with numerous funding partners at the onset of the pandemic, we established a sizable fund that mirrored our desire to respond broadly and quickly to communities around the state during chaotic and challenging times. These partnerships generated a total of $773,000, representing a ~1200% increase in available funds.
As the pandemic continues in its second year, our communities have experienced slow, disjointed vaccination rollouts across the state, leaving families and communities more vulnerable than ever. We know that systems change work has the potential for the most significant and lasting impact. Yet, at this moment, direct services have supported women, girls, transgender, and non-binary people and their families to survive for the past year and a half. As opportunities continue to emerge for in-person service and care, The Women’s Foundation is committed to supporting women, girls, transgender, and gender non-binary Oregonians in meeting their needs.
Amount Committed to COVID-19/Wildfire Response Fund
The needs of our communities are substantial. Initially, the Women’s Foundation sought intentional conversations with several large, regional, and local foundations to determine what a coordinated and timely response to COVID-19 might involve. Discussions with the Board resulted in channeling all available resources toward a COVID-19 Response Fund. Contributions from foundations and individuals yielded a three-quarter million dollar fund to support organizations and fiscally sponsored groups serving women, girls, transgender, and gender non-binary Oregonians. In Fall 2020, the fund’s scope expanded to address needs following the outcome of Oregon’s seasonal wildfires.
Partners Committed to COVID-19 Response Fund:
WFOR Immediate Impact Funds
WFOR Board Approved Additional Funds
Meyer Memorial Trust
Northwest Health Foundation
Oregon Community Foundation
Ronald W. Naito MD Foundation
Women’s Foundation Priorities
A values-based approach to this work remains the north star of the Women’s Foundation. As community members appealed for support throughout the pandemic, elected officials responded in conflicting and confusing ways. Subsequently, the Women’s Foundation recognized the best approach to leverage our funds was by staying true to our established values and focusing on organizations and programs that prioritized gender and gender justice-based work. These include:
- Domestic violence shelters
- Organizations supporting survivors of violence (hotlines, wraparound services)
- Organizations providing basic needs/services to the most impacted - culturally specific, rural, etc with a gender focus/lens
- Behavioral/family/mental health supports for children and youth
- Advocacy and organizing around gender inequities
We recognize that certain communities within our focus are historically underserved due to systemic oppression, often based on specific identities such as race/ethnicity or gender beyond the binary. The Women’s Foundation sought to draw our attention here, as well, through the following intersections:
- Black, Indigenous, People of Color led, served
- Queer and/or Transgender led, served
- Serving currently or formerly incarcerated folks
- Recovery/mental health
- Noncitizens, immigrants, refugees, and undocumented folks
The intersectional communities affected by COVID-19 and wildfires are numerous and extend to all areas of Oregon. The Women’s Foundation has worked extensively in the past handful of years to ensure its work is values-based and rooted in gender justice. As a result, outreach for the COVID-19/Wildfires Response Fund included prior grantees, members of the Oregon Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence (OCADSV), Black, Indigenous, & People of Color-led organizations, Queer and Trans* led organizations, and gender-serving Tribal programs. Outreach was and remains possible because of the Foundation’s commitment to relationship building and connection.
The funding application process is often daunting for those who have never applied before and redundant for those who must routinely rely on foundational support. Following the guidelines of trust-based philanthropy, Grants Program staff, with support from the Grants Committee, created an online application form including eligibility information, organizational information, and four questions specific to the request. The questions are as follows:
- What urgent and unexpected need will the grant address related to COVID-19 and the Oregon wildfires?
- How does your organization or program integrate a gender analysis and/or gender justice in your mission and your work?
- What is the financial impact to your organization's annual budget, based on revenue losses and/or shifts in your client services or work, since COVID-19 and the Oregon wildfires? (Looking for a budget number)
- Approximately how much funding are you seeking from the COVID-19 / Wildfires Response Fund (up to $5,000)?
The application existed online (no account setup required), however, organizations could also complete or submit forms by email, or complete them with staff over the phone. Required questions and word counts were noted in the application as well as contact information if interested organizations needed additional support. The form was amended as needed based on feedback from applicants (i.e., increased word count).
The review process can look different among foundations and the Women’s Foundation is no exception. The initial review process included a first pass review by the Grants Program Manager. This included an assessment based on established priority areas and noted intersections. The Grants Program Manager made recommendations to Grants Committee members who served as a sounding board in the process. Committee members asked further questions and shared any potential insights regarding organizations, raised anything needing further follow-up, and suggested additional steps to the process as the need arose. The Grants Program Manager notified the Executive Director for final review. The Executive Director provided confirmation by way of email, and the Grants Program Manager then notified grantees by email.
As the process became more streamlined and practiced, the Grants Committee entrusted the Grants Program Manager with aligning Foundation priorities with applications. The rest of the process remained the same. Following staffing transitions, the Interim Grants Program Manager was onboarded to this process with extra support from the Executive Director for the first one to two months.
It is important the financial process is streamlined and replicable in any situation. This was especially keen for the Women’s Foundation following the significant shift in the number of foundation grantees. After Grant Program staff notified grantees, the process transitioned to administrative support staffing to gather due diligence documents. These included a digitally signed grants agreement (through DocuSign) and a 501c3 determination letter from the IRS, and the most recent 990 form of the grantee organization or the grantee’s fiscal sponsor. In addition, grantees indicated how they preferred to receive payment, either through check, PayPal, or by way of their website donation portal.
Following mandated lockdown procedures, staff implemented a digital payment process to ensure personal safety and facilitate a faster disbursement of awards to grantees once they received all required documents. The Executive Director distributed paper checks as needed. Based on conversations with the Board and Grants Committee, the Foundation covered any processing fees incurred from online payment processing platforms.
Funders often ask grantees to provide evidence they have utilized funds accordingly. The language of reporting reflects and centers the funder’s need to have documentation. Reporting is a philanthropic generational practice tied directly to capitalist regulation by the federal government to demonstrate, in essence, that grantees are acting by the law. Based on conversations with the Board and Grants Committee, the Women’s Foundation established a process to meet grantees where they are at and, in some cases, remove the burden of reporting altogether. The reporting process was outlined in the grants agreement, reiterated in the initial notification email sent to grantees, and summarized in reminder emails as reporting timelines approached.
Grantees with a previous existing relationship with the Foundation did not need to submit a report. New grantees could choose from the following options:
- A narrative describing the work of the past six months (~one page)
- An itemized list of activities of the past six months
- A copy of another report used to report on this work for another funder (pdf or word)
- A recorded Zoom conversation with a Women’s Foundation program officer
- An annual report if one already exists
- A newsletter to org members recapping work, shifts, pivots that have taken place in the past six months
- Anything else that already describes their work! (e.g., donor thank you letters, etc.)
In total, the Women’s Foundation COVID-19 / Wildfires Response Fund has granted $773,000 to 88 organizations across the state between March 2020 and April 2021. Thirty-four organizations are based outside of the Portland Metro Tricounties area and twenty-three have a statewide scope.
DOWNLOAD MAP PDF (with grantee partners listed)
The Women’s Foundation has grown to ensure that its values align with its work. Like many organizations, COVID-19 tested the foundation’s structures and systems. This was especially felt given the shift from a small funding pool to an exponentially larger one. As an organization, the Women’s Foundation learned to adapt and be flexible in an unprecedented situation. We saw that our changes did not need to be temporary and that replacing our existing processes allowed for greater accessibility than we had previously experienced. These are some of our learnings:
Clear values of the fundThe Women’s Foundation Board has worked to establish organizational values over the past two years. As a result of this effort, staff, Board, and the Grants Committee were able to quickly inform the values of the Women’s Foundation Immediate Impact Fund surrounding COVID-related needs. When the wildfires developed quickly in the Fall, these same values informed expanding the scope of the fund to include impact by wildfires, as well.
Center relationshipsThe Women’s Foundation has enjoyed and benefited from numerous relationships in order to build its funding resources and to distribute resources in ways that align with its values. These relationships supported collaboration with several large foundations and contributed to a consistent and broad outreach approach.
An established trust-based approachA trust-based approach relies on strong relationships and low-barrier, grantee-centered processes. Having a trust-based approach in place can open opportunities for many who may not otherwise have had access to philanthropy. However, implementing a trust-based approach amid and in response to a global pandemic is stressful and carries a risk of poor implementation.
Defining adaptation and flexibilityClear communication of expectation is critical when undergoing an organizational shift. A global pandemic confers a sense of urgency, yet it is important the process is done well. Having frank discussions about what it means to be adaptive and flexible is important in establishing structures and systems and informs what this could look like in terms of staff roles and processes.
Build-in an opportunity for evolutionFlexibility remains a key component of the Women’s Foundation Immediate Impact Fund. Part of this includes creating opportunities for staff and Board members to review how something is going, engage one another for feedback, and reflect as a group and determine next steps. Some processes may require a faster turnaround than others - identifying these potential areas sooner is helpful.
Engaging outside of the usualThe significant percent increase in funding for the Women’s Foundation’s Immediate Impact Fund was due in part to a willingness to collaborate with public funds/entities to meet the need. The Foundation’s relationship-based approach supported these efforts, as well.
Acknowledge that the need is the needThe systems change work needed to create cultural and lasting change is imperative to the work of the Women’s Foundation. The impact of the global pandemic also makes it noticeably clear that personal need is so great in our communities that the distinction between direct service and systems change work is arbitrary. Moving with this chaos has a greater impact than standing still.
This is a watershed momentThe devastation and urgency of the pandemic challenged many to approach their work differently. Innovatice ideas and different applications of existing technologies mean the work is now being done differently. Potential has become reality and preferencing the prior status quo is inequitable and only further distances us from our collective work against oppressive systems.
What our grantee partners shared with us
Throughout the pandemic, we often heard our grantees say, “every bit helps”. Many stretched their funds to provide materials to as many families as possible within their communities. A great number of our partners found themselves needing to pivot from in-person care and services to the virtual setting. Some weren’t sure if their buildings would still exist after the wildfires subsided and they continued the work anyway. Our grantees are the best folks to describe their work - here is what our grantees had to say:
“Continuing to empower, educate, and support girls - especially during a pandemic - isn’t set-it-and-forget-it work. It takes trial and error. Imagining and reimagining. Listening and responding. ...we implemented full-time remote operations and facilitated a suite of online prevention-based programming for female-identified youth in Oregon to readily access from the safety of their homes.” - Ophelia’s Place (Lane, Benton, Linn Counties)
“While the shutdowns were and are important for health, we know from our class participants that Living Yoga's body-based resiliency classes are highly valued, helping participants overcome recent, childhood, and/or generational trauma, and that many of our participants are learning and practicing mindfulness, breath work, and body-based movement practices that allow for self-awareness and regulation of their nervous system.” - Living Yoga (Multnomah County)
“A creative, win-win collaboration with the Portland Mercado has resulted in culturally diverse, fresh meals delivered to survivors on a regular basis. (This project helped Mercado purveyors keep staff employed and their food businesses operational as the pandemic decimated local businesses.)” - Clackamas Women’s Services (Clackamas County)
“The fires were still smoldering when staff came back into the Crisis Center building, the fires burned right up to the Crisis Center back door and around the sides, but the building itself stood ready for business as usual. During the time of the beginning of the Pandemic Staff came into work every day and figured a way to provide services on the spot and not remotely unless not safe otherwise.” - Canyon Crisis Center (Linn, Marion Counties)
“...the transition of the “Hi’ Siti Ha (Good is our Heart) Women’s Healing Through Traditions support group from being in-person gatherings to online gatherings. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, these groups had always been held in-person.” - Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians (Coos County)
“United Way Fire Fund is focused on recovery and rebuilding. The road to recovery would be a long and winding path, impassable for many without significant help from the community.” - United Way of Jackson County (Jackson County)
“In the face of the pandemic and spiking rates of abuse, Raphael House has been here for 889 domestic violence survivors, adults and children alike... Despite all the challenges of this past year, we’ve seen so many remarkable moments of success, caring, and accomplishment…” - Raphael House of Portland (Multnomah County)
“We have stayed open throughout the pandemic… We have stayed nimble, and pivot as needed to accommodate our clientele.” - Family Justice Center of Washington County (Washington County)
“Through virtual gatherings, ROP brought together hundreds of rural community leaders and human dignity groups to share strategies, cross-pollinate ideas, and support one another.” - Rural Organizing Project (Statewide)
“PDX Diaper Bank is continuing to rapidly increase its services in order to continue to meet the increased diaper need of in the community brought on by COVID-19.” - PDX Diaper Bank (Multnomah)
“While in-person visits were prohibited, Pioneer Relief Nursery staff were available to provide no-contact supply deliveries of learning materials for children and tangible resources for families.” - Pioneer Relief Nursery (Umatilla County)
“Besides reconnecting with our base, the project was a wonderful opportunity to deepen volunteer engagement.” - Forward Together (Statewide)
“While we were not able to provide face to face services to every survivor the laptops allowed us to continue services such as assistance with protection orders, being able to walk individuals step by step through the process giving them much needed support.” - MayDay, Inc (Baker County)
“Despite many challenges during COVID-19 pandemic, we stay true to our mission to increase awareness and understanding of intimate partner violence in the Russian-speaking community and provide support in overcoming many barriers our refugee/immigrant survivors are facing, advocacy, opportunities for self-empowerment and healing.” - Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon Russian Oregon Social Services (Multnomah County)
“...able to continue to serve the critical needs of survivors throughout the pandemic.” - Helping Hands Against Violence (Hood River County)
“We anticipate keeping many of the new services such as telehealth and the chat as well as the advocates all having smartphones that survivors can text and call directly. Our advocates have learned there are far more services that can be provided over the phone, which really reduces the barriers of transportation and childcare that survivors are often facing.” - Tides of Change (Tillamook County)
“We Rise provides opportunities to cultivate tools of self-determination in our communities. These tools build the capacity, joy and dignity of trans folks, youth, women & non-binary people, to reduce the harm of carceral systems.” - Freedom to Thrive (Multnomah County)
“Over the past 9 months, we have provided subsidized or free space to over 15 local BIPOC, Women and Queer artists.” - Water in the Desert (Multnomah County)
“Though this year has been tough we still have many accomplishments: expanding our text and chat service, increased motel vouchers and participant financial assistant, increasing access for survivors to Safety & Stabilization Assessments, creating and distributing resource bags to hospitals for survivors of sexual assault.” - Call to Safety (Multnomah)
“Oasis has had a huge uptick in the amount of motel stays we have needed to do. ...we have been able to house women and their children in motels while waiting COVID-19 testing or just a temporary spot for them along the way on their journey of self-empowerment.” - Oasis Advocacy & Shelter (Curry County)
“Moving online required way more resources. It required a lot of back-end work to make sure that we were NOT just providing accessibility, accommodating accessibility needs of participants but also for the speakers that required all kinds of different forms of technology. It required Text to Talk, transcribers, ASL interpreters.
“There were a lot of speakers and so, just having so many different people involved, the participants and speakers included, a lot of opportunities for collaboration came about.” - Black Feminist Kitchen (Multnomah County)
“Sometimes people would be able to make their appointments a little bit better, sometimes people wouldn’t be able to make it because something would come up with their kids, but now they didn’t have to leave their house, so that was a surprising outcome.” - Shelter From the Storm (Union, Baker, Wallowa Counties)
“...to help the children we serve that were affected by the fires to supply books and pajamas and to partner with local food banks and be able to partner and supply food to the families that needed it.” - Oregon Child Development Coalition (Statewide)
Immersed in the second year of a global pandemic and a disjointed vaccination rollout designed to prioritize some over others, funding for direct services remains critical. Many of our grantees face uncertainty when it comes to the sustainability of their work. As we face this uncertainty together, it is also important to continue the critical work of dismantling systems and systemic barriers that oppress women, girls, transgender, and gender non-binary Oregonians. We are especially attuned to those identifying as Black, Indigenous, People of Color, people with disabilities, immigrants, refugees, houseless, incarcerated, and/or with mental health needs.
Moving forward, the Women's Foundation is leaning into authenticity in leadership; true representation and relationship with communities served; and emergent strategies that respond to needs as we build from the learnings of the report. This report represents a departure point that demonstrates how our new values can be employed in grantmaking and in urgent situations. It also presents an opportunity for feedback and ongoing co-construction of practices and relationships that will continue to position grantees as decision-makers and leaders in partnership with the Women's Foundation.