Putting ALL our money where our mouth is with a contracting policy

Chef Naoko describing the food at an NWHF board dinner at her restaurant Shizuku.

Chef Naoko describing the food at an NWHF board dinner at her restaurant Shizuku.

We are proud of everything we have done at Northwest Health Foundation to ensure our grant dollars go to the communities who have the most opportunity to create positive change for everyone in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Over 75% of our grant dollars go to organizations led by people of color. Half of our grants go to organizations outside of the Portland metro area. And one out of ten go to disability communities. It has taken long-term, intentional work to reach these numbers.

However, our budget is more than just grants. We spend quite a bit of money operating as an organization, hiring consultants to support our grantees, contracting with caterers and hotels, maintaining the Center for Philanthropy (our downtown Portland office space) and more.

In 2012, when Nichole June Maher took over as Northwest Health Foundation's president and chief executive officer, she requested an audit of our operating dollars. She wanted to know what percentage of our operating budget was spent on hiring racial/ethnic minority, disability, LGBTQ and Oregon-owned firms. We were deeply dismayed to discover that only one half of one percent went to minority-owned firms, and 100% of our paid consultants were white.

Eager to make a change, our leadership team and board immediately began to research philanthropic best practices around minority contracting. Unfortunately, at the time, they couldn't find a single example within our philanthropic network of an organization that had passed a policy to prioritize contractors from specific communities. 

A Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities gathering at Kah-Nee-Ta Resort in Warm Springs, Oregon.

A Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities gathering at Kah-Nee-Ta Resort in Warm Springs, Oregon.

So we drafted our own policy centering minority, disability, LGBTQ and Oregon-owned companies, as well as companies that pay a living wage and provide quality health insurance and paid leave. We became members of the minority-led chambers of commerce in Portland and began to build our own list of vendors and caterers.

We also set a goal. Given that Northwest Health Foundation existed for almost 20 years contracting with majority white-owned businesses, we decided we should spend at least the next 20 years with a focus on supporting racial/ethnic minority-owned businesses, with a secondary goal of supporting Oregon-based, LGBTQ- and women-owned businesses.

Five years later, we have made significant progress. 95% of our consultants are people of color, and many are people of color with disabilities. Approximately 70% of our controllable business expenses go to minority-, LGBTQ- and disability-owned firms. (That's not counting women- and Oregon-owned firms.) This includes our plumber, our painters, our auditors, our lobbyist, Tribally-owned hotels across Oregon, amazing caterers and restaurants, photographers... We could go on.

The most important lesson we have learned is it's not hard to meet these goals. There are plenty of incredible businesses out there owned and operated by people who reflect all of Oregon and Southwest Washington's communities and support our values. 

Now, we challenge you philanthropic organizations and nonprofits across our region. Adopt a similar policy. Leverage all of your resources. Join us in supporting Oregon and Southwest Washington's opportunity communities.

A few tips for success:

  • You must have a long-term strategy and long-term commitment. Work at it every day.
  • Every member of your team can be a leader in this work. While it is critical for your board and senior leadership to commit to this goal, it's the staff who really make it happen through their day-to-day decisions and the relationships they build.
  • Use all of your influence. For example, anytime anyone calls to reserve one of our meeting rooms, we encourage them to use a minority-owned and -operated caterer.
  • Don't think of this as charity. It's a good business practice. At NWHF, every aspect of our operations and customer services has improved with this shift.

Join us in support of thoughtful, national, comprehensive immigration reform

This OpEd was published in Street Roots on July 8, 2016.

As philanthropic organizations, we work hard every day to support thriving Oregon communities: We seed small businesses and job opportunities. We partner with communities to provide kids and families with quality, affordable care and education. We create safe, welcoming spaces for people of all cultural and religious backgrounds. We invest in affordable housing, clean rivers and healthy neighborhoods for all Oregonians. And most importantly, we support diversity, because inclusive communities are strong communities. Our immigrant ancestors and our immigrant neighbors enrich our understanding of the world, our communities and ourselves. Oregon and the U.S. are stronger with all of us.

The recent 4-4 tie decision by the Supreme Court in Texas v. United States leaves in place a lower-court decision halting the implementation of expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans. It puts the lives of millions of immigrants and their families on hold. This deadlock prevents an estimated 5 million immigrants from gaining work authorization and protection from deportation. It also prolongs the worries and fears of their 6.4 million family members, not to mention their friends and neighbors. Our friends and neighbors.

The original Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has benefitted nearly 730,000 individuals and their families, allowing young adults to stay in their home — this country — while working and going to school. In the face of last week’s decision, we are more committed than ever to supporting the strength and resiliency of immigrant families and communities.

By welcoming immigrants, we foster thriving communities that benefit us all. We welcome families that have endured incredible hardships to leave bad situations to provide a better future for their kids. We welcome more entrepreneurs and more customers for local businesses. We welcome children who will grow up to be doctors and teachers, business owners and artists. We welcome neighbors, co-workers and friends who share our deepest dreams — the freedom to speak and pray, and the opportunity to raise healthy, happy families.

DACA and DAPA are a critical step in providing immediate stability to our neighbors, but they don’t fix our broken immigration system. We invite both our colleagues in philanthropy and decision-makers at every level to join us in support of thoughtful, national, comprehensive immigration reform. Only by addressing both these immediate needs and long-term challenges can we ensure the health and prosperity of a diverse and thriving Oregon.

- Cynthia Addams, Executive Vice President of The Collins Foundation; Nichole June Maher, President and CEO of Northwest Health Foundation; and Doug Stamm, CEO of Meyer Memorial Trust.

Announcing our Learning Together & Connecting Communities Grant Recipients!

Northwest Health Foundation is thrilled to announce the grant recipients of our Learning Together and Connecting Communities Project.

Grants were awarded to eight organizations: Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Autism Empowerment, Umpqua Valley disAbilities Network, David’s Harp, Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), Disability Art and Culture Project, and OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon.

The Learning Together and Connecting Communities Project aims to strengthen the capacity of communities of people with disabilities to organize, and to build relationships among communities for a broader conversation about disability and race, ethnicity and geography.

Closing the Gap: Northwest Health Foundation Joins Clinton & Robert Wood Johnson Foundations

The Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI), in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and Grantmakers In Health (GIH) for a day-long forum on May 8th, focused on addressing access and equity barriers to closing the gaps in childhood obesity in the United States.

NWHF President Nichole Maher joined a panel on Closing the Divide in Children's Health: A Place for Everyone at the Table. (She begins at around 21 minutes in.)

The forum will be livestreamed to help continue the conversation beyond conference walls. Be sure to join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #kidshealthmatters.

To view the entire forum and for more information, visit here.

Board Member Darleen Ortega in the news

Transient

Our board member, Darleen Ortega, was profiled in today's Oregonian. Oregon and Northwest Health Foundation are lucky to have her!

From the story:

As a child, Darleen Ortega loved to read. She devoured books in school and dreamed of one day writing some of her own.

Now as a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals, Ortega has, in a way, fulfilled that dream. Appellate decisions -- though dry -- are human stories, she jokes.

Ortega's own story touches on perseverance and the power of diverse perspectives. She is the first Latina and woman of color on the appellate court. Leading by example, she is working to diversify the field of law in Oregon. 

Ortega, 51, was born in California and grew up near Banks from age 10. Her family, a Mexican American mom, Caucasian dad, sister and two adopted African American brothers, was diverse -- an anomaly in the small community of Manning. It was a stark change from life in Los Angeles.

Read the rest here.