Goodbye and Q&A with Laura Nash, our Communications Manager

A few words from Northwest Health Foundation President Jesse Beason:

Laura and Jesse hug. Laura has a blanket draped around her body.

This Friday, we bid farewell to our Communications Manager Laura Nash. Where is she headed? You’ll have to keep reading to find out!

From day one, Laura brought a keen eye for improving our communications. She helped crystallize our style to be more plain language and our approach to be supportive of our grantees, not self-congratulatory. But she expanded her role to be way more than we ever imagined. She brought her design savvy to our website and publications. She became integral to program planning. She helped lead our work exploring disability and disability justice, earning national attention in doing so. And she’s been a great friend to so many of us.

In her more than five years at Northwest Health Foundation, Laura has made a lasting impact and we will miss her dearly. But we are so proud of and excited for her next adventures!

Photo portrait of Laura smiling.

Q&A with Laura:

Q. What are you most proud of having worked on during your time at Northwest Health Foundation?

A. Our disability equity work. I’ve been part of Northwest Health Foundation’s disability equity journey since I first started working here in 2014, from Learning Together, Connecting Communities to Advancing Disability Justice. I assisted with meeting logistics to help bring members of disability communities together in person and virtually. I also contributed to our Striving for Disability Equity blog series, in which we owned up to our mistakes and shared our efforts to do better. And, with Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative facilitator Stacey Milbern, I supported members of the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative to create a recommendations report for advancing disability justice in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Through communications, we held ourselves accountable to our word. We followed through on making our public meeting spaces fragrance-free, supporting disabled leaders of color and disability-led organizations, and introduced disability justice to community partners throughout our region. We also catalyzed other organizations, regionally and nationally, to examine their own practices and consider how they can do better by disability communities.

This work benefited me personally as well. Through learning and building relationships with disability communities, I realized that I feel at home with these communities. I realized that I am neurodivergent. And recognizing this has allowed me to examine my own internalized ableism and become more self-aware and self-confident.

Q. What’s something you’ve learned at Northwest Health Foundation that you’ll carry with you?

A. It would be impossible to name everything I’ve learned at NWHF, because I feel like so much of it has sunk into me and become integral to how I move through and think about the world. I’m not sure I could parse it all out. One lesson I can point to is how important it is for people to have a say in anything that affects their lives. It seems like common sense, but so many groups of people aren’t represented in decision-making positions. When our leaders reflect our communities, laws and policies will work better for all of us. I’ll hold on to this lesson and continue to contribute what I can to making reflective democracy a reality.

NWHF staff, all dressed in denim, stand in a line along a white brick wall with their backs to the camera. They all look over their shoulders.

Q. What will you miss most about Northwest Health Foundation?

A. I’m going to miss the work environment. I know I’ll find jobs in the future that feel satisfying, where I know I’m doing good work. But I’m worried I’ll never find a workplace as supportive or fun as NWHF. Everyone at NWHF believes deeply in health equity and puts so much thought and time into making that vision reality. But we also pause for silliness and enjoy spending time with each other. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the chance to make a music video or organize an all-denim photo shoot with coworkers again.

Q. What’s your communications advice for the philanthropic sector?

A. Foundations and other philanthropic institutions should focus less on marketing themselves and creating shiny communications materials. As foundations, we of course need to put ourselves out there so people know we exist and what we’re about. We don’t need to be salespeople; grantees will come to us regardless. Instead, we should use our influence to tell truths, uplift our grantees’ stories, and educate and advocate on the issues we care about.

Q. What’s next? 

A. Grad school! I started a master’s program in fall 2018 at Pacific Northwest College of Art. In fall 2019 I’ll continue working on an M.A. in Critical Studies, and I’ll start working on an M.F.A. in Applied Craft + Design. That means I’ll spend the next two years reading, writing and making, three of my favorite things. I’ll also continue to do some freelance communications work. Oh! And wedding planning. My partner Teddy and I are getting married in 2020.

Introducing our First Round of Health & Education Fund Impact Partners

The Health & Education Fund—a partnership between CareOregon, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Meyer Memorial Trust, Northwest Health Foundation and the Oregon Community Foundation—is pleased to award $1.2 million in grant funds in our inaugural Impact Partnership grant cycle to 21 organizations serving Oregon and Southwest Washington.

We invited applications from organizations and projects focused on family leadership and resilience to improve outcomes in education, healthcare and early learning. Together we seek to support whole families and opportunity communities, focus on the strengths and assets these communities already possess, and promote enduring change through multi-year investments from the Health & Education Fund. Learn more about the Fund here.

Funded through the Health & Education Fund Impact Partnership, these organizations will address barriers to health and education by building leadership and stronger relationships with parents and families, supporting parent and family organizing to change policy, and establishing partnerships with early learning, education and healthcare systems.

Organizations that are currently developing parent-led efforts and community leadership and need time to establish and build relationships with early learning, education and healthcare systems received capacity building grants. Organizations that have identified a system change goal and are currently developing their existing efforts to support parent and community leadership to affect change at the intersection of early learning, education and healthcare systems received implementation grants.

The following organizations received Impact Partnership grants this year:


  • Adelante Mujeres; $30,000; serving Washington County
  • Black Parent Initiative; $30,000; serving Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties
  • Centro Latino Americano; $30,000; serving Lane County
  • Coalition of Communities of Color; $30,000; serving all counties in Oregon
  • Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs; $30,000; serving Jefferson and Wasco counties
  • FACT Oregon; $30,000; serving all counties in Oregon
  • Familias en Acción; $30,000; serving Clackamas, Deschutes, Hood River, Jackson, Lincoln, Marion, Multnomah, Umatilla and Washington counties
  • KairosPDX; $30,000; serving Multnomah County
  • Micronesian Islander Community; $30,000; serving Marion and Polk counties
  • Native American Youth and Family Center; $30,000; serving Clark, Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties
  • Oregon Child Development Coalition; $30,000; serving Morrow County
  • Southern Oregon Child & Family Council, Inc.; $30,000; serving Jackson County
  • The Next Door, Inc.; $30,000; serving Wasco County
  • The Noble Foundation; $30,000; serving Clark and Cowlitz counties
  • United Community Action Network; $30,000; serving Douglas County


  • Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization; $125,000; serving all counties in Oregon
  • Latino Network; $124,991; serving Multnomah and Washington counties
  • Lower Columbia Hispanic Council; $125,000; serving Clatsop County
  • Oregon Community Health Workers Association; $125,000; serving Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties
  • Salem-Keizer Coalition for Equality; $125,000; serving Marion County
  • The Family Connection, Southern Oregon Regional Parenting Hub; $100,000; serving Jackson and Josephine counties

Some examples of the work these grants support:

Latino Network's Culturally Specific Early Childhood project will engage more Latinx parents in policy advocacy work through their Juntos Aprendemos program by developing parent leadership groups focused on civic engagement skills and strategies.

FACT Oregon will develop a Family Leadership Training Program and establish strategies to identify emerging family leaders with children experiencing disability across the state to equip and engage them to serve as systems change agents.

The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs will use funds to develop a P-3 Comprehensive Plan with an indigenous lens around prenatal to third grade initiatives for the Tribes.

If you're interested in learning more about these amazing organizations and the work they are doing, please follow us on Twitter (@northwesthealth)! We'll be highlighting each of our new funded partners in the coming weeks.

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.

Announcing the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative

A woman pauses her conversation with two other people to smile at the camera.

Northwest Health Foundation is excited to announce the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative.

The Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative will convene leaders from across our region to discuss how to ensure the voices and experiences of people with disabilities, particularly people of color with disabilities, are represented by decision-makers. They'll also discuss how disabled people can build collective power in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Over 100 people applied to be a part of the Collaborative, demonstrating the need for investment in this area. We invited 16 of them to meet four times over the course of the next six months.

We sought leaders who expressed an interest in exploring and learning more about Disability Justice, who are already involved in efforts to build power in their communities, and who bring lived experience around intersectional identities and want to be part of a larger conversation about intersectionality. All the Collaborative participants identify as disabled people of color, representing Asian-Pacific Islander, Black, Latino, Muslim and Native communities. Our participants also identify in other ways, including queer, transgendered, gender non-conforming, youth, houseless, multi-racial, immigrant, refugee and rural.

The work of this Collaborative will center around Disability Justice, a movement-building liberatory framework created in 2005 by Sins Invalid. Disability Justice centers Black and brown, majority queer disabled people to address the whiteness and single-issue focus of the mainstream disability rights movement. Disability Justice acknowledges that ableism works hand-in-hand with other forms of oppression and stresses that multiply marginalized disabled people get to create movements and organize out of their strengths, vulnerabilities, body/minds and genius. We’ve engaged two established Disability Justice movement leaders, Stacey Milbern and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, to facilitate the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative.

Stacey Milbern

Stacey Milbern

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

The Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative will:

  • Discuss visions and strategies for ensuring the needs of disabled people are centered in decision-making;
  • Deepen and collectively build their understanding of disability justice; and
  • Discuss how disability-led organizations can work together in new ways with:
    • Organizations led by communities of color;
    • Existing and new disabled, Deaf, sick and neurodivergent communities and organizations;
    • Leadership programs and funders.

Over the long-term, we hope this effort will influence organizations led by people of color to learn about the Disability Justice framework and apply it to their work. We also hope these leaders will contribute to ensuring our region’s leadership includes disabled people and people who understand, and are committed to, Disability Justice.

This Collaborative is a joint effort supported by Northwest Health Foundation and the Collins Foundation. We are eager to learn from these leaders and share our experiences with other funders and community leaders.

Read more about Northwest Health Foundation's journey to understand and incorporate a disability equity lens in our work on Medium. Stay tuned for updates over the next few months!

Why We Endorse Measure 101

Measure 101 protects healthcare for 350,000 Oregonians.

Everyone deserves the chance to lead a healthy life. That includes affordable healthcare, and that's why we’re proud to join over 60 groups in endorsing Measure 101.

We know that:

  • Mothers with access to affordable healthcare have healthier babies.
  • Students with health insurance miss fewer days of school.
  • Employees with access to affordable healthcare for themselves and their families are more productive and happier.
  • All Oregonians benefit when friends, family, coworkers and neighbors can see a doctor or nurse, and don't have to visit the ER for routine care.

Voting yes means that, for the first time, every child in Oregon will have healthcare.

350,000 Oregonians rely on the funding that Measure 101 secures in order to keep their healthcare. I hope you’ll join us in voting YES on Measure 101 for healthcare this January. If you agree that every Oregonian deserves healthcare, no matter who they are or where they work, pledge to vote YES

Introducing Our Final Round of KPCF Funded Partners

The Kaiser Permanente Community Fund (KPCF) at Northwest Health Foundation is pleased to award $1.9 million in grant funds to 10 organizations improving health in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Awarded annually since 2004, these grants address health where it begins, in our schools, neighborhoods and workplaces – long before we ever see a doctor.

 The following organizations received grants this year:


  • Community Alliance of Tenants
  • The Trauma Healing Project
  • Western States Center


  • Boys & Girls Club of Portland Metropolitan Area
  • Healthy Living Collaborative of Southwest Washington
  • OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon


  • Disability Art and Culture Project
  • Evolve Workforce & Property Management
  • Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon
  • Oregon Health Care Interpreters Association

At Northwest Health Foundation, we believe everyone should have the opportunity to lead a vibrant, healthy and fulfilling life. The best way to make that vision reality is by investing in communities. People know what holds their communities back, and they have good ideas about how to remove the barriers they face. Our job is to support communities to harness the talents and act on their ideas.

If you're interested in learning more about these amazing organizations and the work they are doing, please follow us on Twitter! We'll be highlighting each of our new funded partners in the coming weeks.

Q&A with New Board Member, Marjorie McGee

Q.  When and how did you first become involved with NWHF?

A.  I first learned about NWHF in 2004/05 when I went to a Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) Conference hosted by Northwest Health Foundation. This conference was my first exposure to CBPR and NWHF. I became very interested in CBPR, particularly with the emphasis on equity in the research processes and on making research relevant to communities. Later I worked on the steering committee for the 2006 NWHF CBPR Conference. 

Q.  As a new NWHF board member, what are you most excited about?

A.  I am really very excited about the Learning Together and Connecting Communities initiative with the inclusion of disability as an axis of diversity (and not just a health outcome to prevent). I especially appreciate the focus by NWHF on making it easier for marginalized communities to build capacity within their communities to address the social and health inequities. I am looking forward to being a part of this work and to learning more from other NWHF board members, staff and partners in the process. 

Q. How do you relate to NWHF's mission and values?

A.  As a member of a community, I am accustomed to well-intentioned organizations working in ways that are very disempowering. NWHF values of equity and mission in building community capacity to improve health and reduce health inequities resonates with my own values. 

Q.  What is a day like in the life of Marjorie McGee?

A. I usually start my day with coffee and the New York Times. Then on to work. I try to focus on the mental tasks first thing, which for me usually means working on a research project. If it’s a gym day, I go to the gym; otherwise it’s a short lunch and back to the office for more work. Then I go home and have dinner with my partner. We try to have some down time together at the end of each day chatting and watching Netflix or something on TV. 

Q.  If you could change one thing in your community, what would you change?

A. People’s lives are complex. Because of that complexity we have to restrain our eagerness to simplify that complexity.

Q. If you could only eat one type of food for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

A. Japanese food. Itadakimasu!

Q. What is your ideal vacation?

A. I love quietness, nature, photography, culture, learning and exploration. Thus my ideal vacation is combining all of that, with periods for rest and reflection. Usually sea kayaking fills this desire. Or traveling abroad. The best vacation is when I am able to recharge my batteries, so to speak. 

How to Include People of all Abilities

Our Learning Together & Connecting Communities cohort Getting to know one another at our first Gathering.

Our Learning Together & Connecting Communities cohort Getting to know one another at our first Gathering.

Our Learning Together & Connecting Communities initiative is all about learning from one another and building relationships. So, on November 9th and 10th we hosted our first gathering with our Learning Together partners in Welches, Oregon. This included staff, clients and board members from nine organizations: Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI Oregon), Autism Empowerment, Umpqua Valley disAbilities Network (UVdN), David’s Harp, Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), Disability Art and Culture Project (DACP), OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon and ourselves, Northwest Health Foundation (NWHF).

For Northwest Health Foundation, the greatest benefit of this gathering was the opportunity to learn how we can include everyone, regardless of ability, in future conversations and events. As it turns out it, it isn’t as difficult as it seems.

The key to inclusiveness is to ask, in as many ways as possible, as often as possible, what people need to participate. Ask as soon as a relationship is established. Ask a couple of months prior to a conversation or event. Ask again in the weeks leading up to an event. Ask at events. And ask post-conversation/event.

For this particular gathering,  NWHF started working with participants to make accommodations for physical and mental Disabilities in September. Prior to the event, we secured ADA compliant rooms at The Resort at the Mountain. We hired ASL interpreters. We worked extra breaks into the agenda for those who needed sensory breaks, and we planned a variety of activities (one-on-one, small group and large group, as well as visual, verbal, written, and kinetic) for people with diverse learning styles. 

At the event, we went around the room and asked each participant, whether or not they identified as Disabled, to voice how the rest of the group could help them feel included. One participant requested that we show appreciation with silent applause. Many participants asked that we leave pauses in the conversation so that everyone could have the chance to join in without having to talk over one another. Another participant said that dancing helped him participate. We managed to incorporate all of these requests with little extra effort.

Now that the event is over, our next step is to send a follow-up survey to our gathering participants. We will ask them whether they felt included or excluded at the gathering and why, and we will use the answers we receive to improve future events and conversations.

Organizations should be in the habit of asking these questions of everyone, because everyone should be able to participate in every event and conversation regardless of ability. Even people who do not identify as Disabled can benefit from this.

Northwest Health Foundation cannot say that we are experts in this area—not even close. In the past we have not been the best example of these behaviors. However, with the help of our partners, we are learning, and we hope to share that learning with the rest of our Oregon and Southwest Washington community.

In the meantime, check out this awesome music video made by one of our amazing Learning Together partners: Disability Art & Culture Project.


Q&A with our Equity Committee Chair, Darleen Ortega


Q. How did you get involved in Northwest Health Foundation?

A. I was recruited to the board. I am not sure how my name came up.

Q. What is your role on NWHF's board?

A. Currently I serve as chair of the Equity Committee, and also as a member of the Community Engagement Committee.

Q.  What have you learned so far from NWHF’s Learning Together & Connecting Communities project?


A.  It has been very inspiring to learn about some of the amazing work that is being done to address the needs of people with disabilities. Also, I think my thinking has deepened a lot about how important it is to treat persons with disabilities as whole persons and not just make their disability the focus. That sounds so obvious when you say it, but it is a common mistake that I have made myself.

Q.  How do you think the Learning Together & Connecting Communities project will change NWHF’s foundational practices?

A.  It is not enough to have the intention to fund more of the work of organizations who work with people with disabilities. Without relationships, we leave our own blind spots intact and cannot make decisions that are likely to have the most impact. We need to empower others who have been working for a long time on such issues to broaden their impact and find ways to collaborate. I think this project will help us be a more effective participant in work that has already been done. It will help us to ask better questions of others and ourselves. 

Q.  What has been your favorite moment at NWHF?

A.  There are so many.  I really doubted what I could contribute early on but have found work to do that is deeply meaningful to me. I still doubt how much I have contributed but am so grateful for the opportunity to work on equity issues in an organization that is really willing to ask hard questions and work on such issues. NWHF is often the only place I can ask certain questions or raise certain issues and not pay a heavy price, and have some hope of others engaging with those questions and issues.

Q.  How do you relate to NWHF’s mission and values?

A.  I have spent my career harboring deep concern for the overlooked experiences and needs of oppressed and underrepresented communities. Most of my work has been in the arena of law, but NWHF has deepened my awareness of the health impacts of the same disparities that have troubled me for my entire career.

Q.  What do you do for your day job?

A.  I am a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals.  I preside over a panel of three judges and we review all kinds of cases that come through the state courts and administrative agencies.

Q.  How do you define “health?”

A.  My idea of health includes the whole person: their physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being.  Health also includes all that is true about a given individual: his or her cultural context, family of origin, gender and sexual identity, and physical gifts and limitations. All of us need healing from time-to-time, but we don't need fixing. We do need understanding.

Q.  If you could change one thing in your community, what would you change?

A.  I would like for all of my communities to be more genuinely embracing of difference and to be constantly interested in hearing perspectives that are currently unrepresented or have been historically underpresented.

Q.  Would you rather be a deep sea diver or an astronaut?

A. An astronaut.


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.