Grantmakers of Oregon and SW Washington – MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

This week, the foundation was highlighted in the Member Spotlight for Grantmakers of Oregon and Southwest Washington. Read their story below and see how Lisa Bendt, Executive Director of the Multnomah Athletic Foundation, answers a few questions about how things have evolved in the midst of this crisis. 

Before COVID-19, what were your priorities as a foundation/funder?

Before COVID19, our funding priorities at the Multnomah Athletic Foundation were:

  • Increasing access to youth participation in athletics
  • Supporting nonprofits that enable and foster opportunities with a priority on underserved and underrepresented communities
  • Providing college scholarships to individuals who are high achieving students, community minded and athletes
  • Reducing barriers to funding
In brief, how has your foundation been able to respond to COVID-19 (for example, changed guidelines, relaxed requirements, etc.)?

Our response to COVID19 has been to proactively and immediately remove all the funding restrictions for our grant partners from the past grant cycle. This was done with no paperwork or reports – simply an email expressing our trust in them to do what they need to do. We extended our application deadline in the Spring Cycle without changing the fund disbursement date to expediate cash flow to the nonprofits. The aim is to support the viability of the organizations by loosening restrictions and encouraging requests for general funding for the most critical needs…administrative expenses and people.

Have you changed the process of how you give and, if so, how have you changed it?

We have not changed the process we use due to the pandemic, but it solidifies our ongoing commitment to select the organization first and the requested funding second. Looking at how the organization and their outreach supports the community is our priority. Asking these questions – is this a partner that fits our values, and can we offer a deeper relationship beyond the funding that would be useful in their work.

Are there any situations/stories that you find nonprofits are facing that really resonated with you (either challenges or inspirational) that you feel capture what they are going through or how they are responding?

What is inspiring us (and encouraging us to play) is the adaption our grant partners are showing to social gathering, learning, keeping kids active, engaged and moving! We also provide scholarships to high school seniors. The current pandemic and changes to their school year, sports, social lives, classic final year traditions are difficult. There is so much uncertainly and loss. Our volunteers and donors are also feeling out of sync. We are committed to providing some continuity in their college dreams by adapting to new ways to gather (virtual of course) to keep the scholarship process on track of reviewing applications, increased communications with the applicants and moving finalists’ interviews to virtual. Focusing on what we can do and remembering the dreams and hope of these amazing individuals need to be lifted up right now.

If there was one learning or realization that you would like to tell other funders, what would that be?

As simple as it sounds, our main realization is “Do what we can – because we can”. As a small funder, we wish there was more to give and wish our impact could be greater. However, no matter how big or small the funding, support and care – it matters. It is the support we offer our community that matters anytime but especially during these times.

As originally published on the website of Grantmakers of Oregon and Southwest Washington.