By William Kennedy

Just look at the good work Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) has done in the past half century, and it’s plain to see: Age really is just a number. The philanthropic organization headquartered in Portland celebrates its 50th birthday in 2023. This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the Southern Willamette Valley OCF office in Eugene. 

Through the OCF, individuals, families, businesses, and organizations create charitable funds that meet the needs of diverse communities in all corners of the state. Since its founding, OCF has worked with donors and volunteers to strengthen communities through research, grants, and scholarships. 

Lane County got an OCF regional office a quarter century ago when the Arts Foundation of Western Oregon, at one time the Eugene Arts Foundation, was transferred to the statewide nonprofit. Since then, OCF has stewarded the Western Oregon suite of endowments, including notable work in the Hult Center’s early days and a more recent campaign to improve acoustics in the facility’s Silva Concert Hall.

Today, OCF’s good work benefits organizations across the Southern Willamette Valley, from Lane, Linn, Benton, and Douglas counties to the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians, and the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians. 

Last year alone, OCF distributed more than $180 million through charitable grants and scholarships statewide, benefitting diverse groups of families and organizations as well as social justice initiatives.

OFC supports Project Turnkey 2.0, a statewide initiative to utilize unused hospitality spaces for transitional housing and emergency shelters, for example. It also backs Black Student Success, to help address educational disparities in the state for students of color, and a number of projects supporting Indigenous art, the preservation of Indigenous language and history, and Indigenous sovereignty.

In Eugene and Lane County specifically, OCF has distributed $29 million in scholarships, “bringing access to higher education within reach for thousands of students in Eugene and beyond,” said Jackie Roth, the Southern Willamette Valley’s regional director and philanthropic advisor.

OCF serves a number of different nonprofits throughout Eugene, Lane County, and the surrounding area. “Over the past 50 years, OCF has awarded more than $325 million to local nonprofits,” Roth added, “thanks to the thousands of generous donors who make these grants possible.”

For these donors, “it’s the sense that their money isn’t just a give once,” OCF president and CEO Lisa Mensah told The Business of Giving podcast this year. “It’s a sense of being part of the future, and they will someday leave it to us as a legacy.”

“That’s a powerful part of the inspiration story,” Mensah continued. Donors see that money contributed to OCF “does more than you could have done with a one-time gift, and that you’ll be here to see some of that good work, join with others. And that when you’re not here, this is going to keep going.”

The OCF has commemorated their big 5-0 throughout 2023, telling the organization’s story through media partners. An OCF birthday party will take place this November at the Portland Art Museum.

“As we look ahead to the next 50 years, Oregon Community Foundation will continue to nurture and grow trusted relationships with nonprofit organizations doing critical work on the ground in communities all throughout our state,” said public relations manager Maureen Kenney.

“Through community partnership and long-term investments, OCF is uniquely positioned to affect ​positive, lasting impact in the Southern Willamette region and all throughout Oregon for decades to come,” Kenney said.

Oregon Community Foundation