In fall 2013, we had our first board and staff retreat on the topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This was a pivotal step in our journey. It deepened our understanding of disparities in Oregon and opened our hearts and minds to the prospect of shaping a DEI plan for ourselves. Several months later we engaged a team of consultants to lead us through more than a year of shared learning and planning. We are grateful to Kevin Jones and Lesli Mones of the August Wilson Red Door Project for their facilitation, training, and coaching, and Bonnie Ratner for her leadership and support in developing our plan. They were an excellent team.
We are delighted to share our vision and strategies for achieving greater diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the work of The Collins Foundation over the next three years. Why should a general-purpose family foundation concern itself with a plan for a diversity, equity, and inclusion? The answer is simple. We are here to serve the people and communities of Oregon, and our state is changing. Approved at the December 2015 meeting of the Board of Trustees, the following plan will guide our work through 2016, 2017, and 2018.
The Collins Foundation has been serving the communities of Oregon since 1947. As a family foundation, we take pride in generations of family service, each new generation working to keep pace with a rapidly changing Oregon to serve the state’s communities in the best possible way. Demographic changes and growing disparities in Oregon, combined with an evolving awareness around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, inspired us to seek a deeper understanding of ourselves and others.
In 2014, we embarked on a process to learn about, question, and wrestle with what it means to serve Oregon’s diverse communities, and to develop a plan to guide our work. The first step in this process was an equity assessment of staff and trustees that surfaced the values of respect, collaboration, and mutual learning.
Based on that assessment, we organized a planning group, and together delved into understanding issues of difference; rank, power, and privilege; unconscious bias; navigating conflict; and grantmaking through an equity lens. Simultaneously, we began a planning process, at the heart of which was a discernment of our values and how they aligned with our traditions and current practices. Based on these values, we developed a three-year vision, outcomes, and strategies.
Our Values and Guiding Principles
- As a family foundation, we value our long tradition of service to the people of Oregon.
- We recognize that serving the Oregon of today and the Oregon of the future requires new ways to engage diverse communities across the state.
- We commit to this engagement, and to all our work, with compassion, respect, integrity, humility, and accountability.
- We value collaboration in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Love of family and love of community provide a strong foundation for our collaborative work.
- We value learning and commit to staying informed, relevant, and responsive.
- We value diversity, which brings multiple perspectives to enrich our state, our lives and work.
- We believe that inclusive practices serve to recognize and welcome differences, not diminish or suppress them.
- We work toward equity, which we understand to mean fair and inclusive access to resources and the opportunity for all of Oregon’s people and communities to achieve their full potential.
Our Vision for Equity
In that spirit and tradition, we want the state of Oregon to be a place where all people have access to high-quality, culturally responsible services in sectors such as health, social services, education, housing, and employment. We also envision vibrant neighborhoods and communities where residents enjoy access to healthy, affordable food; a rich variety of artistic and cultural expression; and the benefits of Oregon’s natural environment. As a philanthropic organization supporting many of these efforts across the state, we acknowledge that we have an important role in realizing this vision. Finally, within the Foundation, we know that we have a responsibility to live by the inclusive practices we hope to see in the communities we serve.
The Collins Foundation commits to employing an equity lens in both our internal structures and how we engage externally with Oregon’s diverse communities as a funder and partner. Employing an equity lens means we welcome and encourage diversity, practice and promote inclusion, and pay attention to how we conduct our business both inside our walls and out in the community.
To make this present commitment does not take away from our past record of excellent service. Nor does it diminish our longstanding reputation for compassion and fair treatment working with partners and grantees. To the contrary, we have the past to build on, and we look to these strengths to inform our present efforts. In keeping with our ethos, we will do our best to meet people and organizations where they are, using our resources to help us all move toward a more equitable future. We are prepared to stay faithful to this work while staying true to ourselves, and in this, we will be guided by the question: How does a family foundation dedicated to supporting issues of well-being, quality of life, and the common good express the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our work?
Our Goals & Strategies 2016-2018
Our Foundation home is a welcoming place for all
What does it mean to create an environment where everyone feels welcome and included? First, we want people from Oregon’s diverse communities to recognize themselves—both in our online presence and in our offices in downtown Portland. Second, we want our building and office to be accessible to all. Third, we want the quality of our relationships in the community to be strong. To accomplish these results, we will ensure that the themes on our website and the art on our walls reflect Oregon’s many cultures, regions, and stories. Further, we are committed to increasing physical accessibility to our offices and the building we occupy. Finally, we will continue staff and trustee training to deepen our understanding of policies and practices that promote inclusion and enhance our ability to work across difference.
Our staff and trustees reflect the communities we serve
We understand that structural change within the Foundation is necessary to support the work we’ve begun and aspire to with this plan. Over the next three years, we will do the necessary research and internal capacity building to implement the best possible policies for a statewide family foundation committed to equity. We will create succession plans for senior staff as we put hiring procedures in place that reflect our commitment to diversity and inclusion. Additionally, new succession plans for family and non-family trustees will ensure continued effectiveness and enhance the diversity of our Board. We are creating two new positions at the Foundation: a Grants Manager, hired in December 2015; and a Community Engagement Officer, to be hired in summer 2016. Both of these positions are being created through a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens not only in terms of recruitment and retention but also in terms of our approach to information systems and community engagement. Additionally, we recognize that as a grantmaker we can, through our partnerships and investments in grantees, help build and nurture a diverse pool of organizational leaders who can lead Oregon into the future.
We use community engagement as a tool to listen, learn, and build mutually beneficial relationships and programs.
We are eager to develop and implement a set of robust engagement activities to deepen our understanding of communities across the state. Based on documented disparities, the first tier of engagement will be with communities of color and immigrant and refugee communities in urban and rural Oregon. As we listen and learn, we will strive to identify community assets we can strengthen as well as needs we can address. Our community engagement goals are ambitious. We will hire or contract with a new Community Engagement Officer by summer 2016. Early in 2017, we will begin to implement engagement activities. As a result of these activities, by summer 2017, we hope to have a new initiative in place that could include capacity building for small and emerging organizations and may involve the formation of community-based advisory committees working with staff and trustees. If we are successful in reaching our community engagement goals, the number and quality of our community connections and relationships will increase, and we will broaden our funding model to include initiative-based as well as responsive grantmaking.
We use an equity lens in our grantmaking activities and processes
Looking through an equity lens means that we encourage diversity, promote inclusion, and carefully consider how our work, both internally and externally, can better address historical and structural disparities. Over the next three years, we will increase the diversity of our grantees across our funding areas, intentionally building relationships with, and investing in, historically underfunded communities. To achieve this success, we will continue staff and trustee training in grantmaking through an equity lens and employ best practices in information gathering, analysis, and reporting; application and review processes; and decision making. As part of the review process, we will explore the use of community readers in both responsive and initiative-based grantmaking. The creation of a Collins Foundation initiative, possibly in a specific funding area, such as the arts, will build community assets, enhance quality of life for participants, and provide learning opportunities for the Foundation and others. As part of this learning, we will publish grantee and initiative stories in annual reports, on our website, and in other outlets.
We operate as a learning community and support the learning of others
Our three-year plan incorporates our best thinking to date. However, Oregon communities are changing dramatically, and any viable equity plan will thoughtfully respond to these changes. Therefore, we will continue staff and trustee training through a variety of outlets, including consultants, GRANTMAKERS of Oregon and Southwest Washington, and other learning sources for philanthropic organizations, such as those particularly relevant to family foundations. We also recognize that many community organizations have diversity, equity, and inclusion goals but will need assistance to reach them. Our commitment in this regard is to do our best to meet people and organizations where they are and seek opportunities to support learning and progress. Further, because good decisions are based on sound information, we also will refine our systems for collecting and analyzing data—both internally and across our grantees—and put a new grants management system in place. We will then use the information from our learning to inform the development and implementation of new Foundation programs and initiatives and share our progress and lessons learned with the broader community.
Our policies and practices align with our values
We are committed to accountability and consistency. As a matter of course, we will look at policies, practices, and partnerships to see where they fall on a continuum of support for fair and inclusive access to resources and opportunity. We will frequently ask ourselves: Do these policies, practices, and partnerships support fair and inclusive access to resources and opportunity for all Oregonians? Are they neutral? Do they stand in the way of our vision for equity? Then, on an annual basis, we will conduct a review of all the strategies in this plan, our values, and Foundation policies, and make adjustments as needed. Finally, we commit to dedicating the resources necessary to implement the strategies and achieve the aspirations contained in this plan.