In an increasingly unpredictable world, the Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) brings stability to entrepreneurs and small businesses most likely to fall through the cracks, bolstering the state’s economic vitality, a both charitable investment.
Rather than directly supporting businesses or individuals, OCF relies on partnerships with experienced and successful nonprofits and community development finance institutions (CDFIs) in various regions and sectors.
“We provide grants and loans to intermediary organizations whose mission is to serve entrepreneurs who have difficulty accessing capital,” explains Melissa Freeman, Director of Strategic Projects, OCF. “We’re trying to build really strong relationships and partnerships with nonprofits across the state, so that we have a good idea of who does what and how well they serve their communities.”
By strategically partnering with a network of intermediary organizations, OCF helps donors maximize their impact in Oregon.
Its Successful Entrepreneur Grants program, for example, will provide funding to organizations that support entrepreneurs, especially women, people of color and rural residents who traditionally have limited access to business support and services.
Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon provided loans and training to Maria Roman, a seamstress in Beaverton.
“This is the first time that we have had an open application process to support organizations serving entrepreneurs. We have a review committee made up of entrepreneurs and fund managers, ”said Freeman. “They help us determine where our funding will have the most impact. “
For more than 10 years, the OCF has awarded a handful of grants to programs that mentor and train entrepreneurs in rural and urban communities across the state, fueling job creation. However, this year over $ 500,000 will be awarded through the open application process.
One such grant was awarded to TiE Oregon to retain Laura Kubisiak, a seasoned “business catalyst,” entrepreneur and business coach. She then helped Dr. Reva Barewal – a prosthodontist who treats patients with chewing and swallowing difficulties – to launch his healthy therapeutic food lines: Taste for Life, LLC and Savorease ™. This ripple effect illustrates how supporting nonprofits like TiE Oregon increases OCF’s reach and effectiveness.
Although the OCF manages a number of established long-term funds, it also acts in response to current events. In March 2020, he launched the Oregon Small Business Stabilization Fund to provide relief to small business owners whose livelihoods were drastically reduced overnight by the economic shutdown from COVID-19.
The OCF endowed the Oregon Small Business Stabilization Fund with an investment of $ 300,000 that grew, with donor support, to $ 2.6 million, which was quickly rolled out across the country. ‘Status as of mid-July 2020.
Café Marge in Albany
Community Lending Works used the $ 310,000 grant it received from the fund to provide grants and emergency loans to 1,200 small businesses, such as Homegrown Public House & Brewery in Florence, OR.
“We recognize that small businesses create over 95% of new jobs in Oregon. Sometimes there aren’t big employers in rural areas, so people have to be creative and find ways to make a living, ”adds Freeman. “We strive to fund organizations that help people have the tools and skills to start and run a successful business. “
Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO) – a CDFI focused on underserved entrepreneurs, especially women, people of color, veterans, and low-income populations – received $ 370,000 from the Small Business Stabilization Fund of Oregon. The capital enabled MESO to provide immediate assistance to venture entrepreneurs and small businesses, including Gloria Sanchez, owner of Gloria’s Beaverton Salon. Sanchez, already involved in MESO’s business development and strategic advisory programs, used the capital to cover expenses accrued during the shutdown.
Gloria Sanchez in her Beaverton living room
“We invest in organizations that reach marginalized communities,” notes Freeman.
MESO also received investments from OCF’s $ 20 million Oregon Impact Fund, which provides loans to nonprofit and for-profit social enterprises. Through this support, MESO is providing non-traditional loans to people like Julie Derrick, a single mother who used MESO’s services when she tried to start her own shoemaking business. Thanks to loans and training from CDFI, she successfully opened and expanded JD shoe repair.
Julie Derrick of JD Shoes
“We launched the Oregon Impact Fund, a loan program, in 2018. We raised $ 10 million from donors and matched it to the endowment. The fund allows us to make loans to CDFIs and other entities, ”says Freeman. “We engage donors and try to impact the economy on a larger scale. These loans are a different tool but complementary to a grant. Loans are $ 500,000 to $ 2 million per organization for seven to 10 years. It’s a great way for donors to have a meaningful impact.
While many would associate OCF with grantmaking, fewer are aware that the foundation allocates up to 1% of its endowment to Oregon-based venture capital funds – a unique way for OCF to spur innovation, the business development and job creation in Oregon.
“The Oregon Community Foundation has offices in Bend, Eugene, Medford, Portland and Salem,” she adds. “We have philanthropic advisors and program officers with deep connections in all pockets of the state. OCF offers expertise and resources to help donors make good decisions about where to invest their charitable funds.
The Thriving Entrepreneurs Grant Program, the Oregon Impact Fund and the Oregon Small Business Stabilization Fund are just the tip of its philanthropic iceberg. From the Oregon Community Recovery Fund, a $ 15.2 million Covid response fund, to the Community Rebuilding Fund that reaches out to communities affected by the 2020 wildfires, OCF is putting donated dollars to work and maximizing impact benefiting Oregonians most in need.
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