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PEAK Grantmaking

DEI Capacity Building at Meyer Memorial Trust: Successes, challenges, and wisdom from grantees

Meyer Memorial Trust, based in Portland, Oregon, was created by the late Fred G. Meyer, founder of a chain of retail stores bearing his name throughout the Pacific Northwest. Upon his death, Meyer directed his chosen trustees to use “broad discretion in shaping and carrying out” the Meyer’s charitable purpose. Since 1982, the foundation has awarded roughly $835 million to more than 10,000 organizations in Oregon and southwest Washington.
When Meyer pivoted its vision towards “a flourishing and equitable Oregon” in 2016, it changed our funding structure and priorities. We began focusing our grantmaking on organizations that demonstrated commitments to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion – from internal capacity to programs, to policy and systems-level change. We knew that part of supporting organizations to join us in the DEI “evolution” would be to fund internal DEI capacity building.

Meyer recognized that we would be working with organizations at various stages of implementing DEI strategies. To help organizations committed to DEI, no matter where they were on their journey, we created a separate pool of funds that program officers could easily and quickly draw upon to provide funding to increase the DEI capacity of grantees. These DEI capacity-building, or technical assistance (TA), grants were intended to increase grantees’ internal capacity for DEI work and were grounded in Meyer’s belief that when organizations are more inclusive, diverse and equitable internally, their work and service outcomes will improve for all populations, especially historically marginalized groups.

To help organizations committed to DEI, no matter where they were on their journey, we created a separate pool of funds that program officers could easily and quickly draw upon to provide funding to increase the DEI capacity of grantees.

Grantees leveraged their TA grants to provide training for their staff members and boards of directors; to meet organizational development needs for their DEI goals, such as creating an equity vision, plan or committee; and to conduct other activities vital for DEI.

Four years after launching this funding, and over $4 million in grants distributed, we wanted to know what kind of impact these funds were having and what we could learn from grantees about the successes and challenges of moving toward deeper DEI. More specifically, we wanted to know:

  • What are the characteristics of organizations that utilize DEI TA grant opportunities?
  • What kinds of projects do the grants support?
  • What are grantee experiences during the grant-supported projects?
  • What are the next steps for the grantee organizations after the grants, if any?
  • What does success look like for the DEI TA grants

We learned much about how grantees use these kinds of funds, what successes and challenges are experienced when tackling DEI capacity work, and some promising ways to use funds. We also learned where we can improve our grantmaking practices and increase clarity specifically for this kind of support. Grantees were generous and forthcoming, sharing lessons learned and advice to other organizations doing this work and to Meyer.

The findings of this assessment process are now available in our report, DEI Capacity Building in Oregon: Successes, Challenges and Wisdom from Meyer Grantees.


The assessment included grantees who received Meyer funds beginning in 2016 through 2019. During that period, 124 unique organizations received 151 grants. The cap for most grants was $35,000, though the average grant amount totaled $10,000. We found some anomalies because some organizations received greater amounts of funding as part of a larger project. For the report, we separated out TA-specific grants for quantitative findings, but included the qualitative data for all grants.

Working with a consultant to allow for anonymity or confidentiality, three methods were used to collect data and grantee input pertaining to the evaluation questions: grant data review, grantee survey and focus groups with grantees. Two additional individual interviews were conducted with grantees who were unable to participate in focus groups but wanted to provide direct input. Participation in these data collection methods was anonymous (survey) or confidential (focus groups and interviews).

Key Findings

The assessment findings describe grantees’ experience with Meyer’s grantmaking process, the types of projects for which grantees utilized the funds and some key challenges faced by grantees when engaging in this kind of capacity building. Highlights in the findings include the following:

  • DEI leaders of the grantee organizations are often supporting their DEI learning through learning cohorts or networks
  • Board commitment and diversity are significant challenges for grantees trying to advance their organizations on DEI
  • Grantees need more time, guidance, and tools for planning their projects, including finding a consultant with the right expertise for their needs
  • Many organizations struggle to continue their DEI work after a TA grant for reasons such as inadequate personnel capacity for this work. Additionally, DEI work can unearth deeper issues that need to be addressed, even after the consultation or training event is completed
  • Grantees found gaps in DEI consulting related to trauma-informed approaches to DEI work, conflict literacy and rural relevancy
  • DEI capacity building work can be approached at many levels, with different needs at each level. Right-sizing approaches and funding for those different levels of work is key to success
  • DEI work involves personal and relational healing for everyone in the organization

Through this invaluable partnership with grantees, Meyer has identified two specific next steps for our DEI capacity-building grantmaking that hold us accountable to the findings in the report:

  • Convening a workgroup of grantees and staff to provide guidance and recommendations on a DEI TA grantmaking structure and process and impact evaluations
  • Hosting a gathering of DEI consultants, designed and led by a team of DEI consultant advisors, to discuss the findings and develop opportunities for peer learning and quality improvement

We are excited to share this report and eager to explore the possibilities that are emerging from the assessment. We hope you find it useful and supportive to your work!


Photo credit: Dress for Success Oregon