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A "Promise" to Make Charitable Dollars Work Harder

June 13, 2011

PORTLAND, Ore. - Some of the charitable foundations that grant millions of dollars in Oregon are making a public pledge to do more to benefit those who need help the most.

While doing good by investing wisely is the goal of most such organizations, more than 60 - including four in Oregon - are taking an additional step: They have agreed to allocate at least half of their grant money to causes that benefit the poor, the elderly and other groups that are struggling, and to target one-quarter of their dollars on programs to end the root causes of social inequities.

Suk ("Sook") Rhee, vice president of planning and operations with the Northwest Health Foundation, says the Philanthropy's Promise pledge fits well with what her organization already does.

"For us, it just makes sense, because philanthropy has a different role to play in society, and that's one of the best roles we can play. If we never focused on the root causes we would, by default, only be addressing the symptoms - and what kind of declaration is that?"

In Oregon, one of those "root causes" is the existence of definite health disparities based on a person's ethnic background, Rhee explains.

"We actually have terrible outcomes for certain communities. We are not doing well by communities of color, for example. We are very innovative and forward-thinking about health care reform, but we still have a long way to go around health."

The Northwest Health Foundation grants support projects that keep Oregonians healthy, both physically and mentally, she adds.

"It would be better to prevent someone from getting diabetes than to treat someone with diabetes. Especially now, when all of our chronic conditions are preventable, we have to go there. It's almost our moral imperative, as a health funder."

The "Philanthropy's Promise" pledge is a campaign of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.

Information about the Northwest Health Foundation is available at www.nwhf.org. The "Philanthropy's Promise" website is www.philanthropyspromise.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR