Meyer Memorial Trust: Building Partnerships to Save the

Willamette River

The Brief:

The Meyer Memorial Trust (MMT) established the Willamette River Initiative (WRI) in

2009 to achieve meaningful, measurable improvements in the health of the river and selected tributaries, and to create a national model for effective philanthropic involvement in restoring large, complex ecological systems. Oregon’s Willamette River system was long considered the lifeblood of the state, but by 2006 population growth and development made the river one of the most endangered in the US. The WRI engaged diverse partners including funders, nonprofit organizations, and academic institutions in developing restoration plans, cultivating partnerships with landowners, and implementing on-the-ground projects. Midway through the 10-year Initiative, MMT commissioned a formal evaluation of its progress to understand the capacity for the WRI to work independently in the future.


The Solution:

pfc worked with MMT staff and WRI implementation partners to execute a developmental evaluation of the WRI. pfc engaged in interviews and site visits with key project 

stakeholders, developed a network map to highlight partnership intensity, and conducted an in-depth survey to assess the Trust’s leadership characteristics and ability to achieve intended impacts. Our results found the Trust’s greatest strengths to be in supporting grantee capacity and in broad-based relationship building. The results also pinpointing areas for improvement in diversifying partnerships, considering alternative exit scenarios, and developing an action plan as the Trust works to secure gains and oversee a seamless exit from the WRI.