The Travel Oregon Forever Fund provides residents and visitors to Oregon an opportunity to give back to projects that make Oregon a better place to live and travel. Launched in 2012, the Forever Fund has raised more than $200,000 in support of 28 Forever Fund Projects in Oregon. This volunteer-based program is a fit for any business seeking to support community projects that directly impact the tourism industry.

Becoming a Business Partner

For mission-driven businesses such as WildSpring Guest Habitat in Port Orford, becoming a Forever Fund Business Partner was a no-brainer. “Environmental responsibility is built into our DNA,” says Owner, Michelle Duarte. The resort received the 2013 Governor’s Sustainable Tourism Leadership Award and is a certified Green Inspected Inn by the Oregon Bed & Breakfast Guild. “Our guests look fondly on a program like this. From both an operational and a marketing standpoint, I think that being part of this program shows our guests that we have skin in the game.”

To sign up for the program, a business completes the simple Business Partner Enrollment Form. Then a representative from Travel Oregon schedules a short phone call to discuss the company’s giving strategy. “Each Forever Fund Business Partner includes donations into the costs of their products and services but can collect donations in slightly different ways,” says Andrew Grossmann, destination management specialist with Travel Oregon. “Ultimately, businesses donate what they feel they can donate.”

For example, a lodging partner might choose to add $1 to every guests’ bill for each night they stay. Alternatively, a business might choose to make an annual donation based on a percentage of total sales from the year. Some businesses might go a step further and ask guests if they would like to make an additional donation on their own accord.

Currently, the Coast has the highest concentration of Forever Fund Business Partners in the state. Guests at the Overleaf Lodge & Spa in Yachats have historically been some of the largest contributors to the fund. The Travel Oregon Forever Fund is managed by the Oregon Community Foundation, a nonprofit organization working with Travel Oregon to collect funds from Business Partners and distribute them to grantees.

Accessing Forever Funds

Every two years, seven new projects are selected to be recipients of the Forever Fund – one from each of Oregon’s seven tourism regions — after an open application process. Forever Fund projects work to enhance natural environments, support communities’ economic vitality and enrich their appeal as a destination — for both the experience of locals and visitors alike.

Selected projects support one or more of the objectives below:

    • Improve visitor experience in Oregon.
    • Restore or protect Oregon’s natural landscapes.
    • Enhance Oregon’s outdoor recreation product.
    • Provide volunteer opportunities for Oregon residents and visitors.

The amount of money that each project receives each year is contingent upon the amount of money collected by Business Partners. In 2017, Business Partners raised more than $42,000, which was the strongest year to date, according to Grossmann.

Improving the visitor experience

In 2018, Explore Nature was selected as a Forever Fund project with a goal to expand its reach to a more diverse population. The ambitious project facilitated by the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership includes eight small environmental organizations in Tillamook County that are all committed to delivering educational outdoor experiences to the general public.

In 2016, Explore Nature delivered 16 nature-based hikes, walks and paddles that showcased the uniqueness of Tillamook County and the work being done to conserve the area’s natural resources, restore biodiversity, and preserve natural resource-based industries. Each event attracted 15 to 18 people and was so successful that the following year the group committed to hosting 60 events. With money from the Forever Fund, Explore Nature is hoping to expand its reach to a more diverse population by offering transportation and interpretation services for some events.

“Everyone who comes to the Coast has a vested interest in keeping it a wild and special place,” says Claudine Rehn, deputy director of Tillamook Estuaries Partnership. “By offering hikes, walks, and paddles with biologists and other natural resource experts, we hope to give people a better sense of place. We hope this will inspire them to become more curious about and respectful of natural places—and maybe become advocates, volunteers and supporters of our work.”

Past Forever Fund grant recipients from the Coast include the Redfish Rocks Community Team for establishing a safe access point for scuba diving at the port of Port Orford, the Nature Conservancy for the Netarts Native Oyster Restoration Plan to reintroduce the Oregon-native Olympia oysters in suitable habitats, and Friends of Haystack Rock for its Sustainable Seafood Initiative.

Get started today

    • Go here to learn more about the Travel Oregon Forever Fund and sign up as a Business Partner.
    • If you’re a nonprofit organization interested in applying for a grant through the Forever Fund, contact Andrew Grossmann at andrew@traveloregon.comor 971-717-6211.

Photo courtesy of Explore Nature