Our Approach: Change Not Charity
The Chinook Fund was founded in 1987 during the Ronald Reagan era, when a group of young, progressive philanthropists came together with a timely idea. Inspired by the recent founding of the Funding Exchange in New York, they wanted to give birth to a foundation which would support small, grassroots organizations working for peace, human rights and economic justice. They also wanted the foundation to be held accountable to the communities it served, and to provide a way to hold activist organizations accountable to those communities as well. The founders decided to name the organization the Chinook Fund. In Colorado, a “chinook” is a warm, dry wind that blows powerfully down from the eastern slope of the Rockies, bringing a refreshing spring thaw to icy winter weather. And that was the vision for the new Chinook: supporting and growing grassroots democracy in Colorado, thawing a climate of increasing fear, bigotry and violence.
Over the past decade, the Chinook Fund community, including staff, grantmaking committee and board of directors, has embarked on a deeply transformational journey. Chinook has long recognized institutional racism as one of the most dangerous and pervasive barriers to social justice. In 2002, Chinook staff and volunteers began to examine the impact of racism on Chinook as an organization. This exploration has been challenging, but the payoffs are truly phenomenal. It has bonded members to one another in a most extraordinary way, as we work together through America’s historical and very personal minefield of race and racism. We know that we are constantly striving to live and work in complete integrity with our ideals. Our decision-making bodies are comprised of people from various communities who represent different races, genders, faiths, sexual orientations, ages, abilities and income levels. While our inclusivity creates real debate, it also leads to powerful and more effective solutions. And we feel deeply honored to be part of a community with so much integriity and respect for one another. This journey has also led us to a broader vision of Chinook’s commitment to social justice. In 2004, Chinook adopted a new mission statement, one that includes our work to challenge and eliminate oppression. Chinook has expanded its work to achieve this mission, with the creation of our social justice education programs.