Billionaire Nike co-founder Phil Knight grew up in Portland, OR, and since the company he founded along with Bill Bowerman hit it big he and his wife Penny have established themselves as two of the most prominent philanthropists not just in Oregon but in the entire country. Now, he’s pledged $400 million to the 1803 Fund to establish the Rebuild Albina project.
Albina is a historically Black Portland neighborhood that has fallen on hard times of late, part of what Knight has characterized as a “crisis” for the entire city of Portland. In an interview he spoke about how he hopes the $400 million infusion might raise the area’s fortunes to what they once were and beyond:
“I think it can lift the community and it can give the whole city hope. That’s the ambition.”
Rukaiyah Adams is CEO of the 1803 Fund, which itself was recently established as a kind of hybrid entity fusing philanthropy with investment. The idea is that investors in poorer or underserved communities could see returns on their money rather than simply writing it off as a charitable donation, and she says that attitude extends to Knight’s $400 million pledge:
“So, I think, judging by who Phil is choosing and the team is choosing to lead the organization, I think that’s telling you something about what we expect the magnitude of it to be—and the tone, which is: This isn’t charity, we’re investing.”
That team includes Ron Herndon, head of the Albina Head Start program, and Tony Hopson, CEO of Portland’s Self-Enhancement Inc., which WSJ describes as “an area organization that provides families with education and social services.”
Rebuild Albina will focus on a wide variety of areas within the neighborhood, including education and housing as well as art projects, and will also seek to serve former residents who no longer live there but still work or go to school in the area.
The Knights have made several philanthropic contributions at this level, including $500 million for cancer research at Oregon Health & Science University. They’ve reportedly donated a total of $1 billion to Knight’s alma mater the University of Oregon over the last seven years alone.