Thrilling News

Columbia Riverkeeper received an anonymous, $1 million donation to our Cleaning Up Hanford program.

Record Donation for “Cleaning Up Hanford” Program

Learning about the Hanford Nuclear Site cleanup and Columbia Riverkeeper’s program advocating for government accountability for cleanup often leaves people with a profound sense of overwhelm–and that is understandable. Afterall, Hanford is an environmental disaster that tests one's spirit in numerous ways.

Dianne Riley (she/her), the author and Sustaining Gifts Director facing the camera
Dianne Riley (she/her), Sustaining Gifts Director

This presents a unique set of challenges for Columbia Riverkeeper’s “Cleaning Up Hanford” program. Yet, I’m happy to say that my coworkers have proven to be exceptionally tenacious, skilled, resourceful, and creative. They’ve developed an advocacy approach that shares the hard truths of Hanford while simultaneously holding the tender psyches of children, while also cultivating hope and expanding the tenacity needed in the public-at-large to produce progress and genuine results.

Last year, this work got an infusion of support that left Columbia Riverkeeper staff and board vibrating with a new level of purpose and possibility: an anonymous gift that towered over even our own dreams of what an individual or family might donate to Columbia Riverkeeper. The truly anonymous gift came in a standard business, secured delivery service envelope with only one line of instruction: that the million dollars be dedicated “for continuing activities and activism in regard to Hanford.” 

Our eyes popped. While we spent the next several days in elated awe, the check was deposited immediately. Since then, our team has been hard at work developing and implementing an expanded Hanford advocacy plan, tapping the advice of nonprofit experts and our partners, to make the biggest possible impact with this unanticipated opportunity. Building on the groundwork already in place, the “Cleaning Up Hanford” team is expanding their efforts under the power of this gift—and working to leverage this donation to keep up the momentum. The reason is simple: Hanford is the most toxic and radioactive place in America, and it will take generations to protect the Columbia and people who rely on it.

This tremendous boost has had incalculable, positive effects on our organization and the work that Columbia Riverkeeper’s “Cleaning Up Hanford” program is now able to do. It has also clarified for me personally what sustaining gifts are and can do. Allow me to share a glimpse into our fundraising world.

Columbia Riverkeeper is fueled primarily by gifts and grants. Our diversity of funding and sound financial management has made us one of the most trusted regional organizations in the Pacific Northwest. Individual (aka household) gifts account for roughly half of our support. The majority come in from people living in the Pacific Northwest, but they’ve expanded to come in from around the country as our base of supporters has grown and moved. Many of our supporters give consistently, and whether that is monthly, quarterly, or annually, it means we are able to ensure our staff have jobs that support their families and they can build a career at Columbia Riverkeeper. With longevity comes deep relationships in communities and with Tribes. 

We have countless supporters that have gradually increased their giving, often starting with modest gifts below the membership level of $35 annually, but who remember us when they receive a windfall and give ten or thirty times their original donation when they are able. We have donors who seemingly come out of nowhere. Despite having never donated to Columbia Riverkeeper, they include Columbia Riverkeeper in their will or send the organization a one-time gift. 

All gifts are acts of tremendous faith and are only impactful when made together over years that turn into decades. Where would the million dollar, anonymous gift land if there were not all the donors who came before it to create something worth investing in? All donations, of every size are the gifts that fuel change. It is together that we are strong enough to make what seems impossible, so very possible, including cleaning up Hanford.

Learn More

Columbia Riverkeeper’s “Cleaning Up Hanford” program,
or read the Hanford-focused issue of “Currents.”