The Oregon Nonprofit Leaders Conference began in 1988 when the Grantsmanship Library cooperative collection, then housed with the Junior League, and four local funders collaborated to host a workshop on using these research resources for grant seeking. The goals were to assist local nonprofits in securing funds and to encourage foundations to meet with representatives from the organizations. The original funders were the Carpenter Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust and the Ben B. Cheney Foundation.
At that time, many new nonprofits were emerging in southern Oregon. In response to falling timber receipts, county governments were beginning to call upon nonprofits for service delivery to local residents. The hope of the early workshops was to encourage collaborative grant seeking among organizations and to introduce organizations to funding sources.
Because the Jackson CountyLibrary facility was quite small then and the collaborating collection of resources was too large to house there, the founders decided to create an organization to both house the collection and provide technical assistance to organizations. Thus, the Pacific Nonprofit Network (PNN) was founded. Its goal was to help with grant seeking and to help nonprofits develop broader management skills.
For several years, PNN sponsored an annual technical assistance event. The Fundraising School of the University of Indiana was recruited to provide its week-long trainings on fund raising, grant writing workshops were held, and foundations and corporations that fund in southern Oregon were recruited each year to network with local organizations. Gradually, the conference grew from a one-day educational event into a broader opportunity for networking and in-depth learning.
Eventually, when PNN experienced difficulty maintaining independent operation, SOU president Steve Reno helped move the effort under the umbrella of Southern Oregon University, where it operated for several years. The SOU Foundation hosted the last two conferences held in collaboration with SOU.
In 2007, the Oregon Nonprofit Leaders Conference moved to its current home, with fiscal sponsorship managed by United Way of Jackson County. The conference continues to be produced by a volunteer committee of foundations and nonprofit representatives, and is underwritten by the generous support of local funders, both foundations and businesses.