Philanthropy, the Avista Way

The energy crisis in the early 2000s inspired the creation of a philanthropic organization that is still going strong.

The Avista Foundation, established in 2002, serves as the official giving arm of Avista. The Foundation gifts over $1 million annually to nonprofit organizations throughout the company's service area - including eastern Washington, north Idaho, western Montana, southern Oregon, and Juneau, Alaska.

“Forming the Foundation insulated Avista’s philanthropy from the ups and downs of business cycles,” said Avista Foundation Executive Director Kristi Meyer. “It ensures our charitable giving continues regardless of what had occurred or what would happen in the future.” Funding for the Foundation comes strictly from the company’s shareholders, and not from ratepayers.

“There is no part of our philanthropy that comes from customer rates. The Foundation is a separate, nonprofit organization established by Avista.”

The Foundation’s areas of focus are community and economic vitality, education, and vulnerable populations. It serves these needs by identifying and supporting local nonprofits doing significant work in the community. As Kristi is the only paid staff member, she relies heavily on employees to help raise awareness about organizations that meet Avista’s criteria for giving.

Every quarter, the Foundation conducts a competitive grant cycle soliciting proposals on targeted areas: first quarter, health and human services; second quarter, education and youth development; third quarter, economic and community vitality; and fourth quarter, environmental/arts and culture.

“Typically, the larger percentage of our giving is directed toward vulnerable populations,” said Kristine. “Applying is done online. Non-profit organizations can set up an account and submit a proposal.”

During a quarterly funding cycle, Kristi estimates receiving 60 applications; of those, the Foundation awards approximately 40 grants. “Our grants are often $5,000 or less,” said Kristi. “Because we are responding to needs and applications across five states.”

Working closely with the communities it serves, the Foundation has had a meaningful impact over the last 21 years. Since its inception, it’s awarded over $14 million to organizations.

Along with charitable grantmaking, the Foundation created two internal programs to encourage employee giving. The Employee Matching Gift Program provides up to $200 per employee per year to match personal giving, and Employee Dollars-for-Doers contributes $10/hour for each hour volunteered, up to $200.

“Our retirees are also eligible for both of the matching programs, which I think is unique,” said Kristi. “We can match $35,000 each for both programs annually.”

Did you know? The Employee Matching Gift Program provides up to $200 per employee per year to match personal giving.

The Avista Foundation began 21 years ago with $2 million in stock from a spin-off company, Itron, Inc. It awarded $10,000 to Spokane Youth Sports Association (SYSA), its first grant recipient the following year.

Today, the Foundation’s assets have grown to over $10 million. To submit a grant request, visit

Learn more about the Avista Foundation.

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