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Native Voices Rising in Philanthropy

SANTA ANA, NM – In 2013, Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP) and the Common Counsel Foundation included Native Public Media in their joint research and re-granting project, “Native Voices Rising,” which has been aimed at increasing sustained support and investment in grassroots organizing and advocacy.

During the 2018 Native Philanthropy Institute organized by NAP and held at the Santa Ana Pueblo, the research was revisited. While a lot has changed in the field of Native philanthropy, many of the challenges found in 2013 still exist today.

“Tribal nonprofits may have overcome some of the infrastructure challenges such as telecommunications, but we still face what was labeled in 2013 as the ‘Foundation Disconnect’ where Native projects are often difficult to fit into foundation program silos and where relationships between foundations and Tribal nonprofits require patience, careful listening and learning,” states Loris Taylor, President and CEO of Native Public Media (NPM) who attended the NAP conference with one of NPM’s Board members, Raymond Foxworth. Foxworth is also Vice President of Grantmaking, Development, and Communications at First Nations.

Foundation grantmaking to Native nonprofits has historically remained disproportionately small and relatively unchanged. For example, foundation giving to Native America was only .0279% of their overall giving in 2001, and by 2014, this percentage had actually declined. First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) released a research report on June 19, 2018 documenting the declining levels of foundation giving to Native causes and also found that the actual amount of giving to Native controlled nonprofits averaged only .023% (23/100ths) of one percent from 2006 to 2014.

The First Nation’s report, “Growing Inequity: Large Foundation Giving to Native Originations and Causes, 2006-2014,” found that annual giving by large foundations to Native causes declined by a hefty 29%, a $35 million drop, from 2006 to 2014. This means that since 2006, on average, large foundations have given $4.3 million less every year to Native American organizations and causes.

“Nonprofits in Native American communities are doing amazing work in these communities. Unfortunately, what the data in this report highlights is that philanthropic investments in Native community-led change is on the decline. In a time when more and more foundations are talking about equity and inclusion, this report makes clear that Native community organizations are still marginalized in these conversations,” explains Foxworth.

The report also documents that the majority of grant dollars aimed at supporting Native communities and causes is not awarded to Native-controlled nonprofit organizations. Looking at giving from 2007 to 2014, non-Native-controlled organizations received roughly 53% of all grant dollars awarded, whereas Native-controlled organizations (those solely focused on serving Native American populations and also whose board of directors is majority Native American) received about 48%.

“There is still a lot of work for Native organizations to do to educate philanthropy about supporting and investing in Native-led change,” concludes Foxworth.

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