Community Foundation Funding for Native American Causes Falls Short

Community Foundation Funding for Native American Causes Falls Short

Community foundations often fall short when it comes to giving in support of Native American organizations and causes, a report from the First Nations Development Institute finds.

Based on 2012-14 data from a hundred and sixty-three community foundations in ten states, the report, Community Foundation Giving to Native American Causes (16 pages, PDF), found that on average just 0.15 percent of total giving in each state supported Native American causes. Community foundations in Alaska — where American Indians/Alaska Natives make up 19 percent of the population and the poverty rate for Native Americans (19 percent) is the lowest of the ten states included in the report — directed 10.42 percent of their grant dollars to Native causes. Community foundations in the other nine states directed between 0.01 percent (Michigan) and 1.61 percent (Montana) to Native causes, with those in Oklahoma, where 13 percent of the population identify as Native American (and 22 percent of the Native population lives in poverty) giving only 0.04 percent and those in South Dakota, with a 10 percent Native population (and a 45 percent poverty rate) giving 1.3 percent.

Supported by Fund for Shared Insight, the study identified 239 grants totaling nearly $5.47 million across the ten states over the three-year period, with an average grant size of $22,871. The largest number of grants were awarded in support of environmental causes (29.7 percent of the total), followed by general operating support (18 percent), education (12.6 percent), social services and community welfare (11.7 percent), economic development (10 percent), youth (8.4 percent), arts and culture (6.3 percent), and health (3.3 percent).

The report also highlights emerging trends in community foundation funding for Native American organizations and causes, including efforts to create designated funds targeting Alaska Native communities — for example, the Alaska Conservation Foundation's Alaska Native Fund and the Alaska Community Foundation's Alaska Native Social Justice Fund — and the growing number of tribal governments establishing their own foundations (e.g., the Forest County Potawatomi Foundation and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community).

"Our data suggest that there is very little funding interaction between Native communities and local community foundations," said First Nations vice president Raymond Foxworth, who was the lead researcher on the project. "Obviously, we think that's a problem that can be addressed, so we conclude the report by highlighting strategies and practices we think can expand collaboration between community foundations and Native nonprofits. Overall, we hope that community foundation giving can, in the long term, become more reflective of the rich diversity within states, and this includes supporting Native American organizations."

"New Report Highlights Gaps in Community Foundation Funding for Native American Causes." First Nations Development Institute Press Release 02/14/2018. "Community Foundation Giving to Native American Causes." First Nations Development Institute Report 02/14/2018.