Website, Report Highlight Underfunding of Native American Communities

Website, Report Highlight Underfunding of Native American Communities

Between 2002 and 2016, large U.S. foundations allocated on average just 0.4 percent of their total annual grantmaking to Native American communities and causes, a new website and report from Native Americans in Philanthropy and Candid find.

Funded by the Bush, Henry Luce, Marguerite Casey, Northwest Area, and Robert Wood Johnson foundations, the website, Investing in Native Communities, provides funding data, research reports, case studies, historical context, and other resources for funders interested in supporting Native communities and causes. According to Investing in Native Communities: Philanthropic Funding for Native American Communities and Causes (40 pages, PDF), a report issued in conjunction with the launch, the share of grant dollars benefiting American Indian and Alaska Native communities — which account for 2 percent of the U.S. population — awarded by a thousand large foundations fell from a high of 0.59 percent in 2006 to a low of 0.3 percent in 2009, the depths of the Great Recession. And total grant dollars, which fell from $114 million in 2006 to $64 million in 2009, had barely recovered to 2006 levels as of 2016 (adjusted for inflation).

The report also found that between 2002 and 2016, about 20 percent of large foundations awarded grants in support of Native communities and causes; that among those funders, most awarded only one or two grants a year; and that only about a third of those grant dollars benefited Native Americans exclusively, while the rest included multiple racial/ethnic groups as beneficiaries.

In 2015 and 2016, the top funder of Native communities and causes was the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which awarded $52.5 million, or 13.5 percent of its total grant dollars, followed by the NoVo Foundation ($28 million, 7.2 percent), Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies ($22.8 million, 5.9 percent), Bush Foundation ($14.2 million, 3.7 percent), and Northwest Area Foundation ($12.4 million, 3.2 percent). The majority of grant dollars awarded in support of Native communities in 2015-16 were designated for program support (55.6 percent), while only 14.5 percent was earmarked for general operating support. In terms of issue area, grant dollars designated to benefit Native Americans exclusively supported community and economic development (24 percent), health (24 percent), arts and culture (21 percent), human services (20 percent), and the environment (14 percent).

An extension of Native Americans in Philanthropy's Truth and Healing Movement, the website is designed to help users visualize the geographic landscape of philanthropic funding in support of Native Americans; recognize why funding for Native communities is important; learn from the experiences and expertise of other organizations; and increase understanding of U.S. history through a Native lens.

"Philanthropy has consistently underfunded Native communities and, particularly, Native-led organizations," said Edgar Villanueva, board chair of Native Americans in Philanthropy and author of Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance. "A lack of available information has enabled this as funders often don't know what is being funded, how to effectively engage with Native stakeholders to create impact, and the history that has contributed to the unique challenges Native communities face today. This website is an important tool to begin to fill this knowledge gap and drive more attention and investment to Native communities."

"As philanthropy increasingly works to operationalize equity, we need better data, shared knowledge, and reciprocal partnerships to inform that effort," said Candid president Bradford K. Smith. "The website provides data about who is funding Native communities and causes and where that funding is going. The website also aggregates knowledge about what organizations are learning, so that we can all increase our understanding and improve our practices, together."

(Photo credit: GettyImages)

"New Website and Report Increases Hope for Philanthropic Investment in Native Communities." Native Americans in Philanthropy and Candid Press Release 09/12/2019. "Investing in Native Communities: Philanthropic Funding for Native American Communities and Causes." Native Americans in Philanthropy and Candid Report 09/12/2019.