Published July 20, 2018
MINNEAPOLIS — Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP) on Thursday announced that over $250,000 in funding has been committed to build a dynamic, Native-centered web portal in partnership with Foundation Center. The portal will contain an interactive funding map, grants data, news stories, research, funder insights, historical context, and other information to enable users to determine what philanthropic funding to Native people and issues currently looks like, research best practices in inclusive and strategic grantmaking rooted in Native values, and learn about Native history and issues as critical context for decision-making.
With $250,000 from the Bush Foundation, Henry Luce Foundation, and Northwest Area Foundation, work is already underway. The partnership will spark sector-wide visibility on the need for investment in Native communities, increase collaboration and effectiveness across groups working on Native issues, and serve as a go-to resource for the philanthropic sector on Native funding. It will also provide an invaluable service for nonprofits and individuals seeking support for Native programs and services. It will build on the population-specific knowledge of NAP and Foundation Center’s respected data platform.
Sarah Eagle Heart
“Native philanthropy matters not only to Native peoples or a small niche of foundations, but to society as a whole,” said Sarah Eagle Heart, CEO of NAP. “Nevertheless, there remain significant funding gaps, and philanthropic investment in Indian Country remains disproportionately low. This portal will be a useful tool for funders that drives more investments in Indian Country from a broad and growing funder network committed to supporting Native issues and people.”
“We are excited to be combining Foundation Center’s data and technology with NAP’s living commitment to Native Americans,” said Brad Smith, President of Foundation Center. “This model partnership will empower donors with knowledge tools they need to be more strategic.”
With a rich history of giving and collectively caring for their communities, Native peoples are the original philanthropists of this land. However, centuries of colonialism and destructive federal policies and actions have hurt Native American communities and accelerated the loss of tribal cultural traditions. Native peoples in the United States have been denied access to structural supports needed to thrive across factors of economic, social, and physical well-being. Today, Native peoples are still fighting for their lands, and for equitable access to societal tools to build healthy, sustainable communities. Too often, Native peoples and their issues, struggles and histories are overlooked and/or misunderstood. The legacy of thriving Indigenous peoples must be restored through greater investments in Indian Country. Without accurate and accessible understanding of Native issues, adopting and deepening effective philanthropic approaches to supporting sustainable, empowered Native communities is unlikely.
“We have found we need to be intentional about understanding and designing for the unique culture and context of Native communities in all our program areas. If we are not intentionally working to be relevant, we won’t be. We hope this portal will help us and other funders who want to be sure their efforts truly work for everyone,” said Jennifer Ford Reedy, President of the Bush Foundation.
A 2011 study by NAP showed that the majority of the nearly 1,400 large U.S. foundations studied did not make grants to Native American people or issues, and that the majority of the grants that were given went to organizations that were not Native-controlled. Many factors contribute to this funding disparity, and we know from our decades of philanthropic advocacy work that funder engagement and education leads to new and additional concrete investment commitments.
“The innovative thinking and deep resourcefulness that the Northwest Area Foundation encounters every day in Native communities and Native-led organizations is too little understood in the field of philanthropy. This collaboration between Native Americans in Philanthropy and Foundation Center has the potential to change that dynamic at long last. We’re honored to be one of its founding supporters,” said Kevin Walker, President and CEO of the Northwest Area Foundation.
The multi-content web portal will provide a critical and visible educational component for the sector regarding Native issues, with the goal of highlighting and correcting the invisibility of Native people across key social issues and within philanthropy. The quality of the content, relevancy of the topics, and credibility of NAP and Foundation Center will help drive Native issues further into mainstream philanthropy conversations and lead to more funding commitments to Indian Country.
“The Henry Luce Foundation is proud to support this initiative of NAP and Foundation Center. It’s our hope that this new knowledge resource will shine a light on excellent work already underway in Indian Country—and spur on other philanthropic organizations to commit their resources to support passionate and creative Indigenous leaders and communities,” said Vice President Sean Buffington.
Full development of the web portal, led by a team of NAP and Foundation Center staff and consultants, will take 12 months, from final planning through execution of the different custom features. An advisory committee of Native leaders and funders will be convened to help guide efforts. Development is underway with the early support from Bush Foundation, Henry Luce Foundation and Northwest Area Foundation, and will be completed with grants from additional funders.