For many years, foundations have offered Native American communities access to improved education, job opportunities, better living conditions and much more through charitable donations. These foundations often provide opportunities that Native Americans might not find elsewhere. As such, coordinating these foundations is key to ensuring Native American programs receive the funding they need.
Native American Foundations on the Decline
Now more than ever, coordinating Native American charity foundations is essential. For more than a decade, donations to Native American foundations have declined, which has severely reduced the opportunities available to tribal citizens. Reports indicate that the top 10 foundations contributing to Native American interests make up over half of total funding. These foundations include the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the W. K. Kellogg foundation.
Since tribal governments are sovereign, they do not have the same access to government assistance as other U.S. communities. However, Native American business and community leaders can help tribal governments coordinate efforts among active foundations. For example, reaching out to Native American charities that no longer fund tribal entities can reveal why these entities no longer donate and what active foundations may need help with — before it is too late.
The Importance of Research
Another way to coordinate foundation funding is to research which foundations support particular initiatives. This information can help tribal governments allocate their time and resources more effectively. For example, while many Native American charities focus on general issues tribes face, one tribe might need educational funding while another needs funding for job training. Knowing which foundations can help in which situations can get assistance to those who need it quickly and effectively.
Balancing Community Needs
It can also be beneficial to prioritize tribal needs. If many tribes are looking for funding for human services, but only a few foundations provide funding for human services, competition might be high. In those situations, tribal governments might want to consider other needs and reach out to the charities that provide funding in these areas instead.
Additionally, many foundations support organizations that are not affiliated with the tribal government. For example, foundations might want to fund arts and cultural efforts within a Native American community but will shy away from doing so if the program is run by the tribal government. It is important to look at what programs are available, what they focus on, and whether or not they are independent.
While many Native American charities want to fund a specific program or endeavor, others are open to funding general needs. This demonstrates the importance of tribal leaders who can determine which opportunities would best suit the needs of the tribal community and focus administrative efforts on securing that funding.
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