June 18, 2020

So Many Amazing Programs and Nowhere Near Enough Funding

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a grassroots leader or a grant-writer looking for possible funding. Maybe you’re a funder or philanthropist researching Native issues. So, here’s the issue I want to address out of the gate. Much like the rest of mainstream culture and government, philanthropy largely ignores and underserves Native people and communities. Surveys consistently show that less than 1% of total philanthropic giving goes to Native organizations, even broadly-defined, and much of the giving that does occur goes to support museums and similar organizations that do little community-based programming. And this is how it has always been, despite the overwhelming and disproportionate need of our communities in virtually every area that philanthropy would typically claim to care about.

I am happy that the Vadon Foundation focuses on issues I care deeply about and that I have resources to help support amazing Native leaders and organizations. And every day we have to face the reality that, for every amazing program we support, there are another ten programs we cannot support because our resources are so limited when measured against the crushing need that has accumulated across hundreds of Tribal nations and multiple generations. It is excruciating to not fund amazing programs, knowing how many billions of dollars are sitting dormant in donor advised funds, how many foundations consider Native programs “risky” because they don’t meet mainstream criteria, or that foundations will cut Native giving first when an economic downturn impacts their investment portfolio.

If we cannot fund your program, please know that you’re doing amazing work, making your community a better place, and creating a brighter future for our Native people. If you’re a funder, please commit the extra time and effort to look at the stellar grassroots activity taking place in Indian Country and ask how much more transformational it could be with your support.

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