Power to Fundraise: Investing in Native Development Capacity

The NFCoP project team included First Nations’ core NFCoP project staff, the NFCoP program designer, facilitator, and trainer, and the NFCoP advisors.

The NFCoP project team included First Nations’ core NFCoP project staff, the NFCoP program designer, facilitator, and trainer, and the NFCoP advisors.

At the back end of every organization is the development component — the internal system of fundraising, donor engagement, and donor stewardship that is imperative for successful operations and sustainability. But for many Native-led organizations, leaders and staff are in the weeds of programming and are not ideally positioned to carve out time to dedicate to fundraising. At the same time, many funders of these organizations support only programs and services and not necessarily the technical assistance or professional development needed to build their fundraising capacity.

Adding to this is the backdrop of diminished funding overall. In June 2018, First Nations reported that since 2006, on average, large foundations have given less than four-tenths of one percent of grants to nonprofits serving Native people (about half goes to Native-controlled organizations or organizations governed and led by Native people). What’s even more distressing is that, taking into account for inflation, that amounts to $4.3 million less every year to Native American organizations and causes. Further, a survey of First Nations Native food system community partners from 2011 to 2017 found that the top need of First Nations’ grantees today is training on fundraising and developing financial sustainability. This is why First Nations launched the Native Fundraisers Community of Practice.

About the NFCoP
The NFCoP, founded in 2019, was designed specifically based on the belief that change can only occur when Native people, Native-controlled nonprofit organizations, and tribal nations have the capacity to generate financial assets and implement solutions resulting in more equitable and impactful funding to ensure the economic, spiritual, and cultural well-being of Native communities, families, and children. At the core of this program is the creation of a community of practice, which provides critical functions, including teaching about fundraising, supporting collaboration, cultivating partnerships and encouraging sharing.

The project falls under First Nations’ larger project, Building a Sustainable Future for Native American Organizations, which was funded with generous support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, and the Simmons Sister Fund. As such, the NFCoP focuses on stability and sustainability to grow the fundraising capacity of Native nonprofits and tribal government programs by ramping up the quality and quantity of philanthropic funding solicitations. The end goal: Increase their ability to serve their communities.

The NFCoP brought together core NFCoP project staff; the program designers, facilitators, and trainers Eileen Egan and Daryl Melvin from Melvin Consulting PLLC; and the four NFCoP advisors who are leaders in the field of philanthropy to deliver the main program components:

• Advising and Peer Support
• In-Person Training by Fundraising Experts
• Online Grants Course and Virtual Study Sessions
• Ongoing Post-Program Support

All activities and supporting program elements were intended to establish a trusting environment and a safe place for sharing, testing ideas, and taking risks.

Sharing and learning
Participants said the experience was valuable for both formalizing processes and strengthening projects and approaches to improve sustainability. Participant Aretta Begay, Executive Director of Diné be’ iiná Inc. (The Navajo Lifeway), said this training was one of the “most self-investing things” the organization could do for themselves.

 All NFCoP program activities were grounded in the following six core values: creativity, innovation, humor, knowledge sharing, storytelling and relationships.

All NFCoP program activities were grounded in the following six core values: creativity, innovation, humor, knowledge sharing, storytelling and relationships.

“In fundraising, a lot of us do what we do without realizing the structure behind it,” she said. For example, she explained that while she’s been a grant-writer for some time, she never had any formal training. But through the NFCoP, she heard from well-qualified advisors and trainers who actually broke down the grant-writing process.

One of those professionals was Joanie Buckley, Internal Services Division Director of the Oneida Community Integrated Food System for the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. Buckley said as an advisor for the NFCoP, her focus was on participants and what they would gain from the training, which she described as eye-opening for many of them. “It gave them a different perspective in determining their needs and how they articulate them,” Buckley said. “Through the training they learned about new resources and were able to find funding sources for their respective projects and exchange ideas and philosophies.”

She said the emerging fundraisers in her group were not necessarily the grant-writers, and that they wear many hats. “They were in fact the program directors and this experience let them see how funders may think,” she said. “These directors often get removed from the process because they are busy developing their programs. In reality, they are actually the appropriate people to tell their story.”

Metrics-based outcomes
During the first in-person training, NFCoP members learned about the purpose and value of a community of practice and how to use this tool to build their fundraising skills and networks. They also were introduced to a prospect research database to develop a prospect list. The second in-person training, focused on storytelling and messaging using the Reclaiming Native Truth Messaging Guide; culturally responsive evaluation; federal grant writing; perfecting your pitch; and making “the ask.”

A key component that made the NFCoP stand apart from other grant-writing programs is that it addressed the negative and false narratives that exist about Native Americans in both the public and in mainstream philanthropy, and it introduced narrative change strategies to the benefit of the group’s fundraising efforts and overall services provided in Indian Country.

Participants left with the resources and skills to inspire their own organizations and make significant progress in advancing the sustainability of their work and communities. Since the conclusion of the 2019 NFCoP in November, several members have attributed fundraising success to their participation with over $2.5 million in grants received, including one participant who never wrote a proposal before but applied for and received a $5,000 grant for his organization.

For Alicia Gourd-Mackin, Social Work Instructor, Social Worker and Co-Founder of the Indigenous Birth and Breastfeeding Collective of North Dakota, knowledge gained through the community of practice provided her with not only technical skills but also the ability to articulate and present their programs to potential thunders. “It put things into perspective for me,” she said. “It helped me see the process from the grant provider’s side, which allowed me to better organize our approaches.”

certificate 2

Participants left with long-lasting knowledge. One member said, “Overall it was a life-changing experience for me. I loved every minute of it and I learned so much about grant writing and myself…I left Boulder, CO, feeling refreshed and motivated to change lives and make a difference for Indian Country as a whole.”

Another participant, Leah Hennessy, Volunteer Executive Director of Laulima Kuha’o, added that among the most important takeaways were the tools to better connect with funders. Instead of just waiting for a list of grants to come out, she learned how to narrow down funders and opportunities based on the activities they want to accomplish, see what other organizations are doing, and identify people they could work with. She said she learned strategies for team development and she gained a number of partners and connections just by being in the cohort. “All of the NFCoP advisors brought something to the table,” she said. “This is a resource I can continue to turn to even now that the training is complete.”

Moving forward
Findings from the pilot year of the NFCoP overwhelmingly indicate the opportunities and trainings offered were invaluable and have already yielded a substantial return on investment. First Nations is hopeful that the community of practice approach will help these organizations and future participants support and sustain their operations in the face of competing demands and the ongoing effects of coronavirus, which have made the need for fundraising skills even more important. To that end, plans are underway for future outreach to more participants in 2020. Catherine Bryan, First Nations’ Director of Programs for Strengthening Tribal and Community Institutions, said, “We’re looking forward to building on this model and having an even greater impact for the future of Native communities and the organizations that serve them.”

Teens Donate Funds Where They See the Most Need

 Eesha and Liya meet online for their fundraising efforts, United Against COVID-19. Together, the high school sophomores raised $4,000 to support Native communities.


Eesha and Liya meet online for their fundraising efforts, United Against COVID-19. Together, the high school sophomores raised $4,000 to support Native communities.

When coronavirus hit the nation, future high school sophomores Eesha Neunaha and Liya Chen knew they wanted to do something to help. Calling on connections, resources, and innovation, they began collecting masks and funds. But, from there, the question soon became: Where would their donation do the most good? The answer: Native communities.

“After reading about how vulnerable Native people are to coronavirus, we realized that they might really appreciate as much money as we can help raise for the community,” said Liya.

That’s when they learned about First Nations Development Institute and the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund and made a generous donation of $4,000 to help Native communities.

The two philanthropists are classmates at The Hockaday School in Dallas, where they regular work together on community service projects. In the middle of March when closures and medical needs increased nationwide, the teens learned that a lot of hospitals did not have enough masks. At the same time, China had an excess of masks, and Liya’s father helped Liya connect with several companies in China to facilitate a donation of 3,000 masks to the Dallas community.

Meanwhile, others learned about the girls’ outreach and wanted to lend a hand by giving monetarily. Eesha worked with her parents in setting up a Go Fund Me page, and both teens set out to spread the word. The donations quickly poured in, as the teens researched where the funds could be best used.

“We were looking for a community that was more in need,” Eesha explained. “We started thinking about Native communities, and that’s when we learned about First Nations.”

Liya said that reading the descriptions on First Nations’ website about the impact of the pandemic in areas that are already at risk was a learning experience. “For me, in our daily lives, we don’t really hear about what’s going on in these communities. But this project really opened my eyes to a whole new world.”

Eesha shared that it’s a world that resonated with the teens, as they are both considered minorities and both daughters of immigrants, with Eesha’s parents originally from India and Liya’s parents originally from China.

Those parents are proud of the girls and supportive of their efforts. “They were glad that we chose an organization near us and close to our hearts,” Eesha said.

First Nations is grateful for both girls’ contribution. Eesha and Liya’s donation went directly to First Nations’ COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, from which 100% of donations were given out in the form of grants to 81 Native-led organizations for general operating, response and relief expenses. “Only through contributions were we able to do so much,” said Eileen Egan, Director of Development for First Nations. “And the contribution of Eesha and Liya were beyond commendable. They inspired us and touched our hearts, and we are ever grateful for their advocacy, awareness, and generosity.”

Fundraising and Development: Building Capacity to Do More at Dakota Wicohan

Sunktanka Standing Rock 2016

When it comes to initiatives to improve life in Native communities, the investments that are direly needed are often not the shiny, exciting ones that make headlines. Instead what’s needed is the back-end structure, the technical, operational aspects that lay the groundwork for greater things to happen. First Nations Development Institute recognizes this need and provides essential training and technical assistance to tribal organizations throughout Indian Country. As a result, organizations like Dakota Wicohan in Morton, Minnesota, are accomplishing feats that may not be shiny and exciting but are every bit as crucial to their missions.

Investing in the Internal

Eileen O’Keefe, program director for Dakota Wicohan, says that establishing a fundraising and donor management structure was key to her organization’s future, but getting support for such an operational cost has always been a challenge. “Without direct outcomes and a demonstrated impact, it doesn’t necessarily make a good story for funders,” says O’Keefe. “It’s not exciting, external work. First Nations knows that, as small organizations, we need to build that internal capacity.”

Dakota Wicohan is a non-profit cultural resource center focused on the celebration and transmission of Dakota cultural lifeways, art, and language. The organization is a long-term grantee of First Nations and has received seven grants over the last eight years through both the Native Youth and Culture Fund and the Native Arts Initiative. As part of this funding, the organization has received two Supporting Native Arts Grants that provide for training and technical assistance from First Nations during specified grant periods.

The training and technical assistance began by having O’Keefe’s team complete a comprehensive questionnaire regarding operations, capacity, and programmatic infrastructure. “They asked us what we wanted, what we needed, and what was the most important,” she says. “From there they really drill it down to the main items and what you could most benefit from.”

An investment in fundraising is an investment in the organization’s work, such as leading field trips like this one to the Minnesota Historical Society to see a screening of the film Warrior Women.

An investment in fundraising is an investment in the organization’s work, such as leading field trips like this one to the Minnesota Historical Society to see a screening of the film Warrior Women.

For the first funding session, they decided to concentrate on board training and project management. For the next session, they moved their focus to individual donors and fundraising. To help them build this essential framework, First Nations arranged for nonprofit experts at Melvin Consulting PLLC to partner with the leaders of Dakota Wicohan.

One expert was Eileen Egan, who calls on her experience in individual giving to provide technical assistance to nonprofits and tribal nations to help them reach their full potential. On this project, Egan worked with Dakota Wicohan to create a fundraising plan and select a donor database with electronic marketing capacity. “She looked at where we were hitting, and where we could improve,” says O’Keefe. “That meant looking at fundraising broadly, not just at foundations, but how we were connecting with individual donors.”

Egan felt what was needed was a framework or structure.

“For Dakota Wicohan, the answers are right there in the community. They have a talented team and knowledge,” Egan says. “But by working together we could create more intentionality, including an identifying an online marketing tool so they could reach new levels in fundraising, expand their individual donor base of champions, and progress toward their mission. The training and technical assistance provided the resources needed to step back and consider where they want to be in five years and how they can diversify revenue streams to lessen their reliance on a few sources.”

The plan for Dakota Wicohan involved investing in the technology to organize and streamline their development operations and better reach and engage with potential donors. Egan’s team helped acquire and set up donor management software, transition their records, and train Dakota Wicohan on its use.

“We are a small non-profit, so most of our resources were spent running programs. We weren’t actively accessing our funding sources or cultivating our donors,” says O’Keefe. “We used to have a couple lists here, and an Excel spreadsheet there.”

Egan’s team helped them establish processes and identify opportunities, as well as evaluate and elevate the things the organization was already doing for marketing and outreach, such as its website, newsletter, and social media.

Imperfect action versus perfect inaction

Dakota Wicohan has dived into the new fundraising plan and embraced the training, and is now learning about the full power of the software. O’Keefe says that in addition to the technical assistance, they’re gaining lessons in confidence and intentionality.

“A lot of times, we would get overwhelmed or would hold off making a decision because we would be operating in an area, fundraising, that was entirely new to many of us,” she says.

One quote that is embraced by First Nations President and CEO Michael E. Roberts and resonated with O’Keefe is by Harry S. Truman and it really resonated with O’Keefe and her team: “Imperfect action beats perfect inaction every time.”

“I think we’ve drawn a lot of strength from that,” says O’Keefe. “It stops us from getting paralyzed, but to keep moving ahead. We can do this.”

Tapping potential

The training and technical assistance from First Nations is just wrapping up, however, the organization is already seeing results. O’Keefe says they’ve seen a 5% increase in the number of new donors, many coming from California and other states in which Dakota Wicohan had not expected it was having an impact. There has also been an increase in monthly sustainer donations as well as nationwide exposure to the organization.

O’Keefe says her team has been able to implement their overall fundraising efforts in a more concentrated and systematic way, making sure they’re ready for certain fundraising timeframes and events, and being much more deliberate. In addition, the planning has opened the doors for future development goals including planned giving.

“We’re been able to do so more than we thought, and First Nations has been so generous and helpful,” says O’Keefe. “We’re taking baby steps moving forward, but there’s more on the horizon, and with their support, we know we can get there.”

With greater fundraising capacity, Dakota Wicohan can also continue engaging youth in outreach projects, such as this Water Walk and Prayer Ride.

With greater fundraising capacity, Dakota Wicohan can also continue engaging youth in outreach projects, such as this Water Walk and Prayer Ride.

It is true that fundraising strategies and donor management software are not shiny and exciting, and they’re not tied directly to outcomes that are moving the needle in Indian Country. But they are part of the everyday actions that can be perfected so that Native organizations can move the needle themselves. They are key factors in empowering tribal groups like Dakota Wicohan. And they are directly in line with First Nation’s mission to invest in and create innovative institutions that strengthen asset control and support economic development. This is indeed exciting and shiny, and First Nations is proud to be a part of it.

Native Youth Get Opportunity to See Everything “Out There”

Youth leaders welcome participants to the competition. Photo credit: NCAIED

Youth leaders welcome participants to the competition. Photo credit: NCAIED

It was the chance for Native teens and young adults to see Native entrepreneurs in action. An opportunity to stand before a crowd and present their own innovative ideas. And a unique door-opening to meet role models, explore possibilities and envision a future where they will soon play an active role.

This was the inaugural Native Youth Business Plan Competition at RES 2020, a partnership by First Nations Development Institute and the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED) to engage Native youth in business, leadership, and success, made possible by an investment from the 11th Hour Project of the Schmidt Family Foundation.

“The experience showed me what else there is to offer. For people like me to get off Reservation and see what is out there in the world, it opened up a lot of new opportunities,” said Josh Bushman, a student from Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa whose team took first place in the high school division for their project Coffee Cart: Latte for the Oyate.

A partnership for the future
This was exactly the purpose of the Native Business Plan Competition, which grew out of a collaboration between First Nations and NCAIED to let Native students see up close and personal Native business owners and entrepreneurs excelling and thriving in the world and being given a chance to participate themselves.

Chris James, President and CEO of NCAIED, said bringing the two organizations together to highlight students and their ideas just made sense. “We were blown away with some of the ideas that came out of this competition and hopefully we’ll be able to see some of those ideas turned into businesses. It’s our goal to plant that seed,” James said.

“At First Nations, we’ve been building the court, hanging the backboard and finding the balls and the jerseys, and now it’s time for us to put the players on the court,” said Michael Roberts, president and CEO of First Nations. “This is an opportunity for young people to flex that muscle. And we can move forward and get them into business rather than just talking about it.”

Opportunity by design
The competition process began in 2019 when First Nations put out a call to Native communities inviting Native youth to submit abbreviated business plans for their products or companies. From these applications, five semifinalist teams were selected from each age division (high school and college) to receive additional mentoring from Native business owners, entrepreneurs, and other professionals working in this space to further flesh out their business plans and design. Then, semifinalist teams participated in an on-stage competition held in conjunction with the Reservation Economic Summit (RES), where a team of Native judges and investors decided which business venture they would most likely fund.

RES is a multifaceted event from NCAIED featuring unparalleled access to respected tribal leaders, members of Congress, federal agency representatives, state and local elected officials and top CEOs on a national platform. Here, on day three of the event, youth participants honed their projects through a full lineup of workshops: Business Plan Essentials, Perfecting Your Pitch, Assessing Your Business Plan for the Future, and Accessing Capital & Building Your Budget.

Nine high school and college teams then had five minutes to pitch their ideas and business plans outlining the value of their products and services, operational and technological viability, and capital requirements and financial forecasts, and more during the onstage competition later that evening. Winning teams in each division were awarded cash prizes: $7,500 for first place, $5,000 for second place, and $2,500 for third place.

Participants presented their ideas before a panel of Native leaders and entrepreneurs. Photo credit: NCAIED

Participants presented their ideas before a panel of Native leaders and entrepreneurs. Photo credit: NCAIED

First Nations Senior Program Officer Kendall Tallmadge, who helped organize and facilitate the competition, said all participants, from the applicants to the final winners, should be commended. “These students represent a bright next generation of innovation and excitement. It was an honor to be in a position to hear their ideas and see how they are valuing their culture and heritage through innovative business designs to make a difference in their communities.”

Value beyond dollars

Regardless of prize winnings, the experience the students took away from the competition was priceless, said Prairie Blount, who was the advisor for the winning high school team for Latte for the Oyate and who served as the emcee for the event. “It gave the students exposure to the larger Indigenous world. They were amazed that there are so many Indigenous professionals in business,” she said. “As a student, you’re consumed with your campus. But this gave them an opportunity to step outside and see that we’re all working toward bettering our communities. Others are coming along and paving the way.”

Nate Lee, Vice President of Native American Financial Services for BOK Financial who served as a mentor for the High School team Lumbee Nation Youth Enterprise, said that the value of the experience was enormous. “For the students it was a powerful and rewarding experience to compete on a national stage and also to interact with Native professionals in finance and economics.”

The students agreed:

Josh Bushman of Latte for Oyate said he would 100% recommend the program to his friends. His teammate Antone Manning from Pyramid Lake Paiute added that it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience in a unique environment, and that winning was a validation of all his team’s hard work.

Kristall Vega (Cloverdale Pomo), who was on the College first place team, California Indian Museum with their product Acorn Energy Bites, said she loved seeing all the Native youth present on projects they are passionate about to better their communities. “I believe there is a lot of value in experiences like this one because it gives a platform for Native youth to share their voices,” she said.

The Native Youth Business Plan Competition is one of the many ways First Nations invests in Native Youth and gives them opportunities to learn, be mentored, and connect with Native leaders who set an example for collaboration, success and advancement. It’s the type of opportunities that Mentor Nate Lee said are imperative in creating sustained and repeatable financial success in our Native communities. “It must start with our youth, and that includes opportunities to showcase their talents and raise the bar. The future of business is bright for our Native communities as we fill the pipeline of talented and ambitious Native youth, but we must go further to keep that pipeline full by preparing the next class of Kindergartners.”

Indeed, the first-ever Native Youth Business Plan competition will fuel that pipeline, and the 2020 event has built the groundwork for further entrepreneurial opportunities for young people who are ready to explore them.

Advisor Prairie Blount concluded: “These students are the future leaders, who are actually leaders already.”

Participants take home connections, experience and confidence. Photo credit: NCAIED

Participants take home connections, experience and confidence. Photo credit: NCAIED

‘Power of We’ Part 1: Leilani Chow Finds Inspiration

Chow gives a practice fundraising pitch to a panel of Native American leaders.

Chow (right) gives a practice fundraising pitch to a panel of Native American leaders at the Power of We event. The “judges” represented First Nations, AISES, American Indian College Fund, Native American Rights Fund, and First Nations Oweesta Corporation

Leilani Chow was born and raised on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. One of seven children, Chow knows how important the sustainability and resiliency of the island is to its 7,500 residents, most of whom are Native Hawaiian.

At 16, she got involved with Sustʻāinable Molokai, which “seeks to restore Molokai to the food- and energy-secure island of the past by supporting local agricultural and renewable energy resources from the island.” The organization is a longtime grantee of First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) and participates in First Nations’ NativeGiving.org project that is supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

Hui Up is an effort that conducts energy audits aimed at the 3,500 homes on Molokai that have some of the highest electricity rates in the U.S.

Leilani Chow

Leilani Chow

“I thought it was pretty cool. I was really happy to help people save on electric bills at home. It’s necessary and it has helped a lot of people. When I started it was the first year – we did the applications by hand. Now it’s easier to get the audits done, we have an online application. The first year we updated 100 refrigerators. This year we did 207, and we have a waiting list of over 100 people,” said Chow.

Now 24 and a recent graduate of the University of Hawaii, Chow trains Molokai youth to conduct energy audits.

“There’s a team of six with two to a team, and we have youth volunteers. My team was made up of middle schoolers and they did a great job. I was so proud of them,” said Chow.

Chow is expressive about how important the island and the work of Sustʻāinable Molokai is to her. It’s one of the main reasons she returned home the summer of 2017 after graduation.

“I want to go back home and have a more permanent position and do more projects with Sustʻāinable Molokai. I want to help build my community,” said Chow.

Chow (right) poses with some other attendees at the conference

Chow (right) poses with some other attendees at the conference

Chow’s passion and commitment to Sustʻāinable Molokai and her community lead her to be one of the 54 attendees, representing Native nonprofits and tribal programs from across the country, at the Power of We – Fundraising, Sustainability and Telling Our Stories training event held by First Nations in September 2017. The informative and engaging training focused on sustainability, and provided the attendees an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of fundraising best practices and communicating the impact in a peer-learning environment.

Two speakers who especially impacted Chow were Regis Pecos (Cochiti Pueblo), Co-Director of the Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School (SFIS), and Diane Reyna (Taos Pueblo), a Consultant with the Leadership Institute at SFIS. Chow connected with how they develop curriculum and that the students get to determine the rules.

Emillia Noordhoek is the Co-Executive Director and the Director of Renewable Resources of Sustʻāinable Molokai, and has known Chow for the past 12 years. She sees the importance and the need to create a place for the youth to come back to for the sustainability and resiliency of the island.

Sustainable Molokai“We work hard to keep the youth engaged so they can come back after college, but they can’t earn as much as they would on the mainland or in Honolulu if we didn’t have stipends. So part of our leadership program, as we’re reimagining it, is that someone can work on a project, go back to college or other training, and be able to return to Molokai and pick up the project where they left off,” said Noordhoek.

Building their capacity to create positions for Chow and the youth of Molokai is a key effort of Sustʻāinable Molokai and Noordhoek. Attending the Power of We training gave Chow and the other attendees an opportunity to see what other Native communities are doing, to learn from other emerging and accomplished, committed community leaders.

“I had no idea what to expect as this was my first Power of We conference that I’ve been to. I was blown away with the speakers as they were so amazing. It was well-planned and fun. I learned a lot. I had never thought about fundraising in those ways – it’s an area that we need to look at,” said Chow.

By Mary K. Bowannie, First Nations Communications Officer

Show Me the ($pending Frenzy) Money!

Custom $pending Frenzy Bill created by Indian Land Tenure Foundation and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

Custom $pending Frenzy bill created by the Indian Land Tenure Foundation

With more than 80 partnering communities, hundreds of events, and thousands of participants, First Nations’ $pending Frenzy has become a super-sized hit. From Mashpee, Massachusetts, to Newhalen, Alaska, the riveting financial skills simulation is the gold standard for interactive youth financial education training throughout Indian Country.

SpendingFrenzylogoCreated in 2011 in partnership with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and Shawn Spruce Consulting, the $pending Frenzy program was designed to assist tribal youth with managing lump-sum minor’s trust payments derived from gaming revenues and natural resource dividends.The approach was novel in that participants received the actual amount of their pending payments in brick-sized bundles of play money bills. Then they took a stab at managing their windfalls while going through a maze of real-world decisions, challenges and obstacles.

Original $pending Frenzy play money featuring EBCI Principal Chief Michell Hicks

Original $pending Frenzy play money featuring EBCI Principal Chief Michell Hicks

It’s important to point out that the idea wasn’t to condone the practice of carrying around armloads of cash like rapper Lil Wayne jetting off to a Vegas weekend. Instead, the play money was an old-school teaching tool to encourage youth growing up in the digital age to appreciate the value of money by handling it physically as opposed to just inserting a credit card or scrolling through a mobile payment app. Since then the $pending Frenzy has embraced a broader audience of Native youth, most of whom do not receive sizable payments on their 18th birthdays, but do share a common need to gain financial knowledge and independence.

Meskawki Nation $pending Frenzy bill produced by tribally-owned Pinnacle Bank

Meskawki Nation $pending Frenzy bill produced by tribally-owned Pinnacle Bank

The cool-looking play money has always been a huge part of the $pending Frenzy’s success. This is especially true when the participants eagerly eye a mountain of “hundies,” stacked to the rafters, at the onset of the simulation. Later, when the bills are zipped through a currency counter, participants often enjoy helping re-strap the bundles for the next event – more quality time with the money.

The original $pending Frenzy bills were printed by CBC Printing, a tribally owned-enterprise, and featured former EBCI Principal Chief Michell Hicks. Dubbed “Hicks Bucks,” the bills displayed a grinning headshot of Hicks on the front, with a picture of the historic EBCI Tribal Council House on the back.

First Nations dollar backside with pre-colonial map

First Nations dollar backside with pre-colonial map

When First Nations began producing $pending Frenzy kits for communities nationwide to host their own $pending Frenzies, it designed a new bill replacing Hicks and the Council House with a portrait of prominent Native American chiefs and a pre-Columbus map of America. These new bills were an instant smash with Native youth from a wide range of tribes.Printed in a realistic green hue on high-quality paper, the non-tribal-specific play money added a culturally diverse element to the $pending Frenzy. The same dimensions as real U.S. currency, the bills also worked perfectly in the currency counters included in the kits.

The Jim Thorpe bill

The Jim Thorpe bill

As the $pending Frenzy phenomena continues to grow in popularity, numerous partners have requested to print their own $pending Frenzy bills. These custom bills often feature tribal seals and local landmarks that add a personal touch to the events that these partners host. Moreover, many trainers who teach financial education classes and workshops with Native groups will use $pending Frenzy money in their other activities and lessons.

Bills designed by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

Bills designed by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

Recently our team redesigned the standard $pending Frenzy bills for a third time. Our latest version features the legendary Jim Thorpe and is quickly gaining a following among $pending Frenzy enthusiasts. Take a quick tour through the history of $pending Frenzy money by checking out the pictures of the various $100 bills in this article. We look forward to many more $pending Frenzy events in the future along with more partners offering creative play money designs.

For more information on the $pending Frenzy or to order a $pending Frenzy kit for your community, please contact Ben Marks, First Nations Senior Research Officer, at bmarks@firstnations.org.

By Shawn Spruce, First Nations Financial Education Consultant

Monica Nuvamsa & Susan White on Board

Monica Nuvamsa (left) and Susan White

Monica Nuvamsa (left) and Susan White

Two influential Native American leaders recently joined the Board of Directors of First Nations Development Institute (First Nations). They are Monica Nuvamsa (Hopi), Executive Director of the Hopi Foundation, and Susan White (Oneida Nation), Director of the Oneida Trust Enrollment Department at the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin.

With the additions, First Nations now has a nine-member board, all of whom are Native American and who provide a diverse representation of Indian Country.

“We warmly welcome Monica and Susan to the Board, and we look forward to tapping into their tremendous knowledge, skills and experience as First Nations continues to move forward,” noted Board Chairman Benny Shendo, Jr.

Monica Nuvamsa

Monica Nuvamsa

Ms. Nuvamsa received her B.A. in Psychology and American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona, and a Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership from the Arizona State University Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation. Her early career experiences included developing and managing the Hopi Tribe’s Domestic Violence Program. She served both as an Advocate and Project Coordinator until she received a political appointment to serve in the role of the Intergovernmental Affairs Liaison for the Hopi Tribe. She has served on several nonprofit boards, including Native Americans in Philanthropy, Native Public Media and the Arizona Grantmakers Forum.

Susan White

Susan White

Ms. White directs a multi-operational department in capital strategies for protection and growth of trust assets and for management of the Oneida Nation’s census records. She maintains the Trust’s sustainable and responsible investment (SRI) philosophy by coordinating shareholder activism for Indigenous peoples rights and well-being when affected by corporations. She is also responsible for the maintenance and protection of tribal citizen records for the elected Oneida Trust Enrollment Committee. She is also active serving as co-chair for the Investors and Indigenous Peoples Working Group, the Women’s Fund of Greater Green Bay Emeritus, the Oneida Auxiliary VFW Post 7784, a Trustee for the Episcopal Diocese of Fond Du Lac, and the American Foundation for Counseling Services Ethics in Business Selection Committee.

To see the full First Nations Board of Directors, click here.

Dr. Per Cap: Seven Years Strong & Counting

Dr Per Cap new PNG

Pithy, poignant and … practical. That was the goal when First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) dreamed up the idea of Ask Dr. Per Cap. We wanted to start a financial advice column geared specifically to Native American readers. There were already countless online articles and blogs about generic personal finance topics like reading credit reports, creating budgets, and saving for retirement, but we wanted something more for Indian Country – articles to address financial issues unique to Native communities. That includes stuff like managing minor’s trust payments, paying the Kiddie Tax on gaming profits held in trust for minors, managing federal land-acquisition proceeds, and how collection practices relate to sovereign immunity. Boring you say? Not with Dr. Per Cap clacking the keyboard. It’s amazing how a good dose of Indian humor can turn a dull conversation into a party!

1moneySince 2011, I’ve written enough Ask Dr. Per Cap columns to give Dear Abby a run for her eternally-syndicated money. Partly autobiographical and partly based on lessons learned from over 10 years working as a financial education consultant in Indian Country, the columns always have a no-nonsense yet lighthearted approach. But the prescription for money woes is always the same: tough love tempered with common sense, designed to combat everyday money challenges facing folks on the rez. A column titled Gold Diggers on the Prowl is a cautionary tale of community outsiders who set their romantic sights on people with per capita cash. Shady Dealings addresses fraud and scams targeted to Native consumers – we highlight tricks we have seen, like the promise of large treasury grants, but there’s a catch! They require large upfront fees paid with iTunes cards … hmmm, sounds fishy.

1BudgetThe articles are available for free to tribal newspapers, websites and community newsletters, which can publish them in weekly or monthly installments. Jonelle Yearout of Nimiipuu Community Development Fund, a CDFI serving the Nez Perce Tribe, runs Ask Dr. Per Cap on her organization’s website and in the tribal paper, Ta’c Tito’oqan. “Our community members really enjoy reading Dr. Per Cap,” explained the Lapwai, Idaho-based executive director. “The content is relatable to Indian Country and up to date. A piece on land buy back preparedness resonated especially well when individuals and families were gearing up for land sales. Other articles stress the link between money and math, avoiding payday loans, and the business of marriage – all from a cultural context.”

1handsPinnacle Bank is one of a handful of tribally-owned banks in the country. With two locations in central Iowa, the Meskwaki Nation enterprise offers financial education for tribal members as a service. “We publish Dr. Per Cap articles in the tribal paper,” explained Jody Fank, Pinnacle’s vice president of business development. “Topics are timely and readers appreciate how they are geared to Native people and finance. They are also really fun to read.” Other communities such as Bois Forte Band of Chippewa Indians and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have used the free advice column in their local newspapers.

In addition to ongoing financial advice, each April during Financial Literacy Month Dr. Per Cap recognizes a team of Financial Literacy All Stars – outstanding individuals who are working hard to expand financial education efforts throughout Indian Country. Moreover, Dr. Per Cap is lending insight to an upcoming rewrite of First Nations’ Building Native Communities: Investing for the Future workbook. It contains more fun strategies to complement our ever-expanding stock of financial education resources and tools!

Interested in bringing Dr. Per Cap to your community? Contact Sarah Dewees at sdewees@firstnations.org to get copies of the free newspaper columns.

Ask Dr. Per Cap is a program funded by First Nations with assistance from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. Creative inspiration is led by Shawn Spruce Consulting. For more information, see this link.

By Shawn Spruce, First Nations Financial Education Consultant

Pueblo of San Felipe Focuses on Food Sovereignty

Used with permission of Pueblo of San Felipe and Tim Valencia

Used with permission of Pueblo of San Felipe and Tim Valencia

The Pueblo of San Felipe is roughly 25 miles north of Albuquerque and 38 miles to the south of Santa Fe, New Mexico. While sandwiched between two of the top four largest cities in the state, the Pueblo spans 68,000 rural acres. It has 3,400 enrolled tribal members, and the majority of them speak Keres, the traditional language. The Keres language is what intertwines the people with their cultural and agricultural traditions.

The Pueblo of San Felipe was one of the recipients of the grants awarded to 21 Native American tribes and organizations to help them conduct food sovereignty or community food assessments in their various locales from 2016 to 2017. First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) provided the grants, totaling $400,000, under its Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative (NAFSI) with generous support from the NoVo Foundation Fund at the Tides Foundation.

Food Sovereignty Assessment Tool

Food Sovereignty Assessment Tool

The Pueblo of San Felipe’s Department of Resources (DNR) includes the Agriculture Program, Environmental Office, Water and Land Management Offices, Mapping and Historic and Cultural Preservation Office. Pinu’u Stout is the Department of Natural Resources Director for San Felipe. She says the food sovereignty assessment is an important part of DNR’s work and that community engagement is a critical part of the process. A survey was created as a way to get community feedback on what issues they felt were important and needed to be examined in the food assessment. DNR utilized the First Nations Food Sovereignty Assessment Tool as a resource in creating the survey.

The survey asked the San Felipe community to consider their food sources – where they get their food and what food is available to them. Even though the Pueblo is located between two major cities in the state, tribal members must drive roughly 45 minutes each way to reach the nearest big box store or grocery store.

The Pueblo announced its food sovereignty assessment grant via a press release that was sent to area media outlets, but it is the person-to-person connection that made the most impact when conducting outreach to fellow tribal members, which crossed generations.

The DNR involved the youth in the village by having high school and college interns in the department take the survey from door to door within the Pueblo to encourage participation, and to connect with their fellow tribal members directly. A community luncheon and outreach event was held where tribal members ate traditionally-prepared foods, and talked about the food assessment in further detail.

“The community strongly encouraged us to get more feedback from them, and to make sure they were involved in the process. A strong interest was shown in creating a community garden, with the main interest being in farming,” said Stout.

According to the USDA Census of Agriculture for 2012, the number of farmers in the United States fell by 4.3 percent from the previous census held in 2007. Stout is ever-conscious that while nationally the number of farmers has been declining, the number of farmers in the community is high.

“In the United States as a whole, about two percent of the population are farmers, and about 70 percent are farmers here in San Felipe, and many of our farmers also work jobs in addition to farming. We strive to support existing farmers, and to bring in new farmers. Farming is a big part of the community and life here in the Pueblo,” said Stout.

One of the survey questions asked if they were not currently farming, would they want to learn how to farm? The response was high, with 75 percent saying yes, they would like to farm or help with the farming in their community in come capacity. Stout says they see it as part of who they are as a people.

“They – the community – see farming tied to the culture, language, health and to the future and past. It’s a different experience in this tribal community versus the rest of the United States,” said Stout.

The food assessment project provided the framework and a launching point for the DNR and other program collaborators in the community to take the community’s interests and what they want to happen further. The funding provided by First Nations and the NoVo Foundation Fund at the Tides Foundation was appreciated as it supported the food assessment into becoming a reality.

As tribal respondents to the food sovereignty survey stated: “We have the right to preserve our traditional values” and a “right to traditional foods that have been a part of our history for generations.”

The funding from First Nations give San Felipe the opportunity to take the time to focus on food, food sovereignty and what it means for the Pueblo. The assessment is the beginning of a conversation on how to move forward in the San Felipe way – honoring tradition and moving forward in a positive way.

By Mary K. Bowannie, First Nations Communications Officer

Elizabeth Peratrovich Day is February 16

ElizabethPeratrovich 2

For the fourth year in a row, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) will be closed on February 16, 2018, in honor of Elizabeth Peratrovich Day. First Nations, headquartered in Longmont, Colorado, is likely the first entity outside of Alaska to recognize this as an annual holiday.

Elizabeth PeratrovichElizabeth Jean Peratrovich (Tlingit), who died in 1958, was an important civil rights activist who worked on behalf of equality for Alaska Natives. In the 1940s, she was credited with advocacy that gained passage of the Alaska Territory’s Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945, the very first anti-discrimination law in the United States. To quote her at the time: “I would not have expected that I, who am barely out of ‘savagery,’ would have to remind gentlemen with five thousand years of recorded civilization behind them, of our Bill of Rights.” She was responding to earlier comments by a territorial senator who asked, “Who are these people, barely out of savagery, who want to associate with us whites, with 5,000 years of recorded civilization behind us?”

In 1988 the Alaska Legislature established February 16 as Elizabeth Peratrovich Day. First Nations President Michael Roberts (also Tlingit), who is from Alaska and related to Elizabeth, thinks Native organizations in the Lower 48 should also start recognizing this groundbreaking Native woman of national and even international significance.

According to the Anchorage School District, “Elizabeth Peratrovich Day provides an opportunity to remind the public of the invaluable contribution of this Native Alaskan leader who was an advocate for Native citizens and their rights. This courageous woman could not remain silent about injustice, prejudice and discrimination.” Further, in the school district’s board resolution of 2012, it was noted: “Her efforts came nearly 20 years before the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. Because of her eloquent and courageous fight for justice for all, today’s Alaskans do not tolerate the blatant discrimination that once existed in our state.”

“I would not have expected that I, who am barely out of ‘savagery,’ would have to remind gentlemen with five thousand years of recorded civilization behind them, of our Bill of Rights.”

Back in the 1940s in Alaska, it was not uncommon to see “No Natives Allowed” signs at stores and public accommodations, or even “No dogs or Natives allowed.” But those were simply the most visible manifestations of pervasive discrimination against the original Alaskans.

As it has for more than 37 years, First Nations works diligently to strengthen Native American economies and communities, including American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities. We and our grassroots partners in those communities are making great progress, but there is still a long way to go to fight discrimination and bias against Native Americans at every level of society. That’s one of the many reasons we’re co-directing a national effort called Reclaiming Native Truth: A Project to Dispel America’s Myths and Misconceptions (click to learn more).

So even if you don’t observe the holiday on February 16 like we do, please take a moment that day to think of Elizabeth Peratrovich and the trailblazing effort she dedicated herself to in order to fight discrimination against some of our original Americans … and for the ultimate good of all Americans.

Learn more about Elizabeth Peratrovich online, particularly on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Peratrovich.