For the second year in a row, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) set a new organizational record in 2016 in grants and dollars awarded to Native American organizations and tribes during a one-year period. The previous organizational record was set in 2015.
The funding went toward projects aimed at grassroots economic community development efforts in Native communities, and covered areas ranging from agriculture and food systems, to Native arts-related efforts, to Native youth empowerment and culture preservation and revitalization programs.
During 2016, First Nations awarded a record 175 grants totaling more than $2.8 million. In the previous record year (2015), the organization awarded 107 grants totaling just over $2 million. Cumulatively, since it began making grants in 1994 through year-end 2016, First has successfully managed 1,238 grants totaling more than $27 million to Native American projects and organizations in 39 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. Territory American Samoa.
Although First Nations has been able to increase capital for Native community-developed and led projects aimed at building strong and healthy Native economies, First Nations was only able to meet about 23 percent of the grant requests it received in 2016, leaving a significant unmet need.
“We are very fortunate to be able to support exciting and innovative work taking place in Indian Country aimed at strengthening economies and communities. Our ability to provide more grants speaks to the hard work of Native communities that are diligently seeking to develop and sustain programs and projects to meet the needs of their communities on their own terms,” said First Nations President & CEO Michael E. Roberts. “But the sheer amount of underinvestment in Indian Country by the philanthropic community continues. We’ll continue to work to increase investment in the dynamic work taking place in Native communities.”
Much of the funding that First Nations receives so it, in turn, can provide grants and other services to Native projects comes from foundations and individual donors. Overall, studies have shown that even though Native Americans make up 2 percent of the U.S. population, only three-tenths of one percent of private foundation funding goes toward Native American causes, even in light of the fact that Native communities generally face significantly higher economic, health and housing disparities than the general population.