A natural curiosity and making personal connections are what drive Gail*, one of First Nations Development Institute’s donors, to not only support the organization but to connect with the staff one on one. Gail strives to understand and learn about the challenges that reservation and off-reservation tribal communities face, and why the work of First Nations has been vital to Indian Country since its inception almost 38 years ago.
Gail says social justice issues are what she cares about, and that the First Nations program area of Nourishing Native Foods and Health is close to her heart.
“Agriculture has always been interesting for me. As a kid in the summers, I’d spend it alone with my aunt and uncle on their farm, near the mountains. The whole connection to the earth appealed to me and that part of my life was the happiest of my childhood. I helped out – I shelled peas and played in the garden. There were cows, horses, chickens and it made a lasting impression on me. All the programs you (First Nations) have are getting a good handle on providing healthy food to Native American populations,” she said.
Soft Spot for Kids
Investing in Native Youth, in particular the Native Youth and Culture Fund, is another First Nations program area important to Gail. “I have a soft spot for kids, and the youth programs are great. I wish there were more.”
An active lifelong learner, Gail has taken a deep dive into all the reports and information housed in the First Nations Knowledge Center.
“You feel like you’ve taken a couple of semesters of Native American Studies courses by reading all the reports in the Knowledge Center, along with the Indian Giver newsletters and e-blasts. It has helped me to understand so much more. I love the Knowledge Center, I’m reading about land reform now,” said Gail.
She credits Charity Navigator, a charity watchdog agency, for helping her to find First Nations, and she appreciates all the data information Charity Navigator provides. According to its website, “Charity Navigator, www.CharityNavigator.org, is the largest expert charity evaluator in America. The organization helps guide intelligent giving by evaluating the Financial Health, Accountability and Transparency of charities and by providing data about 1.6 million nonprofits.”
First Nations has earned the highest rating of four stars from Charity Navigator for six years in a row.
Accountability & Transparency
“After reading the report about First Nations’ work, their financial performance, transparency, and accountability, I then went to the First Nations website and started to learn about the mission, the work they do, the board, and their staff. I also read a couple of the newsletters. It was an organization that met every aspect of my priorities, and has since proved their transparency in a myriad of ways, while providing opportunities for Native American tribes in the United States to work toward fulfilling their potential. It is an honor to be a partner in their mission,” said Gail.
Gail also appreciates the personal connections she has made with First Nations staff members who answer her many questions whether via email or over the phone. She knows how busy the staff is, so the fact that they take the time to respond to her in a timely and professional manner is another reason she supports the organization. But her experience with another Native American organization, unfortunately, was not so positive.
“I became familiar with an American Indian organization that I still believe does some good work. I had been donating to them for a while when I started to attend seminars and learning about ‘intelligent’ giving – instead of writing a check to any cause that I thought was probably making a difference. When I asked the organization for an annual report and subsequently for a financial statement, I didn’t get either one. Then I wrote a letter asking for them and still I didn’t get either one. So I withdrew my support and looked to Charity Navigator for a reputable organization,” said Gail.
She also supports social justice organizations not only in the United States, but Indigenous organizations in Central and South America as well. “For three years my vacations included digging trenches for PVC pipe to carry water from mountains to villages in Honduras,” she noted.
Many & Varied Interests
After a long career in the private and nonprofit sectors, Gail is now enjoying retirement. Her various interests range from loving animals from “boa constrictors to horses” and being in the outdoors. She enjoys music from country to classical to jazz. She is a voracious reader and enjoys books, and is an exceptional baker. The First Nations staff have enjoyed many of her baked goods and they appreciate the goodies she sends, especially during those long, challenging work days.
The personal connections and knowing that her support is making a direct and positive impact are key for Gail.
“We are all unique, with our own experiences, talents and gifts. First Nations Development Institute gives all of us the opportunity to be a partner in an organization that is providing a chance for Native American tribes to use their own abilities to succeed in producing food, regaining their languages and cultural traditions, to lead healthy, secure lives. For me, it is a better investment than I’ll find anywhere else.”
*) Gail’s last name and location have been omitted at her request.