Catalyzing Native Giving: Building Capacity of Nonprofits

Left to right are Chris White, Leilani Chow, Carnell Chosa, Jona Charette and Chastity Salvador.

Left to right are Chris White, Leilani Chow, Carnell Chosa, Jona Charette and Chastity Salvador.

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) has long believed that a healthy and strong Native nonprofit sector builds stronger Native communities. To increase the success of Native-led nonprofits, First Nations partnered with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to provide capacity-building grants to selected organizations to empower these nonprofits to achieve their missions so that they might better serve their communities.

Many Native-led nonprofit organizations, like most grassroots organizations, are small and possess limited resources. First Nations’ capacity-building grants are intended to improve nonprofit leadership, promote organizational growth, facilitate community engagement and, most importantly, generate revenue for sustainability. Strong grantwriting skills are key when it comes to generating revenue for these organizations.

In 2018, First Nations Development Officer Jona Charette (Northern Cheyenne/Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa) and four of First Nations’ previous grantees successfully completed a grantwriters’ certification program offered through the American Grant Writers Association (AGWA). The purpose of the course, which is primarily administered online, is to demystify the grantwriting process by focusing on the basics of successful grantwriting.

This first cohort took courses that focused on how to research grants, write proposal narratives, plan budgets and measure outcomes. “Overall, we learned how to make our grant applications more competitive,” said Leilani Chow of Sustʻāinable Molokai, a Native Hawaiian nonprofit organization that focuses on agriculture and renewable energy.

Three representatives from the Santa Fe Indian School’s Leadership Institute (LI), including LI Co-Director Carnell Chosa (Jemez Pueblo), and two former LI students, Chris White (Kewa Pueblo/Diné) and Chastity Salvador (Acoma Pueblo), also participated in the course. The LI, a culturally and community-based think tank located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, focuses on supporting Indigenous community members to engage in addressing community issues.

“Two of our former SFIS and LI students, graduates of Columbia University and Stanford University, also took this course,” said Chosa. “For me, it is important to strengthen the capacity we have here in New Mexico and within our communities. I envision both Chris and Chastity providing this much-needed service to our Pueblo communities.”

Indeed, White and Salvador, who just completed this grantwriting course a few months ago, have already started to put these new grantwriting skills to work. After completing the course, White used the knowledge and skills that he learned to help review and edit a grant application that his mother was writing to secure funding for Santo Domingo Pueblo’s language department.

As Chosa envisioned, White was able to use his new grantwriting skills to better serve Pueblo communities. “Because of this grantwriting course, I now know what funders are looking for,” said White. “I was able to help my mom strengthen her grant application and make it more competitive. She received that grant.”

First Nations believes that strategically investing in Native-led nonprofit organizations is important. This investment not only builds the capacity of the Native nonprofit sector, but also helps strengthen and empower the many tribal people and communities they serve.

By Sarah Hernandez, First Nations Communications Officer

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