Report Reveals Large Unmet Funding Need for Food/Ag Efforts

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations), through its Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative (NAFSI), has become the largest funder in Indian Country of tribal agriculture and food-system projects that are specifically geared toward establishing or reclaiming control of Native food systems. A new report released this month, titled “Grantmaking in Indian Country: Trends from the Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative,” highlights several emerging trends in such projects in American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities.

Although Native food-system efforts are crucial to improving the physical health and economic well-being of Native communities, the report reveals a large gap between dollars needed for essential food projects and the actual funding available for them. This conclusion is based on First Nations’ analysis of the number and amount of grant requests it has received from tribes and reservation-based Native organizations for food-system projects over the past four years. In the report, First Nations notes it was only able to fund 7.18% ($1.73 million) of the $24.1 million requested in a total of 614 grant applications received between 2011 and 2014, leaving an unmet need of more than $22.3 million.

This gap is expected to widen as more tribes and community organizations seek to reclaim Native food systems. However, First Nations intends to continue looking for ways to significantly improve the pool of funding that is available to assist these new food and agriculture-related projects.

More information is available in the complete “Grantmaking in Indian Country” report. It is available for free in the Knowledge Center of First Nations’ website. Go to this link to access a copy: http://firstnations.org/knowledge-center/foods-health. (You may have to set up a free user account to download the report.)

New Grants Boost First Nations’ Reach and Mission

Over the past few months, we have been extremely fortunate to receive two significant grants that will go far toward addressing critical issues in Indian Country.

“Forward Promise”

We were one of four organizations to receive grants of $415,000 each from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), in partnership with Public Interest Projects.  RWJF’s overall effort aims to promote opportunity and health for young men of color in rural communities in the South and Southwest, and it represent the nation’s largest private investment in rural young men of color to date. The program is known as the “Forward Promise” Catalyst Grants.

In First Nations’ case, we’ll use the funding for our “Advancing Positive Paths for Native American Boys and Young Men” project. It focuses on Native boys and young men in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. We’ll work with local partners on projects that address one or both of these areas of interest in a culturally relevant manner:

  • Early intervention strategies that focus on dropout prevention and increasing middle school retention and high school graduation rates.
  • Policy and programmatic efforts that elevate the importance of a caring adult to re-engage youth who may be disconnected from work or school.

 

We have already conducted an application period for grants under the program, and we are now evaluating the responses.  We expect to award four to eight grants ranging from $38,000 to $50,000 each.

“Simply put, Native boys and young men face big challenges in their rural and reservation settings, but these challenges – including poverty, lack of male leadership and involvement, rising drug and gang violence, and other risks that make success difficult – are not insurmountable,” noted Michael E. Roberts, First Nations president. “We are excited by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s investment in Native communities. It is exactly this type of investment that will allow these Native youth to move forward successfully with the support they need to become productive adults. By supporting organizations that address these issues with grants and our culturally-appropriate technical assistance and training, we’re positioning them for long-term success.”

“Catalyzing Community Giving”

We were awarded a $306,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan, under the foundation’s “Catalyzing Community Giving” effort. First Nations will use the grant to collaborate with smaller local or regional Native American nonprofit organizations to build their internal capacity while engaging new donors – both Native and non-Native – around those organizations’ efforts in building sustainable food systems and strengthening Native culture among youth.

First Nations will work with 10 organizations in its two-year pilot project, called “Nurturing Native Giving,” that is intended to strengthen their fundraising effectiveness, with a primary focus on individual giving. First Nations will create a web portal that profiles the 10 participants, highlights their work, and which allows convenient donations to each organization. Further, First Nations will assist them in publicizing and marketing the portal and all funds raised will be directed back to these communities.

We will also provide significant training and technical assistance to the participating organizations through coaching, webinars and an online learning community to share resources and build the group’s collective knowledge and best practices from their own organizations. We’ll also facilitate a dialogue between project participants and Native grantmaking tribes and other funding entities in hopes that mutually beneficial partnerships can be established. Three convenings and a white paper will summarize the learnings and policy recommendations that can lead to increased giving in Native communities and, ultimately, grow the body of knowledge about Native philanthropy.

“First Nations has long known that developing a strong and healthy nonprofit sector in Native communities is one key to economic diversification and service delivery,” Roberts said. “This program will expand the reach of local Native nonprofits and improve charitable giving to Native causes and communities.”