April 1, 2013
Native Voices Rising: A Case for Funding Native-led Change
Authors: Alyssa Macy, Angela Mooney, Jonella Larson White, Katherine Beane, Louis T. Delgado, Syd Beane
Publishers: Common Counsel Foundation, Native Americans in Philanthropy
Funder: Open Society Foundations
Native American organizations face enormous challenges to their communities, their lands and environment, and their basic rights as Indigenous peoples. They face these challenges with limited support from the broad spectrum of America's philanthropic institutions. Far too many foundations simply give little to nothing at all in support of Native causes, a situation that requires corrective action designed to close the enormous gap between foundation giving and the needs of Native communities. The low level of charitable foundation funding (.3%) going to Native causes, and the need to garner more support for Native organizing and advocacy work, in particular, prompted the Common Counsel Foundation and Native Americans in Philanthropy to jointly sponsor this research project that is focused on Native organizations which undergird the following five movements: Environmental Justice, Subsistence in Alaska, Native Engagement in the Urban Context, Media and Voter Engagement. The organizations varied considerably in experience and the methods they use to pursue change. They fulfill many roles in their respective communities, such as: advocates, organizers, service providers, and community builders. A key role is that they serve as places where people can acquire knowledge and skills that enable them to assume leadership roles in the organization and in the community. Leadership development is essential to maintaining and advancing these movements. Most importantly, Native self-determination and sovereignty is reinforced through the work of these organizations. To accomplish these goals, three sets of data were compiled. First, Native organizations in the targeted movements were contacted to obtain basic information that could be used to write brief thumbnail sketches about their organizations that included mission statements, current organizing and advocacy efforts, and contact information. Second, in-depth interviews were conducted with approximately 10 organizational leaders in each of the five movements to build a deeper understanding of how the organizations pursue their organizing and advocacy agendas, and seek change in their communities. Third, case studies of ten exemplary organizations, two in each movement, were compiled to illustrate the magnitude of the work. Representatives of 501(c)3 organizations, organizations using fiscal agents, and a few tribal governments and village councils participated in the study. In total, 146 organizations responded. Representatives from 49 of these organizations gave more intensive, in-depth interviews. Thumbnail sketches of all 146 organizations, the 10 case studies, as well as contextual information about each movement are contained in the full report.