June 19, 2018; Globe Newswire
A report released by the First Nations Development Institute highlights some of the challenges organizations serving Native Americans face as foundation giving to these groups declined by almost a third over an eight-year period. Using data from the Foundation Center, the study covers giving by the 1,000 largest US foundations in the years 2006–2014, just prior to the Great Recession and just after it. The grants tracked were awarded to American Indian organizations, including Native nations. The findings are offered in four categories:
1. Trends in Giving to Native American Causes and Organizations
Overall, the trend is negative. Giving by large foundations declined by 29 percent, totaling $35 million less in 2014 than in 2006. On average, large foundations gave more to Native causes and organizations prior to the Great Recession than after it, although it is estimated that the total giving by these same foundations increased in the same time period.
What remains unexplained is the extreme volatility of the giving. For example, in the three-year period from 2012 to 2014, giving went up from $91.9 million to $103 million and then down to $84 million. Fluctuations like these make it very hard for organizations to predict the support they are likely to receive, which puts roadblocks in the way of budgeting and planning.
The number of grants from the largest foundations to Native organizations actually increased in this period, from 743 to 791. This, coupled with the overall decline in the amount given, would indicate that the size of individual grants has decreased.
2. Who Gives to Native American Causes and Organizations?
Less than half of the top 1,000 largest foundations in the US make grants to Native American causes and organizations. Over the years, the number of foundations making grants to Native organizations has been relatively constant; as former donors stopped giving, new donors emerged. However, the new funders give smaller amounts than their predecessors, so overall there has been a decrease.
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The concentration of giving to Native causes is very stark, with the top 10 foundations accounting for 50 percent of total annual giving to Native American causes and organizations. This puts the giving at extreme risk.
3. Where Do the Grants Go?
In the period covered by the report, 599 grants were awarded to organizations classified as Native-controlled, whereas 996 grants were awarded to organizations that were Native-serving but not Native-controlled. Over this period, grants to the non-Native-controlled organizations remained fairly constant while support for the Native-controlled agencies showed greater volatility. The average grant to Native-controlled organizations was roughly $22,000 less than to non-Native-controlled organizations.
4. Duration and Focus of Grants
The average grant given to Native-Controlled organizations was $38,000 less in real dollars than the overall average foundation grant. About 78 percent of the grants awarded to American Indian organizations and causes were for less than $100,000, including 13 percent of grants that were for $10,000. Only three percent were in excess of $500,000.
Generally, the grants awarded were for a 12-month period, although it is not recorded if non-Native-controlled organizations received multi-year grants at a higher level.
It is disappointing that the numbers only go through 2014, as there have been three years of giving since then. However, the trends in giving should give funding sources reason to reconsider how and where their giving goes. Why has giving decreased to Native American causes whereas giving on the whole has increased? Why are more grants awarded to non-Native-controlled organizations than to Native-controlled, and is this true for other demographic groups as well?
An executive summary of the study can be found here, and the whole report can be found here.—Rob Meiksins