Native American communities are often overlooked. Though they represent nearly 3 percent of the US population, they have historically received roughly 0.5 percent of philanthropic dollars. To help address this, PEAK has been a part of a tribal entities working group, facilitated by TechSoup, to identify and amplify equitable funding practices with respect to Native communities.

Launched in 2020 to promote inclusive grantmaking practices, participants include leaders from Native-led nonprofits such as the Native Ways FederationFirst Nations Development Institute, and Return to the Heart Foundation, funders that support Native communities such as the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and NoVo Foundation, and philanthropic support organizations such as the National Center on Philanthropy and the Law, and International Funders for Indigenous Peoples, and Native Verify. And as we focus our attention on Native American heritage during the month of November, we are pleased to share some of the insights the group has developed.

The core goals of the working group are to

  • better understand the legal landscape for funding tribes and Native-led nonprofits, focusing on charitable entities that fall outside of the 501(c)(3) public charity rubric;
  • increase the sector’s understanding of intermediaries such as fiscal sponsors and donor collaboratives that empower Native-led charitable work; and
  • communicate the effort’s work to a larger community so that increased awareness leads to more funding to a broader set of communities and initiatives.

These are some of our early findings:

  • Grants can and are being made directly to tribes and tribal entities, such as those recognized under section 7871 of the Internal Revenue Code. Tribes are sovereign nations and thus one should consult the rules around funding government agencies when considering a direct grant. (For more information, read First Nations Development Institute’s “Charitable and Sovereign: Understanding Tribal 7871 Organizations.”)
  • Native-led fiscal sponsors are an important vehicle for grantmakers whose grantmaking is restricted to funding 501(c)(3) public charities.
  • Expenditure responsibility is a solid option for charitable activities where an entity being considered is not easily classifiable.

Read the full article about supporting Native Americans by Dolores Estrada and Kyle Reis at Exponent Philanthropy.