Large Foundations’ Grantmaking to Native America


Hicks, Sarah, and Miriam Jorgensen. 2005. Large foundations’ Grantmaking to Native America. Cambridge: Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.

In 2000-01 and again in 2003-04, the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development replicated and extended Brescia’s and LaPier’s work in conjunction with analysis projects for the Ford Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation. As leading grantmakers to Native causes and concerns, the foundations sought to maximize the effectiveness and leverage the impact of their investments in Native America by learning more about sectoral trends. This document summarizes these new findings and joins earlier efforts in acknowledging and advocating for foundation involvement in the revitalization of Native communities and culture.

In particular, this report uses data compiled from Internal Revenue Service records as reported by the Foundation Center to examine large grants to Native America (see Endnote 2) made by the approximately 900 largest independent, community, operating, and corporate foundations in the United States over the period 1989-2002. Grants were identified by the Foundation Center using a keyword search (of which “Native Americans” is one) and the application of categories from the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities. Thus, “small” grants, grants from smaller foundations, grants from tribes or tribal philanthropies, gifts from individual philanthropists, and foundation grants that serve Native causes and concerns among many others (which makes it impossible to identify the funds flowing only to Native America) are excluded from the analyses of this paper. Nonetheless, the data provide a reasonably representative picture of regularities and trends in the non-Native, formal philanthropic sector, including data on total giving over time, top donors, top recipients, and the distribution of grant funds across issue areas and geographies.

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