Launching a Pioneering New Guide for Donors: Funding Indigenous Peoples: Strategies for Support

IFIP Guide1

by Luminita Cuna

On November 9th, IFIP and GrantCraft launched their new, pioneering guide “Funding Indigenous Peoples: Strategies for Support”  at a luncheon held at the Ford Foundation office in New York City. Out of respect for IFIP’s indigenous roots, the event started with a blessing.  Cultural Survival Executive Director Suzanne Benally thanked the Native peoples who live in this area, and asked the Great Spirit to bless all participants with good thoughts to build new relationships and do great work for the Indigenous peoples this guide is meant to support.

We are blessed to live in these times when we can make an impact,” said Evelyn Arce, IFIP Executive Director, setting the tone of the gathering.  She called the guide a “labor of love,” created as “our legacy for our children and great grandchildren. So what we do in this room matters.

IFIP’s overall objective to create the guide was to draw more funders into the small but crucial and underserved area of philanthropy. “There is no one size fits all, but we want to arm funders with various grantmaking models,” said Jen Bokoff, Director at GrantCraft, a service of the Foundation Center, which co-produced and published the guide.

Evelyn Arce thanked the six funders that generously supported the making of the guide: Ford Foundation, Oak foundation, The Christensen Fund, HBH Fund, Lush Cosmetics, and Cook Inlet Tribal Council.

IFIP Board Member Lourdes Inga then gave a presentation on total giving to Indigenous peoples, highlighting that it is still less than 1% of the global grantmaking dollars. She expressed hope that the fact the Foundation Center, which provided important data for this guide, had changed their taxonomy to include more indigenous projects was a sign of a new trend. She then summarized the different mechanisms enumerated in the guide that can be used by funders to start or increase grantmaking to Indigenous communities.

Around the table there were 30 people, 21 of which were funders interested in expanding their grantmaking to Indigenous Peoples. The guide is built on research, Foundation Center data, interviews with 40 people, half of which were donors, and 13 Indigenous peoples from 13 different countries from all continents. The guide emphasizes the importance of partnering with Indigenous communities in addressing environmental, human rights, food security, and climate change issues globally.

As Evelyn Arce said: “More and more funders are starting to realize that Indigenous communities are not only cost-effective partners, but also bring long-lasting impact to programs.

Ford Foundation has been a leader in giving, with 49% of the total international giving to Indigenous peoples. Kevin Currey, Program Analyst at Ford Foundation, said that this guide comes at a particularly opportune moment, when the foundation had just released its new strategy. There are two issues that the new strategy emphasizes, and it has a common denominator with the guide: addressing inequality and providing institutional support (two recommendations in the new guide).

The guide also provides insights into how working with Indigenous communities is different than working with mainstream organizations.

For those seeking to understand how partnering with indigenous populations can advance mutual goals, this guide will get you on the right track”, said Jen Bokoff. She also mentioned that the work needs to continue, and expressed the hope that the guide will become a resource to support the work of funders, so she urged all those present to share it with colleagues.

Angela Martinez, Senior Program Officer for Latin America at American Jewish World Service (AJWS) offered her thoughts on the publication: “After reading this guide, I could see this can be a tool that not only mobilizes financial resources for Indigenous peoples, but mobilizes reflection, ideas, practices and strategies on how to partner with them.” She went on to share valuable insights from her experience working with Indigenous communities: “One great value I have learned from Indigenous peoples is the value of collective work. We, as funders, can collectively join efforts and strategies for better accompanying them.

Carolina Suarez, Executive Director of the Association of Corporate Funders in Colombia (AFE), discussed her experience working with corporations and Indigenous communities. She mentioned the necessity to “improve co-responsibility among all parties” to understand that Indigenous communities have a holistic vision and life plans that span generations, unlike projects of very limited duration.

Evelyn Arce brought to the fore a call to action for all donors and suggested ways they can get involved: Sponsor Indigenous leaders to come to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) or to IFIP’s 2016 Conference in Lima, Peru next year, or devote 5% of grantmaking portfolios to Indigenous Peoples, as they make up 5% of the world population.

In closing, Shaun Paul, President and Founder Member of Reinventure Capital and IFIP Board Member, transformed the Q&A session into a commitment from all funders present on how they plan to support Indigenous peoples in the future. Among the actions to be taken were helping potential investors put Indigenous peoples in their investing decisions, sponsoring Indigenous leaders to attend international conferences (including people with disabilities), expand grantmaking portfolios to include Indigenous populations, and fund Indigenous businesses.

We at IFIP are proud to have created this ground-breaking publication. We hope that it serves as an important resource in the future with enduring impact on the field of global Indigenous philanthropy.