By Lourdes Inga
International Funders for Indigenous Peoples (IFIP) plays a critical role in convening, educating, connecting and expanding collaborative action among funders and Indigenous Peoples to advance issues of mutual importance.
In October 2018 we convened our global indigenous funders conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to dialogue with funders to support indigenous-led solutions for long-term holistic change. At the outset, our conference planning committee was very clear that IFIP’s global conference needed to acknowledge the growing interest of philanthropy to partner with Indigenous Peoples to address the persistent gap in philanthropy on indigenous funding across a broad range of issues. The conference theme needed to not only make a statement but also signal a call for change. “Bolstering Indigenous Philanthropy” became a natural choice to support this vision for the conference that was in alignment with IFIP’s new strategic direction.
Governor Rick Vigil honored us by opening the conference with a traditional prayer and shared his vision for Tesuque Pueblo, which is nestled in the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Governor Vigil elaborated on the different forms of partnerships and activism that is led by Native leaders to bring self-determined development to ensure the wellbeing of their communities. He also reminded the funders in the room that Native communities continue to face roadblocks to access economic opportunities, health, and education.
One of the many highlights of the conference came in the form of the first Global Gathering of Indigenous-Led Funds, a pre-conference program. This historic moment signaled a new paradigm shift period in philanthropy with Indigenous-led funds making a call for foundations to philanthropy to address the glaring funding gaps and support the solutions, ideas, and innovations of Indigenous Peoples.
IFIP’s programs and conferences highlight how thoughtful and effective funding partnerships can support funders and Indigenous Peoples’ priorities across intersecting issues. The conference plenaries shined the light on how philanthropy can amplify indigenous funding in a mindful and respectful way. We heard from philanthropy leaders on why their foundations are beginning to recognize the importance of recruiting Indigenous Peoples as program staff and board members, signaling that changes and shifts in philanthropy are possible. The conference concluded with a united message from IFIP, The Circle and Arctic Funders Collaborative with a call for equity in philanthropic giving to indigenous organizations.
IFIP’s ‘Bolstering Indigenous Philanthropy’ theme will continue beyond our global conference. IFIP’s new programs like our Learning Institute and our Indigenous Women and Indigenous Territories Working Groups provide funders with continue to engage with and learn from peers. “Bolstering Indigenous Philanthropy” requires a real commitment from philanthropy to address the staggering funding gaps to resource Indigenous Peoples. According to the Foundation Center, between 2011-2015 funding to Indigenous Peoples represented 1.2% of total global giving from top US foundations. We hope funders will join us as one global community to expand opportunities to collaborate, learn from each other, and support indigenous communities. We know collectively, our wisdom and diverse perspectives will expand this conversation widely in the philanthropic community.