Check out CEP’s new searchable database of resources for individuals and grantmakers.

Contact Us



Overlooked (Part Two) – Foundation Support for Native American Leaders and Communities

Despite the heavy toll the pandemic has taken on Native American people since early 2020, few foundations have stepped up their support for Native American communities.
Nawayee (Center School) Mosaic Mural, Minneapolis. Photograph courtesy of Karen McCall

Ellie Buteau, PhD

Director of Research Projects and Special Advisor on Research Methodology and Analysis, CEP

Katarina Malmgren

Katarina Malmgren

Former Associate Manager, Research, CEP

Hannah Martin

Former Manager, Research, CEP

Share This Post:

Across four research studies the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) has conducted in the past two years, we’ve noticed two concerning trends emerge for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) and Native American nonprofit leaders and communities (trends that we do not see for nonprofit leaders and communities of other races/ethnicities).

Native American nonprofit leaders report having less positive experiences with their foundation funders than nonprofit leaders of other races/ethnicities. This has been the case during, as well as prior to, the pandemic.

In data spanning the last decade, Native American leaders have rated their foundation funders lower than nonprofit leaders of other races/ethnicities on the strength of the funder-grantee relationship, funders’ understanding of their organizations and the contexts in which they operate, and funders’ impact on their fields.

“You can’t assume that just because you’re meeting with two tribal communities, that they’re going to be exactly the same. There are 574 federally recognized tribes. There are unique, beautiful, amazing differences between those tribes.”

– Nonprofit Leader

Despite the significant challenges facing Native American people, most foundations continue to overlook nonprofits that serve these communities.

Over the past two years, Native American communities have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Native Americans have been hospitalized and have died from COVID-19 at higher rates than any other racial/ethnic group in the United States. Between April 2020 and June 2021, one in every 168 Native American children in the United States lost a caregiver due to the pandemic.

These extremely high death rates, especially among community elders, also threaten the progress made in preserving Native languages. Further, these hospitalization and death rates are likely significantly higher than the data show, because many states do not consistently track data on Native Americans. Compounding the health-related impacts of COVID-19, tribal governments and Native American economies have been devastated by the pandemic.

Currently, almost two thirds of foundation leaders say that they provide little or no grant dollars to organizations primarily serving Native American communities.

About two thirds of nonprofit leaders whose organizations primarily serve Native American communities report that they did not receive new foundation funding in 2020.


Despite the heavy toll the pandemic has taken on Native American people since early 2020, few foundations have stepped up their support for Native American communities.

Organizations including First Nations Development Institute and Native Americans in Philanthropy have advocated for decades for foundations to better support these communities. For a list of resources from these organizations and others, and for advice from Native American nonprofit leaders, download the full report.


We are very appreciative of the support from the Long Family Foundation and Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, which funded this research effort.

Have Questions?

To find out more about CEP’s research, contact Elisha Smith Arrillaga.

Learn About Our Research

Connect with Elisha Smith Arrillaga, our vice president, research, about the latest in philanthropic trends and CEP reports.

Assess Your Effectiveness

Get in touch with Joseph Lee to assess your effectiveness.

Book A Speaker

Want to book a CEP expert for your next event? Fill out our form and we’ll be in touch!

Related Resources