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2016 Philanthropy Institute Recap

June 10, 2016 | 6 min read

2016 Philanthropy Institute Recap

The 11th Annual Philanthropy Institute held in San Diego, CA this year focused on Raising Impact with Native Voices. Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP) aimed to support the pipeline of Native philanthropy leaders and provide philanthropic expertise; create issue-driven partnerships and deepen existing relationships within networks; educate mainstream philanthropy on funding inequities and how they can be a part of community-based solutions; and to inform foundation staff about pressing Native issues and ways to advocate for Native-led solutions. This year’s conference theme "Raising Impact with Native Voices” had sessions around Civic Engagement, Advocacy, Economic Development, and Professional Development.

The Philanthropy Institute was NAP’s first regional event holding space for California native voices and we’re so thrilled to have had over 135 attendees helping make it a success! In case you weren’t able to join us, here’s a recap and some highlights from #RaisingImpact16.

Our pre-conference Native Cultures and Context for Philanthropy (NCCP) at the Barona Cultural Center featured some great work happening in Indian Country around healing and trauma. The National Native American Indian Boarding School Healing Coalition and Casey Family Programs’ Indian Child Welfare Unit gave great educational information on the history of boarding schools and some of the ways historical trauma is still impacting Native lives today. They looked at the challenges of running programs that address these issues that Native programs and nonprofits are facing.

This conference held a special track dedicated to Native American program officers as way to support the pipeline of Native philanthropy leaders and a philanthropic network. A pre-conference session exclusively for Native program officers and executives focused on Strategic Native Leadership within Institutional Philanthropy and discussions on leadership opportunities and difficulties for Natives working in a space where people of color have faced challenges for years. Other sessions included: Making Philanthropy Work for Communities of Color; Representation in Philanthropy: Disappointments & Opportunities in Diversifying the Pipeline; and Ourselves, Our Work, Our World: How can emerging and established leaders in Native Philanthropy work to invest in Leaders. Full descriptions of all the sessions provided by the conference can be found in our conference program here.

NAP CEO, Sarah Eagle Heart, had her first welcoming address and touched on some great insights from her personal experiences, how traditional knowledge can help advance philanthropy, and the strength of Native people.

The opening plenary #GenerationIndigenous, Implicit Bias, Healing & Equity with Bill Mendoza, White House Initiative on Native American/Alaskan Native Education; Dr. Robert Ross, The California Endowment; and Erik Stegman, Center for Native American Youth, left us with a lot of powerful and provoking thoughts on the importance of culture as a foundation, and relationship building and dialogue between mainstream philanthropy and Native communities to make lasting impact. Dr. Ross spoke specifically on working with Native communities, saying, “When you sit down with community leaders you have to be prepared to listen to how they define health and wellness, and therefore what kinds of programs they want to fund.” He cited toxic stress and trauma as the biggest threat to young people of color. Bill Mendoza urged philanthropy to create stronger pathways to rebuild tribal nations and to not stifle what they are capable of. With so many new opportunities for our stories and communities to be heard happening in philanthropy, Dr. Ross had this emboldened message: “It's your time. It's time for the Native voices to rise.”

Our opening evening reception on the beach featured a Selfie Station® that had many attendees getting together for fun photos in front of the beach. Attendees were also treated to an acoustic set by Paul Cannon from the San Pasqual reservation in San Diego whose music promotes peace, harmony and the re-indiginization of Native youth in America. Paul has dedicated his career to inspiring change in his own tribe and to those of surrounding reservations. We closed out the evening with a private screening of Mankiller. Mankiller is a documentary celebrating a leader who defied all odds to make a difference for her people. During a time when American Indians found themselves disenfranchised and undervalued by the United States at large, Wilma Mankiller overcame rampant sexism and personal challenges to emerge as a champion of the Cherokee Nation and became its first female Principal Chief in 1985. We were delighted to have the Director, Valerie Red-Horse Mohl, present the movie and answer questions afterwards.

Deborah Parker, National Indigenous Women's Resource Center, got us off to a great start on our second day of the conference with an emotional keynote on Native Women: Justice, Prosperity, Life. Deborah encouraged us to “Speak from your heart for Indigenous people and others on this sacred land together."

Our Native Philanthropy & Impact Investing Plenary with Twila True, True Sioux Hope Foundation; Seth Fairchild, Chatha Foundation; Eveylyn Arce, International Funders for Indigenous Peoples; Betty Callies, Agua Caliente Tribe; and moderated by Jo-Anne Stately, The Minneapolis Foundation, gave great examples of ways investing can work in Indian Country and how Relationship Philanthropy is the bridge between Indigenous and non-Indigenous and different worldviews of impact investing.

During lunch CHANGE Philanthropy's National Director Carly Hare discussed with Susan Taylor Batten, ABFE: A Philanthropic Partnership for Black Communities; Cora Mirikitani, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP); and Sarah Eagle Heart, Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP), the future of affinity groups working together and how philanthropy needs to be more focused on intersectionality.

GEN I (Generation Indigenous) held a special session Joining Forces for Impact: Holistic Solutions for Native Youth on President Obama’s initiative, highlighting the work and strategies for promoting youth development and leadership. The Center for Native American Youth, National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the American Indian Affairs at the White House held a discussion with a group of attendees to identify holistic, systems-level opportunities to help generate a better future for Native youth.

That evening the beautiful Museum of Man in Balboa Park welcomed us with food, drinks and local cultural education arranged by our Southern California Regional Network Waver, Melissa Powless Chacon. The reception featured wine from Séka Hills, a tribal enterprise of the Yoche Dehe Wintun Nation producing estate-grown wines from the fertile soils of Capay Valley in Northern California and hor d’oeuvres prepared by Toast Catering. Guests got a private viewing of the museum’s exhibits and the Rincon Youth Kumeyaay Storytelling group treated us to a wonderful cultural presentation.

Our last day of #RaisingImpact16 kicked off with our Member Meeting where our membership voted on the Board Officers for 2017. Shirley Sneve, Vision Maker Media will be returning as Chair as well as Jo-Anne Stately, The Minneapolis Foundation as Treasurer. Edgar Villanueva, Schott Foundation for Public Education comes on as Vice Chair and Sarah EchoHawk, American Indian Science and Engineering as Secretary. Daniel Martin, Cherokee Preservation Foundation was voted in for a second term while the board welcomes Sarah Dybdahl, Huna Heritage Foundation on her first term.

The closing plenary Youth, Art, Culture & Social Justice brought together Cheryl Crazy Bull, American Indian College Fund; Lori Pourier, First Peoples Fund; Shirley Sneve, Vision Maker Media; Tia Oros Peters, Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples moderated by NAP CEO Sarah Eagle Heart. They discussed the importance of authentic partnerships with philanthropy towards advancing equity and social justice in Native communities. Lori asked, “Until we understand each other’s history, how can we walk together?” The group agreed that more could be achieved when we stand together and that we are better together.

NAP also shared two new infographics while at the conference. Native Voices Rising is a joint project of NAP and the Common Counsel Foundation of a community-guided grantmaking collaborative designed to expand philanthropic support for Native-led change. “Investing to Prevent and End all forms of violence against Native women and girls” looks at the importance of regularly collecting more in depth and regular data for developing effective policy solutions for pressing issuing affecting Native communities in rural and urban areas. With this information, we hope to raise philanthropic interest to make a substantial commitment in support of Native women and girls.

Lakota tribal elder Shirley Murphy, wife of the former Sycuan Tribal Chair, led the conference out in a blessing and song, ending in a powerful trill from the women attendees.

We want to thank everyone who attended and shared inspirations and thoughts with us via social media. At one point during the conference #RaisingImpact16 was even a trending topic on twitter! Be sure to check out our photo gallery from the conference! We leave you with some important questions that came out of the conference to consider when making future impacts and investment in Native communities through philanthropy:

  • How do Native communities become more strategic without giving up their power?
  • How do we hold foundations accountable?
  • How do we retain Natives who are in the field doing Native work?
  • How can we redefine philanthropy with Indigenous community leadership at the center and how can this advance real change?
  • How can we assist the tribal governments in building healthy economies through small businesses, when a lot of focus is on large businesses or developing competition between tribal businesses?


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