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Native Americans Are 2.9% Of U.S. Population But Receive 0.4% Of Philanthropic Dollars

November 17, 2020 | 3 min read

Native Americans Are 2.9% Of U.S. Population But Receive 0.4% Of Philanthropic Dollars

Native American Heritage Month is a time to educate others of not only our histories but of the realities we live today.  

One of those realities is that Native Americans and Alaskan Natives receive a disproportionately small amount of total philanthropic funds. 

In 2016, Native Americans and Alaskan Natives represented 2% of the U.S. population. However, between 2002 and 2016, the average share of annual grant dollars explicitly benefitting Native Americans was 0.4%.  

Some have argued that philanthropic funding for Native Americans should be, at a minimum, commensurate with the proportionate size of the population in the U.S. 

In addition to the disproportionate amount of funds given, philanthropic support to Native causes and organizations are not consistent from year to year. The proportion ranged from a high of 0.6% in 2006 to a low of 0.3% in 2009, 2010, and 2014. The number of grants awarded year to year was more stable and averaged 0.5% of all grants awarded by philanthropic foundations. 

Those striking statistics were revealed in “Investing In Native Communities: Philanthropic Funding for Native American Communities and Causes, a report produced by Native Americans in Philanthropy and Candid. 

“Much of our story remains invisible—to policymakers, to mainstream culture, and to philanthropy,” said Edgar Villanueva (Lumbee), Chairman of the Board of Directors of Native Americans in Philanthropy. This has resulted in historical underfunding from the philanthropic sector... as well as instability in year-over-year funding levels. With only 20% of large foundations giving to Native communities and causes—many of these intermittently—long-term relationship building between Native communities and the philanthropic sector becomes incredibly challenging. 

To be clear, when we use the word ‘philanthropy’, we’re referring to what’s known as the philanthropic sector which is the entire collective of philanthropic organizations. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), there are more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations registered in the U.S. This number includes public charities, private foundations, and other types of nonprofit organizations. 

One of our goals at Native Americans in Philanthropy is to increase the amount of philanthropic aid to Native organizations and causes. One of the steps (if not the first step) in accomplishing that goal is to educate people with data on philanthropic funding.  

For more information, please check out The Funding Map that displays grants that are identified as benefiting Native Americans in the U.S. (including Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians) or awarded to recipient organizations whose missions focus on Native Americans in the U.S. 

With accurate and accessible information and data, we believe that we can better raise awareness within the philanthropic sector on how to better invest in Native peoples and communities. 


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