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First Nations Receives $400,000 Fund for Shared Insight Grant to Help Better Understand and Improve Perceptions of Native Americans Whose Voices are Often Forgotten by Philanthropic Organizations


LONGMONT, Colorado (July 27, 2016) – The Fund for Shared Insight has awarded First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) a grant of $400,000 over two years to support a new First Nations research initiative to better understand perceptions of American Indians within the philanthropic community and instigate a productive dialogue about increasing philanthropic investment in Native American communities. The Fund for Shared Insight is a collaborative effort among several funders that pools financial and other resources to make grants to improve philanthropy.

“The lack of mainstream philanthropy’s investments in and partnership with Native American nonprofit organizations and tribes is well-documented,” noted Michael E. Roberts, First Nations President and CEO. “A recent report found that foundation giving to Native causes was only three-tenths of one percent, and that included funding for museum collections and university programs, which were investments that were not going to essential Native American community development needs but to institutions that most often do not include Native Americans in the decision-making process. There is no good data on what percentage of philanthropic dollars is allocated to organizations that are Native-governed or controlled, but we speculate it is significantly less than three-tenths of one percent.”

Roberts said this dearth of philanthropic giving to Native Americans is particularly troublesome when juxtaposed against data that shows Native Americans consistently score the lowest on almost every social indicator, such as poverty and unemployment rates, educational attainment, life expectancy, suicide rates and others.

“Through this project, we hope to uncover perceptions that may obstruct giving to Native causes. Our overall goal is to facilitate openness and dialogue with mainstream philanthropic organizations and Native communities to turn this around so that Native Americans are supported more equitably and adequately given their socio-economic situations,” Roberts said. “Although research will tell, we strongly suspect that contributing factors to this are chronic and widespread negative stereotypes, damaging misperceptions, and even the continued use of racist Native symbols and mascots. It’s likely also a result of a severe lack of knowledge about this country’s Indigenous peoples.”

“At the Fund for Shared Insight, we are focused on openness and improving philanthropy so that foundations listen and are responsive to the needs of the people we seek to help,” said Melinda T. Tuan, Project Manager. “That is what attracted us to First Nations’ proposal – we believe foundations can learn from and better listen to those whose voices are often forgotten, such as Native Americans, and accelerate efforts to solve our society’s greatest challenges.”

About First Nations Development Institute

For 36 years, using a three-pronged strategy of educating grassroots practitioners, advocating for systemic change, and capitalizing Indian communities, First Nations has been working to restore Native American control and culturally-compatible stewardship of the assets they own – be they land, human potential, cultural heritage or natural resources – and to establish new assets for ensuring the long-term vitality of Native American communities. First Nations serves Native American communities throughout the United States. For more information about First Nations, visit

About the Fund for Shared Insight

The Fund for Shared Insight (Shared Insight) is a collaborative effort among funders that pools financial and other resources to make grants to improve philanthropy. Shared Insight emerged from a belief that foundations will be more effective and make an even bigger difference in the world if they are open to listening to others and sharing lessons learned. Shared Insight provides grants to nonprofit organizations to encourage and incorporate feedback from the people they seek to help; understand the connection between feedback and better results; foster more openness between and among foundations and grantees; and share lessons learned. Fund for Shared Insight welcomes additional funders to learn more about our effort. For more information, visit or contact Melinda Tuan at


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