Native American Grants: The Top 10 Foundation Funders

| August 3, 2013 | 0 Comments

Native American GrantsNative American communities traditionally derive grant support from two sources. The federal government provides the vast majority of funding through various programs and initiatives that serve Native Americans. And in the same way that federal funds are usually allocated to states, federal grants for Native Americans are distributed to Indian Tribal Organizations that serve their local communities. While foundation support of Native American programs is considered somewhat low, the foundations that do provide grants for Native Americans generally fund non-profit organizations that work within Native American communities.

Government Native American Grants
The Bureau of Indian Affairs was created in 1824 by the Department of the Interior. It provides the government to government relationship between the United States and federally recognized tribal governments. While much of the federal government’s grant support for Native Americans comes through this agency, many other federal departments maintain offices and programs that specifically serve the American Indian population. Examples include the Indian Health Service run by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Bureau of Indian Education run by the Department of Education.

To find listings for all government grants offered for Native Americans, visit and browse by eligibility selecting the “Native American tribal governments” or “Native American tribal organizations” tabs. Be aware that most public funding for Native American grant programs are determined by census data and provided through block grants or formula grants. In each case where a grant would normally be given to the state, it is given instead to the Indian Tribal government or organization. Most government funding for Native Americans is handled this way. Here is one example:

Administration on Aging – Services for Native Americans
The Department of Health and Human Services has provided grant support to Native American programs through its Administration on Aging since 1978. Funding is distributed through a formula grants process, awarding funding to each Tribal government based on the number of its citizens aged 60 or older. The program allows Tribal organizations to employ these funds with a good bit of flexibility, addressing each population’s needs on the local level. Funding can be used to provide older Native Americans with a wide variety of services including meal programs, transportation, personal care and disease prevention.

Foundation Funders of Native American Grants
While Native Americans make up 1.7% of the overall United States population, a 2011 Foundation Center report showed private foundation support for Native American programs was as low as half of one percent of total foundation giving. However, some foundations did contribute greatly to Native American causes. The top ten givers in the last decade provided over $40 million to Native American grants. They were:

  1. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  2. Ford Foundation
  3. W.K. Kellogg Foundation
  4. Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
  5. Marguerite Casey Foundation
  6. Richard Helen DeVos Foundation
  7. Christensen Fund
  8. Otto Bremer Foundation
  9. Lilly Endowment
  10. California Wellness Foundation

Foundation Seed Grants for Native Americans
Lower level foundations provide grants for Native Americans through mini grants or seed grants. These often fund start-up non-profits that take on work in smaller communities. While the dollar amounts are slim, they provide for one on one support not often handled as well by larger programs in rural tribal communities with small populations. Here is one example:

SEVA Foundation – Native American Grants Program
Founded in 1978, SEVA is named for the Sanskrit word for service to others. Its overall focus is health-based, providing treatment for preventable blindness across Asia, Africa, Latin America and in Native American communities in the United States. In addition to sight programs, it offers grant support to organizations run by Native Americans working in their own local communities. Preferring to support small, grassroots organizations usually overlooked by foundation funding, it offers $2,000 to $5,000 seed grants across six priority areas: spiritual and cultural renewal, indigenous youth, economic development, health and wellness, education and environment.

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Category: Minority Grants

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Kipp is the Contributing Editor for, covering sources of potential funding in the world of grants. His mission is to assist people like you by locating and sharing private, non-profit and government grants. Got a question or a tip on a neat grant? Connect with him now at Facebook Twitter

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