OUR APPROACH

The Northwest Area Foundation supports organizations anchored in the culture of the people they serve and dedicated to expanding economic opportunity in under-resourced communities.

OUR REGION | Idaho | Iowa | Minnesota | Montana | North Dakota | Oregon | South Dakota | Washington | 75 Native Nations

THE PEOPLE WE SERVE

Our grantees work to build on the entrepreneurial spirit, strong community ties, and untapped potential within Native nations, communities of color, rural communities, and other resilient communities who have fewer opportunities to thrive on their own terms.

We envision strong, vibrant communities where people are connected to good jobs and have the financial capability to build their assets and provide a secure future for their families and communities.

A NEED TO CLOSE THE OPPORTUNITY GAPS

Our economic system doesn’t work for everyone. It widens income and opportunity gaps, restrains economic mobility, and traps people and communities in a cycle of poverty and injustice.

A disproportionate number of Native Americans, people of color, refugees, immigrants, and rural Americans are living in crisis—or just a paycheck away from it. Nationally, six in 10 families of color don’t have the cash on hand to cover basic expenses—like rent, medical emergencies, or the need to fix a car—for three months.

ADVANCING COMMUNITY-BASED, CULTURALLY ANCHORED SOLUTIONS

NWAF supports organizations offering knowledge, tools, and training that offer people the economic freedom to pursue a better future for their families and communities. We listen to our partners on the ground, learn about communities’ strengths and struggles, and lead by lifting up great work already being done.

Our work is guided by the wisdom of those we serve. For years, we listened to and learned from organizations across our region—to identify the most effective investments in lasting change.

SUPPORTED THROUGH FOUR INTERLOCKING PORTFOLIOS

Through grantmaking and mission investments, we focus on four portfolios:

Opening ACCESS TO CAPITAL with a focus on connecting people to resources in their community in order to build the local economy.

Expanding WORK OPPORTUNITY so people have pathways to quality jobs that allow them to thrive.

Supporting ENTERPRISE DEVELOPMENT that drives entrepreneurship and provides ownership, jobs, and training opportunities to people who have been denied them in the past.

Promoting FINANCIAL INCLUSION so families have the tools they need to climb out of poverty and stay there.

CROSSCUTTING PRIORITIES

Across all four portfolios, our grants and investments are driven by the priorities we share with our partners who are doing the work.

We strive to advance the following priorities within each of our four portfolios:

  • Changing systems and policies.

    We support programs and policies to improve and expand access to good jobs and financial capability, alongside efforts to influence the systems that impact our communities, such as government programs and policies that impact workforce development or the web of banking and financial services that affect people’s ability to get a loan. This approach helps dismantle barriers faced by some today—and establish new pathways to prosperity for many more tomorrow.
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  • Lifting up successful models.

    To share and advance the work of our grantees, we lift up innovative programs and policies that serve as models for nonprofit, government, and private sector leaders championing similar reforms in communities across our region and country.
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  • Providing opportunities for learning.

    We connect our grantees with other leaders so they can generate new opportunities for impact by exchanging ideas and resources, exploring innovations and collaborating in unexpected ways.
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  • Learning together.

    We listen closely to the organizations we support and learn alongside them so we can continually refine and improve our grantmaking, and ensure those who are doing the work have the support they need to achieve meaningful change.
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MISSION INVESTING

We also support our four portfolios’ funding framework with investments from our endowment.

In 2004, we began using assets from our endowment to make investments that address persistent gaps in capital to seed and grow businesses in our region. Mission investing offers economic and social returns and advances work across our four portfolios’ strategy to promote good jobs and financial capability. We have committed roughly 10 percent of our assets to mission investments.

OUTCOMES: ACHIEVED BY LEARNING FROM AND WITH GRANTEES

Our approach enhances grantees’ ability to carry out their missions and create lasting change for individuals, families, and communities:

CHANGES IN COMMUNITIES

We aim to help our grantees build stronger local economies anchored in the culture of the community and able to help people who have traditionally faced barriers to prosperity.

CHANGES IN STATE, LOCAL, AND TRIBAL GOVERNMENTS

We support organizations working with decision makers to create more equitable systems, shrink opportunity gaps, and create more opportunities for underserved communities.

CHANGES IN INDIVIDUALS

We lift up the work of organizations committed to helping people attain knowledge and skills, increase their personal income and build their assets in order to break out of the cycle of poverty and hopelessness and build a secure future for themselves, their families, and their communities.