Grantees & Grantmaking | February 8, 2023

Q4 and 2022 Grants: Native Voices Rising and General-Op Grants Fuel Justice

Read how general operations grants and our grant for Native Voices Rising (NVR) show how we’ve been thinking of justice within our new grantmaking approach in Q4 and in 2022.

Beginning in 2022, we adopted a new grantmaking approach that refocuses our support on grantees that restructure systems standing in the way of social, racial, and economic justice for our priority communities—Native Americans, communities of color, immigrants, refugees, and people in rural areas.

One way that shift of approach appears in our grantmaking is through a significant increase in general operations grants, funds that aren’t tied to a specific program or initiative. Instead, grantees can use funding for activities they perceive will best advance their short- or long-term goals—it’s a more just and equitable way to provide funding.

To illustrate the increase, 27 percent of Foundation grants were designated as gen-ops funds in 2019. In 2022, that proportion more than doubled to 56 percent of grants.

In Q4, we also awarded a $1 million grant for Native Voices Rising (NVR), which advances racial justice for Native communities by funding small, grassroots groups that advance solutions to historic harms and society’s most pressing needs. It’s our biggest grant of the year.

During quarter four of 2022, we made 78 grants totaling over $4.2 million. Overall, we provided more than $12.8 million in funding through 147 grants to nonprofits through all of 2022.

A teacher and student from NVR’s grant partner Pine Ridge Girls’ School study geometry while cutting fabric for a ribbon skirt at the Oglala Lakota Artspace. Pine Ridge Reservation, SD.

General operations grants acknowledge that grantees know what justice looks like in their communities.

This kind of funding comes with no strings attached so grantees can pursue justice for their communities as they see fit, on their own terms, and with the flexibility to do what they need. Gen-ops funding also trusts that grantees know what’s best for the communities they serve and leaves room to respond to complexities and changing circumstances.

We aim to be less prescriptive in our grantmaking moving forward. We’re focusing on helping organizations implement their own strategies for changing systems that pose barriers to communities’ ability to thrive on their own terms. That’s how we can be a meaningful participant in achieving justice.

We aim to be less prescriptive in our grantmaking moving forward. We’re focusing on helping organizations implement their own strategies for changing systems that pose barriers to communities’ ability to thrive on their own terms. That’s how we can be a meaningful participant in achieving justice. 

Our grantees are experts at building power and prosperity—another way to frame justice—for their communities. They help their communities repair the damage of centuries of policies that have unjustly targeted them for harm.

For purposes of our future grantmaking, prosperity encompasses a more holistic understanding of well-being, for both people and places. Reflecting that more expansive definition, we’ll prioritize grantee partners that are reimagining and repairing systems that block economic, social, and racial justice for our priority communities.

NVR’s grant partner Red Lodge Transition Services helped coordinate the Elders Circle—the first special event post-COVID at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. Pictured in front of the event’s outside worship area are some of the 57 women who attended, along with 11 special Native elders who came to the event to spend time with them. Wilsonville, OR. 

NVR identifies and supports overlooked or underfunded groups that bring Indigenous solutions to the community level.

A project of Common Counsel Foundation (CCF) and Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP), Native Voices Rising (NVR) builds philanthropic support for grassroots groups led by and for Native communities.

NVR will use the Foundation’s four-year, $1 million grant to support its mission to remedy the historic and enduring underfunding of Native-led social change efforts by facilitating a process for non-Native donors and institutions to build relationships with Native grassroots leaders and to support Native-led organizing and advocacy.

NVR is a national partnership between California-based CCF and Washington, D.C.–based NAP. Its work encompasses research, donor education, regranting, and capacity building for grassroots Native-led organizations—and amplifies Native voices that are offering Indigenous solutions to the historic harms that created the layers of injustice experienced by Native communities.

The Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Art Park, established by NVR’s grant partner Cheyenne River Youth Project, is a creative, welcoming space for artists, culture bearers, and community members. Eagle Butte, SD.

Native peoples, histories, cultures, and contributions are frequently misunderstood or made invisible—a pattern that also plays out in philanthropic funding, where funders frequently overlook smaller, grassroots Native groups in favor of larger non-Native organizations—one of the factors behind the Foundation’s pledge to direct 40 percent of our grant dollars to Native-led organizations.

As a collaboration between a Native philanthropic affinity group (NAP) and a non-Native public foundation (CCF), NVR is uniquely positioned to engage and guide non-Native donors and funders to learn about and resource Native-led social change work, while centering Native voices in the decision-making process.

Read more about our 2022 grantees and the work they’re leading:

Photo top: Hope Flanagan (Seneca), community outreach and cultural teacher for NVR’s grant partner Dream of Wild Health’s Indigenous Food Network (IFN), leads a plant walk where community members are taught to name and identify plants found locally. Minneapolis, MN.

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