The Northwest Area Foundation is a private foundation that supports resourceful problem solvers working in resilient communities that have a wealth of wisdom, passion, and expertise—Native Americans, communities of color, immigrants and refugees, and people in rural areas.
We serve a region that includes Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and the 76 Native nations that share the same geography.
Our founder, Minnesota businessman and philanthropist Louis W. Hill, was the son of Great Northern Railway founder James J. Hill. The region served by the Foundation corresponds to the freight routes of the Great Northern Railway.
We fund and invest in organizations that seek to break down systemic barriers that prevent their communities from achieving economic prosperity and thriving on their own terms. To accomplish this, we organize our funding priorities around four categories, or “portfolios”:
Access to Capital – Connecting people to resources in their community in order to build the local economy.
Work Opportunity – Building pathways to quality jobs that allow people to thrive.
Enterprise Development – Driving entrepreneurship and providing ownership, jobs, and training opportunities to people who have been denied them in the past.
Financial Inclusion – Ensuring individuals and families have the tools they need to climb out of poverty and stay there.
We award grants to two types of nonprofits:
Grassroots organizations that provide direct services to the communities they serve.
Intermediary organizations with regional or national reach that re-grant funds and/or provide technical assistance to other organizations.
We also look to join funder collaboratives.
A minimum of 40 percent of our grants go to Native-led organizations.
Approximately 10 percent of our grants go to fund infrastructure support, idea incubation, and research.
To see examples of our most recently funded grants, take a look at our grant listings.
The Foundation currently makes grants by invitation only. We do not accept unsolicited proposals.
We want to be informed about and build relationships with organizations that increase good jobs and financial capability in our region. If your work aligns with these priorities, we want to learn more. Check out our For Grantseekers page to stay updated on opportunities and to connect with us.
MRIs are a form of “impact investing.” They’re drawn from our endowment to achieve market-rate investment returns while also advancing our grantmaking’s positive social goals: to increase good jobs and financial capability.
PRIs are a form of mission investing. They prioritize social outcomes over profit and provide less-than-market-rate returns. We issue PRIs as low-interest loans, drawn from our endowment, to community development financial institutions (CDFIs), which relend the funding to organizations whose work aligns with our grantmaking goals to increase good jobs and financial capability.
A Native CDFI is an organization that provides equitable financial services and support to help Native American communities build long-term economic and cultural wealth. With deep cultural ties and understanding, Native CDFIs help Native communities overcome systemic barriers to economic opportunity and open the door to loans, credit, jobs, and much more.
DEI describes an approach we’re using to more fully live out our mission—by overcoming the policies and systems that create barriers to equity and supporting work that leads to sustainable prosperity for all. Infusing DEI into all of our work helps us be a more equitable ally to our grantees and the communities we serve.
See the working definitions and sources we use to inform our DEI approach here.