2018 Annual Report:
Letter from Kevin Walker

“Native CDFIs succeed because they’re culturally anchored institutions rooted in Native values of community and family, sharing, and reciprocity.”

— Kevin Walker, President and CEO

Last year, our annual report lifted up the work of Native community development financial institutions (CDFIs) as organizations whose expertise and deep grounding in Indian Country help bring new possibilities to life for multiple generations.

Our communications spotlighted this work intensively during the past year. We’ve learned more about why Native CDFIs are potential game changers for the people they serve and win-win investments for funders.

We also explored how Native CDFIs put capital to work in Native communities in ways that cultivate businesses, jobs, and other opportunities that are sustainable for the long term.

And they’ve been very successful. Their net asset ratios are high and their delinquency rates are historically low. In other words, they’re a safe bet, safe enough that we’ve made grants and investments in excess of $6.6 million to Native CDFIs since late 2014—nearly $4 million in grants and more than $2.8 million in program-related investments.

Native CDFI success stories have generated a lot of curiosity from my non-Native peers in philanthropy. They wonder if we’ve discovered a secret to sparking economic opportunity in communities where the deck has been stacked against people’s life chances for generations.

After all, reservations were never designed to position Native people to thrive on their own terms. Government policies have directed many Native people to urban cores, but largely abandoned them there. So what is the magic that has empowered Native CDFIs to begin changing this rigged game?

Hint: it’s not magic. It’s more like common sense. Native CDFIs succeed because they’re culturally anchored institutions rooted in Native values of community and family, sharing, and reciprocity.

We explain more about this in the following pages. A profile features leaders from Native CDFIs and from the investment community who describe in vivid detail how Native CDFIs are building assets and expanding opportunity.

Finally, the annual report features a dynamic commitment we’ve made to weave diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into the very fabric of our organization. Why have we done this?

Written boldly across a blue wall in our office lobby are these words: We believe prosperity is possible for all. But we know that centuries-long disparities have made prosperity elusive for our priority communities: Native Americans, communities of color, immigrants, refugees, and people in rural areas.

So, we’ve set out on a mission-critical journey to shape a future in which every person, family, and community in our region has a fair chance to live free of poverty and thrive on their own terms.

We announced our DEI journey in the summer of 2018, but it began more than a year before that. We’re still determining what this all means for our Foundation, and we’re framing the goals against which we’ll measure ourselves. And we’ve now launched an effort to document the journey; we invite you to share in it.

In gratitude,

Kevin Walker
President and CEO

Photography: Landscape photo by Richard Marshall; Kevin Walker photo by Hlee Lee