While traveling throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana for her job as Executive Director of Potlatch Fund, Dana Arviso sees the incredible diversity between Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest. From native communities along the Washington coast to the inland Palouse tribe and Kalispel communities of mountainous Idaho and Montana, each retains its distinct cultural traditions.
Despite these differences, what strikes Dana the most is how similar are the communities’ priorities. Intergenerational knowledge-sharing and creating more robust non-profit and business sectors are high priorities for nearly all the native tribes she visits.
Helping them attain those goals is precisely where Potlatch Fund comes in. Established in 2002 to help address the fact that Native American communities receive disproportionately fewer philanthropic dollars than non-native populations, Potlatch Fund today provides grants to Native American non-profit organizations, conducts non-profit trainings to tribal groups and raises funds to support projects that benefit native communities throughout the Pacific Northwest.
In 2012 Potlatch Fund awarded $191,000 in grants to organizations working on native issues. More than $1 million has been distributed during the past decade.
Potlatch Fund also serves as an intermediary between large funders and small Native-serving non-profits to increase the flow of funding to essential projects.
“We do a lot of funder education helping other foundations and other donors to understand the needs of native communities,” Dana says. She adds, while some large foundations and grantors have a good sense of the challenges of poverty and unemployment that face native communities, others need help to understand the unique issues.
One of the most rewarding things for Dana today is seeing men and women from Native American communities make their own financial contributions to support community projects.
“The role and influence—and size—of charitable giving among tribes are increasing,” Dana says. “Tribes can see the work we’re doing in their communities and see the reciprocity.”
To learn more about Potlatch Fund, call (206) 624-6076 or visitwww.potlatchfund.org.
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