Building Partnerships in Indian Country through Relationships: Rules for the Road

Building Partnerships in Indian Country through Relationships: Rules for the Road

by Sherry Salway Black

This is the ninth and final article in a series of community voices that NPQ, in partnership with the First Nations Development Institute, has published this fall. It features Native American leaders who highlight the practices of community building in Indian Country and identify ways that philanthropy might more effectively support this work.

I participated in my umpteenth “funder roundtable” last month. I say “umpteenth” because I don’t know how many I’ve planned, participated in, spoken at, or attended in over three-and-a-half decades of working with philanthropic and Native organizations. Dozens, at least. A funder roundtable is an event where funders come together to collaborate, network, learn from one another, and sometimes hear directly from nonprofit organizations.

I’ve attended these events as a representative of Native nonprofit organizations and as a foundation representative, and sometimes as both. For most of my 35-plus-year career I’ve been both a grantseeker and a grantmaker. This latest funder roundtable was somewhat unique in its location—Rapid City, South Dakota—and unique in that a national Native nonprofit, First Peoples Fund (FPF), invited partner foundations to come together to host this event. For full disclosure, I am the chair of the FPF board of directors, but I was largely there as a partner host representing the Johnson Scholarship Foundation (JSF), where I am vice president of the board and have served for more than a decade. JSF has funded Native causes for more than 20 years.

The goal of this roundtable, “Within, Together, Collective,” was to bring together local, state, regional, and national foundation representatives who have experience funding Native issues with those, particularly from South Dakota, who want to learn more.