COVID-19 and Native Nonprofit Survey Results: A Call to Change

New COVID-19 Survey Report Underscores Critical Needs of Native-Led Nonprofits and a Call for Change from the Philanthropic Community

LONGMONT, Colorado (Sept. 3, 2020). A new report released today by First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) outlines the devastating effects of COVID-19 on Native-led nonprofits and stresses the need for a greater commitment from the philanthropic sector in supporting Native communities.

The report, The Native Nonprofit Sector and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Charting a Path Forward, highlights findings from a survey of nearly 300 Native community-based organizations and reveals a huge degree of uncertainty among Native nonprofits as they respond to the pandemic, according to report author and First Nations’ Vice President of Grantmaking, Development & Communications, Raymond Foxworth. The report also describes the historic lack of funding from the philanthropic world, especially during times of crisis, which have perpetuated structural and institutional factors that have led to underdevelopment of Native communities and have compounded the effects of COVID-19. 

Among the survey findings:

  • 69% of Native nonprofits expect to see a revenue decrease as a result of COVID-19. Even more, 43% of respondents expect to see a decrease of 25% or greater.
  • Most Native nonprofits anticipate seeing the greatest impacts of COVID-19 in greater than three months.
  • 35% of Native nonprofits believe they will have to reduce their staff size. 
  • Native nonprofits cite the need for general operating grants, personal protective equipment (PPE) and technology to help meet operational and programmatic needs.

Scholars indicate COVID-19 will result in an estimated $50 billion loss in economic activity for Native nations and enterprises. The First Nations report highlights that Native nonprofit organizations are also significantly concerned about how COVID-19 will affect their operations, revenue and programs. History shows that the already low levels of funding for Native-led nonprofits drop even lower in challenging economic times, noted Foxworth.

During the Great Recession, foundation giving levels decreased 35% from 2008 to 2009. Similarly, in the economic recession of 2001, giving between 2000 and 2001 declined by 18%. In both recessionary periods, it took years for giving to rebound to pre-recessionary levels. 

“We hope this report is a call to the philanthropic sector that critical changes are needed,” Foxworth said. “Native communities have a clear vision of what they need from the philanthropic sector. They need philanthropy to listen and be willing to learn from Indigenous innovation, reversing top-down approaches that have largely structured interactions and grantmaking between Native community organizations and philanthropy. They also need investment, and this investment must focus on supporting Native communities as they work toward combatting longstanding inequities.” 

More information and a link to the report can be found here

About First Nations Development Institute

For 40 years, using a three-pronged strategy of educating grassroots practitioners, advocating for systemic change, and capitalizing Indian communities, First Nations has been working to restore Native American control and culturally-compatible stewardship of the assets they own – be they land, human potential, cultural heritage or natural resources – and to establish new assets for ensuring the long-term vitality of Native American communities. First Nations serves Native American communities throughout the United States. For more information, visit



Amy Jakober, Senior Communications Officer or (303) 774-7836