Michael E. Roberts

President and CEO


Michael Roberts (an enrolled member of the Tlingit Tribe) is the President and CEO of First Nations Development Institute, an American Indian economic development and economic justice organization founded in 1980. He was appointed to this position in 2005 after having served as a Research Officer and Chief Operating Officer for the organization from 1992 to 1997 and returning to First Nations in 2002. During his tenure, the organization has raised more than a quarter of a billion dollars, increased assets 25-fold, and deployed 100% of its assets aligned with its mission of strengthening Native communities throughout the United States.

Prior to returning to First Nations, Mike spent several years in private equity, during which he advised angel investors and worked for a telecommunications fund and an early-stage Midwest venture capital firm. He taught a graduate business course on venture capital for the MBA program of the Bloch School of Business at the University of Missouri Kansas City, and an undergraduate business course on entrepreneurship at Haskell Indian Nations University. Mike also worked at Alaska Native corporations and for local IRA councils in accounting and finance.

Mike serves on the board of First Nations Development Institute and is the immediate past chairman of the board of Oweesta Corporation. Mike also serves on the board of directors for Native Ways Federation, the National Center for Responsive Philanthropy, and Tides.

He served for nine years as board member and treasurer of the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders Network and the Investment Committee for the Three Affiliated Tribes. Mike has held board positions for Native Americans in Philanthropy and the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO). He has been an Advisory Council member for the Center for Native American Public Radio, and a National Advisory Committee member for the National Center for Family Philanthropy. He was also a founding board member of the Native CDFI (Community Development Financial Institutions) Network, and was appointed as an inaugural board member of the Native American Agriculture Fund.

In December 2021, Mike was recognized by Unboxed Philanthropy Advisors in its “Philanthropy 100” list of 100 of the most significant foundations, corporations, nonprofits and individuals in philanthropy committed to innovations in transforming society and advancing justice.

In 2019, Mike received the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian Elizabeth Seabury Mitchell Award for exemplary service and philanthropic giving in promoting First Nations culture. In 2018, Mike was appointed as one of 14 trustees of the new $266 million Native American Agriculture Fund that was created as an outgrowth of the Keepseagle v. Vilsack case.

In April 2016, he received the Asset Builder Champion (ABC) Award, an initiative managed by the Center for Global Policy Solutions and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development. Mike was recognized along with fellow awardees Congressman Charles Rangel, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and former Ford Foundation Vice President Melvin Oliver.

Mike holds an MBA degree from the University of Washington with an emphasis in finance and operations management, and a bachelor’s degree in architecture through the environmental design school at the University of Colorado.

Mike Roberts, President and CEO

Note: The compensation for the president of First Nations Development Institute is determined through a formal annual performance review process undertaken by the organization’s board of directors. If the president has been deemed successful in his/her performance, he/she is eligible for a 1% to 5% raise as determined by the board based upon his/her performance for the prior year. To ensure the compensation provided to the president is fair and reasonable, the board reviews, on an annual basis, the compensation levels for top executive positions at other similar nonprofit organizations. This information is compiled from Form 990s of like organizations.

Read our newsletter story about Mike here.