Donor Spotlight: Our Good Relatives

THANK YOU to the more than 5,560 supporters of First Nations’ COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund

COVID-19 brought devastating loss throughout the world, and especially in Indian Country. The lack of food, resources, infrastructure, funding, and health care that had existed all along became exacerbated. In March 2020, First Nations responded to communities in need with grant funding and support through a fund that continued into early 2023.

This response was possible thanks to more than 5,560 friends and allies of First Nations. Through thousands of gifts and contributions, over $7 million was raised, allowing First Nations to direct support immediately and effectively to Native communities.

With this funding, First Nations was able to disperse $7,076,608.28 in total funding. We issued 549 grants through 48 rounds of funding, in addition to 28,800 gallons of water, 17,749 pounds of food, and $671,670 in personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies. We also directed another $879,709 in additional support through the California COVID-19 Recovery and Resiliency Fund.

This Donor Spotlight shines on all who gave to this fund, helping Native communities respond and rebuild

Jona Charette

First Nations Associate Director of Individual Giving Jona Charette (Northern Cheyenne/Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa) was amazed by the incredible response. Supporters ranged from first-time donors who learned about First Nations after the pandemic hit, to longtime First Nations’ allies who were familiar with the challenges already facing Native communities.

She explains that many first-time donors were people who took it upon themselves to do research about what was happening in Native communities as a result of COVID-19. “Then they found us online or through our charity ratings, and immediately reached out.”

She was also struck by the passion of the new donors. “Many people I talked to said they were unaware or had little knowledge about the history of Native people in America, and especially the vulnerabilities exposed by the pandemic. But they wanted to learn more, and they wanted to try,” she says. “I couldn’t believe how much 2020 exploded in donations and support and how many people wanted to help. Just wow, is what it was.”

New donors included entrepreneurs like Jacob Stein, who gave close to $900 to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund through the online giving platform he created that leverages the power of micro-donations into large monetary gifts for select nonprofits.

High School senior Jacob Stein founded Dollar Donations in 2018.

The fund also drew support from other innovative young people who saw an opportunity to lend their passion and skills to helping. High school students Eesha Neunaha and Liya Chen called on support from their community to make a generous donation of $4,000 through a Go Fund Me page. Acacia Overstreet turned her pastime – baking macarons – into a fundraiser. And a group of young philanthropists at Broadneck High School in Annapolis, Maryland, pivoted their plans for a spring break service trip to make an impact for Native communities.

Jona says the young contributors and the spirit of philanthropy they showed at such an early age was moving. “It’s great to see – both what they’re doing now and the impact they will have throughout their lives,” she says. “It’s an inspiration.”

Jona was also touched by longtime donors who gave to the fund. “Many people who have supported First Nations through the years don’t want to be named or recognized, but they know First Nations, and they knew that by giving to us their donation would be used in the right way,” she says. “They trust in us and that says a lot.”

The majority of funds go directly to Native programs

An important element of First Nations’ high ratings with charity watchdog organizations is that 90% of donations go to programs, with only 10% going to administration and fundraising. During the first several months of the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, 100% of donations were directly sent to Native communities with no administrative fees.

Jona says it felt good to be able to convey this to donors, and many supporters said they were excited to share the news with their friends and colleagues. Still, Jona says she didn’t think the percentage points were what drove folks to give. “People want to go above and beyond. The donors I talk to care so much. They want to give 110%, and if it costs 120% to reach them and let them know about the needs in Native communities, they are happy to cover that fee. They’re happy to do it. People just want to know they help, and they do. So very much.”

Many people who contributed to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund gave through our Monthly Giving Program. Now that COVID-19 fund is phasing out, they have redirected their support to First Nations’ Native Youth & Culture Fund or Native Arts Initiative. Many have elected to direct donations to the area of greatest need.

To all donors – new, longtime, monthly, annual – First Nations is grateful

“On behalf of all of First Nations, I say thank you for your support. Thank you for reaching out and finding us. Thank you for sharing with your friends, family, and colleagues. And thank you for your input and feedback,” Jona says. “Most of all, thank you for believing in us and putting your trust in us. Without donors like you, we can’t do the good work that we do.”