Northwest Area Foundation

OVERVIEW: This funder supports poverty-fighting nonprofits in the Northwest states of Washington, Oregon, Montana and Idaho. Unsolicited proposals aren’t accepted, but the staff welcomes email introductions to share your organization’s work.

FUNDING AREAS: Poverty, economic sustainability

IP TAKE:  Here’s an excellent opportunity for Native-led nonprofits in the Northwest. At least 40 percent of foundation funds back Native-led groups. This is also a good funder for infrastructure support, idea incubation and research.

PROFILE: The Northwest Area Foundation (NAF) was founded by Louis W. Hill in 1934 as the Lexington Foundation. He had a career in the railroad industry, farmed in Montana, and was involved in banking, mining, the development of the 4-H program and art collecting.

NAF focuses on eight states and 75 Native nations in the region. It primarily gives to groups that reduce poverty and promote economic stability for residents of these states. NAF prioritizes Native nations, rural communities, communities of color and other underprivileged groups.

The foundation is headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota. It awards grants in the eight states of Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.

There are four grantmaking portfolios at NAF: Access to Capital, Work Opportunity, Enterprise Development, and Financial Inclusion. Specific topics of interest include good jobs with decent wages and benefits, safe and affordable loans for entrepreneurs and small businesses, and helping people start their own businesses. The funder is also interested in financial inclusion for families as a path out of poverty.

About 10 percent of NAF assets has been committed to mission investments. About 40 percent of new grant dollars support Native-led organizations that fight poverty and advance prosperity in the region. A list of past grants is on the funder’s website; they're also available via searchable database.

Unfortunately for grantseekers, the Northwest Area Foundation doesn’t accept unsolicited letters of inquiry or proposals. Grants are by invitation only. However, you can email a two-page summary of your organization’s work to inform the staff about your cause. NAF provides direct service support to grassroots foundations and regranting funds to intermediary organizations. It is increasingly interested in joining funder collaboratives.

In a past year, the foundation awarded over $16 million in grants. Current financial data is here.

General questions can be directed to the staff at 651-224-9635 or via online form. The foundation has a fairly large staff of about 25 professionals. The best contact for grant-related questions is Jessie Bower at 651-225-3885 or jbower@nwaf.org.

Keep up with this funder on its news section. If you’re in the St. Paul area, NAF offers free meeting space to nonprofits.

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