Potlatch Fund

OVERVIEW: This funder supports tribes, and Native-led and tribal nonprofits in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. Certain grantmaking priorities have open grant cycles.

FUNDING AREAS: Native tribes, youth, art, language, community

IP TAKE:  You must have a Native tribe affiliation to be considered by this Seattle-based funder. This is a unique grantmaker in the Northwest, and one with very specific missions in mind.

PROFILE: The Potlatch Fund is a Native-led organization that provides grants and leadership in Tribal communities. Geographically, its focus is Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. The fund is based in Seattle, Washington. Community building and sharing resources have always been part of the Native peoples’ way of life, and this philanthropic fund is an extension of that.

Many tribes are represented on the Potlatch board of directors and Circle of Wisdom. The group has granted over $3.4 million since 2005 to support tribes, tribal nonprofits, and Native-led nonprofits.

Recently, Potlatch has funded five main areas of focus: Healthy Pathways for Youth, Native Student Success, Community Building, Language Preservation and Education, and Native Arts. In the past, project and program support have gone to all funding areas except Native Student Success, and general operations support has gone to everything except Healthy Pathways for Native Youth.

Native Student Success is an invitation-only opportunity that's been open between March and May. Its purpose is to develop education solutions in Washington and the Portland, Oregon, area. Language Preservation and Education is a grantmaking focus that's been open between May and June. It's part of a three-year strategy to promote community language assessments, develop a strategic plan, and implement the strategy.

The Native Arts program has been open in July and August to applicants who create or support Native art that perpetuates tribal identify, knowledge, and culture. Other opportunities have included programs that provide Native youth with leadership and community building skills by addressing root causes of social, racial, economic, and environmental issues.

In a recent year, Potlatch awarded 80 grants totaling $761,270. The largest area funded—31 grants totaling $115,000—was community building. The second most funded grant category, in terms of number of grants, was Native arts, but these grants are typically small. Native student success grants, however, tended to be considerably larger. A list of donors that make this group’s grantmaking possible is here. Many well-known regional and national foundations, as well as companies, have made contributions to the Potlatch Fund.

The fund also offers training and technical assistance through its capacity building program to advance philanthropy in Northwest Indian Country. This program has helped at least 51 individuals representing 35 Native-led nonprofit organizations, Native arts organizations, or individual Native artists attend 10-month learning cohorts. It hosts funder briefings with foundation staff and Native leaders, participates in philanthropic networks, and helps tribal foundations attract funding.

Keep up with the Potlatch Fund’s giving and activities at its newsletter and events page. General questions can be directed to info@potlatchfund.org.


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