Underserved Communities: One of Empire Health Foundation's top priorities is building relationships with underserved communities, which has been rewarding and a learning process. For example, our team has invested significant time with the Native American tribes in our region. Below are some examples of our learnings and progress in partnering with this community to create impact:
* Our 2012 grants goal is to invest at least 20% of our direct grants budget in underserved communities. In addition, our team hopes to repeat the success of 2011 and help our partners (through seed funds for grantwriters or providing technical assistance) bring other grant funds to the region that is the equivalent of 40% of our grants budget.
* The team has invested the time to meet tribal members and leaders at their reservation, building relationships in person, and to understand and work on their priorities. Each of the tribes is 2.5 to 6-hour roundtrip drive, so the investment of time by staff to build relationships is significant. During good weather months, a dedicated team member is at the tribes nearly weekly.
* EHF invited the team from the Potlatch Fund to conduct a learning workshop with staff and board members on how best to build relationships in Indian country. We have continued to give grants to Potlatch and Philanthropy NW to provide our team on-going advice and wisdom in partnering with tribes to create impact.
* Potlatch and EHF are collaborating on potentially hosting a Potlatch staffer in Eastern Washington to better serve the tribes in the region.
* EHF has regularly met with the program team at the Gates Foundation and other foundations to better understand their investments in the tribes and how we can best align.
* The team has provided support and technical assistance (from simple editing, to Letters of Support, to matching funds) to the tribes to submit a number of applications to national funding sources. As a result of these efforts, a significant number of applications were submitted and over $530,000 in out of the region funds were awarded in 2011. This was the equivalent of nearly 40% of our overall direct grants budget that year.
* The team collaborated with the Gates Foundation on their domestic violence initiative, and one key result of the collaboration was a focus on tribes in their second round of the initiative. We also have worked on ways to complement their investment in capacity building of two CASA programs at two of the tribes.
* After receiving zero applications to our Responsive Grants Program in its first two rounds, through outreach and engagement at grant writing workshops, the foundation received nine applications from multiple agencies within two tribes and one native urban service organization. Of these, four were funded in our announced grant awards.
While we have a long ways to go and lots to learn, we are encouraged. One key person at one of the tribes told me "people are surprised that the foundation is here to help and work on what the tribe considers important" and " there is a hope for a better future that I haven't seen before."
The foundation is in it for the long haul, and we look forward to continue to collaborate with not only the Native American community, but all of the other underserved communities in our region.
Other key communities that the team has began building relationships with including but not limited to LGBT and other ethnic and immigrant communities. Only one of our counties currently has a significant ethnic population (Adams county has a large Latino community). However in the most recent census, while ethnic population is only 11% total of adults in Spokane for example, the population is 21% for children. (Click here for related article).