Since 2003, Newman's Own Foundation (NOF) has committed nearly $4,000,000 to more than 20 organizations working to make nutritious, affordable and culturally relevant food more accessible for Indigenous youth. In 2022, we focused on growing this support and further advancing nutrition security for Indigenous youth, committing $1,200,000 in unrestricted funds to new organizations and their innovative community leaders though a Request for Grant Proposals (RFP).
About 46% of youth nationwide under the age of 18 today face at least one significant adverse childhood experience, including food insecurity. Indigenous children in the U.S. are among the most vulnerable. Newman’s Own Foundation partners with leaders and organizations within these communities, including Oyate Teca Project and Zuni Youth Enrichment Project to provide funding and support that creates change at the community and regional level. In 2018, we made a deeper commitment by launching a Native American Nutrition Cohort, a co-created, grantee-led, peer-to-peer group comprising nine organizations working across 12 tribal communities to share best practices and build capacity of the leaders within the organizations.
Our goals in 2022 were: (1) to use social media to reach potential grantees for a first-ever Newman’s Own Foundation Request for Grant Proposals, serving Indigenous Youth; (2) to reach and engage as many organizations as possible; (3) to continue to build trust with Indigenous-led nonprofits; and (4) to drive applications from entrepreneurial projects poised for growth and impact.
The Nutrition Security for Indigenous Youth Request for Grant Proposals (RFP) was developed in collaboration with Tahoma Peak Solutions, a Native woman-owned firm focused on empowering and building up communities in Indian Country. We consulted with this organization to ensure that we designed and executed the campaign in the most appropriate way. Tahoma Peak guided us in making sure our RFP process was empowering, and they helped us develop vocabulary for outreach. Critically, working with Tahoma Peak enabled us to grow trust within Native communities. Outreach to promote the RFP was conducted across social media channels, including Instagram and Facebook stories. Not only did information get posted by Newman’s Own Foundation, but the RFP was shared more broadly by key opinion leaders on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Historically, there have been challenges with communicating philanthropic opportunities to Indigenous communities, as many Native-led organizations lack trust in non-Native funders. Indigenous communities have an inherent distrust in non-Native funders because of power dynamics and because they have repeatedly had their trust broken by other outside institutions, governments, agencies, and philanthropic organizations.
We believe we were able to and can continue to succeed in partnering with Native communities because we’ve intentionally built trust over the last decade, especially when it comes to food sovereignty and nutrition. Newman’s Own Foundation built this trust by forming a Native Nutrition Cohort in 2018. Also, we provided multi-year support, unrestricted funds, and space for grantee partners to offer honest feedback. Our approach to grantmaking has always been nonprescriptive, trusting our grantee partners to know best how to direct funding where it can have the greatest impact.
There can also be challenges in communicating with Indigenous organizations because Wi-Fi connectivity is unreliable on many reservations. In addition, often Indigenous organizations are staffed leanly, with many employees working in the field as well as in administrative roles so they aren’t in the office checking emails or phone calls, leading to a delay in correspondence.
For this reason, and to establish trust, we conducted site visits to meet leaders and elders where they were. This is in stark contrast to the norm. Generally, funders require the opposite – asking grant seekers to travel to them for meetings. When meeting with tribal leaders, we asked that they open the gathering with a traditional blessing from an elder.
We received an overwhelming response to the RFP. Posting across our social media channels drove 225 unique users to the RFP page of our website to learn more about the grants. We awarded 26 grants totaling $1,230,000. Our original goal was to fund up to $1.2 million for this RFP, however, with so many great programs, we extended the budget. Our giving footprint was wide, with grants awarded to organizations from Maine all the way to Hawaii. Regarding our Instagram outreach, Meta metrics reveal that we reached hundreds of accounts through a single post, and we received multiple click links from people interested in this RFP.
Consulting with Tahoma Peak Solutions was critical to our success. Throughout the RFP process, trust was built with our Native-focused grantees (and applicants). We also collaborated with Tahoma Peak to provide diversity training for Newman’s Own Foundation employees, improving our collective knowledge of and sensitivity to Indigenous issues. Additionally, we partnered with the organization to create three Native American-related educational videos for our website and social media platforms.
“Newman’s Own Foundation used social media to reach dozens of new Indigenous organizations as potential grantees for its first-ever Indigenous Youth request for proposals. I was able to see firsthand how Newman's Own Foundation’s work has made the lives of Indigenous youth better across the country and none of this would have been possible without the Foundation’s savvy use of social media to reach Indigenous communities,” said Maria Givens (Coeur d'Alene), Cofounder of Tahoma Peak Solutions.