FROM GABRIELLE UBALLEZ, SOUTHWEST PROGRAM OFFICER
The New Mexico Asset Funders Network chapter was established in 2017 and current members include the Albuquerque Community Foundation, Con Alma Health Foundation, Guadalupe Credit Union, McCune Charitable Foundation, Nusenda Credit Union, Santa Fe Community Foundation, Wells Fargo, and the WK Kellogg Foundation.
As asset funders we know that a person’s economic well-being impacts every part of their lives, including their health. We also know that this relationship moves in two directions, meaning that a person’s health impacts their ability to be financially stable. So, philanthropic investments focused on the social determinants of health and financial well-being are mutually supportive and strategic asset building funding strategies.
The 2020 pandemic highlighted this bidirectional relationship between health and wealth and how systemic disparities faced by Native Americans negatively impact this relationship.
Nineteen Pueblos, three Apache tribes, and the Navajo Nation make up nearly 11 percent of the total population of New Mexico with approximately 32 percent of Native Americans living in financial poverty. And during the pandemic they were four times more likely to be hospitalized and had the highest rates of death from COVID19, and were particularly susceptible to severe illness or death from COVID-19 as a result of social inequities and disproportionately high rates of preexisting conditions due to systemic health inequities. Additionally, many also live in multigenerational homes which makes social distancing challenging.
The inequality faced by Native Americans in New Mexico could not be ignored and it had to be addressed beyond emergency and toward resilience.
With this in mind, funders in New Mexico came together to deepen their commitment to being accomplices to Native American leaders in our state. Like the questions offered in our November blog, Truth Toward Action: Being Accomplices to Native American Wealth Builders this November and Beyond, New Mexico funders asked: how can we be accomplices to Native organizations that are defining and building wealth with their communities? And how can we bring other funders along with us so that our collective action has staying power?
In 2021 the New Mexico Asset Funders Network chapter came together to leverage $75,000 in pooled grant dollars and raised an additional $400,000 from partners in our network toward Native American Family Economic Security initiatives through the Native American Recovery Fund Zone Grants initiative.
This initiative is a partnership between local and regional funders to provide technical assistance, self-determined leadership development, and participatory grantmaking to Native-led organizations to address recovery and resiliency efforts in New Mexico’s Native American communities in the areas of Family Economic Security, Local Health Systems, Local Food Systems, Opportunity Youth, and Water Resilience. In the first year of grantmaking, the Native American Recovery Fund Zone Grant provided grants to 12 Native-led organizations. The general operating, unrestricted grants are intended to build capacity and expand programming.
Although our NMAFN chapter has primarily focused our attention on economic stability in a Western colonial sense, we recognize that Native people are more likely to identify education and family as assets and also to identify communal assets such as natural resources, environment, land — with land being communally owned and, more accurately, stewarded, and understand and value the interconnectedness of all five funding areas.
Family Economic Security grants were made to Native Women Lead to build capacity for Capital Access, which provides loan support to Native women breadwinners and entrepreneurs, with the goals of providing capital access, building a racial justice fund, and creating long-term investments that promote economic self-determination. The second grant was made to the McKinley Community Health Alliance to provide housing support to Native communities in the Navajo Nation and Zuni Pueblo to provide emergency housing support and will also collaborate with community groups to establish a “Housing First” model. The group recognizes that having stable housing not only increases a person’s survival chances during a crisis, but also leads to better overall health outcomes and economic security.
Through NARFZG NMAFN is committed to supporting Native American communities, which are vastly underrepresented in charitable giving nationally. We plan to continue to partner and build new relationships with Native American leaders and tribes to broaden peer funder perspectives and change funder behavior so that we make substantial and sustained investments in Indigenous communities. NARFZG is now launching Phase 2 of our effort, with the goal of raising an additional $1 million from both national and New Mexico funders to resource more Native-led work and build a deeper network of support for these brilliant leaders, organizations, and initiatives.