8 Ideas Regarding Native American Giving

February 22, 2017       The NonProfit Times      

Although many people (and not just in the USA) regard Native Americans as one category of donors, there are significant differences in tribal cultures. The American Indian population is one that can be a significant population for the nonprofit sector, a genuine basis of support.

    In her book “Diversity and Philanthropy” Lilya Wagner argues that, despite tribal differences, there are traits among Native Americans that should be taken into consideration by fundraisers. For example:

  • The concept of sharing rather than the white American ethic of saving;
  • Concept of time. Punctuality is superseded by other values, such as interaction with others;
  • Pessimism. Native people know the world is made up of good and bad, so the perception of pessimism should instead be regarded as “optimistic toughness;”
  • Quietness and emotional control. A predominant mien is poise, self-containment and aloofness;
  • Patience, which is mistaken for inactivity;
  • Accountability. In Native American culture, hierarchy is much more fluid than in cultures with a leader or group of leaders assuming responsibility for the behavior of others;
  • Decision-making. People speak and people listen until all is discussed and the need for action is evident;
  • Promoting one’s image. It is considered inappropriate to engage in self-aggrandizement; and,
    Setting goals. Consciously defining an outcome is contrary to the collectivist style.