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Native Women Lead Harnesses Transformational Grant to Forge Pathways for Change

  • Published August 30, 2023
  • / By Bree Muehlbauer, CFRE

Last year, Marts&Lundy had the opportunity to work with Native Women Lead as part of our client diversification initiative (CDI). As part of the CDI initiative, Marts&Lundy seeks to work with nonprofit organizations that drive change on the frontlines of healthcare, education, social justice, climate change, diversity and more. Native Women Lead is an organization working to revolutionize systems and inspire innovation by investing in Native Women in business.

In 2021, Native Women Lead, along with New Mexico Community Capital, received a transformational award from the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge. This infusion of capital spurred organizational growth and an interest in learning more about formalized fundraising programs. Marts&Lundy partnered with Native Women Lead to assess their current operations and offer guidance on some of those next steps. After our initial engagement, we recently had a chance to catch up with co-director and co-founder, Jaime Gloshay to get her insight into how other organizations like Native Women Lead can respond to significant and rapid growth and lessons learned after the Equality Can’t Wait grant.

How did an infusion of support such as the Equality Can’t Wait grant impact or accelerate your organization?

It was wonderful to be resourced and build the infrastructure piece. The grant provided not only a cushion but a framework for how to move that forward. The infusion of support allowed us to enhance and strengthen key initiatives and helped accelerate our timeline.

We developed a prospectus that became a touchstone for funders and lent us validity. The visibility this granted us was huge. It gave us access to other funders, recognition, and a strong baseline to work with.               

What infrastructure did you realize you needed in place to accept/address/utilize the grant?

The grant gave us the time to build out the infrastructure pieces we needed and pushed us to move outside of our fiscal sponsor relationship to become autonomous. We completed our 1023 form (for federal tax exemption), worked on setting up Native Women Lead as a 501c3, established HR functions, accounting, and payroll, and began building a team. We are considering 10 new roles and are being intentional about building a strong culture.

How did this grant change the way you approached your work and fundraising?

We already had a multiprong strategy in place, but we were able to leverage the grant and use the prospectus we developed to work with funders to identify areas of support that aligned with their interests. With the infrastructure in place and our work with Marts&Lundy to explore developing a fundraising plan, I realized there were more strategies that needed to be put in place to build and keep momentum going.

What other opportunities has this grant presented? In terms of additional support, awareness, and/or program transformation?

The primary increase has been in corporate support. We’ve received three of the largest grants we’ve ever received. People want to invest in the fund to support Indigenous women-led businesses we are getting ready to launch. In 2022, I attended 26 events, 15 of those in-person, and traveled 52,000 miles on behalf of Native Women Lead.

What advice would you give to newer or smaller organizations that may be in a position to grow their fundraising significantly? Or what do you wish you had known when you first received this grant?

  1. Have a deep passion and commitment to see through the challenges. We didn’t know what we didn’t know, but it was easy to talk about the work because it’s very personal to us. As many challenges as we’ve experienced, though, partnering with funders who offer technical assistance, like connecting to Marts&Lundy, helps.
  2. Build your network and community. There’s a lot of power in social capital and how that can translate to financial capital. Be open, have the audacity to ask questions, lean into the systems-change work and model for others.
  3. Be mindful of interactions that could be exploitative or extractive. There is a weight of becoming visible after feeling invisible (as Indigenous women often are). So I had to re-learn my power in this space, commit to my core values and boundaries, and work to balance my professional and personal life as a leader of Native Women Lead.
  4. Work with someone trusted in the field who is willing to share and guide you along in the process. This work is not something to be done alone. As we are recruiting new board members, we are looking for people with experience in movement building, community fund building, and grassroots organizing—we have a much more refined list of expertise and insights that we are seeking.
  5. Embrace an abundance mindset. Many people who work in grassroots organizing struggle with acknowledging there is financial trauma as part of this work. But there is a lot of money, resources, and interest in investing in these communities and systems-change work. Feel deserving when you’re in the room with those wealth holders who have the ability to make an impact.
  6. Take care of yourself. Native women are the backbone of the community, so how do you care for the backbone? Build relationships that are about reciprocity and collaboration and be sure to prioritize your family.