Place-Based Grantmaking, from Cherokee Preservation Foundation

From: North Carolina Network of Grantmakers


With ten years of Cherokee Preservation Foundation grant-making experience and many lessons learned, a new report titled From Transactional to Transformational has been created to describe some of the unique challenges of place-based grantmaking on tribal lands and rural communities and highlight strategies for success that may be helpful to other funders. The interactive report includes videos and pictures highlighting grantees and their work.

Over the past decade, Cherokee Preservation Foundation has moved from a transactional strategy typical of mainstream U.S. philanthropy to a transformational strategy that is better suited to the realities of place-based funding on tribal lands. In a transactional strategy, the funder is typically focused on developing innovations or evidence in a particular program area. The funder chooses from among a wide range of potential grantees to find the ones that are most capable of making progress in that program area. There is not a long-term commitment between the funder and the grantee, and the funder typically does not see organizational development as a key part of most grant transactions.

In a transformational strategy, by contrast, building capacity and developing community leadership are as important as making progress in a particular program area. The Foundation becomes an engaged partner with the grantee, and the relationship becomes one of shared learning and collective action. The Foundation has a long-term commitment to the community and the grantees, which makes a shared vision for the future and a shared commitment to learning and growth both necessary and potentially very productive in the long run. The report addresses:

--The challenges arising primarily from the distance between communities on tribal land and the limited number of nonprofit agencies in the communities.

--Strengths and opportunities inherent in grantmaking in tribal communities, including unique cultures, deep roots and shared sense of community among residents, the relative stability of institutions and community leaders, the ability to convene all key stakeholders, and personal relationships among key decision-makers.

--The critical elements of transformative grantmaking: building organizational capacity, developing community leaders, building a shared vision, connecting and collaborating, and partnering with grantees.

Case studies in the report focus on the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, the Cherokee Youth Council, The Right Path, the Revitalization of Traditional Cherokee Artisan Resources (RTCAR) initiative, the Sequoyah Fund, Cherokee language revitalization, WNC EdNET, Vision Qualla, and the joint marketing of Cherokee, NC, as a tourism destination.

From Transactional to Transformational adds to the knowledge about place-based grantmaking, and we hope it will be helpful to both traditional and place-based funders. In addition, Cherokee Preservation Foundation grantees may take from it an even better understanding of the Foundation's decisions and decision-making processes. The videos and pictures also bring home the point that many positive changes have occurred over the last ten years as a result of relationships, programs and projects that have transformed the Qualla Boundary.

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