Five-Year Collaboration Between FHLB Des Moines and Northwest Area Foundation Yields Strong Results for Native-led Initiatives

last updated on Tuesday, January 25, 2022 in Community News

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines (FHLB Des Moines) and the Northwest Area Foundation (the Foundation) are entering the last year of a successful, five-year collaboration to support positive economic impact in Native American communities across the country.

With a long history of providing capital and other support for affordable housing in Native communities, FHLB Des Moines, whose 13-state district encompasses approximately one-third of the country’s Native population, was looking for a way to expand that impact to include economic development related initiatives in communities throughout the district.

In 2017, FHLB Des Moines collaborated with the Foundation and awarded $5 million to advance the shared commitment to investing in the expertise and wisdom of Native-led initiatives that help Native communities to thrive. The Foundation granted the funds to Native Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). Native CDFIs understand the need to weave together the Native culture and values while providing financial education around their lending activities to a population that historically has been largely unbanked. The model of self-determination draws on the wealth of expertise of Native communities to lead the economic development process and has proven to be the most successful way to provide opportunities and lasting prosperity shared by the entire community.

Since 2018, 18 Native CDFIs have received grants. During 2021, these organizations made 385 loans to Native Americans within FHLB Des Moines district. As a result, more than 300 jobs were created or retained, business owner credit scores increased an average of 61 points, and many businesses were started or expanded across the district during this time. Additionally, Native CDFIs successfully provided financial education, business coaching and access to financial tools such as savings plans, credit building and college planning, to position Native businesses and entrepreneurs on the path to self-determined economic prosperity.

The results of the collaboration between the two organizations have been everything FHLB Des Moines hoped to achieve with the grants awarded.

“Being able to expand our ability to impact Native communities and generate excitement from other sources of capital were exactly what we set out to accomplish,” said FHLB Des Moines CEO Kris Williams. “The Foundation was an ideal partner for this work. Their culturally tailored approach and established relationships made all the difference.”

The Foundation’s mission is to support grantees that advance equity for Native Americans, communities of color, immigrants and refugees and people in rural communities, allowing them to thrive on their own terms. Native-led groups are its biggest focus with 40 percent of its annual grant dollars awarded to this sector.

“Of all philanthropic funding since 2006 by U.S. foundations, only .04 percent, on average, is directed to Native communities,” said Northwest Area Foundation President and CEO Kevin Walker. “We are deeply committed to funding organizations led by and for Native people, so we were honored to facilitate and direct the FHLB Des Moines funds to empower Native people.”

A large part of the success of the collaboration involved understanding the importance of mutual trust and understanding how Native cultures impacts their approach to business and community development. Oweesta Corporation is a Native CDFI that works directly to support and fund Native communities and is one of the grant recipients.

“Native Americans have historically experienced exclusion, abuse of their communities, treaties not honored, and policies and practices that have caused harm,” said Oweesta President and CEO Chrystel Cornelius. “Understanding and honoring the Native culture and building strong relationships are key factors in the success of strengthening Native communities.

  1. Community Investment
  2. Northwest Area Foundation
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