Inside a Native American Casino Foundation’s Local Giving in Oregon

Eugene, OR. photo:  Joshua Rainey Photography/shutterstock

Eugene, OR. photo:  Joshua Rainey Photography/shutterstock

In our past coverage of the Northwest and the Southwest, we’ve come across a good number of Native American-affiliated grantmaking foundations that focus pretty exclusively on their own local tribes. This makes a lot of sense considering that Native American populations have been largely left out of the philanthropic scene across the country. As we recently reported, only about 0.15 percent of total community foundation giving goes to Native American causes and organizations each year.

Related: Why Aren’t Community Foundations Supporting Native American Causes?

But not all Native American foundations give in the same way, and there’s a funder in Oregon that recently reminded us of this. The Three Rivers Foundation (TRF) was established by the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians, and it also serves as the charitable arm of the Three Rivers Casino Resort in Florence, Oregon. Rather than solely giving to Native American-led health efforts, education programs, and cultural groups, this funder gives broadly in the local community and recently announced 24 new grants.

TRF received more than 150 grant proposals before narrowing the recipient pool down to 24, which goes to show how great the needs are here in Southwest Oregon. TRF’s geographic focus is on the Oregon counties of Coos, Curry, Douglas, Lane, and Lincoln. But it’s also open to considering requests from elsewhere in Oregon if the benefit is statewide or has a direct impact on Native American populations throughout the state.

The bulk of the grants this year went to groups in Lane County, Oregon, including the Boys & Girls Club of Emerald Valley in Eugene, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4039 in Creswell, and Florence Food Share in Florence. Coos County nonprofits received a good amount of support as well, with grants going to Dolphin Players in Coos Bay, Friends of the Lakeside Public Library in Lakeside, and the Bandon Police Department.

TRF’s chairwoman, Teresa Spangler, pointed out that among the 24 organizations selected as grantees, over 190,000 people were helped and 74,023 volunteer hours were put in. Overall, TRF looks for innovation and collaboration and largely supports local grassroots efforts in the areas of education, health, public safety, problem gambling, the arts, the environment, cultural activities, and historic preservation. The average TRF award is between $2,000 and $7,000.

What this most recent round of giving tells us is that TRF supports the region in broad ways that aren’t always necessarily specific to the Native American tribes who founded it. This means that there are some good opportunities here for a wide variety of small and mid-size groups that work in pretty much every nonprofit field. But be mindful that you’re up against a fair bit of competition. The next annual grant cycle at TRF will open up on December 1, 2018. As an all-volunteer-led foundation, phone calls and letters of inquiry to feel out your chances aren’t welcome.  

In the meantime, you can learn more about the application process and the types of grants this funder gives in IP’s profile of the Three Rivers Foundation on our Northwest Funders page.