Wells Fargo launches $20M Invest Native initiative for Native American communities
The announcement represents a continuation of philanthropic support of Native American communities, building on the company’s five-year, $50 million commitment to address American Indian and Alaska Native communities’ unique economic, social and environmental needs, which launched in 2017 and was completed in 2022.
“Invest Native is the latest chapter in Wells Fargo’s long-standing commitment to indigenous communities,” said Otis Rolley, president of the Wells Fargo Foundation. “We are looking to build on relationships cultivated over many years and to strengthen the capacity of Native-led organizations so they can serve more people. We heard from many Native leaders that growing operational infrastructure was just as important as expanding essential programs that build economic stability and independence.”
Over the next two years, Invest Native will:
- Create positive outcomes for families, small businesses, and communities, including more single- and multi-family housing construction, access to capital for small businesses and consumers, and financial health programs
- Strengthen infrastructure for Native-led organizations by funding projects that improve their technology and systems so groups can be more efficient in assisting families and small businesses
- Invest in asset-building tools, peer-to-peer learning and training, and research that sheds light on the distinctive needs of Native communities and prepares staff to utilize best practices in their work
Putting intent into action with nonprofit organizations
Invest Native begins with three grantees, each of whom will receive $500,000 grants:
- Lakota Funds will work with South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition, or SDNHOC, on expanding access to housing and preserving community housing to significantly increase homeownership in Native communities across South Dakota.
- Native Community Capital is partnering with New Mexico Tribal Homeownership Coalition to strengthen homeownership throughout the state. The long-term objective is to build a campaign around model mortgage lending and homeownership activities that address the unique status of tribal trust lands. The New Mexico Tribal Homeownership Coalition’s sole purpose is to advance homeownership in tribal communities.
- Four Bands Community Fund will team up with Mountain | Plains Regional Native CDFI Coalition to increase capital to Native entrepreneurs and drive small business growth.
Tawney Brunsch, executive director of Lakota Funds, said, “With our past Wells Fargo grant, Lakota Funds provided financing to a young enrolled tribal member to purchase a seamless steel siding franchise. The Wells Fargo capital has enabled the young Lakota man to provide a quality product with quality service to the Pine Ridge reservation and surrounding communities. This business venture also created five new jobs as well as provided an income to this young man to support his family. This is the type of work we want to be expanding to others.”
Native Community Capital CEO Dave Castillo stated, “The Wells Fargo Foundation’s prior grant to us provided a lifeline to our small business borrowers as they navigated the COVID economy. Forbearance and forgiveness funds allowed businesses to catch up on their financial obligations while pivot loans helped businesses adapt to a new reality. Entrepreneurs solve problems every day; Wells Fargo Foundation dollars were critical in making the difficult transition possible. This year we’re excited to utilize Wells Fargo Foundation dollars to work alongside the New Mexico Tribal Homeownership Coalition and invest in tribal homeownership initiatives.”
Lakota Vogel, executive director of Four Bands Community Fund, added, “In the past few years, I have witnessed Wells Fargo invest in fostering a more informed strategy about the racial wealth gap in Indian Country. The investments from Wells Fargo have amplified indigenous stories about our own experiences of wealth and our understanding for wealth building.”
Wells Fargo is also working with Enterprise Community Partners and its Native-led and experienced Tribal Nations team. Enterprise is the longest-standing national intermediary working with Tribes, Tribally Designated Housing Entities, Native community development financial institutions, and Native nonprofits with a national footprint to make home and community places of pride, power, and belonging. Enterprise will provide thought leadership and strategic guidance, technical assistance and training, peer convening, and program evaluation to support this multi-year effort and foster maximum impact.
For more than 60 years, Wells Fargo has supported community-based programs serving the needs of Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. As the leading provider of capital and financial services to tribes and tribal-owned enterprises, the company works closely with tribal nations and business entities to achieve financial sustainability and prosperity. Currently, Wells Fargo provides services to more than 400 tribal entities through its 50+ branches on or near tribal lands across 12 states.
To learn more about Invest Native and the philanthropic impact to Native-led organizations and the communities they serve, please visit Wells Fargo’s Native Communities website.
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