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Even before COVID-19, investors were already shifting the definition of economic success to include how wealth, resources, and goods flow to everyone and how to steward our natural world and resources for the future. Indigenous wisdom on putting these socially responsible investment principles into practice is increasingly being acknowledged. However, the philanthropic and investment world still lags behind; over nine months into the pandemic, the conversations our organizations have had with investors, business owners, movement leaders, tribal leaders, healthcare workers, policymakers, and many others on how to sustain underserved communities through (and past) COVID-19 feels like trying to put out a blazing fire with a bucket of water.
 
This pandemic has only exposed and widened the gaps in health, educational, and economic disparities that existed for decades, and the $8 billion CARES Act funds for tribes translates to less than $140,000 per federally recognized tribe. We need a forward-thinking mindset to prevent these kinds of devastating impacts in the first place through resilient and robust local economic systems.
 
NDN Collective has already leaned in, committing over $14 million in grants to Native Nations, non-profits, Native CDFIs, and individual changemakers addressing frontline, transition, and recovery needs across the US, Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. NDN Fund has created a multifaceted response that will not only help bring our Indigenous economies through the other side but will also support long-term growth for innovative businesses and industries that are pivoting their product lines, supply chains, and delivery to meet the current demands. We plan to launch our multimillion COVID-19 Relief & Resilience Loan Fund in January 2021 to support Indigenous entrepreneurs and tribal enterprises that still need low-interest and flexible capital, including for expansion in “advantaged” industries. We will also offer customized technical assistance for selected businesses. For example, we can help a medical gloves manufacturer secure procurement contracts with hospitals, and federal, state, local governments.
 
Oweesta has pivoted quickly to address COVID-19 by creating two new loan products a working capital loan and a line of credit to directly support local Native CDFIs immediate capital demand. These Native CDFIs can be the sustaining lifeblood for the financial wellbeing of their communities, especially in times of crisis. Social investors in solidarity have capitalized on this loan fund, and the partners guaranteeing these loans have allowed Oweesta to create a steady stream of emergency funding to communities that need capital for families and small businesses. Oweesta has also been working with the many social investors in our portfolio who are providing deferrals and flexible capital to allow us the flexibility to do the same to borrowers.

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As funding slows, social needs increase, NPOs need better reporting

According to Keri-Leigh Paschal, executive trustee of social impact initiative Nation Builder, non-profit organisations (NPOs) are going to have to provide greater evidence of the impact their programmes are having if they are to survive the double impact of decreased funding and increased social need.

The sector has already been under significant strain since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the termination of government’s Social Relief of Distress grants at the end of April has put a large additional burden on NPOs at a time when resources are scarce and stretched, says Paschal.

Millions of vulnerable South Africans who relied on the grants are expected to become increasingly reliant on social support to meet their basic needs, leaving NPOs as a critical role player in meeting these increased needs.
Building partnerships critical

“At a time when funding has slowed and social needs have increased dramatically, it’s become more important than ever that the NPO sector builds partnerships with the private sector and social impact investors to ensure their ongoing sustainability and ability to serve our country’s marginalised people. However, NPOs who can clearly demonstrate their social impact will more readily attract the support of these increasingly difficult-to-find partnerships,” said Paschal.

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Read the e-newsletter here: Issue 757: Investing in Our Communities Is No Longer Business as Usual

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