The National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA) has made great progress since it was awarded a national 501 (c) (3) Capacity Building grant by the Wells Fargo Foundation last year. The $400,000 multi-year grant has been and will continue to be utilized by NICOA for Native capacity building. NICOA Executive Director Larry Curley met with Cora Gaane, Wells Fargo’s National Tribal Philanthropy Leader, to discuss the grant’s progress.
NICOA’s mission aligns with Wells Fargo’s commitment to address the unique economic, social and environmental needs of the American Indian and Alaska Native community. Through this grant program, NICOA has increased its organizational capacity and provided support for improved comprehensive health, social services and economic well-being to American Indian and Alaska Native elders.
In our desire to be a fiscally solvent, efficient, competitive and sustainable advocacy organization, NICOA needs the help of partners such as Wells Fargo to help us on our way to success. The funds awarded to NICOA were earmarked for use in completing the following goals: hosting a strategic planning session with board and staff, hiring staff to write grants, improving fundraising capabilities, providing educational webinars and improving communication between tribal leadership and tribal elders on resource allocation and service development.
The project is part of Wells Fargo’s five-year, $50 million commitment to support American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Wells Fargo has been serving American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities in the United States for more than 50 years. The company is dedicated to serving these communities with products, services and financial education programs tailored to help tribal clients, tribal governments, tribal enterprises and tribal members succeed financially. The resources from the Wells Fargo Foundation allows NICOA, and our Native partners, to expand its reach and to positively impact many American Indian and Alaska Native families.
Previously, the lack of available funding for staff dedicated to social media outreach, fundraising and grant writing, inhibited NICOA’s ability to be as successful in its education and advocacy efforts as it had the potential to be. Our partnership with Wells Fargo has allowed NICOA to harness the strengths of its staff in the manner that they were best suited to serve the organization.
In order to grow NICOA’s capacity, our board, executive director, and staff have been communicating in person, with our website, newsletter and social media, about the work of NICOA and what we have accomplished. Our primary audience has been tribal leaders, elders, aging organizations and members of Congress. We have created and strengthened partnerships by signing formal memorandums of understanding with numerous national aging organizations and Native-led organizations. This has also helped to raise awareness of NICOA’s aims and helped to reach more stakeholders.
NICOA hosted a successful strategic planning session with relevant staff, board members and key stakeholders, and received consultation on future directions for the organization. In a two-day session, the board worked on the conceptualization and development of the key pillars of the three-year strategic plan. NICOA consulted with experts in the field and pieced the goals of the strategic plan into small, achievable steps, identifying each activity. The goals of the strategic plan are: communication, developing a national center of excellence, advocacy and education, partnerships and sustainability.
In Year 1 NICOA planned to hire a fundraiser and contract for a grant writer but our board of directors advised that we delay fully implanting that plan until Year 2. Announcements were posted recently, and a committee will soon meet to find the right person to fundraise. Grant writing has been accomplished with the use of contracted consultants who assisted with applying to two separate funding sources, an NGO and the federal government. A targeted marketing campaign will emerge as a second-year deliverable now that the strategic plan has provided focus for our efforts.
An important measure of success will also include the development and dissemination of educational webinars and podcasts that are targeted towards improving financial knowledge in American Indian and Alaska Native elders. We expect that these particular steps will have immediate as well as lingering impacts in Indian Country with regards to improved knowledge of services and service eligibility among elders, improved communication between tribal leadership and tribal elders with regards to resource allocation for program and service development, and a strengthening of NICOA’s position in Indian Country as the premier advocate for American Indian and Alaska Native elder issues.
Funds provided by Wells Fargo will continue to be used by NICOA to ensure it has the capacity to grow and to ensure its long-term sustainability. NICOA will be implementing fundraising and sustainability plans to ensure that services are sustained once the project concludes. We feel confident that we can continue to build our capacity as a national organization, creating policies and procedures which allow us to reach new milestones.