Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA)


This study examines the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of 22 Native Americans (11 women and 11 men) living off the reservation in the Austin and San Antonio, Texas, areas in regard to their philanthropy. Giving among Native American cultures has been greatly overshadowed by negative stereotypes and cultural misunderstandings. Often members of the Native American community are seen as recipients rather than givers. Although Native Americans are people of considerable variety, there are some commonalities shared among their communities that can be helpful in understanding their philanthropy.

Two issues were outside the scope of this research: (1) this study did not attempt to represent the large diversity within the Native American population as a whole and (2) the study included a purposeful sample, which turned out to be a highly educated and generous group of Native Americans. For these reasons and because of the small sample size, this study is suggestive only and should not be used to represent Native American groups.

Data collected from this study included responses from structured, open-ended interviews. In order to better understand and to gain insight into Native American philanthropy, this researcher attended three events as a participant/observer: (a) the Four Directions Conference, (b) a powwow, and (3) the Native Women's Gathering. The design of the study included audio-taped interviews, which were transcribed, reduced, and tabulated into relevant nomothetic themes.

The findings revealed that while Native philanthropy may look a little different from that practiced by professional fundraisers, nevertheless philanthropy for Native Americans is a daily way of life. This was supported by a very high level of giving on average (18% of their annual household income) and an extremely high rate of average time volunteered (87 hours per month). Native Americans recognized the importance of fulfilling the basic needs of every individual. Native Americans commonly give gifts such as sage, feathers, regalia, bags of food, rides, horses, and cars. They also give in the form of deeds: prayers, songs, drumming, and dance. Native Americans commonly give other types of gift. They fix the home or car of someone they know, offer someone a place to stay, care for the elders, or raise a child when the parents or family are, for whatever reason, unable.

It becomes apparent that for many Native Americans the practicalities of mainstream philanthropy raise obstacles to the implementation of the process within their communities. The obstacles could be lack of cash or fear that philanthropy might interfere with their traditions. Therefore two major conclusions can be drawn from the findings: (a) Native Americans need to be approached differently in regard to philanthropy, and (b) Native American groups can provide philanthropic resources other than money.