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Charity Ratings: Native American Heritage Month

   Nov 09, 2023

CharityWatch’s featured Top-Rated charity for Native American Heritage month based on fiscal 2020 was American Indian College Fund

American Indian College Fund invests in Native students and tribal college education to transform lives and communities. CharityWatch analyzed its fiscal 2020 audited financial statements and IRS tax Form 990 and determined that it spent 73% of its cash expenses on its programs and that it cost the charity a reasonable $13 to raise each $100 in cash donations that fiscal year. This earned it a “B+” rating on CharityWatch’s “A+” to “F” rating scale.  

However, upon performing an updated evaluation based on the charity's fiscal 2023 financial information, American Indian College Fund no longer qualifies for Top-Rated status due to its years of available assets in reserve of 3.10 years. Its financial efficiency grade for fiscal 2023 remains a "B+" on CharityWatch's "A+" to F" rating scale. CharityWatch's analysis concluded that the charity spent 72% of its cash budget on its programs that year, kept its overhead down to 28% of total spending, and that it cost the charity $13 to raise each $100 of cash support.

However, the final rating of American Indian College Fund was downgraded to a "C+" on CharityWatch's "A+" to "F" rating scale for holding an adjusted net fund balance of approximately $143 million of assets in reserve (not including fixed assets or permanently donor-restricted funds). This is equivalent to 3.10 years of available assets relative to its cash spending in fiscal 2023 of approximately $46 million. 

For more about why and how CharityWatch downgrades a charity's rating for this factor, please see Our Process

Failing Grades

Two Native American charities receive failing grades from CharityWatch for low program spending, high overhead, and inefficient fundraising.

CharityWatch found that Dakota Indian Foundation spent only 11% of its cash expenses on its programs in fiscal 2021 and maintained 89% overhead spending. It cost the charity $48 to raise each $100 in cash support that fiscal year.


Dakota Indian Foundation’s stated mission is to “assist in education of Indian people and preservation of Native American culture & language; to support community activities on 50 reservations.”


CharityWatch found that St. Bonaventure Indian Mission & School spent only 33% of its cash expenses on its programs in fiscal 2021 and maintained 67% overhead spending. It cost the charity $46 to raise each $100 in cash support that fiscal year.

St. Bonaventure Indian Mission & School is “a private, Catholic agency providing the people of the Eastern Navajo Nation the opportunity to develop self-sufficiency through education, employment, housing, and outreach services that make available food, water, clothing and other social services.”

"?" Ratings

St. Joseph’s Indian School receives a “?” rating from CharityWatch due to nondisclosure of financial information. Churches, synagogues, mosques, and certain other types of religious organizations are not legally required to file annual reports with the IRS or state charity regulators, which allows them to avoid being rated by CharityWatch. While CharityWatch is able to rate religious organizations that willingly provide copies of their audited financial statements to us, we are unable to rate them if they choose not to share this information.


In our article, St. Joseph’s Indian School: 25 Years of No Accountability, CharityWatch details our previous “F” rating of the organization and why we continue to have concerns that its overhead may be high relative to what it spends on its programs.

CharityWatch also assigns “?” ratings to the following two organizations due to their religious exemption from being required to disclose information to the public.

Native American Rights Fund states that it constructs "the foundations that are necessary to empower tribes so that they can continue to live according to their native traditions, enforce their treaty rights and protect their sovereignty."


St. Labre Indian School Educational Association states that it provides "quality education which celebrates the Catholic faith and embraces Native American cultures, primarily the Northern Cheyenne and Crow Tribes, so that Native American individuals and communities in Southeastern Montana are empowered to attain self-sufficiency."

Please click the links at the bottom of the page to view the ratings of other Native American organizations rated by CharityWatch.

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