Impact! United American Indian Involvement

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United American Indian Involvement (UAII) got its start on Los Angeles’ Skid Row almost 40 years ago. Now it’s the largest urban Native American nonprofit in the United States, bringing medical care, mental health treatment, youth services and education to thousands of Native Americans in Southern and Central California.


Its programs are effective and the positive impact on lives is concrete:  A diabetic grandmother learns to exercise and cook healthy meals.  A homeless veteran gets the counseling he needs to find stability. Children in tough neighborhoods are pointed toward college through enrichment activities.


UAII is one example of how hard work and dedication have made an organization a leader in its field and a champion for the community it serves. It’s also an example of how a group of committed people have used The Grantsmanship Center’s Program Planning & Proposal Writing approach to help achieve their mission.     


“We had five employees, a $300,000 budget, and a tiny office on Skid Row,” recalled UAII Executive Director, Dave Rambeau, who rallied a small group of like-minded people in 1979 to tackle the daunting problems confronting urban Indians. “We needed money to keep the programs going and to expand to meet other needs.”


None of the staff had the expertise to grow funding for the agency. “So we went to this Indian guy at UCLA,” Rambeau said, "and he recommended Norton Kiritz and The Grantsmanship Center.  He said that was the place to start if you’re looking to learn.” 


That referral was the beginning of a long relationship between UAII and the Center. “I took the training and started applying for money,” Rambeau said. His first proposal generated a $25,000 grant from Los Angeles County, giving his group the confidence and credibility to tap other funding sources.


“What we learned from Norton helped raise our profile, and that allowed us to get more funding,” Rambeau said. The Program Planning & Proposal Writing approach was Rambeau’s blueprint for documenting and articulating the case for funding, and developing logical and realistic program plans. “I’d go back to Norton for help whenever I got stuck.” says Rambeau.


Rambeau continues to send his staff to The Grantsmanship Center for training.  And since it began using the Center’s model, UAII has expanded to three cities, with more than 130 employees and an annual budget of $8.5 million.


But grant dollars are only a means to an end, and the true measure of success is impact. UAII’s grant funding is well-targeted and well-spent. It contributes towards the organization’s mission in a way that transforms lives and will pay dividends for generations to come.


You can see the impact of the agency’s growth in its annual Robert Sundance Summer Youth Camp, which started with eight kids on Skid Row and now brings 150 Native American children from Central and Southern California to the High Sierra every summer to fish, swim, bike, ride horses, climb rocks and careen down ziplines.


But it’s more than just a good time. Campers get physical exams, healthy food and real-life guidance.  The rules are strict – no video games, cell phones or music players – and social support follows the campers home. Family services and school-year activities help these children from tough, discouraging circumstances to blossom and become community leaders.  Many of them even come back to camp as counselors, dedicated to helping young children succeed as they have.


To this day, UAII uses the principles of grantsmanship laid out in this book, strengthening their ability to attract the funding they need to continue to serve and fortify their community.

— Sandy Banks, Columnist, Los Angeles Times


This is an excerpt from The Grantsmanship Center's textbook, Grantsmanship: Program Planning & Proposal Writing, available for purchase for $45. Dave Rambeau has retired since this was written and Luis Cervantes is currently UAII's CEO.


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