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College fund suffers little from economic downturn

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DENVER - The American Indian College Fund continues to gather donations at a brisk pace. Down only a few percentage points, it still maintains its goal.

Jane Prancan, spokesperson for the AICF said between the years 2001 and 2002 there was a reduction in individual giving, which is a result of the country's economic downturn. There has also been a decrease in foundation giving.

But compared to other organizations, the college fund has survived the aftermath of 9/11 and the economic downturn reporting just a 6.5 percent drop in donations, which is very good, Prancan said.

This year may be an even more difficult year for all non-profit organizations and may require some different approaches to the art of attracting donations.

The AICF will begin offering gifts for donations. For example, a blanket will be offered for a $1,000 donation and a tape of Ullali will be provided to the $50 donor.

The bulk of the donations to the college fund come from individual donors with foundations next and corporations last in the mix.

The newly established endowment fund continues to grow. The Sovereign Nations Scholarship fund was started with a $900,000 grant from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Tribe of Minnesota. The goal is to create a $4 million endowment fund and it is currently over $1 million, Prancan said.

The AICF may be less affected by an economic downturn than other organizations because of the niche market it occupies. According to Prancan, people and organizations are more likely to give for education of youth than for other issues and groups.

"We have determined donors and people are determined to give to Indian education," she said.

The individual donors are mostly over the age of 45, many over 65, well educated, wealthier and experienced with higher work levels.

The priority of AICF is the tribal colleges. Each college receives $100,000 yearly to distribute any way they wish for scholarships. The fund will continue with that goal even in the face of economic instability with the hope that it will not have to adjust in the future.

"We are confident that we will be able to maintain the $100,000 to the colleges. If we are not able to raise the money in the future we would give something less, but we are looking for a modest increase this year," Prancan said.

Some funding is also distributed by the fund as special scholarships, which are requested by the donor individual or organization. The Coca Cola Company requests that its contributions go to first generation scholars in a family with grade points reviewed annually. Others require merit scholarships.

The future may look better because the Nissan Corporation has agreed to double its contribution. Other long-time supporters will continue and some have offered internships and others will add internships to their contributions.

"I don't want to make the picture look over-rosy, but we are doing a little better than other organizations," Prancan said.

For more information on the American Indian College Fund or the students it supports, call (303) 426-8900 or visit www.collegefund.org.