First Peoples Fund

Leaning on Justworks to drive a vital mission

First Peoples Fund needed payroll & compliance support to further their mission of honoring First Peoples art and culture bearers. That's where Justworks came in.
First Peoples Fund-logo
growing with us2021
company size19
locationRapid City, SD

How It Began

First Peoples Fund is a Native-led nonprofit that serves Native American, Native Hawaiian, and Alaskan Native artists through programmatic activities and grant-making. They support artists directly and provide funding to community organizations that further artistic missions. 

Recently, the organization was able to open the Oglala Lakota Artspace (OLA) on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Kyle, South Dakota. This art center is the first of its kind on the reservation, offering free classes to the public, including professional development programs, courses on financial literacy, and traditional art classes. It’s an important space where artists can learn, teach, and create — collaboratively and across generations.

The OLA is just one of many programs the First Peoples Fund makes possible. And behind the scenes of it all is Liana Robinson, Finance and Compliance Director, making sure the numbers run smoothly. Liana first started working at First Peoples Fund as a bookkeeper back in 2016, when the organization had a much smaller budget. Since then, according to Liana, “We’ve experienced a 20% growth average over the last 10 years.” The steep trajectory in budget and growth made for some interesting challenges. Mainly, the organization needed to make sure they had the systems and processes in place to support all of the amazing new work they were doing.

Why First Peoples Fund Chooses Justworks

Compliance support

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Streamlined payroll

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Expert customer service

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Alleviating Payroll Pain Points

As an organization based in Rapid City, South Dakota, so much changed for First Peoples Fund during the pandemic. According to Liana, “We went from having 15 people in our office to two or three. And once people went remote, or left the organization and we hired replacements — those replacements started coming from all across the country.” The organization realized the potential of being able to hire remotely.

This opportunity brought on its own complications. “All of a sudden, we had five or six states that we had to do filings for,” said Liana. Payroll processing became a pain point. That was the moment that brought First Peoples Fund to Justworks. Without having much prior experience with PEOs, Liana and her team began interviewing payroll processing providers. Liana explained, “We landed on Justworks because of their commitment to nonprofit and interest in our work and our mission. Not only could they provide the service that we wanted, but it seems like they were more dedicated to our industry than some of the other providers that we interviewed.”

Working with Justworks allowed Liana and her team to focus on other important things, like starting an investment committee and managing the many grants they were receiving. “It was amazing for me to be able to pass off all of those state filings, quarterlies, and 941s,” she said.

Overcoming Compliance Challenges

Having employees working all across the country meant the organization needed to operate in accordance with different employment laws and legal requirements from state to state. They reached out to Mineral, an HR and compliance partner of Justworks, for help related to onboarding and terminating employees. “There’s just no way I could learn all of that all at once. It’s really nice to be able to rely on the experts in that area too,” said Liana.

 Responsive Customer Service

“We’ve had the best customer service from Justworks,” remarked Liana, going on to describe the assistance she received as “very timely and helpful.” Liana and her team at First Peoples Fund spoke about the responsiveness of the customer service department, stating, “Seems like every time I reach out, I have an answer within the same day, if not the next day. I've never had any problems getting what I need from Justworks.”

Supporting Underrepresented Entrepreneurs

The program awards grants to organizations that are working to level the entrepreneurial playing field for early-stage minority- and women-owned businesses. In 2022, First Peoples Fund was one of five recipients of a $50,000 grant. The organization used the funds to further their business leadership program through fellowships that support entrepreneurs and female artists.

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