ITK plans financial independence through permanent fund

“We wouldn’t have to go by the government agenda of the day”



Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami is getting ready to charm charities and private companies across the country with a fundraising drive to make their organization independent of federal payments.

ITK wants to create a $23-million permanent endowment fund directed at their own activites. In other words, a pot of money that will give them a source of funding other than handouts from Ottawa.

Jose Kusugak, the president of ITK, says they currently have to seek the bulk of their annual spending from the federal government’s various and frequently changing programs. Last year’s ITK budget was $5.7 million.

“Most things we do are in response to the federal government’s agenda,” Kusugak said. “[The endowment fund] would allow us to think of the priorities of the Inuit in the Arctic, and to start some programs originating from Inuit communities instead of starting from Ottawa.

“We wouldn’t have to go by the government agenda of the day.”

At their annual general meeting in Nain on June 9-10, ITK’s board passed a motion encouraging ITK staff to start the endowment fund by soliciting money from the country’s four main Inuit groups. They include Makivik Corp., Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Labrador Inuit Association, and the Inuvialuit Regional Corp.

The board agreed that ITK needs a “symbolic” amount of seed money from these Inuit groups to show potential donors that they’ve already invested in their campaign for financial independence.

ITK estimated the Inuit groups would collectively offer about $1 million over five years.

Then, an ITK campaign fundraiser would work with a team of volunteers to approach charitable foundations, corporations, and even the federal government about offering one-time major investments to reach the desired $23 million.

Once established, the endowment fund would work like the funding relationship between Nunavut Tungavik Inc. and the Nunavut Trust.

The idea stems from an ITK board workshop held with U.S. professors at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in April 2002.

ITK will have some hurdles to overcome before setting up the endowment fund.

Ketchum Canada Inc., an advisory group on fundraising, told ITK that they have a low profile outside the Arctic.

The Inuit Tapiriit Planning Study, a 47-page report delivered to the board earlier this year, warns that ITK lacks a national presence to catch the interest of some large charitable organizations.

The authors recommend ITK double current efforts to raise its public profile, in order to increase its chance of getting enough money for the endowment fund.

The study also notes that potential donors are confused about how ITK is different from the government of Nunavut, or other Inuit groups such as Nunavut Tunngavik.

The study is based on interviews with 41 board members of charities across the country.

But ITK also reaped praise for being a lobby group that stands out in people’s minds, compared to other organizations.

The report estimates it will take at least three years to raise the $23 million in funding. But first, ITK will have to find time, staffing and money to set up the official foundation or trust to hold the money.

ITK recently told Nunavut Tunngavik that they were worried about having to fight for the same funds, now that both were looking for ways to become more financially independent. NTI officials said their memorandum-of-understanding about their respective roles should avoid any conflict.

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