Funding strategy changing at Gwaii Trust

  • May. 9, 2011 5:00 p.m.

By Heather Ramsay–Youth and economic development are Gwaii Trust’s top priorities according to its new business plan, along with an emphasis on food security and infrastructure. The society, which has been funding islanders’ projects for 17 years with money received after the creation of Gwaii Haanas, has revamped its funding strategy. Although arts, major contributions, travel and education funding are still in place, categories such as Culture as it Relates to Tourism and Healthy Humans will no longer be available when Gwaii Trust starts its new fiscal year in August. However, executive director Errol Winter says the new initiatives will incorporate these themes in a different way. One of the key features of Gwaii Trust’s changed priorities is the hiring of a youth coordinator. Mr. Winter says this is a one-year contract position with the goal of assessing and supporting youth services on the islands. The new business plan also lays out several specific measurable success statements for youth including supporting a teen centre in every community, celebrating four leaders 18 and under with excellence awards, ensuring all the islands’ 13 year-olds have an opportunity to go to a local wilderness camp, and engaging 15 youth in mentorship or apprentice programs. The plan also seeks a 100 per cent graduation rate for Haida Gwaii students. “Some of these statements may seem impractical,” says Mr. Winter, but he believes the organization must set out ambitious goals. “Let’s say it and see where we get,” he said. The essence of the new plan is that community members send proposals in that help Gwaii Trust meet these measures of success, says Mr. Winter. Mr. Winter said the changes have been under discussion for 18 months among the directors, who represent all the islands communities. “We have eight directors. There is no way they have all the answers,” he says. “If we put things out and set these goals, there are enough great ideas on the islands that with help from us can make them happen.” Mr. Winter said the document is a living one and as the year plays out, changes may need to be made. For example, they’ve defined youth as 18 and under. “We might need to broaden that scope,” he says. But, he says, the thinking was to support young people before they leave school. “Once they are beyond that, it’s a different road home,” he said. As for the economic development aspect, Mr. Winter said, Gwaii Trust would like to facilitate 20 new full-time jobs for islanders a year. He said a lot of proposals received by Gwaii Trust in the past had short term or interim economic development ideas. Now, funding will depend on the number of real long-term jobs a proposed project will provide for islanders. Another priority is the creation of new businesses. On a larger scale, he said the Gwaii Trust would be willing to partner or invest in large projects like a community forest, if a business plan showed a balance return. The fund will look at supporting one larger economic development project per call out with up to $10,000,000 on an “as can afford” basis. Transportation, green energy, collaborative initiatives and partnerships were listed as priorities. The projects must be market driven and not initiated by Gwaii Trust. Mr. Winter said the challenge in economic development will be for Gwaii Trust to avoid funding projects that will in some way compete with existing businesses. “We have to figure out a way to do that and still create jobs,” he said. The Observer asked how the Gwaii Trust was different from an organization like Community Futures in the economic development realm and how their priorities mesh with the Misty Islands Economic Development Society. “It’s hard not to sound a bit like everyone else,” he said. But the Trust’s focus is on collaboration, partnerships, and sourcing multiple income streams to creatively diversify and advantage leveraging opportunities whenever possible. “We’d like to complement other groups,” he said. He also noted that there are 160 societies on the islands and in the past they’ve applied for money for projects, but these could be more sustainable. For example, if Rediscovery could come up with a small business case, the trust might be able to leverage that to help get it underway. He’d also like to see systemic issues, like the need for supplies for Islands’ food banks or women’s shelters, handled differently. The business plan proposes setting up small foundations in partnership with the Northern Savings Credit Union. According to the business plan, “the Trust will establish opportunities for donors who favor a particular cause or organization to create a perpetual endowment, with the Trust offering significant investment incentives, and assisting the growth of the endowment with its own fund raising initiatives.” “(The Gwaii Trust) is no longer about handing money out, it’s about finding a way to make a difference,” he said. The business plan also lays out the proposed program budget for 2011/2012 as follows: Arts – $25,000.00, Arts (workshops component) – $10,000, Travel Assistance – $120,000, High School Bursary – $40,000, Post Secondary School – $75,000, University Tours – $30,000, Mature Student Grants – $125,000, Special Initiatives in Education – $50,000, Christmas – $60,000, Haida Parity Program – TBD, Island Food Security – $165,000, Major Contributions – $300,000. Total program budget is $1,000,000.

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