Indigenous peoples make up a majority of the population in the expansive Arctic region. Founded in 2005, the Arctic Funders Collaborative (AFC) is grounded in Indigenous philosophies and values around land connection, culture, and generosity. The AFC is uniquely situated in the space between Indigenous-led initiatives and funders supporting work in the Arctic.
Talking about the similarities and differences between Indigenous philanthropy and settler philanthropy, The AFC Director Liz Liske describes, “The best way that I understand Indigenous philanthropy is hunting caribou. When a hunter goes caribou hunting and is successful, they bring the caribou back and share it with their kin and community. That’s philanthropy.”
What started out as a handful of funders who wanted to invest in the Arctic is now a 12-member organization engaged in deep learning and unlearning. Together, they embark on land-based trips, engage in annual gatherings and collaborate to do better grantmaking in the Arctic. “Our members come to the table knowing that if they want to do granting work in the Arctic, they need to deepen relationships here,” Liz explains. “It’s all about trust based philanthropy. It’s about relationships. If a new funder wants to work in the Arctic, we welcome them and guide them to do better grantmaking.”
View AFC’s current members.
To increase Indigenous representation within the AFC, two cultural advisors recently joined the team. In all of their work, AFC lets the land inform them and they have developed a trauma informed practice for deepening relationships.
As much as the AFC is a safe place for funders to build connections and increase their understanding, the collaborative is also leading a growing movement of Indigenous-led philanthropy worldwide. In 2018, the AFC helped to nurture the Arctic Indigenous Fund, an entirely Indigenous-led fund by and for the Arctic. Recently, the AFC partnered with The Circle on Philanthropy and International Funders for Indigenous Peoples (IFIP) to host a space for Indigenous women who work within the philanthropic landscape.
“I feel like that’s another big thing that guides my work: thinking about the person after me and the people I’m doing this for,” says Liz. To achieve that, the AFC is now focusing on scaling up the work, their staff team, conducting research specific to the region, and continuing to build up trust-based, Indigenous-led philanthropy.
Mission + Vision + Objectives
The Arctic Funders Collaborative promotes more informed and effective grantmaking to support healthy Arctic communities and ecosystems. We leverage support for opportunities across the Arctic that advance land and water stewardship, capacity building for Indigenous peoples, and community and cultural well-being.
To facilitate continued growth in Arctic philanthropy by building capacity within the philanthropic sector to support Arctic initiatives, and strengthening connections among philanthropic institutions and Northern, especially Indigenous, communities.
- Encourage, inform, and grow philanthropic investment in the Arctic by serving as a resource and support network for new and established Arctic funders
- Work as a collective to advance and create awareness about environmental and social issues impacting the North and its sub-regions
- Lead and share best practices that strengthen relationship building and collaborative actions among philanthropic, Indigenous and Northern communities
- Maximize the impact of our collective resources by collaborating and developing strategic partnerships that advance priorities led by the people of the North