Our guests this August came from all over the country to learn about Alaska challenges and innovative solutions. They were engaged, engaging and up for all the learning and adventure we could pack into six days. Even daily rain didn’t get in the way of good fun — or an early morning fish run.

While our 25th Grantmakers Tour of Alaska ended last week, connections are just beginning. The tour for philanthropic leaders from outside the state has happened every year since 1997, with the exception of 2020. The hope is to make connections, share ideas and, ultimately, encourage investment in Alaska nonprofits and tribal organizations.

“I just enjoyed seeing the incredible diversity of the state, and not just the diversity of the people, but the different ways that people are living, the traditions that people are preserving and growing, and at the same time, an incredible commonality between everybody,” said Sam Gill, president and CEO of Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. “That spirit of resilience, of commitment, of mutual compassion and connection came through in every story, in every place that we visited.”

The welcoming reception in Yakutat — where long ago the Rasmuson family made their first Alaska home — set the tone with rich conversation and salmon served five ways. In the island community of Shishmaref on the often-stormy Chukchi Sea, our guests rode four-wheelers to look at coastal erosion then checked out the Head Start program and clinic.  In Utqiaġvik, they met with leaders of Arctic Slope Regional Corp. to hear about Arctic land and resource issues and sampled the tail flipper of a bowhead whale at Iḷisaġvik College, Alaska’s only tribal higher ed institution.

In Anchorage, they visited a campground for those experiencing homelessness and toured a thriving urban farm where immigrants, refugees and other newcomers not only grow their own food but also run their own food-related businesses. They learned the value of the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program, where students can go from high school freshman to college bachelor’s degree holder in just five years.

And that’s not even all the highlights. Many braved a plunge into the Arctic Ocean, and they all flew across Cook Inlet to a remote fish camp to meet with Alaska Native leaders, reflect and decompress before the trip home. This was a jam-packed six days!

This tour represents the last one for Diane Kaplan as our president and CEO. (She will be leaving the Foundation early in 2023.) She started the tour and has led every one since 1997.

We thank all who took part, hosts and guides, tribal and nonprofit leaders, Alaska Native corporations and our own board. We especially thank our guests for dedicating a week to learning more about our state.

We so enjoyed introducing each of you to Alaska: Marsha Bonner, Annenberg Foundation; Lisa Hamilton, The Annie E. Casey Foundation; Jeff Bradach, The Bridgespan Group; Gail Small, Direct Relief; Sam Gill, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; Dr. Rajiv Shah, The Rockefeller Foundation; Sandy Herz, Sobrato Philanthropies; Shivam Mallick Shah, Summit Advisors; and Paula Pretlow, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

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Special thanks to the Tour sponsors: Alaska Airlines, The Alaska Community Foundation, Alaska Native Heritage Center, Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., Anchorage Museum, Arctic Slope Regional Corp., Bering Straits Native Corp., CIRI, The CIRI Foundation, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, First Alaskans Institute, GCI, Hotel Captain Cook, Mat-Su Health Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Providence Alaska, Southcentral Foundation, Wells Fargo and Weidner Apartment Homes.