Friday the 13th is usually a day associated with bad luck. But last Friday, for a large group of business leaders who help their companies build better communities across the state, it was anything but given the convening of the first Alaska Corporate Philanthropy Seminar.

By Jeff Clarke, Vice President

Friday the 13th is usually associated with bad luck. But last Friday, for a large group of business leaders who help their companies build better communities across the state, it was anything but given the first convening of the Alaska Corporate Philanthropy Seminar. Organized by Philanthropy Northwest, with strong support from Wells Fargo Bank Alaska, the seminar brought together 25 Alaskan companies ranging from large corporations to small and mid-sized businesses. The conversations both examined the important link between corporate mission and practice in supporting community, and shared respective successes and challenges around effectiveness.

As it does across the country, philanthropy in Alaska takes a number of different forms. We know that individual giving constitutes the overwhelming majority of support for nonprofits that work to make our communities stronger. From an institutional perspective, there is also private, community and corporate / business philanthropy. In Alaska, there are hundreds of businesses giving back to community in hundreds of different ways from cash grants, to in-kind support like product, service, and space, to pulling volunteer labor together to benefit a project. Community giving by business – corporate philanthropy – is the most common form of institutional philanthropy in the state.

Tim Nowlis, Director of Government Relations and Global Corporate Citizenship at Boeing and Philanthropy Northwest board member facilitated the Seminar. He revealed that he had spent two seasons as a commercial fisherman based in Kodiak and that Boeing currently has approximately 250 employees based here in Alaska.

Seminar participants ranged from Founder/Owner, President, Vice President, Chief Mission Integration Officer, and External, Public or Community Affairs Officers, to Communications Directors, Corporate Contribution Managers and Shareholder & Corporate Relations Manager. Here’s the link to a good slideshow. Participant companies included:


Alyeska Pipeline Services Company

Anchorage Chamber of Commerce

BP Exploration Alaska

Bristol Bay Native Corporation

Carlile Transportation Systems


ConocoPhillips Alaska

Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union

Doyon, Limited


First National Bank Alaska

Flint Hills Resources


Kaladi Brothers Coffee

Matanuska Electric Association

McKinley Capital Management

Nerland Agency

Northrim Bank

Pioneer Natural Resources

Princess Tours

Providence Health & Services Alaska

Totem Ocean Trailer Express, Inc.

Wells Fargo Bank Alaska

Clearly this sector of the Alaska philanthropic community is doing important and thoughtful work all across the state in very diverse ways. The dialogue between larger and smaller entities was particularly instructive. Because this was the first formal gathering of Alaska corporate philanthropy, each arrived in the morning with their own individual corporate identity. By the end of the morning, everyone left with a sense of shared identity as the Alaska corporate or business philanthropy community. There are many more conversations – both formal and informal – to come.

Many then proceeded to the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) luncheon where GCI was recognized as the 2009 Outstanding Business in Philanthropy. The financial value of their contributions over the prior year: $30 million! Congratulations on well deserved recognition GCI!