2010 Annual Letter to Alaska

A message from Ed Rasmuson

Ed and Cathy Rasmuson visted Southeast Alaska communities in May 2008.

A guiding principle for Rasmuson Foundation is reflected in one of my father Elmer’s sayings: “A community that invests in itself is a healthy community.” His philosophy manifested itself in both his professional and philanthropic pursuits. As a banker he expected people to invest their own money in their homes and businesses before they asked him to provide a loan. By extension, it has become requisite to our grantmaking that a community is willing to invest in itself before it receives Foundation support.

Alaska is a large, predominantly rural state, with a thin philanthropic resource base. Despite being Alaska’s largest private social investor, Rasmuson Foundation recognizes that it alone does not have sufficient resources to either catalyze or address all issues. We believe the future success of Alaska’s nonprofits rests on our collective ability to build both philanthropic and nonprofit capacity on both a statewide and local level. To this end, we’ve funded numerous high leverage strategies to strengthen communities:

  • The Community Asset Building Initiative (CABI) is designed to increase the capacity of local communities to identify priorities and solve problems; encourage the creation of permanent charitable assets for Alaska communities; and, create sustaining sources of support for valued Alaska nonprofit organizations. A result is the creation of new community funds affiliated with the Alaska Community Foundation, in Haines, Petersburg, Talkeetna, Seward, and Kenai Peninsula, and support for existing community funds in Homer and Juneau.
  • Pick. Click. Give. is structured to encourage individual philanthropy and strengthen the sustainability of the nonprofit sector; it provides a source of unrestricted dollars for participating organizations; and, thanks to its association with the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend program, it exposes every man, woman, and child in the state to the good works of the nonprofit sector. In 2010, 9,500 people contributed nearly $1 million to 370 nonprofit organizations across the state, a 100 percent increase over the inaugural year of the program.
  • Our broad coalition with other funders in hosting the Annual Educational Tour of Alaska for Grantmakers introduces funders from across the country to a variety of organizations and leaders working to improve the quality of life in the state; it helps grantmakers make prudent decisions about their social investments; and, it prioritizes exposure to rural Alaska as a means to spotlight much of what makes this state unique. For example, past participant W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, MI, has invested over $4 million in the Dental Health Aide Therapist program at Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and Exxon Foundation recently became a new donor to University of Alaska Anchorage’s Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program.
  • Our continued support for The Foraker Group is intended to strengthen nonprofit capacity through shared-services and technical assistance; increase leadership and management skills of professionals and volunteers working in Alaska’s nonprofit and tribal organizations; and, build philanthropic capacity across the entire state. Over 400 nonprofits are now Foraker partners, representing all sectors statewide.

Each of these initiatives received renewed support from Rasmuson Foundation in 2010.

In addition to support for these programs, in 2010 we made:

  • 21 Tier 2 capital and capacity building grants totaling $5,412,238;
  • 108 small (under $25,000) Tier 1 capital awards totaling $1,868,751;
  • 29 Individual Artist Awards totaling $219,021; and,
  • 6 Sabbatical Program awards totaling $176,704.

In total, the Foundation made 219 grant awards for a total of $14,972,997 in 2010. For a complete list of all grant awards please click here.

Our ability to both continue and strengthen our commitment to Alaska and its communities relies on well-managed resources. That we remained calm during the depths of the downturn is proving its strategic merit as our assets continued to recover, growing from $431 million in January 2010 to approximately $465 million by December. While the Foundation has made adjustments to strengthen long-term liquidity, it continues to diversify its predominantly equity-oriented portfolio which produced a 12.8 percent return last year. The Foundation is committed to spend no more than a set percent of the annual average market value of its endowment and the main objective of the endowment is to enhance its real value over time. Our investment strategy, which balances growth with risk minimization, lays the groundwork for stable, long-term growth consistent with our planned grantmaking activities.

We at Rasmuson Foundation believe the most effective way to support our communities over the long term is to move forward as partners. When we assist the groups who address basic needs, special circumstances, and the arts and education, we contribute to healthy, enriched, and productive lives. We have found that my father’s expectation that a community invest in itself has indeed helped enrich Alaska.


Edward B. Rasmuson
May 20, 2011

2010 awards