Rasmuson Foundation marked a significant milestone in 2012 when it crossed the threshold of $200 million in social investments to realize our mission of “being a catalyst to improve the quality of life in Alaska.”
What does that mean, to improve the quality of life in Alaska? And how does one measure progress toward that goal?
In 1989, my father Elmer made a speech at the Anchorage Museum where he revealed his thinking on the necessary elements to a healthy Alaska: jobs; adequate housing; proper schooling; acceptable medical care; and the ability to enjoy arts and recreation.
There are many angles from which to view the $200 million. But when held against Elmer’s vision, we see that:
· Health and human services represent our largest area of investment. From innovative programs to the buildings that house them, 44 percent of our grant dollars support organizations that work to ensure Alaskans are housed, safe, and healthy.
· Nearly a quarter of our investments have gone to support arts, culture, humanities and recreation. Alaska is rich in resources, and not to be overlooked are the creativity, history and traditions of our peoples, and the spectacular vistas and unique lifestyle that beckon us outside.
· Community development, which is where we classify grants to support economic development and neighborhood improvement initiatives like affordable housing, received about 13 percent of total grant dollars. It is in this area that we have provided support to community centers in over 27 Alaska communities.
· While the Foundation does not fund core government services, like K-12 education, ten percent of our funds have gone to education projects like early education and culture camps, and to strengthen Alaska’s network of public, private and tribal colleges.
· Rounding out the remaining eight percent are activities that support the health of the nonprofit sector and seeding the growth of philanthropy.
Fifty-seven years after Elmer and Jenny Rasmuson established the family Foundation, our annual grantmaking ability has grown from an initial gift of $125 for a movie projector to a grantmaking budget of over $20 million annually.
Whether through a small bricks and mortar capital grant, safety net assistance for the most vulnerable among us, direct support for Alaska artists, or long-term investments in strengthening the capacity of the sector, Rasmuson Foundation is honored to partner with nonprofits to improve the quality of life in Alaska.
Our ability to both continue and strengthen our commitment to Alaska relies on well-managed resources. Relatively strong returns in 2011 and 2012 have restored the Foundation’s asset value to levels last seen in 2007.
Last year Rasmuson Foundation received substantial donations from the Rasmuson family – $2.5 million from the estate of Mary Louise Rasmuson and $40 million from the E.E. Rasmuson Trust – which bring the total asset value of the Foundation’s endowment to approximately $540 million at the start of 2013.
A combination of sound investment practices, stable markets, and Mary Louise’s last philanthropic act after a lifetime of giving, have put the Foundation on sure footing and laid the groundwork for stable, long-term growth consistent with our planned grantmaking activities.
All told, Rasmuson Foundation expended $22.4 for charitable activities across the state last year. These grants helped build affordable senior housing in Eagle River and assisted the Native Village of Crooked Creek rebuild after a record flood, provided a vehicle for the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope and acoustic improvements at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, purchased furniture for the community center and tribal office in the Native Village of Sleetmute and recycling equipment for the Native Village of Kwigillingok, and funded facility upgrades to the Literacy Council of Alaska’s in Fairbanks and the Sterling Community Center in Sterling.
The Foundation also expanded its commitment to the Community Asset Building Initiative, a program to build permanent, local endowment funds across the state; to Recover Alaska, a statewide collaborative effort to reduce the harmful effects of alcohol in Alaska; and to our Arts & Culture Initiative, which aims to strengthen cultural institutions across the state and encourage the development of new work by artists.
A searchable list of all Foundation grants is always available at www.rasmuson.org.