Our own Top 10 – In this week's blog, we recap the events and accomplishments that contributed to making 2013 a stellar year.

As 2014 begins, Rasmuson Foundation staff members take a moment to reflect on some of the most memorable and rewarding experiences of 2013. Were it not for the traditional self-imposed limit of the “top 10,” we likely would have been carried away. It was a very good year . . .

Teri Rofkar received the 2013 Distinguished Artist Award, marking the 10th anniversary of the Individual Artist Award program, which celebrates the creative spirit that shines in Alaska. Since its inception, the Individual Artist Award program has paid $2.3 million to 303 artists who live and work here in the state.

Rasmuson Foundation was one of 10 winners of the 2013 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary’s Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan joined the Council on Foundations’ CEO Vikki Spruill in recognizing the winners at the Fall Conference for Community Foundations in San Diego in September. The award recognized the Pre-development (Pre-D) Program, which provides technical assistance to nonprofit organizations planning large capital projects. The Pre-development Program is operated by the Foraker Group and is a partnership with the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, Denali Commission and Mat-Su Health Foundation.

In October, Philanthropy Northwest held its annual conference and membership meeting in Juneau. This was just the second time the conference has been held in Alaska and the first time that most of Rasmuson Foundation staff attended as a group. More than 210 grant makers came together for three days of information, exploration and relationship building. According to Philanthropy Northwest, many members said it was their best conference ever, thanks in large part to Juneau’s hospitality and inspirational keynote speakers such as Willie Hensley, Byron Mallott and Paul Schmitz. Rasmuson staff spent a portion of our time in team-building activities like zip-lining through the rain forest – an experience to remember!

After years of planning and fundraising, the doors opened at two new facilities serving women, children and families in Anchorage – Covenant House and Catholic Social Services’ Clare House. At Clare House, Rasmuson Foundation staff were thrilled to see the unveiling of a new children’s play center dedicated to Sandra Miller, a longtime Clare House volunteer and our Foundation colleague who retired after nine years of service. “Sandi’s Playhouse” reminds us of her many contributions to the nonprofit sector in Alaska.

The Anchorage Daily News launched the “State of Intoxication” series covering the issue of excessive alcohol use in Alaska. This series is supported by the Recover Alaska Media Project fund at the Alaska Community Foundation. Contributors to the fund are Alaska Children’s Trust, Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, Bristol Bay Native Corp., Providence Health & Services Alaska, Mat-Su Health Foundation, Wells Fargo, and Rasmuson Foundation. State of Intoxication is a yearlong effort to talk about the problem and possible solutions, and to tell Alaskans’ stories of resiliency and hope.

In June the Alaska Botanical Garden dedicated Lile’s Garden, in memory of Lile Vivian Bernard Rasmuson, the late wife of Elmer Rasmuson, who was an avid gardener in the 1940s and 50s in Anchorage. Lile’s three children, Ed, Lile and Judy said their mother, “would have been delighted with this garden as a place to grow, show and learn.” Lile Rasmuson, who died in 1960, was known for the gardens she grew at the Rasmusons’ first home at 10th & G Street in downtown Anchorage, and later at their Turnagain home. The Lile’s Garden concept design includes swaths of plant colors and foliage textures to create the image of a piece of Athabascan floral beadwork.

A record number of Tier 1 grants were awarded this past year – 162 grants totaling more than $3.1 million. That’s an average of 13-plus per month, more than three per week, or approximately one every other day. Any way you slice it, that’s a lot of great work being done by the nonprofit sector in Alaska. Tier 1 is the Foundation’s longest running grant program and provides up to $25,000 for capital purchases, technology updates, capacity building, program expansion and development of new creative work.  It’s a program so memorable, there’s even a song written about it.

The Community Asset Building Initiative welcomed four new affiliates to the Alaska Community Foundation (ACF). Local leaders in Sitka, Ketchikan, Kodiak, and Fairbanks joined the existing network of affiliates in Talkeetna, Kenai Peninsula, Haines/Klukwan, Seward, and Petersburg. Congratulations to all for their vision in planning for the future to meet needs in their local communities.

The effort led by United Way of Anchorage to improve graduation rates in the Anchorage School District was off to a great start. The “90 by 2020” goal of 90% graduation by the year 2020 achieved dramatic results this past year when the four-year graduation rate improved to 76%. Congratulations to the broad community partnership making this possible – we give you an “A” this year.

Despite the odds (smallest Permanent Fund Dividend ever), Pick.Click.Give continued to gain momentum in 2013. More Alaskans than ever (26,093) demonstrated their generosity by donating more money than ever ($2.4 million) to more nonprofit organizations than ever (471).

Thanks Alaska, for a very great year.