Winter has arrived! I hope everyone is staying warm. Here are a few recent highlights from the Foundation.
— Diane Kaplan, president and CEO
Leveraging funds: Connections and support like never before
Philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott continues to make her mark in Alaska. The latest unrestricted, unsolicited donation is $15 million to the Mat-Su Health Foundation. Health foundation President and CEO Elizabeth Ripley shared that the organization knew something was up back in February but didn’t know the benefactor or the amount until recently. “While it’s too soon to identify specific uses for the money, we are committed to regranting these dollars in alignment with our theory of change, which calls for us to be data-driven, strategic and community-driven,” Ripley said. As way of comparison, the total awarded by the health foundation in grants in 2021 was $13.5 million.
Jeff Bradach, co-founder of The Bridgespan Group and her philanthropic adviser, was on the 2022 Grantmakers Tour. The award follows earlier unsolicited donations of $1 million to the Food Bank of Alaska, $8 million to Kawerak Inc. and $5 million to the Alaska Native Heritage Center from MacKenzie Scott.
Another significant development in our continuing work to leverage funds comes from Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, which is matching Rasmuson Foundation on three $25,000 donations to organizations that support or advance civic engagement of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The organizations receiving awards are: the Korean American Community of Alaska’s NexGen group, the Polynesian Association of Alaska and the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center. Why the latter? When community members don’t have access to health care, they don’t engage in things that may seem like extras, such as voting and other forms of civic engagement. Roy Agloinga, program officer, external affairs, has been talking regularly with colleagues at Coulter Foundation to bring awareness to Alaska’s needs. The connection to the Coulter Foundation was through Grantmakers Tour alum Geri Mannion of Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Mapping ALL Alaska communities
Our work as digital equity coordinator for the state of Alaska is underway on multiple fronts. A State of Alaska booth at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention featured handouts on our digital equity work and how tribes and communities can get involved. We hosted a listening session and reception at Williwaw Social on Oct. 20 after the day’s AFN events.
We also are helping with a digital mapping project. We are making sure that every Alaska community, no matter how small, is considered. Ecopia, a Canada-based global firm with geospatial expertise, is using satellite data and an algorithm to find homes that could have broadband — what they call Broadband Serviceable Locations — or BSL. Separately, we are using the Palmer office of another expert firm, Dewberry, to identify what’s missing and package the information so it can be used by the State of Alaska to challenge federal data.
The work is essential because of large gaps in data from the Federal Communications Commission mapping challenge. When the first iteration of the Alaska mapping was released in June, 69 communities were missing, and another 166 communities were inaccurately represented. Every location added will mean thousands of additional grant dollars to build out our broadband infrastructure.
The Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness celebrates new offices
I had the opportunity to give remarks at the recent open house of our partner, the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness, celebrating new offices provided by Providence Alaska. A broad cross-section of the community — providers, funders, those with lived experience, members of the Bronson administration and members of the Anchorage Assembly — attended and engaged in productive discussions.
The event underscored how the coalition has matured from a trade organization to one responsible for coordinating housing and homelessness services in Anchorage. The coalition is leading the effort through advocacy and technical expertise that puts the focus on Housing First and doesn’t stop there. The system being built recognizes that individuals often need services to stay housed and not end up in a costly emergency shelter. ACEH is driving the difficult discussions toward strategies that will endure.
After typhoon, Alaskans step up
When Typhoon Merbok smashed into Western Alaska in September, our partner Nina Kemppel, president and CEO of The Alaska Community Foundation, reached out to the Foundation with the idea of creating a relief fund. We provided a quick $25,000, the effort was in motion, and a statewide plea for help went out. Alaskans responded quickly and generously. In two weeks, the Western Alaska Disaster Recovery Relief Fund topped $1.25 million for both short-term and long-term recovery. More than $500,000 in support was distributed in early October to communities hardest hit including Hooper Bay, Chevak, Newtok and Golovin. Program Officer Roy Agloinga is on the advisory committee helping to distribute the funds.
Local kids get lessons from practicing artists
Seward students and artists alike are benefiting from a partnership between the Seward Community Foundation, the Seward Arts Council and the Seward PTA for an artist-in-residence program. It all began in 2018 when a local teacher used $225 provided by the school district for classroom art supplies to pay a local artist to provide art lessons for her students. The idea took off from there with local artists eager to take part and funding support from local families provided through Seward Community Foundation. Students have learned from practicing artists in painting, jewelry making, creative writing, leatherworks, and ceramics. The Seward Community Foundation is one of 11 local funds in the Affiliate Program run by The Alaska Community Foundation.
Connecting with philanthropic family leaders
Board members Adam Gibbons, Jay Gibbons, Natasha von Imhof, Rebecca Brice Henderson and Angela Salazar joined me in San Francisco for the National Forum on Family Philanthropy. There were many lessons and anecdotes shared during the three days of thoughtful dialogue with other philanthropic families and leaders. Adam and I joined Liz Bonner, board chair and Nat Chioke Williams, executive director, of the Hill-Snowdon Foundation based in Washington, D.C., on a panel discussion around “Building and Maintaining Successful Board Chair-CEO Relationships.” Adam helped bring the conference to a close by thanking the National Center for Family Philanthropy and our colleagues for joining us at the 25th Anniversary Reception sponsored by Rasmuson Foundation. Board members, Jess Haley and I joined a few Grantmaker Tour alums for dinner. In attendance were Sandy Herz of Sobrato Foundation and Jeff Bradach of Bridgespan Group.
Preserving the legacy of Mary Louise Rasmuson
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has introduced legislation — with Sen. Dan Sullivan as a cosponsor — to rename the VA medical center in Anchorage after our late Board member, Col. Mary Louise Rasmuson. The “Colonel Mary Louise Rasmuson Campus of the Alaska VA Healthcare System Act of 2022” seeks to recognize her role as a leader in the Women’s Army Corps expanding opportunities for women serving in the military, including integrating Black women into the corps. Mary Louise served 45 years on our Board.
“It’s fitting that we not only honor her legacy of service, but also the growing number of female veterans she fought on behalf of throughout her distinguished career,” Sen. Murkowski said. “This bill builds on those efforts to ensure their service is explicitly recognized and well-represented in Alaska.”
The state Office of Veterans Affairs, American Legion, Operation Mary Louise and other veterans groups support the effort.
Read the entire press release here.
Commonwealth North’s 2022 Egan and Hickel Awards
Each year, Commonwealth North recognizes two outstanding Alaskans for their contributions to our state. This year, I was honored to receive the 2022 William A. Egan Distinguished Alaskan Award alongside Eric Wohlforth, recipient of the Walter J. Hickel Award for Distinguished Public Policy. His work in public finance serves as a cornerstone of the financial foundation of our state.
Rep. Mary Peltola and Sen. Dan Sullivan sent in video messages, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski joined in person, each with a personalized note for both Eric and me. A special thanks to friend and former Foraker Group President and CEO Dennis McMillian, Mat-Su Health Foundation President and CEO Elizabeth Ripley, Board member Mike Navarre and Admiral Tom Barrett for sharing such meaningful words at the ceremony. In true Rasmuson Foundation fashion, Elizabeth wrote an original ode as a nod to the songs we are known to produce for our friends and partners. Board Member Curtis McQueen, former board members John Wanamaker and Linda Leary, and partners Philip Licht from Set Free Alaska, Ira Perman from Atwood Foundation and Herb Schroeder from Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program all attended, as did a number of Foundation staff.
Leadership training spanning an ocean
Three years after I nominated VP Angela Cox for the German Marshall Fund’s flagship leadership development program, she is getting to take part. Her Marshall Memorial Fellowship was postponed because of COVID-19. Her cohort of 15 U.S. fellows will meet with their European counterparts in Washington, D.C., before heading to Brussels, Belgium; Strasbourg, France; Barcelona, Spain; Tbilisi, Georgia; and Paris, France. In each city, Angela will connect with leaders and learn about public policy in philanthropy, democracy, media and journalism, and immigration. Only a few Alaskans have been selected before, including former Foundation VP Aleesha Towns-Bain.
Bringing community perspectives to the Fed
My service on the community advisory council for Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco has wrapped up. I was honored at a reception dinner on Oct. 18 after my last advisory council meeting. The San Francisco Fed not only informs monetary policy but also is a public service organization that seeks to expand opportunities for all. As the organization says: “We listen, learn, and reflect the communities we serve so we can make better decisions and policy to help our nation thrive.”