Hello colleagues, It’s officially autumn, one of the most beautiful times of the year! Here are a few recent highlights from the Foundation.
— Diane Kaplan, president and CEO

Broadband work gets underway with partnerships, outreach

Board member Kathy Hurlburt, her sister and Senior Fellow Kristina Woolston and their parents.

Rasmuson Foundation Board Member Kathy Hurlburt, her sister and Senior Fellow Kristina Woolston, and their parents.

With $567,800 in federal digital equity planning grant funds expected to be awarded soon, Rasmuson Foundation’s work as digital equity administrator for the State of Alaska has kicked into high gear. We participated in the three-day federal Infrastructure Summit hosted earlier this month by Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Our own Kathy Hurlburt kicked off a half-day session on digital equity, sharing her story of growing up in Naknek with limited broadband and explaining why Rasmuson Foundation got involved. Her sister, Senior Fellow Kristina Woolston, followed with an overview of our responsibilities as broadband administrator for Alaska. It was only fitting that their mom and dad were in town and able to watch the sisters in action.

Chris Campbell from Tilson Technologies facilitated our first listening session by breaking the participants into small groups and asking questions about internet access, barriers and uses. The information was captured and will help inform the five-year digital equity plan the Foundation will draft in conjunction with the State. Only 40-plus more to go! The evening concluded with a small reception at Simon & Seafort’s for partners we hope to work with. Curtis McQueen represented the board at that event.

Separately, we published this op-ed in the Anchorage Daily News as well as Juneau, Fairbanks and Mat-Su newspapers to introduce the planning process and explain our role. Our piece included the address for the email account we’ve established to provide another avenue for input — broadband@rasmuson.org — and this account has already started to generate feedback to guide our work going forward.

Hometown celebration for our Distinguished Artist

2022 Distinguished Artist James Barker was joined by two other fellow Distinguished Artists Kes Woodward and Peggy Shumaker.

2022 Distinguished Artist James Barker was joined by two other fellow Distinguished Artists Kes Woodward and Peggy Shumaker.

Family, friends, fellow artists and leaders gathered at Lavelle’s Bistro in Fairbanks to celebrate photographer James Barker, the 2022 Distinguished Artist. Guests watched his Distinguished Artist mini-documentary and mingled while a slideshow of his work played.

Board Member Rebecca Brice Henderson spoke. Rasmuson Foundation VP Angela Cox and Chief of Staff Jeff Baird along with staff members Monica Terrones Vargas and Bill Bailey joined. The event was made extra special by the attendance of two past Distinguished Artists, Kes Woodward and Peggy Shumaker, along with a number of past IAA awardees.

Celebrating in person after two years of virtual events was a reminder of the excitement surrounding our in-person events.

Award brings new partnership for healthy communities

Lola Adedokun and Tsion Ghedamu of Aspen Institute joined Rasmuson Foundation VP Angela Cox and staff Roy Agloinga and Emily Cho (formerly Kwon) to share Aspen’s Healthy Communities Fellowship opportunity with Alaska leaders. Lola took part in the Foundation’s 2014 Grantmakers Tour of Alaska when she was with Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. A $190,000 Tier 2 award approved in June will cover fellowship costs for three Alaskans.

Eighteen community partners attended. The Aspen Institute team shared information on the need for the fellowships, the year’s schedule and the nomination process. They, along with Angela and Roy, fielded questions on eligibility and Aspen’s definition of healthy communities.

The Healthy Communities Fellowship provides communications and storytelling training to locally rooted leaders who are building healthy communities. Each cohort learns to write opinion pieces, devise advocacy plans, conduct interviews and establish a social media presence. Nominations can be submitted here.

Trip to Unalaska with close partner

Sheri Buretta snaps photos of the Bishop’s House and me in Unalaska. We supported the preservation of this building with a $25,000 Tier 1 in 2018.

Senior Fellow Bob Doehl and I traveled to Unalaska in late September with Sheri Buretta, chair of Chugach Alaska Corp. and the University of Alaska Board of Regents. Sheri also served on our Exxon Valdez Oil Spill think tank. We visited the Holy Ascension Orthodox Cathedral and the Bishop’s House next door. In 2018, our grant of nearly $500,000 helped fund a needed fire suppression system and a new roof at the cathedral and a $25,000 grant helped to preserve the Bishop’s House. We  also visited with 2017 Distinguished Artist Gert Svarny.

Hotel becomes housing for those who have experienced homelessness

For the first time, Anchorage has housing designated for those with extremely low incomes. In September, Presbyterian Church Anchorage LLC closed on its purchase of the GuestHouse, providing a home for more than 130 individuals in the former hotel on East Fifth Avenue. At least 20 rooms have been set aside for those who need extra help through permanent supportive housing. The rest will go to those with low or extremely low income, below $24,450 a year. This is the second hotel purchased through the public-private partnership working to ensure shelter or housing for everyone in Alaska’s biggest city.

In another development, in memory of our late Chairman Ed Rasmuson, Rachel Garbow Monroe, president and CEO of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, has awarded three $6,000 discretionary grants: to First Presbyterian in support of the GuestHouse project, to the Big Ed Rotary Fund to End Homelessness, and to Anchorage Faith & Action Congregations Together. Together, the grants total $18,000. In the Jewish faith, 18 is a special number: it symbolizes life.

Alaska Housing Trust moving forward

With $1 million in seed money from the Legislature, the new Alaska Housing Trust is coming together with a clear goal: Create new, affordable housing all over Alaska. Our senior fellow Michele Brown is recruiting individuals to serve on the board of trustees. The board will review and approve grant awards, serve as fiduciaries for the funds held at The Alaska Community Foundation, and work to generate revenue to increase the endowment. Individuals also are applying to serve on the advisory committee. These subject matter experts from all over Alaska will make grant recommendations to the trustees. I made a presentation on Sept. 14 to the Susitna Rotary Club, which was particularly interested in our work solving homelessness. Among other projects, I highlighted the safe-and-sober housing being developed by Set Free Alaska in Wasilla. We are supporting that work with a $650,000 Tier 2 grant approved in June. Board Member Curtis McQueen was kind enough to attend and introduce me.

At this conference, expect candid discussions

The National Forum on Family Philanthropy is coming up Oct. 19-21. Chair Adam Gibbons and I are on a panel about building and maintaining chair-CEO relationships. Others from the board who plan to attend are: Jay Gibbons, Natasha von Imhof, Rebecca Brice Henderson and Angela Salazar. Jess Haley, manager of the President’s Office, will support the effort. Organizers say conversations will be led by “the greatest thought leaders in family giving.”

Partner recognized for its commitment to Alaska philanthropy

Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska has been named the “Outstanding Corporation in Philanthropy” by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Alaska Chapter. This award recognizes a business’s commitment to supporting communities and philanthropy. We nominated Premera for this 2022 Alaska Philanthropy Day award. The insurer has been a close partner to Alaska and us with a special shoutout to Paul Hollie. Premera was among the funders investing $40 million into solutions for homelessness. They invested $5.7 million to improve health care in rural Alaska with $3 million going towards a Rural Health Fund, contributed $100,000 to the AK Can Do fund for COVID-19 recovery, participated in the 2018 Grantmakers Tour of Alaska and visited again for a health-focused tour that same year. Premera and the other awardees will receive their honors at a celebratory luncheon in November.

Alaskans leaned in for Pick.Click.Give.

A big push in August encouraging Alaskans to donate part or all of their Permanent Fund dividend through Pick.Click.Give. made a difference. The 2022 campaign raised $3,033,725, which is $675 more than last year and the second highest amount on record. (The highest was $3.2 million in 2015.) Digital ads and radio and TV ads all encouraged donations, relying on this year’s record dividend amount to ask those who already gave to give more. Nonprofits were supplied with template postcards and did their own ads as well. The result: a needed infusion of cash for the nonprofits that work so hard to improve life in Alaska.

Silver Salmon, oh what a beautiful place!

Connections, meaningful conversations and countless memories were all made at this year’s Silver Salmon Creek trips. Groups going to fish camp included the 2022 Grantmakers Tour participants, Alaska nonprofit leaders, behavioral health, faith-based nonprofits and more. Leadership from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation deepened relationships with Alaskans.

Connecting with Alaska museums

Monica Garcia-Itchoak

The annual conference of our nonprofit partner Museums Alaska took place in Valdez as a hybrid in-person and virtual event in September. Topics included digital spaces, diverse voices and storytelling and museums as places to explore sovereignty. For one panel, Monica Garcia-Itchoak, program officer, joined with the Institute of Museum and Library Services out of Washington, D.C., to present information on funding opportunities for museums.


Learning about grantees — and each other

Group photo time! Rasmuson Foundation staff members gather at Sitka National Historical Park.

Our staff spent two-plus days in Sitka, the first visit for many, for this year’s staff retreat. We visited Raven Radio and the Alaska Raptor Center and met with four-time Individual Artist Award recipient Nicholas Galanin at the carving place. We toured a much-needed housing development and had a meaningful stop at gorgeous Sitka National Historical Park with Tlingit leader Kh’asheechtlaa Louise Brady. Our retreats usually focus on site visits but this year, with so many new staff, we added in a workshop with Michael Fredericks to think intentionally about our work in diversity, equity and inclusion and help strengthen relationships with one another.

Fire Ops 101

Community members including politicians, leaders and our own VP Angela Cox, quite literally, walked a mile in a firefighter’s shoes. Angela is circled in red.

VP Angela Cox was firefighter for a day on behalf of the Foundation. The annual weekend event shows community leaders what it takes to keep our community safe. And while participants — which this year included Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Mayor Dave Bronson, Rep. Kelly Merrick and other elected officials — got to undergo a small bit of actual firefighter training (Spraying the hose! Climbing a 60-foot ladder! Using the jaws of life!), the program’s overall goal was to show why adequately resourcing the city’s first responders is vital. Angela learned many things but shared this important factoid: There’s almost nowhere else in the nation that has the survival rates for sudden cardiac arrest than in Anchorage, AK. We have a well-oiled engine, if you will, right here in our home city.