As mid-August rapidly approaches, we and our partners are busily putting finishing touches on the foundation’s 14th Annual Educational Tour of Alaska for Grantmakers. This is a special time of year for Alaska philanthropy because we proudly showcase the great work being done by our state’s innovative nonprofit sector. It is also a strategic time for us because we introduce Outside funders to people and projects that match their particular programmatic interests.

The most visible event during the perennial week-long, whirlwind tour is the “funders’ train,” an event that provides about 120 local nonprofit, corporate, and public sector leaders with a couple primetime hours to hobnob on the Alaska Railroad with our visitors from the Lower 48. We know that board members and CEOs consider the funders’ train a chance to positively advance the mission of one’s organization. We also know that there are people who look forward to receiving an invitation.

For a number of reasons, none of them personal, not everyone who wants to attend can be asked each and every year.

First, the funders group makeup (and the types of project they seek to fund) is different each year and, as a result, so too is the invitation list. Second, while we celebrate and support great work of local significance, we have learned that the visiting funders prefer to be introduced to model projects that have the potential to serve as templates for other regions. And finally, at the end of the day, there are a finite number of seats on the train.

Some people ask us how to get an invitation. A committee of Alaska funders takes on the task of matching our visitors with organizations of interest.

One final note: we understand that train schedules do not always accommodate previous commitments. Sometimes it’s impossible for invitees to attend. That’s OK. We don’t expect people to drop what they’re doing or travel vast distances to attend a social event that only lasts a few hours. That being said, we appreciate those invitees who take the time to help make our unique Alaska challenges real.