Participants on the 2018 Grantmakers Tour of Alaska took a train ride down Turnagain Arm. Also on the train: leaders of dozens of nonprofit organizations. The 2019 tour begins Sunday, Aug. 18.
Read Caption Hide Caption

A stop on an eroding Alaska island that is home to 600 people, most of them Iñupiat. Heart-to-heart talks with tribal leaders, mayors and other elected officials. A visit to the most diverse ZIP code in the United States.

Every summer we invite leaders of major outside grantmaking organizations to take part in a jam-packed tour of Alaska. We share the beauty and people, challenges and struggles, stories of resilience and examples of ingenuity. On Sunday, our 23rd Annual Grantmakers Tour begins.

The 2018 Grantmakers Tour of Alaska participants walked on the tundra with Bethel nonprofit leaders.

The six-day tour provides funders with connections and insights to become investors and sometimes partners in Alaska projects. We estimate that the dozens of individuals who have been on this educational tour since it began in 1997 have directed at least $115 million to Alaska nonprofits.

This year’s group of seven grantmakers and two spouses will enjoy quite the experience. They will travel by plane and train, bus and four-wheeler as they visit health clinics and hospitals, museums and cultural centers, a homeless shelter and a rural store. Tour stops align with grantmakers’ interests.

Participants will be off the road system more than they are on it. First stop: Sitka, where our guests will mingle with community members at a reception and visit the Sitka Sound Science Center and Sitka National Historic Park, both Rasmuson Foundation grantees.

They will head northwest for Nome and the village of Shishmaref — first time there for the tour — where locals are fighting coastal erosion. Visits to the Katherine Miksruaq Olanna Memorial Clinic and an Iñupiaq language immersion school are among the planned stops. They will go to the Top of the World, Utqiaġvik, where they will learn about Alaska land claims from leaders of Arctic Slope Regional Corp. On a train ride down Turnagain Arm, they will enjoy dinner with nonprofit leaders. And they will meet with other Alaska Native leaders at a remote camp where brown bears and, if they are lucky, silver salmon, abound.

Nancy McKinstry of Stavros Niarchos Foundation and David Willis of Perigee Fund sample foods at the Alaska Native Heritage Center during the 2018 Grantmakers Tour.

In Anchorage, the experience will include breakfast at Brother Francis Shelter and lunch with students in the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program at the University of Alaska Anchorage. They will get a tour of Mountain View, the most diverse part of the United States, and see new housing that is reshaping the neighborhood.

Our guests this year bring a richness of interests: in arts and health care, homelessness and housing, culture and language, community development and workforce development. They come from the National Endowment for the Arts, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and Alaska Airlines.

Our hope is to deepen our guests’ understanding of Alaska. Thanks to all who help us along the way. The tour is one big way, and one big week, in our effort to promote a better life for Alaskans.