Letter to Alaskans

Edward Rasmuson, Chairman

Dear Alaskans, My father, Elmer Rasmuson, noted in a 1993 speech that “we live in a changing world.” Indeed, Rasmuson Foundation is in the business of change — specifically the type of change leading toward increased opportunity and a better quality of life for Alaskans. But, just as consistently as we seek to foster change, the Foundation is also subject to it.

Navigating the first 60 Years

In 1955 the Foundation made its first grant: $125 for a movie projector to support a church youth group’s recreation program. And, up until the mid 1990s, grants were small and usually for office equipment, musical instruments, vehicles, furniture, and other capital items. Today’s Tier 1 program harkens back to the Foundation’s beginnings. Change was inevitable as the Foundation’s assets jumped from $8.7 million in 1999 to $428.2 million in 2002.

The Tier 2 program – grants of $25,000 or more – was introduced in 2000, followed by expanded grantmaking and professional staff to manage it. This era saw the emergence of significant initiatives, among them the Arts and Culture Initiative, the Sabbatical Program and the Oral Health Initiative. The Foundation found active partners in the public sector resulting in the construction of clinics, libraries and community buildings across the state.


Low-cost software revisited

Rasmuson Foundation

2Guest post by Jeremiah Dunham, Senior Consultant at J2Dunham LLC.

Hello again! When the fine folks at Rasmuson Foundation asked me to do a follow up to the popular “Low-cost Software for Nonprofits” blog post, I was delighted. It’s been a little over two years since then, so what’s changed?

You may recall that last time I broke up the world of software into three categories – discounted commercial software, open source software, and cloud-based software. I’ll stick with this categorization for the updates to make them easier to trace from the original post.

Discounted Commercial Software
As installed commercial software continues to lose favor to cloud-based alternatives, the landscape here has changed somewhat.
TechSoup is still the go-to resource for nonprofit software and refurbished hardware. They’ve added more articles, webinars, and other resources, but not much has changed in their commercial software offerings. There is one notable exception: as part of Adobe’s move to the cloud, you can no longer obtain Creative Suite from TechSoup. You can still buy discounted licenses for Acrobat Pro, however.
• CCB’s product catalog is being renovated, so this isn’t a good resource at the moment. Apologies to all of the faith-based nonprofits out there.
• More of an errata than an update, Academic Superstore is just one of 25,000 online academic stores that are operated by JourneyEd. They are still a great resource for nonprofits in education.


How I spent my sabbatical

Rasmuson Foundation

What do people actually do on sabbatical? In this guest blog, Barbara Dubovich, CEO of Camp Fire Alaska, recounts her six-month sabbatical. Rasmuson Foundation’s Sabbatical Program offers awards up to $40,000 to cover a two- to six-month sabbatical If you know a nonprofit or Tribe whose chief executive would benefit, nominate them for a sabbatical. Nominations for the 2015 Sabbatical cohort are due October 1.

Guest post by Barbara Dubovich

My plans were specific: Rest. Relax. Refresh. Recharge. Rejuvenate. I’m happy to report I did all of them.

I traveled: more than 33,000 air miles and 5,000 plus road miles took me to three different countries and six states where I reconnected with family and friends. I spent time in health spas enjoying massages, soaking away worries in mineral baths and learning more about meditation, relaxation techniques and yoga.

dubovichI used the time and freedom to be much more physically active – bike riding in Florida, swimming and snorkeling in Mexico, strolling through villages and the countryside in springtime Switzerland.

I visited family, took a cherished road trip with my college-age son, spent a precious week with my niece in Cozumel, and celebrated my nephew’s college graduation. I spent time in my childhood home in Minnesota, visiting with a 91-year-old aunt and an 86-year-old uncle, the last of my father’s family still with us. These visits were particularly poignant for me, since two people I had planned to see had died just weeks earlier.

On Isla Mujeres, I met up with four childhood girlfriends. We laughed and talked and laughed and talked while soaking in the glorious tropical environment. In Switzerland, I became immersed in my niece’s household, coloring Easter eggs with my great nieces, attending flute lessons and touring chocolate and cheese factories.

The total freedom – waking up without an alarm, without a ‘do-today’ list – was like childhood summer vacation. I had to be the luckiest and most blessed person on earth. That’s how it felt.

I did think about work occasionally, but I didn’t worry about it. My work thoughts focused more around my role, my career, my dreams and future plans. That time for reflection was one of the benefits of the sabbatical.

Along with regaining some physical health, I found increased mental health. Restful sleep and time to just breathe make problems definitely look less daunting. Six weeks into my sabbatical – 7:30 on a Wednesday evening – I realized I had not checked my phone all day. This was significant. I had stopped checking work emails, but the constant looking at my phone had been a stubborn habit. Since my return from sabbatical, I’ve worked more diligently at unhooking. The world will not collapse.

I learned that the ship – Camp Fire Alaska – continued to sail, even through turbulence. During my leave, staff had to deal with several unplanned situations, each with internal and external impacts. Staff performed admirably, sought help when needed and managed situations expertly.

Since returning from the sabbatical, I seek ways to find better balance and rest. Finding balance is a continuing challenge but all of us in high-stress positions need time to re-group and rejuvenate.

The sabbatical itself was an extraordinary experience. Time is a most valuable commodity in our lives. I cannot imagine a greater gift.

Mark Lackey says: August 4th, 2015 at 7:29 am
Yay Barb! I couldn't think of a more deserving person and it sounds like you did it just right! I also was awarded a sabbatical in your cohort and you sum the feelings I had very well. While our actual time was spent differently - the result was the same - we were given a precious opportunity to rest, to relax and to re-examine our lives without the filter of work - and upon our return to re-prioritize as necessary. Thanks for summing it up so nicely and thank you to the Rasmuson Foundation for this great program! READ MORE
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DHAT attracts Lower 48 trainees

Rasmuson Foundation
DHATS graduating 2015

2015 graduating DHATs

The dramatic success of Alaska’s Dental Health Aide Therapist (DHAT) program in bringing dental care to rural Alaska has attracted attention and interest from all over the nation. This summer, dental therapists from lower 48 tribes begin training in Alaska to provide dental health services in their own communities.

Among the trainees at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) Educational Program is a member of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, of the Skagit Valley in Washington State. The Swinomish program was announced June 30, at the NCAI mid-year conference in St. Paul, MN, by Brian Cladoosby, Chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.

“Alaska has seen great success in solving a Native problem with a Native solution. We want to export that success to our community, which is why we are sending a Swinomish Tribal member to Alaska this summer to begin her dental health aide therapy training,” Cladoosby said.

Time is now to address alcohol impacts

Rasmuson Foundation
Jeff Cook serves on the Rasmuson Foundation Board of Directors.

Jeff Cook serves on the Rasmuson Foundation Board of Directors.

Rasmuson Foundation Board member Jeff Cook published this guest commentary July 11 in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

I am a life-long Alaskan who was born and raised in Fairbanks, and there are few things that are more important to me than the health of my community. As a board member at Rasmuson Foundation, I am pleased with the newest partnership between the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and Recover Alaska that will address the impacts of excessive consumption of alcohol on the Interior.

Alcohol and substance abuse in our state continues to have significant economic, social and health impacts — contributing to a loss of job productivity, an increase in health care costs, juvenile delinquency, homelessness and health complications, to name a few. The financial impact on the Alaska economy is approximately $1.2 billion. Alcohol use and abuse is the most important health issue for Alaskans, with abuse of other substances identified as No. 4.

The issue of excessive consumption of alcohol is too complex for any one entity to address alone. Recover Alaska, a multi-sector action group formed by concerned citizens and funded by a number of stakeholders including the Rasmuson Foundation, Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, Mat-Su Health Foundation, State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, and Southcentral Foundation, is dedicated to reducing the harm caused by excessive alcohol consumption in Alaska. (You can learn about its efforts here.)

With a focus on making systemic changes rather than addressing isolated symptoms of the issue, the News-Miner project will take an in-depth look at the over-consumption of alcohol in the Interior in a series called “Paths to Recovery: Solving Alaska’s alcohol problem.”

The series may not always be easy to read, there will be controversy and it may hit too close to home for some. But the most difficult conversations we have — both personally and professionally — are about alcohol.

The partnership brings the talents of investigative journalists to the issue and provides a public platform on which to report their findings.

jennifer jolis says: July 13th, 2015 at 1:39 pm
As long as I've been here (a long time) alcohol abuse has been a topic of concern for Alaskans. I'm glad to see the Rasmuson Foundation, Doyon, SouthCentral and so on, working with the News Miner to address it. But what I have noticed over the years also is that somehow, even though the impacts might be most visible there, all these efforts focus on Alaska Native alcohol abuse. Yes it is rampant, yes, it is excruciating as it destroys families and villages. But alcohol is and has been a significant issue for non-Native Alaskans as well--and somehow that doesn't seem to get addressed. My hope is that this series will loo closely at those living in the urban areas as well as it does at those living in villages. I am not diminishing the impact of alcohol in the lives of many Alaska Natives, but if we do not address the problems it poses across the entire spectrum of society in Alaska we are doing a disservice to our people. READ MORE
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Time to close Alaska’s gender pay gap

Rasmuson Foundation

Guest post by Hilary Morgan, CEO, YWCA Alaska

In 1963, the U.S. Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, prohibiting pay discrimination on the basis of gender. More than 50 years later, the pay gap has narrowed at a dismal pace. Nationally, women are currently paid an average of 78 cents for every dollar men make. In Alaska, that rate drops to 67.8 cents for every dollar and the gap closed just 5 cents between 1990 and 2014.

Hilary Morgan

Hilary Morgan

In a state where 48% of workers are women, the gender pay gap has a large economic impact. As a group, women who are employed full time in Alaska lose approximately $1.2 billion every year due to the pay gap. The gap exists in every major Alaska industry and in all regions of the state. Families, businesses and the economy suffer as a result. Alaska employers commonly refer to Alaska’s labor “puddle” rather than labor pool. In a state already facing a shortage of qualified workers, gender pay inequity poses yet another hurdle for companies trying to attract the most talented employees, of all genders.

The pay gap is also increasingly important as women play a growing role in their families’ economic security. Women are the sole or primary breadwinners in 40% of households. Yet mothers are paid just 69% of what fathers make. For single mothers, it’s even worse. Single mothers in Alaska make 62.8% of what single fathers earn. And 20.5% of single mother households fall below the poverty line. Closing the pay gap would enhance financial stability for families across the state while providing businesses a much needed economic boost.

Without a large, community-wide effort, the gender pay gap in Alaska will not close until 2142. The personal choices of women cannot explain the persistence of gender pay inequity. The pay gap exists in all industries, is present within occupations, and persists regardless of educational attainment. In fact, Alaska women with bachelor’s degrees make almost $8,500 less per year than men with associate’s degrees or only some college education.

In May of 2014, the YWCA Alaska Board of Directors resolved to eliminate Alaska’s gender pay gap by 2025. YWCA Alaska’s Gender Pay Gap Initiative concentrates on the economic implications of the gap. Instead of promoting legislation, the initiative focuses on changing the societal, educational and economic dynamics that contribute to the gender pay gap. The YWCA is working directly with businesses, organizations and their leaders to create gender-balanced workplaces. We’re also working to further educate women and girls on career choice, salary negotiation and the subtle nuances of gender bias.

YWCA Alaska believes that by giving businesses the tools to build gender neutral policies and helping prepare women and girls to enter the workforce, the gender pay gap in Alaska can be eliminated. The Initiative is quickly gaining community support and momentum. By working with the statewide community, YWCA Alaska will be able to transform Alaska’s workplaces to not only guarantee equal pay and opportunity for working women, but to also ensure that Alaska businesses are able to find and recruit the talented workers they need to enhance the state’s economic growth.

Expanding opportunities for Alaska artists

Rasmuson Foundation

Jeremy Pataky, owner of Overstory Consulting, manages aspects of the Rasmuson Foundation Artist Residency Program. In this guest post, he encourages Alaskan artists to apply to this unique opportunity.

Guest post by Jeremy Pataky

Alaska artist Gretchen Sagan with Ann Filemyr, formerly of IAIA, Sanjit Sethi of Santa Fe Art Institute, and Liz Maugans of Zygote Press. Sagan's residency in Santa Fe was in early 2015. Photo by Nathaniel Wilder.

Alaska artist Gretchen Sagan with Ann Filemyr, formerly of IAIA, Sanjit Sethi of Santa Fe Art Institute, and Liz Maugans of Zygote Press. Sagan’s residency in Santa Fe was in early 2015. Photo by Nathaniel Wilder.

It’s been just two years and counting since the Rasmuson Foundation Artist Residency Program launched, and already, its impact has proven strong. Quilt artist Maria Shell worked with communities surrounding the Brightwalk Arts and Ecology Campus in Charlotte, North Carolina, home of McColl Center for Art + Innovation. Her workshops invited participants to incorporate their personal quilt blocks into a mural-sized quilt that tells their collective story of how rapid re-development in their community affects their lives. Alaskan artist Gretchen Sagan created enough new work for a solo show while in residence at the Santa Fe Art Institute, while also learning to frame and stretch her own canvases. North Carolina visual artist Marek Ranis conducted artistic research into the anthropology of climate change throughout Arctic Alaska and built ongoing relationships here that has brought him back again and again since his residency in 2013.

Library funding requires more innovation than ever

Rasmuson Foundation

Kenai Community Library

The State of Alaska’s serious budget deficit will have effects in every corner of our state. Back in the day when Alaska’s financial coffers were flush with oil money (think early 1980s), the state paid for just about everything. Since the disastrous plunge in oil prices of the mid 1980s, most of our local capital projects have been funded through innovation and collaboration. The current outlook for state funding doesn’t mean community needs will disappear. But it does mean project supporters will have to be more creative than ever.

It takes a village might be considered a cliché in some quarters, but it reflects a truth about how many of the best things in our state, in our communities, are built. It’s not one person or one organization or one grant. All of us together make things happen. It’s even more true now.

Where was the oversight?

Rasmuson Foundation

Janet Brown is President and CEO of Grantmakers in the Arts. This post from her blog Better Together is relevant not just for arts organizations, but all nonprofits and those who guide them, support them, and celebrate them.

Guest post by Janet Brown

iStock_000018168566LargeFrom large major institutions to small nonprofits, one of the critical responsibilities of volunteer board members and funders is to assure best practices in fiduciary and organizational management. When a management issue arises that threatens the stability of a nonprofit arts organization, “where was the oversight?” is often the question on everyone’s lips. There are some common misperceptions and unfortunate “group think” that prevent or discourage adequate oversight by board members. Here are a few:

President’s report April 2015

Diane Kaplan, President and CEO

Several committee meetings were held to discuss revisions to Title 4, Alaska’s alcohol statutes, before the legislature adjourned. Senate Bill 99 was introduced by Sen. Peter Micciche (R-Kenai), and its companion House Bill 185, was introduced by Rep. Bob Herron (D-Bethel). These revisions are a key strategy of the Recover Alaska initiative, and are characterized as one of the largest, most complicated bills presented to the legislature in many years. It is expected that both bills will be considered during next year’s legislative session.