President’s Report October 2015

Diane Kaplan, President and CEO

We have been taking the Foundation’s fiscal education campaign all over Alaska. Chairman Ed Rasmuson, Jordan Marshall and I recently gave presentations on it to the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce, Institute of the North, Commonwealth North, Coastal Villages Region Fund, Alaska Bankers Association, Covenant House Alaska, and a UAA public policy class. We have also done several primetime television news interviews. We presented at the Alaska Federation of Natives annual convention and Board member Aaron Schutt led a panel discussion there. A dozen more presentations are scheduled for the coming months. Legislative consultant Laurie Herman is helping guide the campaign and Strategies 360 developed a comprehensive campaign plan.

Schutt ABM coverThe September 2015 issue of Alaska Business Monthly featured an in-depth profile of Doyon Limited and its President and CEO, Rasmuson Foundation Board member Aaron Schutt. “We’re a very rural state,” Aaron said. “I have an awful lot of respect for people that choose to reside in our rural communities.”

Referring to Doyon’s flagship company, Doyon Drilling, Ltd., Aaron told the magazine “A lot of our most successful businesses are on the oilfield, and instead of chasing things like Bakken shale or other discoveries, we’ve chosen to grow our business in an area in which we understand the market, clients, conditions, and we have specialized equipment, and so we feel like we’ve had a great opportunity here in the state to continue to grow. . . Activities outside of Alaska are the next step.” Congratulations to Aaron and Doyon!


How Grant Requests Are Teaching Me About Alaska

Kelsey Potdevin

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from a longer post on the Philanthropy Northwest Blog.

kelsey at work
“I wasn’t born here, but I’ve lived in Alaska for most of my life and my mom’s family is from Alaska’s interior. My family’s been in the Northwest for probably over 10,000 years. But I’ve learned more in the past year about how my home state works than I ever did growing up here, through sharing in the happiness of successful grant requests.

“Since joining Rasmuson Foundation as a program fellow in August 2014, I have reviewed more than 68 Tier 1 grant requests, resulting in just over $1.2 million in awards to nonprofits statewide. Our Tier 1 program is our small grant program that makes awards of up to $25,000 for capital projects. Helping with this program has helped me achieve a better sense of the work Alaska’s nonprofits do and how grantmaking works. It’s really not about just giving money away, but more of a combination of investing in nonprofits and supporting projects that will improve the lives of Alaskans. Oftentimes the request is pretty straightforward: “We need a new van to transport elders to medical appointments,” or “We need a new roof because we literally have water leaking through the light fixtures.” Other times, Tier 1 requests necessitate a string of emails and many phone calls. I often find myself asking nonprofits what a piece of equipment is — for example, a nutrient autoanalyzer or a skidsteer — what the equipment does and how it will help people.

“One Tier 1 grant I reviewed was for a nutrient autoanalyzer that will process water samples for the Prince William Sound Science Center in Cordova. I was there for a museum conference last month, so Sammye Pokryfki, Roy Agloinga and I stopped by for a visit. This piece of equipment will help PWSSC process a backlog of over 3,000 frozen water samples. In the long run, it’s going to dramatically free up their researchers’ time so they can figure out other mysteries of local fisheries! It measures macronutrients in the water. This project is “somewhat typical” of what I do every day. Then again, there isn’t really a typical Tier 1.

“As far as a day at the office goes, nothing beats the overjoyed response from a nonprofit that has just learned that its request has been approved… especially when the approved request will go towards keeping someone warm, fed, sheltered or healthy.”

Hashtag Rasmuson 60

Cassandra Stalzer, Communications Director

RF60Hallmark says 60 is the “Diamond Anniversary.” But instead of collecting baubles, we aim to collect comments.

Sixty years ago Jenny Olson Rasmuson invested $3,500 in a fund at National Bank of Alaska to commemorate the memory of her husband, E.A. It seemed a fitting tribute; E.A. loved Alaska and felt the state had provided well for his family. Having served as missionaries, E.A. and Jenny retained a commitment of service to others.

The concept of a foundation that could make grants into perpetuity had been pioneered in Alaska a few years earlier by family friend Z.J. Loussac and fit Jenny’s intent perfectly. Rasmuson Foundation was born.

In commemoration of the 60th Anniversary, we invite you to tell us if the Foundation is making progress toward its mission to “improve the quality of life for Alaskans.” Is there a particular investment – maybe in a library, community center, clinic or playground – that has had an impact on you? Or on those important to you?

We are not talking about kudos or gratitude. Just your brief, honest assessment of how, if and where we’re making a difference.

Or, do you have thoughts as we move forward? What direction or focus should the Foundation pursue as we move into the next 60 years?

Share your comments here, or tag them with #Rasmuson60 on Twitter or in captions on Instagram. There will also be plenty of opportunities to comment and tag us on Facebook.

We will compile and consider comments as part of our Anniversary activities. We will also share back what we’ve heard.

We look forward to hearing from you!


Trevor Storrs says: October 30th, 2015 at 10:01 am
Rasmuson Foundation's level of impact through their financial investment is small compared to their investment in changing the normative landscape in Alaska. They have been a model leader in showing how important it is for all Alaskans to invest in our state and communities. This normative investment will outlive any other investment they make. Thank you! READ MORE
Sarah Warnock says: October 27th, 2015 at 5:35 pm
To me, the largest carat in the Rasmuson Foundation Diamond Birthday collection is not a building or a program, it's their vision and the mission statement itself: "To improve the quality of life for all Alaskans." As one of the newest beneficiaries of Rasmuson generosity, Alaska Geographic staff have found it incredibly focusing to have such a clear, unequivocal, and important vision to overlay onto our own mission. When searching for direction amid the many ways we could accomplish our goals, keeping this vision in mind has been really helpful for making the choices that in the end help to give more Alaskans access to the beauty and bounty of our state. READ MORE
Verna Gibson says: October 27th, 2015 at 3:57 pm
Shiloh Community Housing, Inc. operate a transitional housing program for homeless young adults 18-24 yrs old (Living Independent ForEver LIFE). This program is a vision & mission created by my daughter in her Masters Program at UAA, who was adopted from the foster care system & I, a foster parent. We recognized the need for affordable housing and mentoring for this group and others in this age group having the same needs. The vision became a reality in 2008. The building SCHI purchased needed repairs and Rasmuson Tier1 grant made those repairs possible. Your generosity has changed the lives of several young adults and we all thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Keep up your God given mission. "Only what we do for Christ will last". READ MORE
Rasmuson Foundation says: October 27th, 2015 at 3:51 pm
Thank you Joanne. We appreciate your comments. READ MORE
Joanne Phillips-Nutter says: October 27th, 2015 at 3:49 pm
How grateful we ALL are to Jenny for her commitment to service and choosing to commemorate her husband by investing as she did. As a Development Professional I have worked for many organizations who have benefited from what has grown from her vision. Camp Fire Alaska, the agency I am so very proud to be a part of today is one such agency - we are immensely grateful for the many years of support, and for that we say thank you. The Foundation has done so much good and important work,but it is my feeling that the work you are currently engaged in around our states' fiscal crisis may be one of the most important causes the foundation has undertaken. You are helping shape the conversation and giving voice to the non-profit sector - the states third largest economic sector. Thank you for stepping out and stepping up so boldly. I believe with the Rasmuson Foundation engaged so publicly in this conversation more people will listen. I obviously never met Jinny, but I have a feeling she would be very proud of the way the foundation has stewarded her gift. Thank you! READ MORE

Thorny fiscal gap? Let the kids tackle it.

Rasmuson Foundation

fiscaltoolwebWhile our state leaders might struggle with solving Alaska’s budget challenge in an election year, the state’s students will put their brains to the task, thanks to a new curriculum unveiled Oct. 15. The lesson plans, “Bringing the Revenue Model into the Classroom,” are designed for middle and high school students and center on the revenue and spending model developed earlier this year by the state Department of Revenue.

The new curriculum teaches economic and financial literacy using the most urgent problem Alaska faces. The interactive model allows users to understand the state’s budget gap and try their hands at solving it through various mix-and-match options, including additional sources of revenue and more budget cuts.

The lesson materials, including the interactive model, are available here. Try it yourself! The State of Alaska also maintains a website, Building a Sustainable Future.

The new curriculum is exciting on several levels.

Barbara Dubovich says: October 19th, 2015 at 9:49 am
This is phenomenal! Cheers to all who helped make this happen. READ MORE

Cultivating investments in Alaska for 19 years

Rasmuson Foundation

Every August the Foundation brings up Outside grantmakers for a weeklong introductory visit to Alaska. This year’s cohort traveled to Anchorage, Napaskiak, Bethel, Barrow, Silver Salmon Camp and Juneau; toured Prudhoe Bay; met with hundreds of nonprofit leaders; visited numerous nonprofit and cultural facilities; and interacted with our state leaders in an attempt to understand Alaska and the partnership opportunities that exist here.

Is the Grantmakers Tour having an impact? During the past 19 years, 128 individuals representing 72 foundations or other types of organizations have participated. And using Foundation Center and Guidestar data available up to May 2014, we estimate that during the period 2003-2013, giving to Alaska organizations by foundations that have participated in the Grantmakers Tour totaled $78.24 million. These funds were awarded in 1,244 individual grants ranging in size from $1,000 to $2.8 million.

While it’s impossible to prove a direct correlation for all of this grantmaking, there’s no doubt that Alaska enjoys a higher profile and better relations with national philanthropies as a result of the Grantmakers Tour. So, thank you, to all the Alaskans who help make the Tour and investments in our state happen.

Heather Flynn says: October 8th, 2015 at 8:52 pm
I was on the plane with a bunch of the finders. Clearly you made a positive impression. H READ MORE
John T LaMantia says: October 8th, 2015 at 8:19 pm
Dear Rasmuson Foundation and all the Alaska Grantmakers, This is John LaMantia at the Anchorage Rescue Mission to thank all of you sincerely for the help you have given us in the past. Your friendship and support have proven invaluable for what we do here. Regards, John READ MORE
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Alaska tribal college celebrates 20 years

Rasmuson Foundation

StudentsNo question that Western-style education has been a double-edged sword for traditional Native cultures in Alaska. Schools introduced by missionaries were a vehicle for assimilation. Most everyone is familiar with Elders’ stories of being punished as children for speaking their Native language in the classroom.

It was for the sake of education that so many Native children in the 1950s and ‘60s – including many of today’s leaders – were shipped off to boarding schools, pulled from their families, their cultures, their communities.

And yet, and yet. Western education has brought benefits to indigenous communities in Alaska. And successes are seen especially in programs and organizations that emphasize the importance of incorporating indigenous culture within a western context. As president of Ilisagvik College in Barrow since 2012, Pearl Kiyawn Brower is excited and energized to be presiding over the 20th anniversary of Alaska’s only tribal college.

President’s Report August 2015

Diane Kaplan, President and CEO
Kris Norosz (photo by R.E. Johnson)

Kris Norosz (photo by R.E. Johnson)

The Wrangell Cooperative Association Cultural Center ($450,000 Tier 2; Nov. ’11) celebrated its grand opening July 25. The ribbon cutting marked completion of the second phase of the tribe’s three-part Native cultural revival plan, which included the re-dedication of the Chief Shakes Tribal House last year. The center will be a place for recreating eight sacred totem poles and for teaching Native arts. The Chief Shakes Historic Site and Island is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an historic monument. Board member Kris Norosz represented the Foundation at the ribbon cutting.

Board member Aaron Schutt, Sammye Pokryfki and I attended the TCC commemoration

Board member Aaron Schutt, Sammye Pokryfki and I attended the TCC commemoration

On July 6, Tanana Chiefs Conference commemorated the 100-year anniversary of the historic meeting of Tanana Chiefs and Judge Wickersham. The 1915 gathering was the first recorded meeting of the tribes and the federal government. It marked the beginning of dialogue between Alaska Native people and the U.S. Government about Native land claims and the federal trust responsibility for Native people.

My mother Eleanor Kaplan and I served up ice cream with Governor Bill and First Lady Walker.

My mother Eleanor and I served up ice cream with Governor Bill and First Lady Donna Walker.

Governor Walker used an Alaska Flag Day celebration in Anchorage, July 9, to sign HB44, the Alaska Safe Children’s Act, also known as Erin’s Law. The law requires K-12 schools in Alaska to provide education to students and teachers about child sexual abuse, including how to identify potential signs, symptoms, reporting, and how to work with individuals who have experienced that trauma. The Flag Day celebration was hosted by Alaska Child & Family, originally founded as the Jesse Lee Home. Rasmuson Foundation is named in the bill as a member of an advisory panel to discuss the scope and content of the curriculum. In a fun side of the day’s event, my mother Eleanor Kaplan and I had the honor of scooping ice cream alongside Governor Bill and First Lady Donna Walker.

The Recover Alaska steering committee met July 8 with Dr. Drew Altman, CEO of Kaiser Family Foundation, and Dr. Steve Schroeder, head of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at University of California San Francisco. Schroeder is former president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Both complimented Recover Alaska’s approach and strategies and offered assistance as the initiative moves forward. Jeff Cook represented the Board at the meeting.

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.


Pat Branson says: August 31st, 2015 at 3:14 am
Thank you, Mr. Rasmuson, for your continued optimism for all of Alaska. In times like these, it is much needed. READ MORE

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.

Annette Funk says: August 9th, 2015 at 2:41 am
Barb, what a fantastic tribute to you to receive this award. It's inspiring to read how you used your time and the filters and lenses through which you viewed your journey over time as a result. Best to you! READ MORE
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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