As the end of 2009 draws to a close and 2010 hovers on the horizon, we take a moment to reflect back on a tumultuous but important year as documented on our blog.As the end of 2009 draws to a close and 2010 hovers on the horizon, we’d like to take a moment to reflect back on a tumultuous but important year. I skimmed a year’s worth of blog posts that are available on our website. Here are the top 10 themes that reflect what’s happened at Rasmuson Foundation this year. Enjoy!
1.) Economic downturn effects Foundation grant-making
The worst economic downturn in a generation impacted all Alaskans and emerged as an important topic of conversation throughout the nonprofit community. The Foundation’s assets were effected and the Foundation acted quickly by reducing overall grant-making activities in 2009. In February 2009, Foundation CEO and President Diane Kaplan hit the road to talk with the nonprofit community about the new world order in the philanthropic sector as a whole and at the Foundation. With reductions in institution giving, we urged nonprofits to prioritize donations from individual donors, starting with the board of directors.
March 2009 had the Foundation carefully studying the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), also known as the “economic stimulus package,” for potential funding streams for Alaskan organizations. Denali Commission announced the formation of a clearinghouse so Alaskan organizations would be prepared to take advantage of ARRA funds. The Alaska Clearinghouse was comprised of staff members from the Denali Commission, Alaska State Legislature, Rasmuson Foundation and other Federal Agencies with people on hand to answer questions from nonprofit organizations and tribal entities.
2.) Pick. Click. Give. comes online in a big way
Rasmuson Foundation joined with the Alaskan Giving Coalition to participate in the launch of Pick. Click. Give., a program to encourage Alaskans to donate a portion of their permanent fund dividend to nonprofit organizations around the state. By the March 31 deadline, over 5,000 individuals gave more than a half million dollars. In September, the Foundation urged organizations to carve out space in quarterly newsletters and other communication methods to publicize the second year of the program. Just this month, we unveiled http://www.rasmuson.org/blog/?p=647 the latest media promotion for the project, which is now going full tilt around Alaska.
3.) A new look at Substance Abuse
In June, Rasmuson Foundation held the first of a series of meetings with statewide leaders concerned about addressing substance abuse in Alaska in a new way. We feel it was an important step in encouraging open, honest communication on this complex issue.
4.) Why Mountain View?
In August, we joined with our neighbors in Anchorage’s Mountain View Neighborhood to celebrate all the incredible successes the area has seen in recent years at a summer-time street fair—replete with art projects, ice cream and break dancing. In another post, we reflected on why Mountain View has been selected as the future home of an arts and culture center—a place considered the “last resort” for many people.
5.) The Educational Tour of Alaska for Grantmakers rides again
Also in August, Rasmuson Foundation joined with its partners to welcome national funders to the state, as part of the 13th Annual Educational Tour of Alaska. As part of the festivities, we blogged from the Philanthropy Express trainride, Bethel and the Arctic Slope. Diane noted that Bethel was a particularly busy place in August, with visits from four of the President’s Cabinet members, a celebration of the Yuut Elitnaurviat People’s Learning Center all taking place within a few days.
6.) Congratulations across the state
Rasmuson Foundation was thrilled to send best wishes along to several deserving recipients this fall. In October, we cheered Dr. Jill Seaman, who received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. Dr. Seaman is an infectious disease physician who splits her time between Bethel and Southern Sudan. A week earlier, we were delighted to congratulate Dr. Amanda Gaynor Ashley, who was recognized by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with a Community Health Leader award for her work to improve oral health in the North Slope Borough. In the arts community, we applauded Joan Kane who received the 2009 Whiting Writers’ Award for her first book, The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife.
7.) 50 years of progress
2009 also marked the 50th anniversary of Alaska’s statehood and we celebrated our shared history with the Alaska Statehood Experience (ASE), a project of Rasmuson Foundation and Alaska Humanities Forum (AKHF) with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The celebration included books, plays and exhibits around the state. Another project of historical proportions received national attention this fall. For the Rights of All: Ending Jim Crow Laws in Alaska premiered on September 22 in Washington, DC, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and focused on Alaska’s civil rights movement.
8.) Goodbye to an old friend
It was with great reluctance that we bid farewell to friend and program officer Joel Neimeyer as he moves on to his new position as federal co-chair of the Denali Commission. Joel was honored this year by Native Americans in Philanthropy as the recipient of the Louis T. Delgado Distinguished Grantmaker Award for 2009. Joel reflected on his time at the Foundation in a blog post this month.
9.) Building our network
With times of economic hardship sweeping the sector, the Foundation relied heavily on our peers to strategize tactics for 2009. Philanthropy Northwest selected Building Resiliency as its conference theme for the fall retreat, which provided fertile ground for how to build up and strengthen organizations in a difficult year. November saw the first gathering of the Alaska Corporate Philanthropy Seminar. Organized by Philanthropy Northwest, with support from Wells Fargo Bank Alaska, the seminar brought together 25 Alaskan companies to discuss their giving strategies.
10.) Tundra Women’s Coalition Shelter opens
Rasmuson Foundation participates in many programs around the state—and all are cause for cheering. (Diane Kaplan was on hand in Kodiak for the ground-breaking ceremony for Kodiak Area Native Association’s new community services building.). As this year draws to a close, Rasmuson Foundation applauds the efforts of the Tundra Women’s Coalition, which opened its Domestic Violence Crisis Center and Shelter in Bethel last week. We view this project as a testament to what can happen when like-minded individuals pull together—we look forward to continuing this tradition in 2010.