Rasmuson Foundation is growing to better serve Alaska as a force for improving lives. To help us operate more efficiently, the Foundation is hiring its first chief of staff. We are happy to announce that program officer Jeff Baird is filling that position.
As chief of staff, Baird will address challenges and act as a central nerve center for the Foundation. The leadership team felt this role was essential to coordinate the work of the Foundation as it intersects three business units: Finance and Administration, Program, and External Affairs.
“I am delighted that Jeff has agreed to take on an expanded role at the Foundation. He is a proven leader who has excelled at every task he’s been handed, and there have been many,” said Diane Kaplan, Foundation president and chief executive officer. “His commitment to the Foundation mission is strong.”
Baird grew up in a suburb of Chicago and started his working life as a newspaper reporter in Minnesota and North Dakota. He went back to school in 2005 and earned his law degree from the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis. He arrived in Alaska in 2008 for a yearlong judicial clerkship in the Southwestern hub in Bethel and took a second clerkship in Anchorage. He landed at the Foundation in 2011 as a program associate and until now has stayed with the program team, which handles grant-making.
He initially was reviewing small grant requests, handling about 100 of the Foundation’s Tier 1 grants a year. “It’s a great way to educate yourself about Alaska, the projects, the needs of each community,” he said.
He became a program officer and began handling larger grants as well as other projects. He’s handled grant requests for health clinics and the Alaska Cares child advocacy center, for historic buildings and library improvements. He helped to restructure the Foundation’s arts program and is one of two program officers who leads the Foundation’s Individual Artist Awards, with 350 to 450 artists a year applying for up to 36 awards. He hopes to keep a toe in the program world.
Baird also serves on the board of Catholic Social Services for Alaska and previously was on the board of thread, the child care agency. He also enjoys playing the guitar, fishing and hiking.
The need for a chief of staff is evidence the Foundation is maturing. Rasmuson Foundation was started in 1955 but has been making significant grants for less than 20 years. The opportunities expanded after Elmer Rasmuson bequeathed nearly his entire estate to the Foundation in 2000.
Baird said he envisions the new role will help the Foundation operate to an even higher degree, as a force “to promote a better life for Alaskans,” the organization’s mission.
He will transition to the chief of staff position over the next month.
About the Foundation
Rasmuson Foundation was created in May 1955 by Jenny Rasmuson to honor her late husband “E.A.” Rasmuson. Through grantmaking and initiatives, the Foundation aims to promote a better life for all Alaskans.