We know so many of you are working extra hard to keep your communities and clients, families and friends, safe, healthy and happy. It’s the same for us! Here are a few of the things our board and staff have been up to.
— Diane Kaplan, president and CEO, Rasmuson Foundation

AK Can Do’s new look

AK Can Do, the coordinated statewide COVID-19 relief effort that we helped start in March, has a new logo and a freshened website to make information easier to find, both for donors and for those individuals and organizations seeking support. So far, the AK Can Do partnership with United Way of Anchorage and The Alaska Community Foundation has raised $2.66 million and deployed $1.54 million. Hundreds of donors have stepped up including individuals, businesses and Outside foundations, some of them connected through our annual Grantmakers Tour of Alaska. Tour alumni organizations that have supported AK Can Do include: M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, $250,000 (nine times on tour including the first one in 1997); Kellogg Foundation, $150,000 (six tours); Wells Fargo, $115,000 (two tours); Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, $100,000 (eight tours); ExxonMobil, $100,000 (four tours); The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, $50,000 (three tours); Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield, $50,000 (one tour); and Alaska Airlines Foundation, $30,000 (one tour). Individuals are giving in amounts big and small. An Ester couple, who previously donated $20,000, made an additional donation of $100,000.

Donors have choices. They can support the Neighbor-To-Neighbor fund, organizations providing essential services on the frontlines or simply give to wherever the money is most needed. As of late August, 154 organizations had received AK Can Do support along with about 540 families with 1,750 individuals.

Most families are being helped with rental assistance and utilities. On top of that, a separate assistance program supported by donations and a Municipality of Anchorage grant helped more than 735 additional households from mid-June through July, most with rent. Many had lost jobs or been laid off.

CARES Act partnership to help nonprofits

Juneau’s Breeze In prepared meals in early September 2020 for St. Vincent DePaul cold weather shelter, AWARE shelter and Glory Hall through a coronavirus relief grant. About 275 meals a day were served as the program got started. (Photo courtesy of United Way Southeast)

Meanwhile, the first round of awards has been made from the $35 million Coronavirus Nonprofit Relief Fund created with Alaska CARES Act money. The state Department of Health and Social Services and The Alaska Community Foundation partnered to make sure the grants got out quickly to nonprofits and faith-based organizations. VP Alex McKay organized funders to establish guidelines and serve as a grant review panel, and Program Officer Tanya Dumas helped ACF review proposals. In all, about 90 organizations received awards totaling $18.5 million in this round. The United Way of Southeast Alaska received $800,000 to partner with local restaurants and relief organizations and provide meals to those in need. The Nenana Volunteer Fire/EMS Department has been awarded $260,000 to purchase a COVID equipped ambulance for safe patient transport over long distances. The childcare agency thread has been granted $1 million for its regranting program to fund childcare programs throughout the state. Some 175 groups applied seeking a total of $60 million. The second grant cycle closed Aug. 26. A third cycle is planned.

Connecting with Black leaders in Fairbanks

Board member Rebecca Brice-Henderson helped us plan an Aug. 27 convening with Black Fairbanks leaders. Board member Marilyn Romano participated as well. This is the start of a conversation and work on how we can be more supportive. Attendees included: Bill Bailey of Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.; school counselor Willie Blackburn; healthcare professional Tonya Brown; UAF Vice Chancellor Keith Champagne; Wendy Dominique, president of the Fairbanks North Star Borough School Board; museum collections manager Diane Fleeks; business consultant Rodney Gaskins; Bernard Gatewood, retired superintendent of the Fairbanks Youth Facility; Eric Gurley, executive director of Access Alaska; Hope Church pastor Jonathan Kenney; education counselor Jessica King; Kelvin Lee, founder of the nonprofit No Limits; Makeesia Lee of the school district; HelenMarie Matesi of the NAACP and League of Women Voters; high school principal Clarice Mingo; Shelissa and Timothy Thomas, founders of Restore Inc.; and Cathy Walling of the NAACP.

The Foundation’s virtual gathering with Fairbanks Black leaders was well-attended.

Bailey commented that “this meeting is the most colorful palette I’ve seen on Zoom.” Others noted that allies are showing up like never before. Attendees said they appreciated the convening, which itself presented opportunity. Previous convenings have mostly been attended by Black leaders in the Anchorage area. One attendee was Gatewood, who then helped organize the Fairbanks-specific event. External Affairs Associate Emily Kwon is leading an upcoming convening with the Korean community.

No garden party, but new ways of support

In an upside-down year, Foundation CEO Diane Kaplan couldn’t host the annual garden party to benefit the Alaska Native Heritage Center. The Foundation still is helping the Heritage Center during this critical time. Board member Curtis McQueen was one of the hosts at a virtual garden party kickoff event earlier this month, and he made a $10,000 discretionary donation in the form of a matching grant. The Foundation added another $10,000 matching grant. The goal of the monthlong campaign is to raise $500,000, and as of late August, $179,000 was in hand. That will help make up pandemic-sparked losses of $1 million in tourism revenue and $100,000 in canceled facility rental.

Marge Nakak guides interns in making kuspuks. She has been working with the Alaska Native Heritage Center for 21 years, leading cultural presentations, tours and workshops. (Photo courtesy of Alaska Native Heritage Center.)

We also supported the Heritage Center with a $23,000 technology grant from our COVID-relief fund. This allows the center to bring real-time tours and events from its Anchorage campus to the world via streaming platforms. “In the spirit of our Alaska Native values, including ‘share what you have,’ we are thrilled to partner with the Rasmuson Foundation to reach beyond our physical facility to touch audiences across Alaska and around the world,” said the center’s executive director, Emily Edenshaw. Workshops, the six village sites, and the 1,000-item collection now all can be seen virtually. The center also is open and running real-life tours.

Helping a farm grow

The Administration and Finance Team takes time for a group photo while volunteering at Grow North Farm.

The Foundation’s Administration and Finance Team volunteered one recent afternoon at Grow North Farm, which organizers describe as “Mountain View’s new incubator space for emerging food-based entrepreneurs.” Rain prevented team members from the planned activity of painting a mural, but they still found plenty to do setting up community spaces in lush surroundings as well as creating a prep area for community-supported agriculture. A partnership of Anchorage Community Land Trust and Catholic Social Services’ Refugee Assistance & Immigration Services Program supports the farm. Farmers sell their produce on site 4-7 p.m. daily, developing agricultural and entrepreneurial skills. Check out a recent Anchorage Daily News feature on the farm here.

NOBLE leader from Alaska

Alaska State Troopers Capt. Anthony April converses with Theresa Lyons, CEO of YWCA Alaska at the first convening of Alaska Black leaders in January 2020.

One of our community partners is Alaska State Trooper Capt. Anthony April. He recently shared that he has been named regional vice president for the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. This is a big honor. April is the first Alaskan to hold this position. The region encompasses 12 Western states including Hawaii, California and Washington. April describes the organization “as the leading voice of policing professionals who are committed to actionable solutions.” He also said it is “leading the police reform and accountability our nation needs now.”


Recognizing a top alum

Jason Metrokin

Congratulations to board member Jason Metrokin! The CEO and president of Bristol Bay Native Corp. has received this year’s Alaska Humanities Forum Leadership Anchorage alumni award. He was in the second Leadership Anchorage class. Graduates of the 23rd cohort also were recognized. The virtual celebration is on the forum’s YouTube channel. Foundation CEO Diane Kaplan and Finance Director Kris Palmatier are featured speakers. Leadership Anchorage began in 1997 to help individuals through coaching, collaboration and team building. Rasmuson Foundation was an original partner in creating the program.



Prize recipient studies human behavior

Anya Samek

A leading young California economics scholar has been awarded this year’s Vernon L. Smith Ascending Scholar Prize from the International Foundation for Research in Experimental Economics. A Nobel Laureate, Smith was the inaugural Rasmuson Chair of Economics and established the experimental economics program at University of Alaska Anchorage with professor Jim Murphy. Curtis McQueen chairs the advisory board.

Smith Prize recipient Anya Samek is an associate professor at the University of California San Diego who studies human behavior in the areas of health, philanthropy and charitable giving. One of her research areas uses field experiments to improve charitable giving. She has partnered with nonprofits to develop and evaluate fundraising techniques. In February 2019, she led a workshop at the University of Alaska Anchorage Vernon Smith Economics Science Laboratory on whether thank you calls increase giving. She also is studying how early childhood programs can affect not only academic achievement but also social preferences. The Smith Prize provides recipients $50,000 to encourage continued top-quality scholarship.

Promoting human rights

Sonya Wellman

Sonya Wellman, Foundation events manager, has joined the board of the Alaska Institute for Justice. The organization was formerly known as the Alaska Immigration Justice Project but changed its name as part of a transformation that includes work on environmental and social justice. Among other services, its staff provides free help to survivors of human trafficking.  Rasmuson Foundation is a long-time supporter of the organization, contributing $1.5 million over the years.